EAST LANSING — Twenty-five wine experts from around the country gathered August 7 in East Lansing for the 35th annual Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition.
Judges included Doug Frost, who is both a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier; three 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.
Medals were awarded to five wines made from “super-hardy” grapes, including gold medals for a 2011 Marquette from Burgdorf’s Winery in Haslett, and 2011 “Sunshine,” a blend of super-hardy white grape varieties, from Flying Otter Winery in Adrian. The grapes for Burgdorf’s Marquette were grown at Michigan State University, one of a group of universities involved in a $2.5 million project that is studying a new group of extremely cold-hardy grape varieties that show potential for growing well in northern climates.
For veteran judge Joe Borrello, this year’s competition was the “best array of sparkling and dry white wines in my 34 years of judging Michigan wines.” Borrello is president of Tasters Guild International, which sponsored the Best of Class Dessert trophy. Dr. Richard Grant Peterson, of Richard Grant Wines, was also impressed with the sparkling wines. “Michigan is competing on the world stage,” he said.
Judges were impressed by the quality of red wines from the exceptional 2010 vintage. G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski, owner of University of Wine in Sacramento, Calif., tasted “an amazing flight of Meritage wines (Bordeaux variety red blends).” And Brian Cain, with Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, tasted “a remarkable flight of red blends that are easily the best on the market in the $8 to $12 range.”
Fifty-two of the state’s 94 wineries entered a record 448 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 sweet and luscious late harvest 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 six wines from a group of 64 gold medal winners, including four double gold.
The top award-winners are:
- Best of Class Dry White: Chateau Fontaine – 2011 Pinot Blanc
- Best of Class Dry Red: Shady Lane Cellars – 2010 Blue Franc
- Best of Class Sparkling Wine: L. Mawby – Blanc de Blancs
- Best of Class Semi-Dry White: Fenn Valley Vineyards – 2011 Vignoles Reserve
- Best of Class Dessert Wine: Lawton Ridge Winery – 2011 Late Harvest Vignoles
- Best of Class Fruit Wine: Chateau de Leelanau – Cherry Wine
In addition, L. Mawby won a Judges’ Merit Award for Blanc de Noirs, a method champenoise brut sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir grapes. This award is given to a wine that comes close to winning Best of Class and which the judges want to honor for its quality.
The competition is co-sponsored by the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, which will host a Gold Medal Wine Reception featuring the best wines from the competition Thursday, August 9. Visit www.michiganwines.com for more information, to purchase tickets, and for a complete list of the medal-winning wines.
The competition is also 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.