Wine Fair Judges Select Medalists in Seven Categories
For Hoosier vintners, the Indiana Wine Fair at the Story Inn is a debutante party. For Dr. Allen Dale ("Ole") Olson a/k/a the "Pontiff of Palate", the Indiana Wine Fair is serious business. Ole has the delicious privilege of establishing criteria and assembling judges to determine the best wines produced in the Hoosier state.
"It is a fact, often overlooked, that Indiana is an agricultural state" says Ole, who selects the wine list at the Story Inn, Indiana's oldest bed & breakfast. "We have more than 30 wineries that match up to the best of the Californians, and that is, unfortunately, a well-kept secret." The Story Inn is Indiana's oldest bed & breakfast, located south of Nashville, which has hosted the Indiana Wine Fair for eight consecutive years.
On Thursday, April 22, Ole's judges blind-tasted 138 submittals from 19 of Indiana's best wineries. "We award Gold, Silver and Bronze medals to the best three wines in each of seven categories: Dry Red, Sweet Red, Dry White, Sweet White, Dessert, Non-traditional/Non-Grape, and Blush" says Rick Hofstetter, owner of the Story Inn. "The cumulative highest point total gets 'Best of Show', and the highest scoring wine grown here (regardless of category) gets the 'Indiana Gold'. Then we feature the medalists at the Indiana Wine Fair the following Saturday, and add the gold's to our wine list."
This year's panel consisted of dentist Lisa Baker, WFIU broadcast journalist Yael Kysander, WJAA-FM owner Robert Becker, French-trained chef Joan Olson, and print journalist/photographer Joe Persinger. "These folks all know wine, but none is a Sommelier, which gives us a good, representative and fair assessment" says Ole, who was available to break a tie if necessary, and, in point of fact, broke an unprecedented four ties. Each judge was accorded five points in each of four categories, or twenty possible points per judge. There were one hundred points per wine.
"We create a level playing field here, with no pre-conceptions" says Hofstetter, who brown-bagged with the judges that afternoon, keeping his preferences a secret. The results were staggering. "We were blown away when we tallied up the scores."
The "Best of Show", with bragging rights to being the best wine in Indiana, was the sweet red Scout Mountain Red Tailed Hawk, from Corydon. "Smooth, complex, fruity, elegant, and way above its category peers" according to Ole. The close runner-up, in the "Dry Red" category, was Easley's Governor's 2007 Reserve Zinfandel. Hofstetter described the competition between the two as a "dog fight".
A dead heat is more like it. The "Red Tailed Hawk" and the "Governor's 2007 Zinfandel" had statistically improbable identical scores. Ole, pressed to break the tie, deferred to the obvious. "Different wines, different categories, different strokes for different folks. There was no way to compare the two side by side, so we looked into the judging, and saw that the 'Hawk' beat its rivals by a bigger margin" said Ole, who declared the 'Hawk" the winner (literally) by a nose.
Hofstetter had this to add: "Astonishing to me is the fact that Scout Mountain is a brand new winery, and this is their first entry into this competition. I'm totally blown away." Scout Mountain also won a bronze medal in the "Blush" category for its Chambourcin. "This has never happened before" adds Hofstetter.
Huber Winery in Starlight claimed the gold for the best wine from fruit grown in Indiana, the 2008 Chardonel. "We have difficult growing conditions here in Indiana" Ole explains. "If we are to make a real impact, it will be in the white grape hybrids." Hofstetter adds: "If we offered a silver and a bronze in this category, Huber would have gotten those too." Ole and his wife Joan enjoyed a bottle of the Huber Chardonel at dinner following the competition, with scallops.
Multiple medals were awarded to the following:
For a complete list of the final judging results, click HERE.
As a condition of judging, each winery has agreed to make the medalists available to the public on:
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