2020 Sommelier Judgment Day

Chadds Ford, PA - On October 26, twenty-three wine experts who represent some of the region’s top wine programs convened for the fourth annual PA Sommelier Judgment. The initiative from the Pennsylvania Winery Association invites sommeliers, beverage directors, and other industry representatives to participate in a blind tasting of vinifera wines produced in Pennsylvania using grapes grown in the state. Given the Coronavirus pandemic, the event adapted to an outdoor affair this year held in Delaware County, Pennsylvania where attendees tasted more than 100 Pennsylvania wines submitted by 25 wineries. The panel shared its marks following two extensive tasting rounds revealing the top varietals including Riesling, Albariño, and Grüner Veltliner with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay rounding out the list. The complete breakdown of top wines and honorable mentions are noted below and the awards for Best in State, Best Red, and Best White will be unveiled via social media on November 6th.

“Despite challenges with COVID this year, we knew the PA Sommelier Judgment was an important event to prioritize and take place,” shared Jennifer Eckinger, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA). “Each year, this event continues to demonstrate its value for both the wineries and the participating sommeliers. Winemakers have the unique opportunity to receive valuable feedback to shape their future vintages and sommeliers are able to familiarize themselves with local offerings to recommend to their customers, thus, expanding the exposure and accessibility of Pennsylvania Wines across the industry.” 

The PWA partners with Scott Zoccolillo, Wine Director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, to organize the tasting each year. “The 1976 tasting in Paris was my true inspiration behind the PA Sommelier Judgment where Parisian wines were lined up next to California wines and judged. Our first event mimicked that same concept putting Pennsylvania wines up against California wines proving that Pennsylvania wines can compete not only on a national level but an international level as well. It has since morphed into a focused state tasting where we’re able to closely look at the quality and quantity of the incredible producers right here in Pennsylvania. There has been a lot more interest in local wine from our collective customers, which I attribute to the craft beer culture, and this annual tasting allows us to bring awareness of these producers directly to them, showcasing that local wines are the true craft spirit of the region,” explained Zoccolillo, Wine Director for Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.

Zoccolillo was joined by his colleagues and peers for a total of 23 panelists who judged over 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 wines moved on to round two and were judged on a 1-10 scale based on the overall impression of the wine.

One of the panelists, Jill Davis, Beverage Director for the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center, commented on overall trends noting, “In the beverage industry as a whole, we’re seeing less extraction and lower alcohol, which I saw come through in today’s tasting. There are leaner and less ripe styles in the wines across the board.”

Zoccolillo further added, “After doing this for several years now, I can say that every region has a grape that they’re really driving to making a name for themselves and every vintage has a different style of wine that they’re doing really well. There is no one part of Pennsylvania that is any further above or below anyone else. They’re consistently making great quality wines with vintage variations.”

The PWA continues to identify new ways to connect with industry leaders to expand their knowledge in Pennsylvania Wines first-hand with initiatives like the PA Sommelier Judgment – and many others that are wrapping on the heels of Pennsylvania Wine Month this past October – and looks forward to seeing an increase in local wine programming throughout the industry.

Best Red

Penns Woods Winery, 2016 Merlot Reserve

Best White

Stony Run Winery, 2018 Albariño

Best in State

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery, 2019 Fossil Vineyard Riesling


Top Wines of the 2020 PA Sommelier Judgment

(listed in alphabetical order)

Armstrong Valley Winery 2019 Riesling

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery 2019 Grüner Veltliner, Vinology

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery 2019 Grüner Veltliner, Stone Cellars

Galen Glen Vineyard & Winery 2019 Riesling, Fossil Vineyards, Vinology

Grandview Vineyard 2016 Merlot

Mazza Vineyards 2018 Cabernet Franc

Penns Woods Winery 2016 Merlot Reserve

Penns Woods Winery 2019 Chardonnay Reserve

Stony Run Winery 2018 Albariño

Stony Run Winery 2017 Flagship

Honorable Mention Wines of the 2020 PA Sommelier Judgment

(listed in alphabetical order)

Armstrong Valley Winery 2017 Chardonnay (Oak)

Armstrong Valley Winery 2019 Chardonnay

Binah Winery 2019 Viognier

Bella Terra Vineyards 2018 Bella Cuveé

Chaddsford Winery 2017 Merlot

Fero Vineyards & Winery 2019 Grüner Veltliner

Grandview Vineyard 2017 Crimson Quartette

Greendance - The Winery At Sand Hill 2019 Cabernet Franc

Greendance - The Winery At Sand Hill 2019 Grüner Veltliner

Maple Springs Vineyard 2017 Syrah

Mazza Vineyards 2019 Riesling

Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery 2019 Linden Vale Rosé

Paradocx Vineyard 2019 PDX Pinot Gris

Tolino Vineyards 2019 Chardonnay

Wayvine Winery & Vineyard 2019 Carmine Rosé

2020 PA Sommelier Judgment Tasting Panel

(listed in alphabetical order)

Alexandra Cherniavsky, Advanced Sommelier

Angie Gutierrez, Independent

Ann Marie Miller, Moët Hennessy

Bob Trimble, La Lumière Sélections (West Chester, PA)

Chris Marcus, Philadelphia Country Club

Emily Newman, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (Philadelphia, PA)

Gina Terra, Rittenhouse Hotel (Philadelphia, PA)

Heather Curtis, Final Cut Steakhouse (Grantville, PA)

Jeremy Noah, Cioppino Restaurant (Pittsburgh, PA)

Jill Davis, The Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center

John Danley, Del Frisco’s Grille (Philadelphia, PA)

Len Boris, Fearless Restaurants  - Rosalie (Philadelphia, PA)

Michele Garguilo, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center

Nick Amrani, Bronco Wine Company

Robin Shreeves, Freelance Journalist

Robyn Muse, Independent

Ryan Bogdan, Independent

Scott Strader, Deandra Wines

Scott Zoccolillo, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse (Philadelphia, PA)

Steve Gullo, Fearless Restaurants – Rosalie (Wayne, PA)

Steve Wood, Tied House (Lititz, PA)

Wesley Satterwhite, Tutoni’s Restaurant (York, PA)

Zach Morris, Bloomsday Café (Philadelphia, PA)

About the Pennsylvania Winery Association

The Pennsylvania Winery Association is a non-profit trade association representing more than 125 member wineries and an advocate on behalf of the state’s growing multibillion-dollar wine industry. With 14,000+ acres of vineyards across some of the most fertile grape-growing land on the East Coast, Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationally in wine production. Pennsylvania wineries produce more than two million gallons of wine annually. To learn more about PA wineries and wine, or to plan a trip, visit PennsylvaniaWine.com.

Press Contacts

Rebecca Blank
[email protected]

Jennifer Eckinger, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Winery Association
[email protected]