After weeks and weeks of preparation, the last few days brought the culmination of an event that we’ve been eagerly anticipating for quite some time: the Ohio vs. Michigan Wine Clash. It was a tremendous, multi-state local wine event involving a remarkable range of wines and the talent of a considerable number of judges, both professional and wine enthusiast alike.
But before I describe the event and its results, I should pause to express the convivium’s gratitude to the person who thought of the event, organized it, and supervised it in both states: Andrew Hall. Without his wine knowledge, enthusiasm, beneficence, and truly staggering energy, the event would simply not have been possible. My own narration, below, is largely from the point of view of someone who was able to witness the process first-hand; I hesitate to speak on Andrew’s behalf, but at the same time as I look over it it seems to me that every “we” and “our” overstates my own participation. Thanks are also due to Julie Weatherbee in Michigan, who coordinated with the Slow Food Huron Valley chapter and, as a favor to an old friend, pulled together a lot of wines and a lot of wine enthusiasts and a great venue and made a tasting happen on very short notice, as well as to the Slow Food Huron Valley chapter itself, for indulging us in this—as far as we know, unique, but certainly unusual—friendly competition.
Now, on to the details. The event originated when Andrew dropped me a note suggesting that we organize a local wine event at the same time as Beaujolais Nouveau day—the third Thursday in November. I mentioned in my response that, although the drink-local theme hadn’t crossed my mind per se, it had occurred to me some time ago that the closeness of the third Thursday and the third Saturday, the traditional date of the annual Ohio State-Michigan game, might create the possibility for some sort of interesting event. Before long we were considering contacting the Huron Valley chapter… and the idea for the Wine Clash was born.
The idea was to find good local wines that would be preferable to Beaujolais Nouveau in both taste and price and would lack the latter’s rather spectacular (if, in the wake of the demise of the Concorde, admittedly less so, but still) carbon footprint. There were quite a few possible advantages:
- calling attention to quality local wines;
- providing high-quality blind judging of those wines;
- underscoring the absurdity of transporting worse wine across the world in a jet when better wine is available locally;
- helping consumers narrow down their wine choices before Thanksgiving; and
- tasting lots of wines.
What I was not prepared for was the response to the event as it drew near. Reporters writing for papers in Detroit and Dayton and Ann Arbor all evinced interest, as did bloggers from mid-Michigan to the Kentucky border. We started getting email from wineries asking, usually delicately, whether their wines were being included in the competition. I was surprised to hear from one of the top wineries in the state that they thought our little competition was a great idea.
The competition was not without its hiccups, of course. We hadn’t clarified the rules at the beginning, in part because we never expected very much attention, but it was always our intent to showcase wines made from grapes that were grown in Ohio and Michigan—not wines made in those states from grapes produced elsewhere. We ended up having to explain this criterion to a winery more than once, and it excluded a considerable number of very good wines. But the point of the event was to highlight the wine made by local producers, and we stuck to that decision.
The Columbus judging took place on Monday, November 17, at The Twisted Vine. I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting about a quarter of the people there, but those I had met represented some of the most talented palates around. (One was our very own convivium leader, my wife Colleen!) Most people think that wine judging is enjoyable, but as it turns out, as Colleen told me after her first experience doing it, it can be pretty grueling. In this instance there were around sixty wines to be tasted. That much acid is an assault on the tongue, and even if you spit, that much alcohol will wear you down. It has to have been a numbing experience, especially since, as with any competition, to put it delicately, they can’t all be winners.
But which ones were? Well, without further ado I give you the list; a PDF version is available here.
MVPs (Gold Medal Winners)
Sparkling Wine: Shady Lane Cellars Blanc de Blancs 2000 (MI)
Aromatic White: Ferrante ‘Golden Bunches’ Riesling 2007 (OH)
White Wine: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Chardonnay sur lie 2006 (MI)
Pinot Noir: Black Star Farms ‘Arcturos’ Pinot Noir 2006 (MI)
Red Wine: Kinkead Ridge Revelation 2006 (OH)
First Team (Honorable Mentions)
Ravenhurst Grande Cuvee NV (OH)
Forty Five North ‘45’ White 2007 (MI)
Ferrante ‘Signature’ Pinot Grigio 2006 (OH)
Meranda-Nixon Traminette 2006 (OH)
Firelands Pinot Grigio 2007 (OH)
Chateau Fontaine Riesling 2007 (MI)
Chateau Fontaine Woodland White 2007 (MI)
River Village Cellars (Kinkead Ridge) Syrah 2006 (OH)
Black Star ‘Arcturos’ Cabernet Franc 2005 (MI)
Fenn Valley Capriccio NV (MI)
Wyncroft ‘Avonlea Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2006 (MI)
Wyncroft Shou 2005 (MI)
South River Cellars Karma 2005 (OH)
Finally, we’d like to thank Alana’s Food & Wine for creating a dinner menu designed to go with the winning Ohio wines this evening. We attended along with a table full of friends and fellow Slow Food convivium members, and a wonderful time was had by all. Our only regret was that Mr. Hall, exhausted by his considerable exertions over the past weeks, had been forced to retire for the evening before we arrived. We wish him a well-deserved rest.