Winemaking on the East Coast keeps getting better and better—a fact that was on display at the recent Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, when Best of Show was won by a 2007 Riesling from Newport Vineyards in Rhode Island. This wine featured zesty lime flavors and great acidity—a classic Riesling that had me convinced it was from the Finger Lakes.
I was one of 20 judges who swirled, sniffed, and spat our way through 458 wines from 100 wineries in 12 states. Having participated in all four contests, I can say this year’s field was the strongest yet. (Or else my table was luckier than in early years.) The Best of Show taste-off featured 19 wines among the 56 that received gold medals; the judges awarded 117 silver and 153 bronze medals as well. (I wrote about last year’s competition in the October 2007 issue of The Washingtonian.)
Can three-quarters of East Coast wines be medal-worthy? Yes, if you consider that wineries self-select by sending their best and that many simply choose not to participate. You can say all you want about these competitions, but they provide a worthwhile barometer of how the market is progressing. That’s precisely why the Vinifera Wine Growers Association sponsors the event.
New wineries continue to do well. Maryland’s Black Ankle Vineyards (profiled in the August Washingtonian) scored four medals, including a gold for its 2006 Crumbling Rock Bordeaux blend. Other local names that figure prominently in the medal lists are Pearmund Cellars, Chrysalis, Horton, and Barboursville. Kluge Estate wowed the judges with its 2004 rosé sparkling wine.
Some of these Virginia medal winners will be on display September 27 and 28 at the VWGA’s 33rd Virginia Wine Festival at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas. If you want to snag a bottle of that Best in Show Riesling, you might need to plan a trip to Rhode Island—but hurry before it sells out.