The 20th annual Indy International wine competition offered a variety of insights into wine competitions and U.S. regional wine. It offered a glimpse of the future of the former with a test of electronic scoring, while reaffirming that the latter are legitimate members of the wine community and deserve to be treated as such.
This year, there were 2,500 entries from 15 countries and and 38 states, which seemed to be not as many as last year. But my panel judged 212 wines over two days (not including the final round of taste-offs), and that was enough.
More, after the jump:
The competition gave iPads to one judging panel, which was able to enter its scores directly into the competition's computer system. This is a big improvement over the normal way of doing things, which still involves pencil, paper, and typing the scores into the data base for each wine. Electronic score can not only speed up the judging process, but offers ways to improve it. Everyone I talked to said the iPad system worked well, and the competition may use more of them next year.
The quality of the wine, and especially the red wines, was impressive. Several of us, including Tim McNally, the New Orleans wine guru, noted this. Generally, it's easier to make quality white wine, especially for regional winemakers. But the reds seemed better than the whites, which speaks well for the future of regional wine. I was especially impressed with a red Bordeaux-style blend from Wagner Vineyards in New York's Finger Lakes, the 2007 Meritage ($22). Our panel gave it a double gold, and I was very disappointed that it didn't make the final day taste-off. The complete results are here.
Voted best red wine was a 2008 cabernet franc from Kokomo Winery ($36) in Sonoma, but this was not just another California wine. It's less pushy, less fruity, less alcoholic, and more elegant; in this, it reflects winemaker Erik Miller, who grew up in Kokomo, Ind., attended Purdue, and judged the competition. And he was just as surprised as anyone when his wine won.
Voted best white wine was a 2010 ehrenfelser ($18) from Gray Monk Vineyard in British Columbia. Ehrenfelser is related to riesling, and produces a similar wine. This was a very nice example, though its victory was quite unexpected. I wonder what the Wine Bloggers Conference will say about it when the group visits BC in a couple of years.
The wine of the year was a semi-sweet riesling ($12) from Oregon's Willamette Valley Vineyards, which was also made by a Purdue graduate and judge, Don Crank. Don't get me wrong -- I liked the wine, and it's a terrific value, with good acid and lots of candied fruit. But I thought there were a couple of other wines in the taste-off that were better, including a chardonel from Indiana's River City Winery that was among the best chardonels I've ever tasted.
One other note: I'm not a big fan of pinotage, the South African red wine grape. But the pinotage in the taste-off, a 2009 from Lomo Prieto Winery in California's Santa Cruz region, was as good as pinotage gets -- despite 15.1 percent alcohol. It's amazing how blind tasting opens one's mind.