Philadelphia, PA – On April 29, 23 wine experts who represent some of the region’s top wine programs tasted nearly 100 Pennsylvania wines submitted by 25 wineries for the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment, a blind tasting of vinifera wines produced in the state using grapes grown in the state. After two rigorous tasting rounds the top wines, covered to conceal any identifying markers, were unwrapped and the results revealed. Of the top 10 scoring wines, several varietals shine – Albariño, Carmine, Saperavi, and Teroldego – together with high scoring Rieslings, Cabernet Franc, and Rosé, the results demonstrate the confidence and ambition of Pennsylvania’s wine producers. The awards for Best in State, Best Red, and Best White will be announced in October timed with Pennsylvania Wine Month. Top wines and honorable mentions are listed alphabetically below.
Now in its third year, the PA Sommelier Judgment is an initiative from the Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA) that invites sommeliers, beverage directors, and other wine experts to participate in a blind tasting held at Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia. “The PA Sommelier Judgment is both 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. It’s also a chance for the participating sommeliers to discover local producers for their programs,” explained Jennifer Eckinger, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association.
Each year, the PWA partners with Scott Zoccolillo, Wine Director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, to organize the tasting and this year, Zoccolillo was formally named Education Emissary for Pennsylvania Wines in recognition of his expertise and advocacy of wines produced across the commonwealth. “I have been exploring local wines for the last 10 years, and the quality and quantity of fantastic producers continue to exceed my expectations. The thrill of local discovery motivated me to organize the PA Sommelier Judgment together with the PWA. The annual tasting is a great way to bring awareness of these producers not just to wine professionals in the Philadelphia area, but also to the public when the wines are represented in various beverage programs,” shared Zoccolillo, Education Emissary for Pennsylvania Wines and Wine Director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. “Each year, I have been introduced to newcomers to the Pennsylvania wine scene and I am always excited and proud to show them to our guests that come into the restaurant.”
Similarly, the PWA introduces Alexandra Cherniavsky, Beverage Manager for The Love, as Pennsylvania Wines Ambassador, a role that is a natural evolution of her commitment to local winemakers. Cherniavsky can be credited for designing The Love’s nationally recognized wine program, which has a strong emphasis on local producers, and she’s been a panelist for the PA Sommelier Judgment since it was established in 2017. In this role, Cherniavsky will provide guidance, share her recommendations, and help tell the story of Pennsylvania wines, much like a sommelier does when helping a guest navigate a wine program.
“I grew up in Oxford, PA (not too far from where Wayvine Winery is located now) and remember regularly driving past places like Chaddsford Winery. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work on a domestic-only project that I decided to truly explore local wines. I was so delighted by the quality coming from our state that I’ve incorporated PA wines into my various wine programs ever since. I think it’s important to treat wine with the same enthusiasm that we approach local beer, spirits, cheese, and produce. Shopping local is important and when local tastes this good, why wouldn’t you?” remarked Cherniavsky, PA Wines Ambassador and Beverage Manager for The Love.
Zoccolillo and Cherniavsky were joined by their colleagues and peers for a total of 23 panelists who judged nearly 100 wines over two rounds of blind tasting. A complete list of panelists is listed below. Round one judging criteria focused on varietal correctness (appearance, bouquet, taste, and finish), which was rated numerically. The top scoring 26 wines moved on to round two and were judged on a 1-10 scale based on overall impression of the wine.
Cherniavsky shared her perspective on the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment: “There are so many wines to love in this lineup. Red wines did better than they ever have in this tasting and some of the whites were true showstoppers. There was one wine in particular that made it to round two that had the sommeliers stopping in their tracks. I was excited to see so many styles of Riesling show up in the competition as well. There was a dry example, one with just a touch of sugar, and a fully sweet one, all scoring in the top 26 – literally a Pennsylvania Riesling for every palate!”
The PWA looks forward to seeing a continued increase in local wine programming over the course of the year and it plans to announce the Best Of awards from the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment during Pennsylvania Wine Month in October.
Photos from the 2019 PA Sommelier Judgment awards event held on April 29, 2019 at Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia, PA can be downloaded here. Credit to Ted Nghiem.
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 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 Vineyards 2016 Merlot (Mount Joy, PA)
Karamoor Estate Winery 2015 Cabernet Franc (Fort Washington, PA)
Karamoor Estate Winery 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 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
(listed in alphabetical order)
Alexandra Cherniavsky, The Love
Ashley Peters, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Bryant Fennel, Vintage Wine Bar / The Noble Grape
Chris Marcus, Philadelphia Country Club
Dave Snyder, Fond
Ed Dimarzio, Fork
Heather Curtis, Final Cut Steakhouse and Hollywood Casino
Jamie Rubin, Southwark
Jill Davis, The Four Seasons Hotel
Jill Weber, Jet Wine Bar
John Danley, Del Frisco’s Grille
Keith Wallace, The Wine School of Philadelphia
Kevin Hess, Village Bar + Kitchen
Len Boris, White Dog Café
Michele Konopi, Barclay Prime
Nicolas DiMeglio, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Rebecca Sollisi, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Robin Shreeves, Wine Columnist, Courier Post
Ryan Bogden, Seasons 52
Sande Friedman, Di Bruno Bros.
Scott Zoccolillo, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse
Steve Wildly, Vetri Family Restaurants and Terrain
Wes Satterwhite, Final Cut Steakhouse and Hollywood Casino
About the Pennsylvania Winery Association
The Pennsylvania Winery Association is a non-profit trade association representing more than 130 member wineries and an advocate on behalf of the state’s growing multibillion-dollar wine industry. With some of the most fertile grape-growing land on the east coast, Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in the number of grapes grown, seventh in wine production, and seventh in the number of licensed wineries. To learn more about Pennsylvania wine or to plan a trip, click here.
Jennifer Eckinger, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Winery Association