Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wine awards give and just as often take

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard won its share of awards in the Maryland Governor’s Cup competition, so winemaker Carl DiManno certainly had reasons to celebrate. Among the recognition handed out late last week was a “Best of Class” for its 2007 Pinot Grigio, four gold medals, two silvers and two bronze. Not a bad collection of trinkets at all for the several-year-old winery that’s tucked away in the northwest corner of Maryland’s Montgomery County.

Still, anyone who does something that can get entered and judged knows the elation and disappointment that the results can bring. As someone who’s been involved in newspaper for more than 30 years and entered a number of contests – and made the decision of who and what to enter for many of my co-workers -- there’s a realization that often what one thinks will win doesn’t, and what seems like a stretch to win is bestowed first prize.

In many ways it matches the gratification and frustration of those who enter wine competition, DiManno said. Asked how much stock a winery put in the awards it wins, he echoed what are often my sentiments after receiving the results: HUH!!!!

“Having not entered anything or submitted to Parker or Wine Spectator, I can’t speak from that standpoint,” he said. “But as far as contests or medals go, it is a complete scattershot. I swear that the wine that took the ‘Best of Class’ had been sampled on a Thursday instead of Wednesday, it would have been a bronze medal. There is no consistency whatsoever.

“The [20]05 Cabernet Franc from Sugarloaf went up to the East Coast International Wine Competition up in the Finger Lakes, which pulls in wines from California, New Zealand [etc.], and took a double gold. We sent it down to Virginia for the East Coast Vinifera Growers wine tasting and it took a bronze. There’s absolutely no consistency. . . .”

That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like hearing Sugarloaf Mountain’s name called. As he said, “It’s nice to get them. The first couple medals we [won we] thought, ‘Woahhh, OK, we’re on the right track,’ and then . . . it’s funny. To enter the same wine in a different contest and see there’s absolutely no consistency whatsoever.

“With wine, there’s no definition of quality obviously, there’s no definition of good wine. It’s very subjective. It’s just, I’m more impressed when I hear things like the overall quality of Maryland is coming up,” he said. “I’d like to think that we and a few others have raised the bar, and now everyone is getting on their game. That’s encouraging.”

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