Updated: Feb 21, 2021
Virginia is one of the top six states in the United States for wine production. For the past 38 years, the Virginia Wineries Association has run its prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup competition. All wines submitted for consideration must be made from 100% Virginia fruit.
The highest 12 ranking wines are gold medal winners and earn a spot in the “Governor’s Case.” Only one wine each year wins the highest award, the “Governor’s Cup.”
The 2020 winner of the Virginia Governor’s Cup is 868 Estate Vineyards, which won with its Vidal Blanc Passito 2017. It beat out more than 530 entrants from 105 Virginia wineries.
This is the first time that a wine from Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County won the Governor’s Cup using both Loudoun County grapes and a Loudoun County winemaker.
Wine With Our Family recently had the opportunity to chat with Nancy Deliso, 868 Estate Vineyard’s marketing director, to learn more.
Wine With Our Family: Tell us a little about your winery.
Nancy Deliso: 868 Estate Vineyards has been open for eight years. It’s owned by three families in a partnership: my husband Peter and me, Wendy and Chris Charron, and Winemaker Carl DiManno and his wife Erin. We first bought 90 acres, and then purchased the 30-acre property next door, which included Glendale Restaurant. We went from a hobby winery to a cooler winery, restaurant, and catering business. It’s a great combination. We have 22 acres under vine, with 12 different varietals. We produce 3,500 cases of wine a year, all estate wine.
WWOF: Your Vidal Blanc Passito 2017 won the 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup. Tell us about the wine.
ND: This was our first Passito. Carl has a lot of time by himself, so he has time for creativity. He used the Italian appassimento technique of laying the grapes out on straw mats or in bins and letting them raisin up for a month so that the sugars and flavors concentrate. The Passito’s sugar concentration is over 32%.
It’s not a sweet wine. It is your dessert. We recommend having it with bleu cheese, which is salty; apricots, which are tart; walnuts, for the umami; or with plain cheesecake.
WWOF: Did you expect the Passito to
ND: It was a surprise and a delight! It’s a white dessert wine, and that’s not [ordinarily the Virginia Governor’s Cup] thing. We submitted three wines to the competition; the other two won silver.
WWOF: Is the Passito available for purchase?
ND: Yes, but we are down to 200 bottles. There’s a one bottle limit.
WWOF: What else does the winery have to offer?
ND: Our tag line is “wine, food, art, nature and music.” We do wine and food pairings, and are famous for our chocolate truffle tastings. We offer live music, and host a music festival on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, bringing together 35 Loudoun County musicians who play at the wineries so that they can hear each other. It’s also a fundraiser to buy equipment for up-and-coming Loudoun County musicians.
WWOF: What can we look forward to?
ND: Carl used a different passito drying method in 2019. I’m also hoping to have another sparkling wine in the future. Carl will continue to experiment. There’s no telling what he’ll come up with! ______________________________________________________________________________
We hope you enjoyed this wine chat about the Virginia Governor’s Cup with Nancy Deliso. We look forward to visiting 868 Estate Vineyards and sampling its award-winning wines.
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Photos courtesy of 868 Estate Vineyards. This interview was edited for length and clarity.