In Vinology's downstairs "Bubble Room" last week I was warmly greeted by Slow Food Columbus' Andrew Hall and joint Columbus-Huron Valley Slow Food member, Julie Weatherbee. These two, together with Vinology's generous help, were instrumental in setting up an Ohio v. Michigan wine competition, complete with official wine judges, comparing the best of Michigan and Ohio-made (and grown) wines, just before the Big Game. The idea, initiated by Hall and Slow Food Columbus' Bear Braumoeller, was to take advantage of the timing of the Ohio-Michigan football game, just days after the release of the year's Beaujolais Nouveau, to bring a new (friendlier and tastier) dimension to the rivalry. And, perhaps most importantly, to give wine drinkers some local alternatives to the much-hyped (and air-freighted) French wine.
As they started collecting the wines for the tasting competition, according to Braumoeller,
"We started getting email from wineries asking, usually delicately, whether their wines were being included in the competition....The competition was not without its hiccups, of course. We hadn’t clarified the rules at the beginning, in part because we never expected very much attention, but it was always our intent to showcase wines made from grapes that were grown in Ohio and Michigan—not wines made in those states from grapes produced elsewhere. We ended up having to explain this criterion to a winery more than once, and it excluded a considerable number of very good wines. But the point of the event was to highlight the wine made by local producers, and we stuck to that decision."
In addition to extending their expertise with local wines, one exciting aspect of the tasting for the judges was being able to taste things they had never tried - apparently several of the wines are so popular that their vintners don't enter them in competitions. The three official Michigan wine judges who agreed to the blind tasting (the logistics of which were executed flawlessly by Vinology's staff, btw) tried over 30 wines, and the rest of us tasted, got happy, and filled out ratings sheets along with them. Without further ado, the winners according to both the Michigan and Ohio judges are:
MVPs (Gold Medal Winners)
Sparkling Wine: Shady Lane Cellars Blanc de Blancs 2000 (MI)
Aromatic White: Ferrante ‘Golden Bunches’ Riesling 2007 (OH)
White Wine: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Chardonnay sur lie 2006 (MI)
Pinot Noir: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Pinot Noir 2006 (MI)
Red Wine: Kinkead Ridge Revelation 2006 (OH)
First Team (Honorable Mentions)
Ravenhurst Grande Cuvee NV (OH)
Forty Five North ‘45’ White 2007 (MI)
Ferrante ‘Signature’ Pinot Grigio 2006 (OH)
Meranda-Nixon Traminette 2006 (OH)
Firelands Pinot Grigio 2007 (OH)
Chateau Fontaine Riesling 2007 (MI)
Chateau Fontaine Woodland White 2007 (MI)
River Village Cellars (Kinkead Ridge) Syrah 2006 (OH)
Black Star ‘Arcturos’ Cabernet Franc 2005 (MI)
Fenn Valley Capriccio NV (MI)
Wyncroft ‘Avonlea Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2006 (MI)
Wyncroft Shou 2005 (MI)
South River Cellars Karma 2005 (OH)
It's not surprising that there are some delicious Michigan and Ohio wines. There are nearly 60 vineyards in Michigan, and over 100 in Ohio. While doing some research for an article about our local Pioneer Wine Trail (one of 5 wine trails in Michigan, and the only one not located near Lake Michigan, btw), I was surprised to learn that post-Civil War wine production in the U.S. was centered in southwestern Michigan and northern Ohio. Until the untimely demise of these vineyards due to Prohibition, most of the nation's wine after the late 1800s came from our two states. Wine in Michigan took off again, starting in the 1970s, when the great European varieties were planted and found to thrive here.
After a great evening of tasting some of the finest from our states, I'm happy to have the list above because now I know how I'm going to pick out some winners for our Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe even one from Ohio now that I've got a starting point. As for the Ohio-Michigan game: Go Blue!
See what other people have to say about this momentous event at: