CT Wines That Shined at Food Awards Competition

By Renee B. Allen

Wine Judges (from left to right): Ken Turcotte, Owner, Divine Wine Emporium, Niantic, CT; Renee B. Allen, Director, Wine Institute of New England; Nicholas Paris, Fine Wine Public Relations Manager, E. & J. Gallo Winery

I had the pleasure again this year of being involved in the Connecticut Specialty Food Association’s Product Awards Competition. The competition was held at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. Although this was the Competition’s 12th year, it is only the third year that Connecticut wines have been included in the competition and the judging was intense. A total of 28 wines were submitted by five wineries for judging in seven different categories: dry white, other white, dry red, rose, blush, fruit and dessert. Only wines made from 100% Connecticut grown fruit were allowed to be entered into the competition.

The wines were blind tasted with only the vintage and fruit or grape variety being revealed. Each wine was judged on its appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. Judges conducted their individual assessment of a wine and, once all scores and notes had been recorded, some lively discussions ensued. Although the judges were often in agreement, there was some debate over the course of the 3-hour tasting, with each judge having his or her particular favorites. Some general observations were the fact that Connecticut wines continue to improve and that no serious flaws were detected. One judge was particularly excited to award one of the wines he tasted a perfect score.

The Connectiuct Specialty Food Association is now charged with the task of tallying up the scores and awarding the winners of each category. Once the list comes out, we will publish it here. In the meantime, here are a few of the wines that particularly stood out for me. I would not be suprised to see them in the winner’s circle.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Sunset Blush – a delicately sweet wine with hints of citrus, plum and blueberries, this wine earned one of my top scores for both its structure and balance. From first sniff to lingering finish, this wine provides a rewarding experience.

Jones Winery Cabernet Franc – made from my favorite red grape grown in Connecticut, this dry red wine hit the mark with its earthiness and black cherry notes. Nicely balanced.

Bishops Orchards Winery Hyland Red – made from farm fresh raspberries, this wine captures the essence of the fruit with a journey that begins with heady aromas and sweetness and ends with a pleasant, tangy tartness.

Sunset Meadow Vineyards Midnight Ice – one of only two ice wines being made Connecticut, this sweet nectar burst with tropical aromas and flavors like mango and lychee. Perfectly intoxicating.

Renee B. Allen, Founder and Director of the Wine Institute of New England (WINE) and a Certified Specialist of Wine, is a regular monthly contributor on the topic of local and sustainable wines. WINE’s “Connecticut Corkers”  blog features wineries, winemakers, and wine events throughout the state, with an emphasis on wine education and appreciation.

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