The 2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup — Petit Manseng and the Legacy of Dennis Horton

At an emotional ceremony this evening at the historic Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam presented the 2019 Governor’s Cup to Sharon Horton, wife of the late Dennis Horton, his daughter Shannon Horton, winemakers Michael Heny and Andy Regan, and the Horton Vineyards’ team.

“This has been an emotional time for our family,” says Shannon Horton, who’s father Dennis Horton, founder of Horton Vineyards, passed away in June 2018.

“This win is emotional and a little funny — when I got a message to call Laurie [Aldrich, Executive Director of the Virginia Wineries Association], I thought she was calling to tell me I forgot to submit wines for the competition.”

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“When she told me our Petit Manseng won the Cup, I just cried and cried.  We did it, we did it, I told my mom.”

From taking financial risks to viticulture experimentation to training the next generation of winegrowers, Dennis Horton contributed as much to founding the modern Virginia wine industry as anyone.

The pioneering Horton got his start in wine in 1983 when he planted a small vineyard at his home in Madison County. Recognizing the potential of viticulture in Virginia, Horton, along with his business partner, Joan Bieda, purchased 55 acres of land in Orange County, which would serve as the base for Horton Vineyards.

“This wine is special to us because dad helped introduce Petit Manseng to Virginia,” explained Shannon Horton.  ”In the late 1990s, dad and Alan Kinne got Petit Manseng cuttings from Dr. Tony Wolf at Virginia Tech and planted them at our Berry Hill vineyard.”

”This particular wine is even more special because it was a team effort and this is one of the first wines mom and I took over.  We decided to change the profile of the wine, which was previously made with some residual sugar – we made the decision to embrace the acidity and go for it.  Mike Heny started the wine, mom and I played a role, and Andy Reagan finished it.”

This marks the first time a wine labeled Horton Vineyards has won the coveted Governor’s Cup but it’s not the first time Dennis Horton played a role in winning the competition.  The 1990 Montdomaine Cab Sauvignon, which won the 1993 Virginia Governor’s Cup, was bottled at Horton Cellars.

The 2016 Horton Petit Manseng is a blend of 90% Petit Manseng, 5% Viognier and 5% Rkatsiteli made with fruit from Horton’s estate Berry Hill Vineyard in Gordonsville.  

The wine bested 509 other entries to garner the top score in this year’s Governor’s Cup competition.  Sixty-eight of the 510 wines entered scored 90+ points earning a gold medal this year compared to 99 gold medals awarded in the 2018 competition (of 442 wines entered).

The 2019 Virginia Governor’s Cup is a win for Virginia Petit Manseng, one of the state’s most promising grapes.  It’s an important win for the entire Horton Vineyards team — from the former winemaker Michael Heny to Sharon and Shannon to new winemaker Andy Reagan to the entire vineyard crew.

Most importantly, the 2019 Virginia Governors cup is a win for the legacy of Dennis Horton!

Joining the Horton Vineyards’ 2016 Petit Manseng in the 2019 Governor’s Cup Case:
•               Barboursville Vineyards 2017 Vermentino Reserve
•               Early Mountain Vineyards 2016 Eluvium
•               Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc
•               King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plains
•               King Family Vineyards 2016 Meritage
•               Paradise Springs Winery 2015 Meritage
•               Virginia Wine Works 2016 Hamlet Vineyards Eltham
•               Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Petit Manseng
•               Virginia Wine Works 2016 Michael Shaps Raisin d’Etre White
•               Virginia Wine Works 2015 Michael Shaps Tannat
•               Virginia Wine Works 2014 Upper Shirley Zachariah

The Governor’s Cup competition is sponsored by the Virginia Wineries Association, in partnership with the gubernatorial-appointed Virginia Wine Board and the Virginia Vineyards Association.  The 2019 competition marks the 37th Virginia Governor’s Cup and the eighth year of the revamped format under the leadership of head judge Jay Youmans, MW.

Congratulations to all medalists and award winners, the Virginia Wineries Association, the Virginia Wine Board, The Virginia Vineyards Association, and Jay Youmans for another successful Governor’s Cup.   

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