The OWC welcomes entries from all Ohio wineries. But many Ohio wineries make wines from juice or grapes from better-known wine regions, including California, Washington and Oregon.
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At the competition, however, the wines are evaluated “blind” — judges do not know which wineries submitted the wines or from where the juice or grapes were sourced — meaning a wine made from, say, Napa Valley grapes could be judged alongside a wine made from grapes grown in Asthabula, Ohio. In some previous Ohio Wine Competition judgings, the Ohio-born-and-bred wines didn’t fare so well against the presumably more prestigious grape-growing regions.
Not this time.
The wine chosen as the “Best of Show” overall was a 2017 Ferrante Winery Gewurztraminer (Geh-VURTZ-trah-meen-ur), a dry white wine made from grapes grown at the winery in Geneva, Ohio, about 40 miles of Cleveland. Ferrante also scored the “Best White Wine” designation for its 2017 Grand River Valley Riesling.
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The “Best Red” designation went to a 2016 Laurentia Vineyard and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Stoltz Block Grand River Valley, estate-grown at the winery in Madison, Ohio, northeast of Cleveland.
Gervasi Vineyard in Canton captured the “Best Ice Wine/Best Ohio Ice Wine” designation for its “Sognata” Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. The award for best rosé-style wine went to Put-in-Bay winery Heineman’s for its Lake Erie Pink Catawba.
Southwest Ohio was well-represented in the winner’s circle by Vinoklet Winery in Cincinnati, which captured the top prize for “Fruit/Specialty Wines” for its “Sweet Jackie” Blackberry wine, and for top Dessert/Fortified Wine for its “Passion” sweet Blueberry wine.
A Riesling that won the “Best of Show” designation last year, and a Traminette that won the top honor in 2017, both were made from grapes grown outside the state, so this year’s results buoyed the spirits of those affiliated with Ohio’s wine industry and their effort to promote the Buckeye state’s estate-grown wines.
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“This really showcases Ohio’s ability to produce high-quality wines from Ohio-grown fruit,” said Todd Steiner, enology program manager and winemaking specialist at the Ohio Agricultural and Research and Development Center (OARDC). Steiner oversees the Ohio Wine Competition in conjunction with Kent State University’s Ashtabula branch campus, which offers an enology (winemaking) and viticulture (winegrape-growing) program .
Brian Fife, wine manager at World Wines & Liquor who served as one of the nine judges of the competition, agreed.
“This was a strong showing for Ohio,” Fife said after the identities of the winning wines were revealed.
NOTE: Mark Fisher, the author of this story, served as a judge at the Ohio Wine Competition.