Sunday, March 06, 2011

New York Strike Gold in Northern California

New York Gold Rush in Northern California
by Jim Trezise, The Wine Press
March 5, 2011

New York wines brought home 62 medals from this week's Grand Harvest Awards in Sonoma County, CA, including 16 Gold, 23 Silver, and 23 Bronze awards.

Nine of the 16 Golds were Rieslings of various styles, with the other seven representing a rainbow of varietals and flavors within the context of high quality. In addition, two wineries--Liberty Vineyards & Winery in the Lake Erie region, and Thirsty Owl from the Finger Lakes--each won four Golds with a range of different wines.

Gold medals were awarded to Anthony Road Wine Company 2008 Tierce Riesling (a collaborative wine made by the wine makers from that winery along with Fox Run Vineyards and Red Newt Cellars); Belhurst Estate Winery 2009 Dry Riesling and 2009 Semi-Dry Riesling; Hunt Country Vineyards Classic Red; King Ferry (Treleaven) 2008 Late Harvest Riesling; Liberty Vineyards & Winery 2010 Dry Riesling, Cat Noir, Diamond, and 2009 Traminette; Lucas Vineyards 2009 Dry Riesling; Thirsty Owl 2009 Dry Riesling, 2009 Riesling, 2009 Diamond, and 2009 Vidal Blanc; Ventosa Vineyards 2009 Riesling; and Winery of Ellicottville Vidal Blanc.

Grand Harvest is a unique competition focused on "terroir" and conceived by Bill Moffett and Hope Merletti, former owners of the Vineyard & Winery Management empire now owned and run by Rob Merletti. The concept, in addition to evaluating wines and awarding the best, is to try identifying common aroma and taste characteristics which may be reflective of the climate and soil in a particular region. When a sufficient number of entries from a region warrants it, they're grouped into "terroir" flights which include a range of varietals, styles, and colors, and the judges are asked to cite common characteristics. Sometimes it's simple, sometimes not, but it always stimulates discussion and the excitement of learning the region after guessing what it is.

I had the pleasure of judging with California wine journalist and winenut (that's his chosen email name) Dan Berger, one of the most knowledgeable, insightful and passionate wine people on the planet. He has also done more than anyone else in opening the minds and palates of wine judges nationwide to the wonderful diversity of grape varietes that can produce stunning wines if the grapes are great and the wine makers talented. His Riverside International competition was the first, years ago, to award "Best White Wine" to a non-Californian French-American variety (a Missouri Vignoles), as well as a Native American variety (a New York Diamond). We both identified the Finger Lakes "terroir" flight (and not just because of Rieslings), I got the Lake Erie one, he got a different one, and we both missed some but learned a lot in the process.

Grand Harvest is expertly organized by veteran wine judge Bill Traverso, supported by a terrific backroom crew. With the recent acquisition of the International Women's Wine Competition and the NextGen Wine Competition for Millennial Wine Drinkers, VWM has become the largest sponsor of wine competitions in the world. Other VWM competitions include the long-time International Eastern Wine Competition and the West Coast Wine Competition.

VWM is also the sponsor of the largest wine trade show in the Eastern United States, Wineries Unlimited, which will take place March 29-31 in Richmond, VA, with keynote speakers including that State's Governor and Agriculture Secretary along with Andy Beckstoffer, Randall Graham, and Jim Trezise (who's he?). For information and registration, visit