Triumphant tasting

By Josh Garvey

Reception lets guests sample state’s best wines, spirits

It may not have been the Catalina Wine Mixer, but to the makers of Michigan’s wines and spirits and their enthusiasts, it was just as big of a deal.

Hors d’oeuvres lined an assortment of tables, and people of all ages, some dressed in three-piece suits, others in shorts and T-shirts, swished wine while making the rounds and chatting amicably last Thursday at the Michigan Wine and Spirits Competition.

The event, in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center’s State Room, marked the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry’s 32nd such award ceremony. Fifty gold medals, 12 double gold medals, and six best of class awards were handed out to different Michigan vineyards.

Linda Jones, executive director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, said 42 Michigan wineries entered 394 different wines in the competition this year, and that the judging took about a week. “The actual judging was on Tuesday, and this is sort of the culminating party to do the trophy presentations,” Jones said.

The judges came from in state and out for the competition, Jones said. David Creighton was one of the in-state judges. He worked with the Wine Council for 12 years, and he has been involved with the wine making business for about 35. He said the high point this year was the red wines.

“The reds were the best I’ve ever tasted, and the whites were as good as I’ve ever tasted, but I was shocked by the reds,” Creighton said. “There were Pinot Noirs very soundly made, exactly as they should be, and just very few dogs.”

Those who wanted to sample the best of the state’s liquid harvest got their chance Thursday, where for $40, guests were received appetizers and coupons entitling them to beverages. About 300 people turned out for the event.

One highlight of this year’s competition was Fenn Valley Vineyards “42” Ice Wine, which won “Best of Class Dessert Wine,” one of the highest awards at the show. Ice wine is made by allowing grapes to freeze on the vine, which makes for a very high sugar content. The “42” comes from the 42nd parallel.

Aaron Harr represented Fenn Valley at the party. Fenn Valley began in 1973, and is a family owned operation. Harr said one benefit of the awards ceremony was that it helped spread the word on Michigan wines.

“It’s nice, because of the economy,” Harr said. “People are paying more attention, looking at businesses within their own state, trying to show some support for local businesses. This really serves to highlight and showcase wines within the state.”