Twenty-nine wine experts from around the country gathered July 18th in East Lansing for the 40th Annual Michigan Wine Competition.
Fifty-eight of the state’s 130 wineries entered 380 wines into the Competition, which is open only to wine produced from Michigan grapes and other fruit. Of those entered, more than 40 percent were from the bountiful 2016 vintage, which Michigan-wine lovers have been eager to sample. The 2016 growing season in Michigan was especially good for dry-white vinifera wines, with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner all making waves at the competition. As expected, the Rosé category was also filled with great competitors.
The esteemed panel of judges expressed positive sentiments about the wines presented to them this year. “I was very impressed with the quality of the wines, and know that Michigan has a very bright future,” said Jim Trezise, president of WineAmerica and president of the International Riesling Foundation.
One of the year’s head-turners was the award for Best Dry Red going to a Marquette wine. In the history of the Competition, it is rare for a hybrid red grape to rise above all other dry red competitors. Walloon Lake Winery, a member of the newly established Tip of the Mitt winemaking region, made the winning wine, North Arm Noir.
Gold medals were awarded to a wide variety of wines – from bone-dry reds to sweet and luscious dessert wines. At the end of the day, judges awarded the top “Best of Class” awards to eight wines from a group of 71 gold medal winners and 19 double gold.
The Best of Class Awards:
- Sparkling: L. Mawby Grace
- Dry White: Verterra Winery 2016 Dry Riesling
- Dry Red: Walloon Lake Winery North Arm Noir
- Semi-dry White: Tabor Hill Winery 2016 Gewurztraminer
- Semi-dry Red: Lemon Creek Winery Pheasant Run Red
- Dessert: St. Julian Wine Company Solera Cream Sherry
- Fruit: Mackinaw Trail Winery Blueberry
- Rosé: Chateau Fontaine 2016 Laughing Waters Dry Rosé
Christopher Cook served as Superintendent for the 2017 Michigan Wine Competition. He judged at the Competition for 12 years before becoming its superintendent in 2001. Cook’s vast experience in the wine industry guides the process of vetting judges for the event. This year, judges included Master Sommeliers Madeline Triffon, Claudia Tyagi and notable wine writers, winemakers and wine educators.
“It was good to hear from our distinguished judges that, once again, our Michigan wine astounded them. Having tasted all the sweepstakes candidates, I totally agree,” Cook stated. “Just when you think it can’t get much better than last year, it does. What’s clear to me is that we are now moving into that somewhat rarified world in wine in which technical expertise and excellence are being surpassed by the ability to craft subtlety, elegance and beauty into what you are tasting. Most of the wines that made it to the top of our competition, do exactly that.”
Among the judges was Rick Lopus, vice president of Great Lakes Wine & Spirits, who said, “Unsurprisingly, I–and the rest of the judges in my group—were very impressed with the overall quality of the very broad range of wines we evaluated. Though Michigan continues to make truly world-class Riesling, the breadth of offerings continues to increase, including some knockout reds that many people would be surprised are made in Michigan. The Michigan wine scene continues to rise.” Mr. Lopus is a member of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
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 on Thursday, July 27th. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door, and can be purchased online at michiganwines.com/reception-tickets. Visit michiganwines.com 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 and Rural Development. For more information about the wines and wineries of Michigan, contact the council online, or by phone at 517-284-5790.