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Tuesday, 03 August 2010 03:13

8:10 AM

Good morning! Please refresh this page to see the latest posts.

It looks like our live chat isn't working, so we'll make do with just blogging for now.

We're  getting ready to start this morning's tasting at 8:30.

Right now, Competition Superintendent Chris Cook and Wine Council Program Director Linda Jones are looking very smart -- we have a no-show judge from Indiana, but they'd scheduled an extra judge to rotate in, for the first time. So we still have enough judges in the house -- 6 tables x 4 apiece.

Several judges are still buzzing over last night's dinner, when we were served a bottle of Gill's Pier trophy winning 2007 Cab Franc / Merlot from last year's competition. Anyone who says Michigan can't make excellent reds in the right vintages needs to try a glass of this one.

Gotta run now -- first flight, dry whites.


Just tasted 10 Pinot Gris, all 2009 vintage. Gave out 3 golds, 2 silver, 1 bronze. Some very nice wines in there. Actually surprised that so many good wines were coming out of the 2009 vintage.

Just tasted 8 unoaked Chardonnay, 2 from 2008 vintage, rest 2009.  No gold medals, two silvers, two bronze. Frankly, the 2009 vintage showed its weakness in this flight -- some examples showed unripe or herbal characteristics, chaptalization, etc.

Tasted 6 semi-dry roses -- gave out one gold medal to a 2009 Pinot Noir -- maybe 45 North or Left Foot Charley. Really nice!

Just voted our first trophy of the day: TOP SPARKLING goes to a 2008 Brut, blend of Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Pinot Blanc. Congratulations to whoever made it -- we won't find out until later in the day.

Getting ready to vote for TOP  DRY WHITE. We have 17 gold medal wines to taste for this trophy -- that's a lot. We'll taste in 2 flights, and then do a taste-off among the tops.

First time ever! A 2009 PINOT GRIS just won the best dry white wine trophy. This was no fluke; 6 of the 17 dry white gold medalists were Pinot Gris or Grigio. Pinot Gris has come of age in Michigan!

Sorry I haven't been able to chat -- not enough time.

Unusual circumstance -- we just tasted ONE rose wine, to vote on whether to award a best of class trophy for rose wines. Even though it's our only gold medal winning rose, by the competition rules it still needs a majority of judges voting in its favor in order to award a trophy.  It won; this was the 2009 Pinot Noir semi-dry rose that canme through our judging table. It needed 13 votes from the 24 judges to get a trophy -- and it got 16. Congrats to either 45 North or Left Foot Charley -- will find out later.

Disappointing flight of 9 semi-dry Rieslings. Five with no medals, three bronze medals, one that we couldn't agree on -- so we're sending it over to another table to resolve our conflicts.

It's become clear that, overall, 2009 was not a strong Riesling vintage in Michigan. Only two dry wines got gold medals, and we didn't give anything higher than a bronze to the semi-dry that we tasted.

Headed  to lunch now -- will try to get some chat time afterward.


Back from lunch, and first item on the agenda was the trophy for best semi-dry white. Six gold medal wines to choose from. Our pick: a 2009 Riesling, 2% RS. Just beat out a Gewurz and a Vignoles, both of which will be eligible for the Judges Special Trophy, to be voted on later.

Our table is headed for one of my less-favorite categories next -- dry red proprietary blends. 


Surprisingly good flight: five wines, we gave out one gold, two silvers and a bronze. Gold went to a -- what else? -- 2007 vintage blend of Cab Franc, Regent, Lemberger. Nice wine, wonderful blueberry fruit. I'd put this one in the cellar for another year or two.

Purely impressionistic at this point because there's no time to count, but it seems like we're giving out fewer medals than past years. That would be a good thing.

Does anyone remember when Pinot Noir was considered THE coming red grape in MI? Not our batch... Tasted seven samples from 2006 (???) to 2009, gave out three bronzes, three no medals, and sent out one wine to another table for a second opinion (undecided between bronze and no medal).

Next flight was six 2008 Cabernet Francs. Again, it's clear that 2008 was not a great red wine vintage in Michigan. Two silver medals, one bronze, three no medals. Very disappointing after so many good reds from the 2007 vintage, that we tasted the last couple of compettitions.

My friend, Robin Garr (of wineloverspage.com) has a theory: the  first duty of a fruit wine is to be true to the fruit from which it comes. If that's the case, the eight "Miscellaneous Fruit" wines we just tasted fell far short; one silver and one bronze in the lot. 

Rant: We make truly excellent cherry and raspberry wines in Michigan, but I seldom taste wines from other fruits that measure up to their standards. Would someone tell me why that is?

Gotta run -- we have ten gold medal reds to taste for the best-of-class trophy.


Very telling: At a competition when most of the red wines come from 2008, half of the ten dry red gold medalists in the running for the best dry red trophy were late arrivals from 2007, a far warmer, riper vintage.

The winner: a 2007 Cabernet Franc, the third straight year that 2007 was the winning red vintage. Won't know the name until later.

Vote for the trophy winner "Semi-sweet red" from among three gold medal winners: a non-vintage blend of Chancellor, Chambourcin and Noiret. Very nice -- though not something I'd be likely to buy or serve.

Next up: best fruit wine.


And the winner is a Cabernet Franc / Cherry blend. Folks, this is seriously good wine, at 2.5% residual sugar. I'm already fantasizing about getting a couple of bottles to reduce in a sauce to go with roast duck.

Our last flight before the dessert sweepstakes: five Vidal Blanc icewines. Our table gave out its first unanimous double gold of the day to a 2008 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. It tasted remarkably like the 2008 "42" Vidal Ice Wine from Fenn Valley that won the trophy for best dessert wine last year.

Up next: Best Dessert Wine, and a review of all the wines eligible for the Judges Special Trophy. House rules say that's any wine with 75% or more of the votes of the trophy winner in its category. Did that make sense?

David Creighton,  who's judging at the same table with me, said his two favorite wines of the day may be the trophy-winning dry Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Rose. I wouldn't disagree about the PG, but the rose was a little sweet for my taste, though very well made.

And the best dessert wine is the Vidal Ice Wine that our table gave the double gold. Like last year, a stupendous ice wine from 2008. I can only hope they sell it near the same price as Fenn Valley's 42 -- $15 from the winery. 

Very close second, in my book: a fortified raspberry wine @ 19% alcohol.

While we wait for the judges' special award, it's worth considering that, overall, the wines didn't seem quite up to the last couple of competitions. Attribute that to vintage variation.



Sparkling: 2008 Black Star Farms Arcturos

Dry Whte: 2009 Black Star Farms Pinot Gris

Rosé: 2009 45 North Blanc de Pinot Noir (2nd consecutive vintage winner)

Semi-Dry White: 2009 Black Star Farms Arcturos Riesling

Semi-Dry Red: NV Lawton Ridge "AZO" Chancellor / Chambourcin

Dry Red: 2007 Bowers Harbor Erica Vineyard Cabernet Franc

Fruit: Uncle John's Franc-N-Cherry

Dessert: 2008 "42" Ice Wine, Fenn Valley (2nd year winner for the same wine.)

Judges Merit Award: 2009 Chateau Fontaine Woodland White (Auxerrois)

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Recently-deceased Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was a wine geek (and reputed alcoholic) with a 10,000-bottle cellar, according to ex-Slate wine columnist Mike Steinberger. Kim earlier gave up Hennessy Cognac on doctor's orders.