Ohio Wine Competition Showcases Buckeye State’s Best

Wineries That “Grow Their Own” Sweep Top Awards

The results of the 2024 Ohio Wine Competition brought wide smiles to the faces of Ohio wine industry leaders and further validated their belief that the Buckeye state’s vineyards and winemakers are raising the bar in both quality and consistency.

The competition attracted a record-breaking 436 entries. This is the third year in a row that the event has drawn a record-high number of entries. And it also marked the third consecutive year that the wine chosen by independent judges as “Overall Best of Show” was also grown in Ohio vineyards. Prior to 2022, several winners of the “Best of Show” top prize were made from grapes grown outside Ohio by wineries that “imported” juice or grapes from wine regions such as California or Washington.

The competition’s judges evaluate each wine “blind,” without knowing who produced it or where the grapes were grown. So having the overall top-scoring wine come from Ohio vineyards for three straight years is considered a feather in the cap of Ohio’s winegrowers and its growing number of estate wineries.

Todd Steiner, OSU Enology Outreach Specialist and Program Manager who directed the competition, said Ohio-grown wines showed well in every category of the competition. “The consistency has really improved, and it’s still growing,” Steiner said. “I think Ohio can put its best wines up against anyone.”

The numbers support that notion. A whopping 10% of the Ohio Wine Competition’s entries earned a “double-gold” rating, meaning that all members of a three-judge tasting panel awarded the wine a top score. Each member of the four judging panels subsequently evaluated every double-gold medal winner in a “taste-off,” and through a series of votes, the judges chose the wine they believed to be the overall best wine of the competition, or the “Overall Best of Show.”

That top award went to Debonné Vineyards 2023 Riesling, a wine made from grapes grown in Ohio’s Grand River Valley by the state’s largest estate winery. And here’s some good news for consumers: when it is fully released this summer, the drier-style wine will cost a scant $12 a bottle.

If your taste in Riesling runs a bit sweeter, well, Debonné has you covered there, too. Its 2023 Grand River Reserve Riesling, made in a slightly riper style, also earned a double-gold medal in the Ohio Wine Competition – and it costs $13, only $1 more than the winery’s non-reserve bottling.

So, is Debonné owner Tony Debevc some kind of Riesling whisperer? Debevc deflects the notion, and instead gives full credit to his winemaking staff while also citing the quality of Debonné’s vineyards across the Grand River Valley for the winery’s success with the grape.

“We have 25 acres of Riesling at six different sites in the Grand River Valley, and the soils and topography of each vineyard vary quite a bit,” Debevc told TheWineBuzz. “We have different clones that give our winemakers a broad selection of characteristics when they are blending our wines.”

The results soared from the glass and wowed judges, who came from as far as California, New York, Arkansas, Indiana and Michigan to participate in the evaluation held May 16-18 at the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. The competition was coordinated by Kent State University Ashtabula, directed by OSU’s Steiner, and sponsored by the Ohio Grape Industries Committee (OGIC).

In addition to Debonné’s two Riesling awards, the winery also won the “Best of Show Ice Wine” award for its 2023 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. Its fellow Grand River Valley winery, Kosicek Vineyards, was the only other winery to capture multiple “Best of” awards.

Here is a full list of the competition’s category winners. In categories in which judges chose a wine that was not made from a minimum of 90% Ohio-grown grapes as “Best of Show,” competition organizers awarded the highest-scoring wine that was made from Ohio-grown grapes with a “Best of Ohio” designation.

Overall Best of Show and Best of Ohio

2023 Debonné Vineyards Riesling, Grand River Valley

Best of Show Sparkling Wine

Kosicek Vineyards Traminette, Non-Vintage

Best of Ohio Sparkling Wine

2021 M Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Grand River Valley

Best of Ohio White Wine

2023 Debonné Vineyards Riesling Reserve, Grand River Valley

Best of Show and Best of Ohio Blush/Rosé Wine

2023 The Vineyards at Pine Lake Avily, 2023

Best of Show Red Wine

2022 Kosicek Vineyards Cabernet Franc

Best of Ohio Red Wine

2021 Baci Winery Cabernet Franc, Grand River Valley

 

Best of Show Fruit Wine

Olde Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery Preble Pear, Non-Vintage

Best of Show Dessert/Specialty Wine

2023 The Winery at Spring Hill Frosted Red Raspberry

Best of Show and Best of Ohio Ice Wine

2023 Debonné Vineyards Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley

In separate awards and recognition announced days before the Ohio Wine Competition judging, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Brian Baldridge announced the 2024 Director’s Choice recipients for the Best Red, Best White and Best Dessert/Specialty wine at the Ohio Wine Month Kick-Off Celebration held at the Ohio Statehouse. The wines honored were:

Director’s Choice Best Red Wine

2021 Ferrante Signature Series Dolcetto, Grand River Valley

Director’s Choice Best White Wine

2022 The Vineyards at Pine Lake Vignoles

Director’s Choice Best Dessert/Specialty Wine

Kosicek Vineyards Concord Ice Wine

For his part, Debevc is optimistic about the long-term outlook for Ohio wines and for his own winery. “We have a bright future,” Debevc said.

Mark Fisher, former editor of TheWineBuzz, served as a judge for the 2024 Ohio Wine Competition.

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