Dark horse grapes and red wines shine at 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment

Pennsylvania’s winemakers are doing marvelous things with unexpected grapes. That was just one of the takeaways at the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment, held in late April at Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia. A panel of experts gathered to taste and score nearly 100 wines from wineries across the state before christening a top 11 (there was a tie).

Established in 2017, PA Sommelier Judgment was conceived by the Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA) and Scott Zoccolillo, Wine Director at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, as an event that invites sommeliers, beverage directors, and other wine experts to reward and recognize amazing local wines by participating in a blind tasting.

“The PA Sommelier Judgment is a valuable marketing and educational opportunity for the wineries to receive feedback from the tasting panel, which can shape production, pricing, and positioning for future vintages,” explains Jennifer Eckinger, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association. “It’s also a chance for the participating sommeliers to discover local producers for their programs.”

The sommeliers, who undertake extensive education, certification, and training in order to earn their credentials, tasted blind over two rounds. The wines submitted were judged on criteria such as color, bouquet, taste, finish, and how well they exemplify the grape varietal.

After the first round, the top 26 wines were blindly tasted again and rated on a 1-10 scale. While white wines dominated last year’s list, this time reds claimed seven of the top spots. There were some unexpected varieties, including Saperavi, an inky, acidic grape native to the country of Georgia, and Teroldego, a red varietal from Northern Italy, alongside two iterations of Pennsylvania’s signature red, Cabernet Franc. Though not the dominant force it was last year — when the grape claimed 5 of 10 top spots — Riesling continued to shine and was joined by Albariño, another Northern European variety.

While Best in State, Best Red, and Best White winners will be announced during PA Wine Month in October, the top 11 (listed below) says a lot about the current state of the industry. Stay tuned to pawineland.com for the announcement of the overall winners, and be sure to add these wines to your summer must-sip list.

*Photos by Ted Ngheim.

Top Wines of the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment

(listed in alphabetical order)

Chaddsford Winery 2017 Cabernet Franc (Chadds Ford, PA)
Fero Vineyards & Winery 2017 Saperavi (Lewisburg, PA)
Fero Vineyards & Winery NV 1812 (Red Blend) (Lewisburg, PA)
Flickerwood Wine Cellars 2017 Riesling (Kane, PA)
Galen Glen Winery 2018 Riesling (Andreas, PA)
Galen Glen Winery 2018 Cabernet Franc, Stone Cellars (Andreas, PA)
Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery 2018 Rosé (Kennett Square, PA)
Maple Springs Vineyard 2018 Albariño (Bechtelsville, PA)
Mazza Vineyards 2017 Teroldego (North East, PA)
Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery 2016 #39 (Red Blend) (Breinigsville, PA)
Wayvine Winery & Vineyard 2016 Carmine (Nottingham, PA)

Honorable Mention Wines of the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment

(listed in alphabetical order)

Galen Glen Winery 2017 Grüner Veltliner (Andreas, PA)
Grace Winery 2017 Dragonfly (Red Blend) (Glen Mills, PA)
Grace Winery 2017 Pinot Gris (Glen Mills, PA)
Grandview Vineyard 2016 Merlot (Mount Joy, PA)
Karamoor Estate Wines 2015 Cabernet Franc (Fort Washington, PA)
Karamoor Estate Wines 2016 Chardonnay (Fort Washington, PA)
Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery 2017 Cabernet Franc (Centre Hall, PA)
Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery 2018 Rosé (Centre Hall, PA)
Penns Woods Winery 2018 Rosé (Chadds Ford, PA)
Presque Isle Wine Cellars 2018 Grüner Veltliner (North East, PA)
Shade Mountain Winery & Vineyard 2016 Lemberger (Middleburg, PA)
Stony Run Winery 2017 Brut Sparkling Wine (Kempton, PA)
Stony Run Winery 2017 Viognier (Kempton, PA)
Tolino Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc (Bangor, PA)
Vynecrest Vineyards & Winery 2017 Riesling (Breinigsville, PA)

2019 PA Sommelier Judgment Tasting Panel