Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wine Excellence awards provides firsts for Chambourcin and Chaddford

I write about a number of wineries from the region that few people have heard about, either because they've just opened or don't get their product into the state store (in Pennsylvania) or into the hands of many merchants in Maryland.

But that's not meant to downplay the continued great work of some of this region's standbys, one being Chaddsford in southeastern Pennsylvania. Can't think of another regional winery that carries more weight as an innovator and is known in more corners of the world that wine drinkers occupy. And the winery's win Sunday in the annual judging by the Pennsylvania Wine Society serves as a reminder of where winemaker and co-owner Eric Miller has set the bar at a winery that will celebrate its 30th birthday in a couple of years.

Society president Paul Beesom said that there were several precendents this year: no Chambourcin had ever won before and Miller and Chaddsford had never won before. Those streaks are over, off the win of the fabulous 2007 vintage. Those who follow the progress of the local industry will recall that Pinnacle Ridge's 2007 Chambourcin was the Farm Show's top winer in 2009.

It took awhile, Beesom admitted, for Chambourcin to even be allowed into the competition.

"I had mixed feelings and a lot of us had mixed feelings of whether to include Chambourcin," he said. "But the feeling was that it was so close to a vinifera species that it could almost be one and also that it was the one area that this state and this area could make its mark with. And it does very well here. So we agreed to include it."

The Society has been around since 1987, but has only been judging PA wines for its Wine Excellence competition for eight years. Wineries are invited to submit their wines to the organization, which narrows the entries to a more workable number. This year, according to the Pennsylvania Winery Association Web site, there were 11, including two each from Allegro, Manatawny Creek and NW Pennsylvania's Presque Isle.

And more and more, Beesom said, it has become a pleasureable experience. "They're getting better," he said of the state's wines and the ones in particular that wind up in the competition. "Better every year, and I say that after each event. I can honestly say that of the 11 wines that we [judged], every one of them could be on a fine-dining restraurant list."

That wasn't the case early, he added. There were two or three good ones, the rest a "little shaky. But they're just getting better. I think the winemakers are learning more as they go along on how to do things right in this area."

If you want to check out some comments on Chaddsford wine, here's a link to the Web site where Lee Miller has assembled a collection of praise from magazines and bloggers alike. These include insight from some of the folks I follow regularly, including's Roger Morris (who also blogs under the heading of Been There Tasted That) and's Brian Kirby.