At the Monticello Wine Awards celebration in Charlottesville this evening, the 2019 Monticello Cup was presented to Matthieu Finot and the team at King Family Vineyards for their 2016 Mountain Plains.

A blend of cabernet franc, merlot and petit verdot, Mountain Plains is named for a deed drafted in 1773 by Thomas Jefferson to transfer ownership of a land grant. King Family Vineyards sits on part of the land included in that grant.

Just two months ago, the 2016 Mountain Plains scored one of the coveted spots in the 2019 Virginia Governor’s Case, awarded to the top 12 scoring wines in the annual Governor’s Cup competition.  In 2018, Finot and the King Family Vineyards team won the Virginia Governor’s Cup for their 2014 Meritage red blend.

Situated on a 327-acre farm in Crozet, about 20 minutes west of Charlottesville, King Family Vineyards was founded by David and Ellen King, who left their law practice in Houston in 1996 to relocate to Virginia.

The Kings planted their first eight acres in 1998 and today have 31 acres under vine on the King Family Vineyards property and another 18 acres on an adjacent farm.  

Matthieu Finot grew up in Crozes-Hermitage, a renowned wine region in France’s Rhône Valley, and studied viticulture and oenology in Burgundy. After graduating, Finot worked in South Africa, Italy, and wine regions throughout France.

Finot brought his old world sensibilities and experience to Virginia in 2003 to work ‘one vintage’ to learn about American viticulture. The 2003 vintage was one of the wettest in decades so Finot decided to stay one more year to see what type of wine he could make with better weather.  

That ‘one more vintage’ turned in to another and then another.

In 2007, Dave and Ellen King hired Finot to be winemaker at King Family Vineyards.  Today, Finot is one of the most accomplished and respected winemakers in the Commonwealth and has helped establish King Family Vineyards as one of the premier wineries in the region.

As much as any winemaker in Virginia, Finot is dialed-in to growing and making world-class wines.

From the light and dry Provence-style Crosé rosé to his experimental Small Batch Series of wines to complex, world-class red Bordeaux-style red blends, few offer the depth and breadth of quality and styles as Finot.

Open to the 33 member wineries of the Monticello Wine Trail located in the Monticello AVA, the Monticello Cup Wine Competition is one of the most important competitions in Virginia. The 2019 event marks the 28th year for the regional competition.

Twenty wineries entered wines in this year’s competition — 12 gold, 32 silver and 11 bronze medals were awarded.

Top three wines in the Red category:

  • King Family Vineyards 2016 Mountain Plain
  • Keswick Vineyards 2016 Signature Series Cabernet Franc
  • Veritas Vineyard and Winery 2016 Vintners Reserve

Top three Whites wines:

  • King Family Vineyards Small Batch Series Viognier
  • Stinson Vineyards Petit Manseng
  • Trump Winery 2010 Brut Reserve

The Monticello Cup Awards ceremony marks the start of the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival, which includes winemaker dinners, themed lunches and tastings. Information on the rest of the week’s events is available at

For further reading, see my profile of Matthieu Finot in The Virginian-Pilot newspaper online.

  • Photo Credit:  Sarah Craun.