Wine and charity go hand in hand

My annual sojourn to New York State to judge the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition took place March 23 and 24. This competition, held in Rochester every spring, is the only wine competition in the world where all the proceeds go directly to one charity. That charity is Camp Good Days and Special Times, a non-profit organization started over 30 years ago to provide a camp for children and families from around the world touched by cancer and other life-threatening challenges. All folks involved with this competition (judges, organizers, volunteers, etc.) donate their time.

Celebrating its 13th anniversary, this event tends to outdo itself every year on many levels. A record-breaking 3,505 wines from 20 different countries were entered. Product from all 50 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces were included.

Seventy of the world’s top judges from 14 countries swirled, sniffed and tasted the entries. Numerous panels of four to five judges, made up of winemakers, journalists, wine educators and wine retailers, plus guest judges, blind-tasted these and decided, as a group, what each wine would receive. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded, as well as Best of Show. Any wine that was scored gold by each member of a particular panel on the first evaluation received a double gold. For those of you who prefer scores out of 100 instead, a gold here is equivalent to a score of approximately 90-100, silver about 80-89 and bronze 70-79.

Perhaps even more important than the judges themselves was the army of volunteers that categorized wines, opened bottles, served and washed stemware. A more spectacular group of friendly, giving, charitable individuals would be impossible to come by.

Medal results were as follows: 104 double gold, 174 gold, 1,204 silver and 1,327 bronze. The Best of Show is judged after the competition is over. Here specific judges, highly skilled with a particular style/grape, pick the best wine of its kind from the double gold medal winners. In other words, the very ‘best of the best’ are singled out. Best of Show this year were as follows:

The Best Chardonnay went to Bogle Vineyards from California for their 2011. Chateau Fontaine from Michigan took the trophy for Best Riesling with their 2011 SemiSweet. Merriam Vineyards of California scooped best Cabernet Sauvignon for their 2009 Gloeckner-Turner Ranch and Znovin Znoimo from the Czech Republic won for their 2009 Stosiklovice/ LED Riesling Icewine. Congratulations to all the winners.

On Saturday, May 4, the competition will hold its charitable gala wine auction (both silent and live) and dinner to give out the awards. As an added bonus this year, all judges were asked to bring two special bottles from their own cellars to be auctioned off as the ‘judges’ special collection’. It’s sure to bring in a good amount of money for the charity. You needn’t be involved with this event to donate, if you choose. Donations to the auction are always welcome and extremely appreciated.

With 13 years under its belt, this competition has reached a pinnacle beyond what anyone could have imagined. It keeps getting bigger and better – so much so that there is talk of extending the competition for an extra day in the future. Of course any large event like this is only as good as the people working it and the folks involved here are the best. The tireless efforts of Peter Parts, Ron Dougherty, Thomas King, the amazing army of volunteers and my fellow judges should be commended. Special thanks to the one and only Dave Male, Chairman of the competition! He and I have known each other for decades since the days of InterVin with Andrew Sharp.

I’m extremely proud to be a part of this event that provides so much for those in need! Cheers to all for an incredible job well done. This competition stands as a model for others like it around the world, and I hope it’s only a matter of time until we see many more of them. For more details on the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition go to Donations to Camp Good Days in general are always welcome (

Edward Finstein a.k.a. The Wine Doctor is a wine writer, educator, judge and consultant.

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