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Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

Posted by leobaduria@gmail.com on April 6, 2017 at 3:00 PM

2017 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition

I recently had the honour and the pleasure to judge at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. It is held every year in Rochester, NY and has been for the past 17 years. What is so wonderful about this particular competition is that it exists to benefit Camp Good Days, a special camp for children who have cancer. Camp Good Days was founded by Gary Mervis, who lost his daughter Teddy to cancer. He wanted sick children to be able to have a normal camp experience despite their illness and especially - he did not want parents to have to worry about the financial aspect of it. There are weekly themes: for women and men with cancer and an international week for foreign children too!

I usually arrive on the Friday – with a ritual visit to Century Wines in Pittsford Plaza to check on their selection and prices (sometimes well worth it). Lunch at the Cheesecake Factory is a must and then a stock up at Trader Joe’s to end the afternoon. A reception for all the judges takes place on Friday evening – so good to catch up with fellow judges that during the year we are only in touch with on Facebook! A tradition is the Yuengling Lager, from the oldest brewery in America, based in Pennsylvania, so good!!

This is the fourth time I am judging —every year the wine selection increases - this year we had 3077 wines to judge from 621 wineries from all over the US and 16 other countries….pretty amazing! (Six Canadian provinces submitted their wines). The Holiday Inn in downtown Rochester hosts this event - they have the space required for the judging, the storage of the wines, the pouring and the washing of the Riedel glasses. Keep in mind this entire venture is based on volunteers. I am always truly humbled by the enthusiasm of the volunteers, their good humour, their efficiency and their dedication.

There are about 45-50 judges from around the world and the US - Sommeliers, Educators, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, Wine Writers etc. It’s wonderful to meet each year and judge together! Groups of 4 judges sit at a table and are brought the flights of wines at regular intervals. Over 250 wines are judged per person, no duplicates, over the 2 days of the competition. Here I have encountered the most original palate cleansers – not just bread, but Italian bread sticks, Graber’s olives (seriously, check them out, no acidity, from California) and strips of rare beef sirloin for some of those peskier reds.

Every year, each judge is asked to bring 2 bottles from their private cellar to donate for the wine fridge which will be auctioned off at the Camp Good Days annual gala dinner and auction. This is one of the ways in which they are able to raise funds for the Camp. All of Rochester comes out for this dinner and auction – a testimony to success of Camp Good Days!

The medals awarded to the wines range from Bronze to Double Gold: I was asked to judge the Best in Category of IceWine after the regular judging and the winner was a Vidal IceWine 2014 from De Sousa (Diamond Estates) in Niagara (so unsurprising, really). All the winners are announced on the FLIWC website (below) – if you visit the site, you will see the depth and breadth of wines judged – it’s pretty impressive!

Sunday night is free and no stay in Rochester is complete without a visit to Dinosaur BBQ for their saucy ribs and sides – the best reward to a full weekend of tasting and spitting. A good local cider (1911 Original Hard Cider) goes down a treat after so much wine and works well with the barbeque sauce on the ribs.

For more information:








https://www.graberolives.com (in Ontario, California – serendipitous!)

http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com (also in various other cities in New York)

Categories: Wine & Spirits, Beers & Ciders

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