Move quickly to find 2023 Shenandoah Cup standout wines

November 25, 2023

Happy Tums or Brioschi Day. As I’ve typed previously, this week is usually big at chez McD. Thanksgiving, our anniversary and our son’s birthday fall within its confines most years, a real scale breaker.

Here are some results from the Shenandoah Cup winners. The contest occurred Nov. 10, at Shenandoah Caverns’ Yellow Barn, with 73 Shenandoah Valley AVA wines submitted for review. Entries must contain 85% Shenandoah Valley grapes and be produced by a member of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail. Eighteen wines scored gold medals. Of those, five were awarded to Bluestone Vineyards: Blue Ice 2017, Bridgewater Crimson 2021, Merlot 2021, Petit Manseng 2022 and Vidal Blanc 2022. Muse Vineyards won four: 2020 Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, and 2019 Clio. From Muse, I have previously scored the Blanc de Blanc NV at 87 McD. It uses 100% Chardonnay produced methode champenoise, aged two years sur lie. Clio 2019 is a blend of 63% Cab Franc, 26 Petit Verdot and Malbec, 89 McD, an approachable wine. These as well as the others can be found at the winery, contact I like their address: Serendipity Lane, Woodstock, Va. Shades of the ‘60s, Batman! I’m providing these names because the last few years’ winners sold out quickly. The association sent me the top 10 in past years. However, the timeline and small production induced availability issues. To date, I thought the top 10 have been accurately scored. So, although this is blind information, I trust the products will be worthy. Jump Mountain’s 2019 Borderland, a blend of 50% Tannat, 25% each Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, won the Shenandoah Cup with the highest point score.

Since so many will be celebrating again during December, let's review more reds. First, here are two comprehensive primers on Chianti and Super Tuscans:, written by Nancy Parode, and Longtimers may remember I introduced STs to our band of winos in the late 1980s and claimed they would keep like Barolo at half its opening price. Back then, they were classified sneeringly as table wine, and Sassicaia, Solaia and Tignanello were selling for around $15-$20. The wines of Chianti were historically a blend of Sangiovese and other indigenous grapes like Canaiolo, but now they are 100 percent Sangiovese. Antinori is a six-century family wine business. Although Marchese Piero Antinori is honorary president, it is currently run by his three daughters: President Albiera and sisters, Allegra and Alessia, all of whom are actively involved. The care these ladies take to preserve family tradition is confirmed by years of 90+ reviews across their extensive product line. The 2019 Tenuta Tignanello Marchesi Antinori Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG is a solid 94 McD under $50. WS reviewed the 2020 at 95 points, but it needs time. The 2019 is entering its window now. It’s ruby colored and opens to cherry (typical of Sangiovese), currant and roses. On the palate, the cherry repeats with raspberry and dark chocolate subtones. Tannins are incorporating well, and acidity supports the fruit. Any of the vintages since 2015, excluding the overhyped 2017, are great buys and run in a similar $50 range.

Following the “Under the Tuscan Sun” book and movie reviews, many producers moved into Super Tuscans. These are anything-goes blends, winemakers’ art. I fail to see value for a 94-point ST in the $150-plus range, which requires several years of cellar time. My guru, Jancis Robinson, rates the two following wines at 17 points (20-point scale). Marchesi Antinori Tignanello Toscana 2015 through 2019, rated 94-96 by many, 98 by WS and 100 by RP, spiked its price from $292-$401. The Marchesi Antinori Solaia Toscana IGT (read labels carefully), both the 2016 at $400 and the 2019 at $320, scored 17 JR or 100 RP, but 93 McD. Trust me on this. It is unlikely you’ll find eight times the enjoyment provided by one bottle of the Chianti mentioned above.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter