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Casanel Vineyards takes two golds in State Fair Wine Competition

Facebook/Casanel Vineyards and Winery
Loudoun County's Casanel Vineyards earned two gold medals in the 2016 State Fair of Virginia Wine Competition, fair officials announced Wednesday morning.

The boutique Leesburg winery's 2014 Carménère and 2013 Petit Verdot, both red varietals, were among 18 wines to earn gold. More than 90 wines from 21 Virginia wineries participated in the tasting, which is in its 23rd year.

"It means two things to me,” Nelson DeSouza, owner of Casanel, said of his golds. “That we have great wine, and our family has elevated Casanel and people are beginning to realize that our little piece of dirt is truly something special, as is our vineyard and wine-making team."

One of DeSouza's daughters, Katie, is Casanel's co-winemaker, while a second, Anna, runs the tasting room.

Katie DeSouza underscored the fact both wines are 100 percent estate, meaning all the grapes came from the family's Leesburg vineyard.

"Honestly, competitions like this are tough for me because it's all up to the judges and what their final thoughts are on your wine,” Katie DeSouza said. “But that moment, when you taste the wine, and I mean really taste it, you get it. And I'm glad [the judges] got it, too. Who says that Virginia can only produce good red blends or just sweet wine?”

“It's really crazy to think about,” she added. “100 percent carménère, the 'lost Bordeaux grape,' a vinifera, not a hybrid, and it's 100 percent estate-grown.”

Virginia wine powerhouses Barboursville Vineyards (Monticello AVA) and Pearmund Cellars (Fauquier County) led the way in this year's contest, earning three golds a piece. (See all the gold winners below.)

Ten judges, ranging from collectors to restaurateurs to media, blind-tasted the entrants in late June and marked their scores on a 100-point scale. The grades were then averaged, with the highest-scoring offerings earning gold or silver. Roughly the top 30 percent earned medals, the upper tier claiming gold.

A “Best in Show” in both the red wine and white wine categories will be announced at a fair gala in September.

Blue Valley Vineyard's estate rosé took the top billing for rosés, while Castle Hill Cider's Serendipity 2014 and Blacksnake Meadery's Meloluna won best cider and best mead, respectively.

Stuart Sanders, programs coordinator for the Meadows Event Park in Doswell, host to the fair, said the annual competition aims to promote and showcase the Virginia wine industry, “a vibrant and important element of agriculture in the state.”

All proceeds from the competition benefit the State Fair of Virginia Scholarship Program, which offers over $70,000 in annual scholarships.

Below are the gold medal winners

Gold Medal
-Barboursville Vineyards - Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013
-Barboursville Vineyards - Fiano Reserve 2015
-Barboursville Vineyards - Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2014
-Blacksnake Meadery - Meloluna
-Casanel Vineyards - Carménère 2014
-Casanel Vineyards - Petit Verdot 2013
-Chateau MerrillAnne LLC - Governor Spotswood 2014
-Democracy Vineyards - Magna Carta 2014
-Effingham Manor Winery - King's Ransom 2014
-Effingham Manor Winery - Meritage 2014
-Generals Ridge Vineyard - Petit Manseng 2015
-James River Cellars - Gewurztraminer 2015
-James River Cellars - Petit Manseng 2015
-Pearmund Cellars - Cabernet Franc 2013
-Pearmund Cellars - Cabernet Franc Reserve 2013
-Pearmund Cellars - Petit Verdot 2013
-The Winery at Bull Run - Merlot 2014
-Thistle Gate Vineyard - Petit Verdot 2015

Best Rosé
-Blue Valley - Rosé Estate 2015

Best Cider
-Castle Hill Cider - Serendipity 2014

Best Mead

-Blacksnake Meadery - Meloluna

(Editor's note: The author of this story was one of 10 judges for the 2016 State Fair of Virginia Wine Competition.)

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