It’s the second straight year that a white wine has won the intra-state event, which annually takes place at the Hilton Harrisburg. More than 100 people, the biggest crowd ever for one of these events, attended. It drew members of the Wine Society, other guests, and winemaker/owners representing most of the wineries that finished as finalists.
Dauphin County producer Armstrong Valley Winery finished runner-up with its 2017 Cabernet Franc.
The wine competition drew 88 submissions from 20 Pa. wineries. Nine wineries and 13 wines, including two ice wines from Mazza Vineyards, placed among the 13 finalists.
This has been a competition that for years included a list of 10 finalists and wine made only from vinifera grapes, but the criteria were tweaked a few years ago to allow hybrids such as Chambourcin, Traminette and Vidal. This year’s list deviated more than it ever has, featuring several ice wines and a port, a sparkling and also a sweet wine among the finalists.
Some surrounding states hold a gala event to announce their best wine: There’s the Governor’s Cup and Governor’s Case in Virginia, the New York Wine Classic in New York, the New Jersey Governor’s Cup, and the Governor’s Cup and Comptroller’s Cup competitions in Maryland. Pennsylvania’s recognition of its wines and wineries and been divvied up into four contests: the Pa. Farm Show and Wine Excellence in January, the Pennsylvania Wine Competition in March and the Sommelier Judgment Day that’s announced with an accompanying event in the fall.
Mazza entered a 2017 and 2018 ice wine, both of which finished as finalists.
Thanks to some ties in the final scoring, the list of finalists increased to a baker’s dozen. It’s a list that includes, in alphabetical order:
Armstrong Valley (Dauphin County) Cabernet Franc 2017
Armstrong Valley Fort Halifax 1796 Port
Benigna’s Creek (Schuylkill County) Sunshine 2018
Briar Valley (Bedford County) Cabernet Franc 2017
Cassel Vineyards of Hershey (Dauphin County) Vidal 2017
Mazza (Erie County) Vidal Ice Wine 2017
Mazza (Erie County) Vidal Ice Wine 2018
Mazza Cabernet Franc 2017
Nissley (Lancaster County) Chardonnay Reserve 2018
Presque Isle (Erie County) Dornfelder 2017
Shade Mountain (Snyder County) Chardonnay 2017
Stony Run (Berks County) Sparkling Chardonnay 2017
Stony Run (Berks County Gruner Veltliner 2017
As for those that received an honorable mention: Cassel Vineyards at Hershey Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016; Chaddsford (Delaware County) Merlot 2017; Folino Estate (Berks County) Merlot non-vintage; Folino Estate Pinot Noir 2017; Nimble Hill Gruner Veltliner 2018; Nimble Hill (Wyoming County) Pinot Noir 2017; Stony Run Chardonnay Reserve 2017; Stony Run Viognier 2017; Waltz (Lancaster County) Cherry Tree Merlot 2016; Waltz Crow Woods Cabernet Sauvignon 2016.
Waltz Vineyards Estate Winery won the last three Wine Excellence competitions, twice with its Cabernet Sauvignon and then last year with its 2018 Moscato. It was the first white wine to ever win the competition.
Wineries that finished in the top 10 last year and returned to it this year include Benigna’s Creek, Cassel, Nissley and Stony Run.
Per a brochure from the Pa. Wine Association that was given out for the event, there are more than 270 licensed wineries operating across the state, the seventh highest in the country. It ranks fifth nationally in grape production and makes more than a million gallons of wine annually.