Smile Politely

State Fair Wine Competition recap

Judging for this the 2009 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition occurred in our humble Urbana this week. Twelve judges tasted around 300 commercial wines produced from all over Illinois. I’ve had the pleasure of judging this completion for the last several years. As a whole, these wines possessed the highest overall quality of any set yet. The full results are available soon at

The following wines ended up with top honors decided by modified consensus of all the judges. Each of these nine wines received awards beyond the gold, silver or bronze. Oh, and they are all quite good.

Hickory Ridge Norton 2005: Best in show, and for what its worth, very well deserved. This is a beauty of a Norton, our own indigenous Midwestern grape. Smokey and meaty on the nose with a complex midpalate fully loaded with spice, cranberry and boysenberry.

Galena Cellars Eric the Red Marechal Foch: I wish Galena would put a vintage on this so you can find the right bottle. This is their most recent Foch release, a pretty, medium weight wine with raspberry and roast beet notes with a solid, earthy finish.

Hailey’s Winery Road Trip Red NV: Again, I want to know what vintage this is. Made from a grape called Noiret. This is a dead ringer for Southern Rhone sirah with explosive crushed pepper, rosemary and black cherry on the nose. Complex, suave and delicious.

Lynfred Winery Seyval Blanc 2008: Seyval blanc is rarely allowed to express its character in such a pure way. Full of bright lime, lemon and grapefruit with lots of mint and mineral notes underneath.

Fox Valley Winery Vignoles 2007: This is a beautiful, perfectly balanced, gorgeous, gem of a wine. Delicate and floral with a piercing kefir lime tinged minerality that evens out the subtle sweetness.

Fox Valley Winery Chardonnay Rsv 2007: Another subtle wine from this producer. The chardonnay was grown in Southern Illinois.

Owl Creek Whooo’s Blush 2008: A copper tinged Chambourcin rose with great balance. Sweet but not overwhelming.

Pomona Strawberry Dessert NV: This smells like strawberry jam. This tastes like fresh berries. Yes, you could drink Champagne with your shortcake, but why not drink this?

Galena Blackberry: Fruit wines can be so much fun. This hits the mark through its pure expression of what blackberries taste like right off the cane.

Wild Blossom Prairie Passion Meade 2008: Awesome meade. This captures the essence of summer. Imagine all the scents of biking down a country lane with flowers blooming on either side. Delicate, harmonious and fun to drink.

These are the big winners this year, but lots of other wines were delicious. More to come in subsequent weeks.

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