The first “Drink Outside the Grape” competition with just under 100 entries took place in Charlottesville, VA on August 11, resulting in 76 medals for fruit wines, meads, ciders and fruit brandies.
The 98 entries came from 11 U.S. states, two provinces of Canada, and Austria. (Disclosure: this writer is the Competition Chair for Drink Outside the Grape).
Beverages in these categories are often misunderstood or not given the same respect as is given to traditional table wines. Drink Outside the Grape gives fruit wine, mead, cider and fruit brandies a place where they can be judged fairly without being compared to traditional grape-based table wines.
Best of Category awards were: Satek Winery (IN) Autumn Classic (apple), Double Gold and Best Fruit Wine; Carlos Creek Winery (MN), Apple Hopper, gold and Best Cider; Castle Hill Cider (VA), 1764, Double Gold and Best Fortified; Finger Lakes Distilling (NY), Cherry Liqueur, Double Gold and Best Distilled Fruit.
There were no gold medals in the mead class but there was a five-way tie in high silver medals: Charm City Meadworks (MD), Basil Lemongrass; Blacksnake Meadery, (VA) ”Sweet Virginia”; Hermit Woods Winery, “2015 Sap Mead”; and two meads from Pairie Bee Meadery in Saskatchewan, “Haskap Haven” and “Strawberry Splash.”
About half of all entries were dry to off-dry, showing that it’s a stereotype to think of these beverages as sweet or unsophisticated.
The judges for the event were trade professionals including: Dr. Joseph Fiola, enologist, University of Western Maryland; Andrew Stover, Vino50, Washington, D.C.; Robert Harllee, Market St. Wineshop, Charlottesville; Anne Shelton, Albemarle Ciderworks, North Garden; Doug Hotz, Rio Hill Gourmet, Charlottesville; and MaryAnn Costa, Kroger Emmet St., Charlottesville.
I was impressed with the quality and creativity shown in the competition entries. For example, there’s ‘1764’, a fortified sweet apple cider from local Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, that won a double gold and Best Fortified entry, and a melomel (fruit wine/mead blend) from Saskatchewan made from the haskap berry, of which I hadn’t heard until now.”
Complete medal results are available at www.drinkoutsidethegrape.com.