Upstart winery snags ‘Best Ohio wine’ top prize in an upset

Southwest Ohio wineries brought home some impressive hardware in the 2017 Ohio Wine Competition, while the top prize went to an upstart winery that hasn’t yet celebrated its 4th birthday.

The competition was held earlier this month at Kent State University’s Ashtabula branch campus. The full results of the competition have not been formally released, but winning wineries have been informed of their medals, and have begun touting those accomplishments on social media.

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This year's "Best of Show" wine — deemed the best wine out of more than 270 entries — was a 2016 Traminette, a white wine made by Kosicek Vineyards located in Harpersfield, Ohio, northeast of Cleveland. The upstart winery opened only four years ago, but beat out dozens of other entries from more experienced wineries.

“With all the great wineries in Ohio, this is a great honor,” Tony Kosicek, co-founder of the winery, told this news outlet via email. “We are a young winery, and to have our wine quality recognized by the judges of the competition is very exciting. Our staff works very hard at producing quality wines, and the many hours in the cellar are all worth it when a plan comes together.”

The grapes for the winning wine came from a vineyard in Westfield, N.Y., Kosicek said. The wine will be released at the winery for the first time starting tomorrow, May 27.

Kosicek Vineyards also won the award for Best Sparkling Wine for its “Rhapsody,” a blend of Pinot Noir and Riesling grown in the Grand River Valley, near the shore of Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland.

That Grand River Valley region, home to more than a dozen wineries, is considered to be the epicenter of the Ohio wine industry. But wineries from the southwest and west-central Ohio had a strong showing of their own in the wine competition’s “Best of Show” Awards.

Here are the results:

• Overall Best of Show: 2016 Kosicek Vineyards Traminette.

• Best White Wine (second to the Kosicek Traminette): Doughty Glen Winery “Misty Meiner”Gewurztraminer, non-vintage

• Best Red Wine: 2015 Burnet Ridge Zinfandel

• Best Blush/Rosé: Ferrante Winery Pink Catawba, non-vintage

• Best Fruit Wine: Brandeberry Winery Blackberry, non-vintage

• Best Sparkling: Kosicek Vineyards Grand River Valley “Rhapsody” (Pinot Noir/Riesling), non-vintage

• Dessert/Fortified Wine: Meier’s Wine Cellar #44 Cream Sherry, non-vintage

Brandeberry Winery — founded by Jim Brandeberry, the former dean of engineering at Wright State University, and his family — is located in Clark County between Enon and Yellow Springs. Burnet Ridge and Meier's Wine Cellars are both located in greater Cincinnati.

This is the second time Brandeberry’s Blackberry wine has been recognized as the best fruit wine in the Ohio Wine Competition. It also captured the category four years ago. Another Brandeberry wine — Black Dog, a blend of Cayuga white wine and raspberry — was named best fruit wine in 2015.

“Having our Blackberry wine win a double gold and Best Fruit Wine award is huge for us,” Kelly Brandeberry, Jim Brandeberry’s daughter, said in an email. “We have been known for our Blackberry wine since our opening.

“We hear more stories from customers about their grandfathers or other relatives making Blackberry wine and the memories our wine brings back to them.”

RELATED: Ohio wines get some love from outside the Buckeye state (January 2015)

This year’s Ohio Wine Competition attracted 271 entries, of which 20 — or less than 10 percent — were awarded the equivalent of a “double gold” medal, meaning each of the four judges on a panel deemed it a gold-medal wine. Another 36 wines received gold medals. There were 97 silver and 63 bronze medals awarded. All wines were tasted “blind,” with the judges not knowing the producer, brand or price.

To qualify for entry, wines must be produced by an Ohio winery. The juice or grapes used to make the wine are NOT required to be from Ohio. A large proportion of Ohio wineries make some — or in a few cases, all —of their wines from grapes or juice from outside Ohio.

Editor’s note: Mark Fisher, who wrote this story, served as a judge for this year’s Ohio Wine Competition.

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