On Friday May 9th we attended the opening celebration for the Land Rover America’s Polo Cup in historic Morven Park, Leesburg Virginia. The main event featured the American and Italian Polo teams competing on Saturday, followed by a concert by the Gypsy Kings and Huey Lewis and the News. On Friday night, attendees were introduced to the polo teams, viewed a fashion show of Americana and Italian models, sampled food prepared by American and Italian chefs, as well as heard the results of the First Annual America’s Polo Cup Wine Competition – the primary focus of our visit. The proceeds of this event benefited Journey for the Cure, a nonprofit, organization created to support research and grants for the MS Society and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition, a portion of the proceeds will be allocated to help preserve Morven Park, which consists of the historic mansion, museums, and equestrian center.
This charitable affair is the labor of Tareq Salahi, who not only is the captain and chairman America’s Polo Cup, but also the owner of Oasis Winery, one of Virginia’s most established wineries. While growing up in the Virginia horse country, Salahi developed an appreciation for polo and wine, particularly since his family owned and operated Oasis Winery. Oasis is one of Virginia’s most established wineries; in fact, it was one of the first wineries to recognize the potential for agri-tourism and providing not only the vineyard setting, but the transportation to attract visitors from the metropolitan D.C. suburbs. Thus it is a perfect match for Salahi to combine his love for polo and wine to assist his favorite charity.
After two days of rain, the skies cleared long enough for us to enjoy Friday night. The ground was not surprising soggy, but the valets and grounds crew did a wonderful job shuttling attendees around the mud or covering it as much as possible. The event started with a parachute show by the Spectacular Air Parachute Team, BlackWater USA and continued with food and beverages: our favorites being Breaux Vineyards Meritage and beer from Moretti and Yuengling (America’s oldest continuing operated brewery). Even our friends at Makers Mark attended, dipping whiskey glasses into their trademark red wax.
The Wine Competition was sponsored by The Virginia Wine Lovers Magazine, which publishes its inaugural issue this month. The competition was open to all Virginia wineries and the wines were judged by a number of factors: Appearance/Clarity, Color, Aroma/Bouquet, Total acidity, Sweetness, Body, Flavor, Bitterness, Astringency, and Overall quality. The judging occurred April 9th by a distinguished panel of specialists, headed by Dr. Andrew Waterhouse: Chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department at University of California. The beauty of this competition was not necessarily the results, but that it introduced us to new wines and vintages from our favorite wineries. For instance, in the Blush Wine category, we never knew that Breaux Vineyards produced a Syrah Rose (the gold medal winner in this category) or that Chatham Vineyards produced a blush styled wine – the silver winning Church Street Rose. Some of the wines we were very familiar with, particularly the Pearmund’s Pearmund Cellars Ameritage and Cabernet Franc and Winery at La Grange Chardonnay (gold winning White Wine). We’ve also enjoyed the other two white wine winners, Lake Anna Winery’s Totally White (bronze) and Villa Appalaccia’s Simpatico (silver). Our favorite category was the Dessert Wine, in which there were five winners, with one of our favorites, the Gray Ghost Adieu winning Bronze. We plan to seek the remaining medalists this summer: Winery at LaGrange Snort (bronze), First Colony 1607 Edicao Limitada (bronze), Breaux Vineyards Soleil (silver), and the gold winning Williamsburg Winery Late Harvest Vidal.
The best surprise was the winner of the Best Red Wine and Best in Show: Potomac Point Winery’s Petit Verdot. Potomac Point opened just last year and makes an impressive array of viniferia wines as well as Virginia’s native Norton. We visited the winery last July and our account is posted here. Since our visit the winery has grown in popularity; for instance Southern Living Magazine listed it as one of the “Best Exits of I95!”. The winery lost a few vines from their estate vineyard last year due to the drought – but their other vineyards are producing fine grapes – particularly the Crozet source for the Petit Verdot. This wine had not been released by the time of our visit and actually, we had no idea it was forthcoming. Fortunately, the Causey’s brought a bottle along and it is an awesome wine – full bodied and fruity. Even after aging 14 months in new French oak, the finish is smooth with low tannins. It was difficult returning to the California table wine that was all that remained by the end of the night.
We had to leave a little early before the Gypsy Kings performed and because of family obligations, could not attend the polo match Saturday. We will update this post with other accounts particularly if Dezel's Virginia Vine Spot posts an article. The Land Rover America’s Polo Cup not only supports a worthwhile charity in the Journey for the Cure, but is also an entertaining event – at least the Friday night show. We look forward to attending the entire two days next year.