Record number of entries for second straight year demonstrates vitality of Ohio wine industry
by Mark Fisher
Marquette is no longer just a university in Wisconsin.
It’s now the best wine in Ohio.
Hanover Winery in Hamilton has won the 2023 Ohio Wine Competition’s highly coveted “Overall Best of Show” and “Best of Ohio” award for its non-vintage Marquette, a red-wine hybrid grape that claims Pinot Noir as one of its genetic cousins.
“This award is a great honor for us personally and for the Hanover Winery brand,” Hanover owners Eddie and Elizabeth McDonald told TheWineBuzz after the competition results were announced. “Ohio wineries continue to rise to the top, and we are very proud to be a part of it.”
The competition, open to all Ohio wineries, was held May 15-17 and was coordinated by Kent State University Ashtabula. It attracted a record-breaking 432 entries, up from 386 last year, which was the previous record.
That surge in interest brought smiles to the faces of the competition’s organizers.
“As the Ohio grape and wine industries continue to grow at a record pace, so does the number of entries in the Ohio Wine Competition,” Christy Eckstein, executive director of the Ohio Grape Industries Committee and director of marketing for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, told TheWineBuzz. “We are excited to see Ohio’s wineries take advantage of this exceptional opportunity to put their winemaking skills to the test, while also improving and elevating the overall quality of wines produced in the Buckeye state year after year.”
More than three-fourths of the wines entered into the 2023 competition earned medals. And this is the second consecutive year that the wine chosen by judges as overall Best of Show was also grown in Ohio vineyards. Wines bestowed with the “Best of Ohio” designation must be made from at least 90 percent Ohio-grown grapes.
Prior to 2022, many winners of the “Best of Show” top prize were made by Ohio wineries from grapes sourced outside Ohio.
Judges at the competition evaluate each wine “blind,” without knowing where the grapes are grown, so having the overall top-scoring wine come from Ohio vineyards for two straight years is a feather in the cap for Ohio’s wine industry. Last year’s Best of Show winner was Gervasi Vineyard’s Sognata Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, made entirely from grapes grown in the Grand River Valley in northeast Ohio.
Hanover Winery’s owners said they were thrilled to add to the streak this year with their Marquette. The McDonalds will soon celebrate the 15th anniversary of the founding of Hanover Winery, located in southwest Ohio’s Butler County, north of Cincinnati. Founded in 2009, Hanover Winery has expanded significantly over the last decade, adding to its production facilities and planting more than 2,000 grapevines in new vineyards.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and this award is a great achievement for a vintner,” the winery’s owners said. “We are successful due to all of our supporters and staff, in addition to many others in the industry who we have been fortunate to learn from along the way.”
The Marquette grapes that went into the “Best of Show” wine “were sourced from our vineyard and a small local grower,” the McDonalds said. The wine was aged in oak for 14 months.
The couple knew they had a winner soon after the wine was released in late 2022. It has been a hit in Hanover’s tasting room, even if some visitors have never heard of the grape, which was developed at the University of Minnesota in 2006 and is gaining popularity among Midwestern vineyard owners for its appealing flavors and its ability to withstand harsh winters.
“We do a little educating on the Marquette, but once our visitors taste it, they are pleasantly surprised,” the McDonalds said.
The wine sells on the winery’s web site for $25, although supplies were limited as of late May.
The overall competition results spotlight the Ohio wine industry’s youth movement as well as its geographical diversity, with Best of Class winners coming from all corners of the state.
Two of the state’s newer wineries – Cask 307 in Madison in the Grand River Valley and Dragonfly Vineyard & Wine Cellar in Champaign County, both of which opened in June 2019 – won “Best of Ohio” category honors. Cask 307’s 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon was recognized as “Best of Ohio” red (elevated to that spot after Hanover’s Marquette won the “Best of Show” designation), and Dragonfly’s non-vintage LaCrescent Curves achieved the “Best of Ohio” award for white wine.
D&D Smith Winery in Norwalk was the only winery to capture two “Best of Class” designations, for white wines for its 2021 Riesling, and for fruit wines for an Elderberry wine.
Here is a full list of the competition’s category winners:
Overall “Best of Show” and “Best of Ohio”
Hanover Winery, Hamilton, non-vintage Marquette
“Best of Class” Red
Burnet Ridge, North College Hill, 2021 Three Kings Cabernet Sauvignon
“Best of Ohio” Red
Cask 307, Madison, 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon
“Best of Class” White
D&D Smith Winery, Norwalk, 2021 Riesling
“Best of Ohio” White
Dragonfly Vineyard & Wine Cellar, non-vintage LaCrescent Curves
“Best of Class” and “Best of Ohio” Blush/Rosé
M Cellars, Geneva, 2022 Dry Rosé
“Best of Class” and “Best of Ohio” Sparkling
Kosicek Vineyards, Geneva, non-vintage Carbonated Riesling
“Best of Class” Fruit Wine
D&D Smith Winery, Norwalk, non-vintage Whoopee! Wine (Elderberry)
“Best of Class” and “Best of Ohio” Ice Wine
Ferrante Winery, Geneva, 2022 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine