East Lansing was awash in Michigan wine this week as 25 wine experts gathered Aug. 2 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center for the 34th annual Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition. Judges included wine experts from around the country, including Doug Frost, who is both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier; two 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.
There was a great variety of wines entered by newer wineries throughout Michigan, with several garnering medals, including a Raspberry Wine produced by Garden Bay Winery in the Upper Peninsula that won Best of Class Fruit Wine.
The Michigan competition is a favorite for many of the judges, as they are eager to try new wines from the state's rapidly growing industry.
"The Michigan wine industry continues to expand and offer quality wines with fun and excitement. It's why Michigan wines and winery tasting rooms are growing in popularity, says Veteran judge Joe Borrello, president of Tasters Guild International, which sponsored the Best of Class Dessert trophy.
Fifty-three of the state's 84 wineries entered 367 wines for this year's competition, which is open only to wine and spirits 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 51 gold medal winners, including seven double gold.
James VanDerKolk, with Elite Brands, was "stunned by the depth of quality in the dry white wines from 2010, and very pleasantly surprised by the high-quality dry reds tasted from 2010."
Judges experienced just a sampling of red wines from the 2010 vintage, which is expected to be exceptional, as Michigan enjoyed a long, warm growing season that allowed red grapes to ripen more fully than in recent years. Most of the reds from 2010 will be released over the next year.
"I was happy to see the overall Merlot quality," says Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon, a veteran judge of this competition. "The dry white sweeps (Best of Class round) were a privilege to judge, so many good wines! Every year, my pride and confidence in our wines grows."
The top award-winners are:
Best of Class Dry White: Chateau Fontaine – 2010 Dry White Riesling
Best of Class Dry Red: Fenn Valley Vineyards – Capriccio
Best of Class Sparkling Wine: L. Mawby – Cremant Classic
Best of Class Semi-Dry White (tie): Fenn Valley Vineyards – 2010 Riesling; Tabor Hill – 2010 Gewurztraminer
Best of Class Rosé: Forty-Five North – 2010 Rosé of Cabernet Franc
Best of Class Dessert Wine: Black Star Farms – 2008 A Capella Ice Wine
Best of Class Fruit Wine: Garden Bay Winery – Raspberry Wine
A complete list of medal-winning wines is available online at www.michiganwines.com. The Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition is sponsored by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, which is administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. For more information about the wines and wineries of Michigan, contact the council online, or by phone at 517-241-4468.