The Taste Test: Judges Rate Loudoun Wines

A panel of six judges spent Sunday deliberating on the merits of about 100 Loudoun wines entered in the second annual Loudoun Wine Awards contest.

The Loudoun Wineries Association’s launched the awards program last year, with dual goals of continuing to improve the quality of Loudoun’s wines and to provide more education about the process.

This year’s judging was held at Stone Tower Winery, south of Leesburg, under the guidance of competition organizer Neal Wavra, owner of FABLE Hospitality in Warrenton. Judges were Lucinda Smith, owner of Blue Ridge Libations; Dave McIntyre, Washington Post wine and food writer; Frank Morgan, author of; Jennifer Knowles, wine director at The Jefferson Hotel; Kathy Morgan, wine consultant; and Andy Myers, wine director for the Jose Andres Think Good Food Group.

Wavra said the competition was held in two sequences, the first addressing 26 flights and the second, an additional seven flights.

The first 26 flights were judged by two groups of three judges, who tasted 50 wines each, splitting the 100 entries. Some 30 of the 100 wines moved on into the second sequence, in which all six judges participated equally and made their final evaluations.

Wavra said the judges cited some definite high points, including strong Cabernet Francs, Viogniers and Bordeaux. On the “needs to improve” side of the equation, they identified a few negative trends, such as volatile acidity and bitterness in some of the reds.

“They have a lot of knowledge of wines from around the world, and a good deal of Virginia wines, although not necessarily those from Loudoun,” Wavra said. And that knowledge is very helpful in determining from a market viewpoint, Loudoun’s place in a national and international context.

He lauded the wineries association for the efforts to educate and improve the quality of Loudoun wines. After all, “you can create a bunch of different wineries and sell everything you’ve got, but they’re not necessarily the best wines in the world,” he said, adding he thought that ability to place Loudoun wines in a larger context was important.

Noting a key aim of the competition was to provide feedback to winemakers and grape growers, Wavra said he was pleased with that part of the program. An evaluation form was given to the judges to make their comments on the plusses and minuses of each wine and to recommend suggestions for improving them. Those findings will be given to participants.

“Everyone benefits from feedback,” he said, noting the judges are all professional wine tasters.

The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek co-owner Aimee Henkle chairs the wine awards program. Praising the “great feedback” this year, she said the program aims to build on the success of last year’s program and further educate, celebrate and elevate Loudoun wines.

The award winners will be announced Oct. 14 at the Loudoun Wine Awards Dinner at Lansdowne Resort & Spa. Tickets, at $79 each, are available at

For more information on the contest, email Wavra at or Henkle at

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