What can you say about a day judging wine when the last flight includes ouzo? Yes, the Wine Curmudgeon understands that this beats working for a living.
A couple of highlights from the first day of the three-day competition, held at Purdue University:
• I'm judging with Rene Chazottes of the very fashionable Pacific Club in Los Angeles and Indiana wine distributor Michel Pascal. We judged together here last year, and I learned a lot. Learning even more this year. Michel, for example, grew up on a vineyard in the Rhone, which gives him a perspective not many others have. Our head judge is Amanda Stewart, who is doing important research on growing hybrids.
• Gave a gold medal to a chambourcin and a double gold to what seemed like a cool climate syrah among the 100 or so wines we tasted today. Otherwise, quality seemed uneven, though there were some very well done sparkling wines, including a catawba.
• We judged a bunch of white wines made with grapes I had never heard of, like ehrenfelser and geisenheim. One of the reasons I enjoy this competition so much is because I get to taste these kinds of wines. Anyone can judge chardonnay; who gets to judge ehrenfelser?