by the Michigan Wine & Grape Council
Twenty-five wine experts gathered August 3 in East Lansing for the 33rd annual Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition. Judges included five Master Sommeliers, and internationally known authors, winemakers and wine educators. Leading the group through the day was food and wine writer Christopher Cook, who judged at the competition for 12 years before becoming its superintendent in 2001. Cook is also a judge at wine competitions throughout the United States and abroad.
Don Koivisto, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, welcomed the judges to the competition. He noted there is strong recognition at the state level of the importance of the wine industry to the state’s economy, and expressed his delight in witnessing the industry’s rapid growth in the past decade.
There was a great showing of wines from areas throughout the state, with gold medals split evenly between the Northern and Southern growing regions. Silver medals were awarded to wineries from all major growing regions, including the Upper Peninsula where there are now three commercial wineries producing wines from grapes grown in Michigan.
The Michigan competition is a favorite for many of the judges, as they are eager to learn about the state’s exciting, rapidly growing industry. Wayne Belding, Master Sommelier with The Boulder Wine Merchant, commented that “tasting such a broad range of Michigan wines confirmed my opinion that there is a rising tide of wine quality throughout mid-America.”
Joe Borrello has judged at this competition every year but one since it was first held in 1977 â€¦ wedged between the horse and cow barns at the State Fairgrounds. Borrello says the competition – and the wines – have come a long way since then. “This year’s judging was an excellent presentation of wines and what Michigan is capable of accomplishing,” he said. Borrello is president of Tasters Guild International, which sponsored the Best of Class Dessert trophy, to be presented to the winning winery at a Gold Medal Reception at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing this evening.
Veteran Judge Dr. G. Stanley Howell, formerly with Michigan State University’s Horticulture Department, was the competition’s superintendent for several years prior to Christopher Cook taking the helm. Howell has followed the growth of the Michigan wine industry closely and noted, “The red wines from the 2007 vintage were outstanding and are a portent to Cabernet Franc joining much renowned Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines in recognition of their excellence.”
Forty-four of the state’s 73 wineries entered a record 399 wines for this year’s competition, which is open only to wines produced from Michigan grapes and other fruit. Gold medals were awarded to a wide variety of wines–from bone-dry reds to deliciously sweet ice wines–from all of Michigan’s major grape-growing areas. At the end of the day, judges awarded the top “Best of Class” awards to eight wines from a group of 52 gold medal winners, including eight double gold.
The top award-winners
Best of Class Dry White: Black Star Farms – 2009 Arcturos Pinot Gris
Best of Class Dry Red: Bowers Harbor Vineyards – 2007 Cabernet Franc, Erica Vineyard
Best of Class Semi-Dry White: Black Star Farms – 2009 Arcturos Riesling
Best of Class Semi-Dry Red: Lawton Ridge Winery – AZO
Best of Class Sparkling Wine: Black Star Farms – 2008 Sparkling Wine
Best of Class Dessert Wine: Fenn Valley Vineyards – 2008 “42″ Ice Wine
Best of Class Fruit Wine: Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery – Franc N Cherry
Best of Class Rose’: Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery – 2009 Blanc de Pinot Noir
In addition, Chateau Fontaine won a Judges’ Merit Award for their 2009 Woodland White, a semi-dry white wine made from Auxerrois, a little-known grape variety in the United States, originally from France.
A complete list of medal-winning wines is available online from the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which is administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. For more information about the wines and wineries of Michigan, contact the council online, or by phone at 517-241-4468.