Maryland Rates Its Wine

       Awards season in Hollywood rewards performance of one kind. Here in Chesapeake Country, we’re rolling out the red carpet for performance of another kind: wine making.

         Last August, 80-some state wineries put their best wine forward in hopes of earning the esteemed Governor’s Cup. The Cup is the highest honor in the annual wine competition hosted by the Maryland Wineries Association.

         “Our role is to encourage growing wineries in Maryland,” said the association’s Jim Bauckman. “We do our best to promote wineries of all sizes.”

         How to choose a winner out of 150 fruity entries?

         “To decide our Best in Show, we host a morning full of wine tastings,” Bauckman explained. At 9am on August 26, judges gathered at the top of The Center Club in Baltimore. For two hours, five panels of judges tasted wine flights from each entrant. All wines that earned gold medals were sent to the semi finals. From there the top scoring wines entered the final round to be judged by all 25 judges.

         Nine categories for Best in Class included white, rose, red, fruit and dessert.

         So it’s a big deal that the coveted Cup goes to Port of Leonardtown Winery’s 2015 Barbera Reserve.

         “It’s absolutely no surprise that Port of Leonardtown had such a huge day, competition director Al Spoler told the Maryland Wineries Association. “They’ve been steadily improving for some time now, and today they entered the conversation about Maryland’s best wineries.”

         The second Best in Show award is the Jack Aellen Cup — named for the pioneer of honey and fruit wines in Maryland — which celebrates the best non-grape wine. Great Shoals Winery took home this prize for a 2018 Hard Strawberry blend.

         The 2018 Best in Show and Best in Class receive their awards at a ceremony on Monday, January 21 from 3 to 4:30pm at Red Red Wine Bar on Main Street.

         “There is no doubt that it is in our state’s best interest to keep our farms growing, thriving and innovating,” Gov. Larry Hogan said to the competitors. “Agriculture is a significant part of our history, our heritage and our economy, and our wine producers are an important part of that.”

         Find out more about the winners:

     Best in Class:

• White: Big Cork Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc 2017

• White Blend: Big Cork Vineyards’ Russian Kiss 2017

• Rosé: Cabin Vineyard Breeze 2017

• Red: Port of Leonardtown Winery Barbera Reserve 2015

• Red Blend: Port of Leonardtown Winery Old Line Red 2015

• Off-Dry: Big Cork Vineyards’ Vidal Blanc 2017

• Sweet: Robin Hill Farm & Vineyards’ Bliss 2017

• Dessert: Dove Valley Winery Late Harvest Vignoles 2016

• Fruit: Great Shoals Winery Hard Strawberry 2018