Winners of the 2017 Ohio Wine Competition

By Mark Fisher

An upstart winery that hasn’t yet celebrated its 4th birthday captured the top award at the 2017 Ohio Wine Competition – and there are plenty of other delicious surprises nestled in the results.

This year’s “Best of Show” — the one wine judged to be the best out of more than 270 entries — went to Kosicek Vineyards in Harpersfield for its 2016 Traminette.

“With all the outstanding wineries in Ohio, this is a great honor,” Tony Kosicek, co-founder of the winery, says. “We are a young winery, and to have our wine quality recognized by the judges of the competition is very exciting. Our staff works hard at producing quality wines, and the many hours in the cellar are all worth it when a plan comes together.”

Grapes for the winning Traminette were sourced from a vineyard in Westfield, New York. It is drier in style than most Traminettes, possessing a perfect balance of fruit and acidity. “Traminette is a wine we have produced since opening in 2013,” Kosicek says. He cold-fermented his 2016 for two weeks and had high hopes throughout the winemaking process: “It’s not a tough wine to make if you have exceptional fruit quality.” The wine was released at the winery on Memorial Day weekend, two days after Kosicek learned it had won the “Best of Show” award. It retails for $16.99.

Kosicek Vineyards also won the award for “Best Sparkling Wine” for its Rhapsody, a blend of Pinot Noir and Riesling. The sparkler was made from Ohio-grown grapes sourced from the Grand River Valley AVA and retails for $19.99 “Our Rhapsody is one that we let the fruit decide what the best wine would be,” Kosicek said. “Our Estate Pinot Noir, not quite ripe enough to make a quality red, and our Estate Riesling, which had great character, were paired up to make a slightly bubbly, fun summertime wine.”

There was even more big news for Kosicek Vineyards: they also captured double-gold medals for two other dessert wines – the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine and the 2016 Concord Ice Wine Estate – giving the small winery four double-golds altogether. No other Ohio winery won more than two double-golds.

The competition, sponsored by the Ohio Grape Industries Committee and directed by Ohio State University’s Todd Steiner, was held May 16-17 at Kent State University’s Ashtabula branch campus. It attracted 271 entries, up slightly from the previous year.
All wines were tasted “blind,” with the judges not knowing the producer, brand or price. Twenty wines – or less than 10 percent – were awarded the equivalent of a “double gold” medal, meaning each of the four judges on a panel deemed it a gold-medal wine. Another 36 wines received one gold, and 97 silver and 63 bronze medals also were awarded. To qualify for entry, wines must be produced by an Ohio winery. There is no requirement that the juice or grapes used to make the wine were produced in Ohio.
Here are the full results:

  • Overall Best of Show: 2016 Kosicek Vineyards Traminette
  • Best White Wine (second to the Kosicek Traminette): Doughty Glen Winery “Misty Meiner” Gewürztraminer, non-vintage
  • Best Red Wine: 2015 Burnet Ridge Zinfandel
  • Best Blush/Rosé: Ferrante Winery Pink Catawba, non-vintage
  • Best Fruit Wine: Brandeberry Winery Blackberry, non-vintage
  • Best Sparkling: Kosicek Vineyards Grand River Valley Rhapsody (Pinot Noir/Riesling), non-vintage
  • Dessert/Fortified Wine: Meier’s Wine Cellar #44 Cream Sherry, non-vintage.

The dessert-fortified winner came as a bit of a surprise, considering Meier’s #44 Cream Sherry retails for under $12 a bottle – significantly less than some of the ice wines and other dessert and fortified wines it beat out in its category.

More quick takeaways from this year’s competition: The overall quality was very high, especially considering Ohio wineries are still dealing with the after-effects of the Polar Vortex of two years ago; wineries are doing amazing things with fruit wines these days; if you like red wines, break out of your varietal rut and look for a Noiret or Marquette, two up-and-coming red-grape varietals that are making some great wines; and the Pink Catawba coming out of Ohio’s wineries today is not your grandma’s Pink Catawba – it is much better, and it’s worth a second look.

Judges for the competition were Christopher Cook, food and wine writer for HOUR Detroit Magazine; Kim Doty, owner of French Lick Winery in French Lick, Indiana; Brian Fife, wine manager for World Wines & Liquor, in Mentor; Mark Fisher, staff writer for Cox Media Group Ohio in Dayton; Ron Graff Jr., co-owner of Youngstown-based Columbiana Foods; Susan Myers, publisher of TheWineBuzz; Andrew Reynolds, professor of viticulture at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario; and Chris Stamp, owner and winemaker for Lakewood Wine Vineyards in Watkins Glen, NY.

Photo of Todd Steiner, Enology Program Manager & Outreach Specialist, The Ohio State University OARDC by Mark Fisher.

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