Brian Cain

Tasters Guild International Wine Competition Reveals Many Remarkable Wines

Brian Cain
Tasters Guild International Wine Competition Reveals Many Remarkable Wines

Tasters Guild International Wine Competition Reveals Many Remarkable Wines from Areas You May Not be Familiar With

Blended Wines, both Red and White Showed Extremely Well

I have judged now at the Tasters Guild Annual International Wine Judging since its inception in 1986.    Originally, a large portion of the wines originated in Europe.   Today, almost all of the wines come from New World wine regions.   Typically, the vast majority are quite good with a pretty significant percentage worthy of the Gold or Double Gold designation.   Roughly a third of the wines are judged by more than one panel and all of the wines that receive a unanimous gold by one panel are re-judged by a second panel.   If the wine gets a unanimous gold by the second panel, it is deemed “double gold”.   For these and other reasons, I list both my score and the panel score.

With something like 1200 wines being tasted, I certainly did not taste every one, but, I do feel that the wines I did taste (something close to 200) is enough to get a feel for what was entered and what constituted some of the highlights.

This is not double blind.   The judges know the primary grape variety unless it is a blend then only if it is a Meritage or simply Red Blend or White Blend.   We also know the approximate price, age and residual sugar.   We do not know the brand, region or country of origin.  Not surprisingly, Michigan wines showed very well in direct competition with wines mostly from the West Coast (CA, OR and WA).


2018 Cherry Creek Cellars Lynn Aleksandr Old Woodstock #2 White Blend, MI $20+  This blend of Michigan’s aromatic varietals (Gewurz, Riesling and Traminette) starts off with a fine floral fresh bouquet of orange peel, musk and citrus.  The finish is long clean and full of mineral and lemon sensations.   My score GOLD, panel score SILVER.

2018 St. Julien Wine Company Braganini Reserve Dry Riesling Mountain Road Estate Lake Michigan Shore, MI   $20+  Wow, here is a wine packed with ripe fruit, exotic violets, huge muscat-like scents and fresh citrus notes.   The ample fruit carries through the huge, soft, luscious finish.   My score GOLD, panel score DOUBLE GOLD.

2017 Laurentide Winery Fume Blanc Leelanau Peninsula, MI  $25+   Not to be confused with the not so good wine labeled Sauvignon Blanc from this same winery, this FUME BLANC shows classic smoke, earth, steel and slate framed by juicy grapefruit-like zest and a subtle green herb component.   Though very juicy on the palate, it finishes very clean and dry.   My score GOLD, panel score GOLD.

2018 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ  $16+  Always a favorite, this winery continues to hit the nail on the head with gorgeous melon, kiwi fruit in abundance and very subtle smoke and earth nuances.   Stays straight throughout the finish.   My score GOLD, panel score GOLD.


2018 Cedar Creek Winery Bon Vivant (Marachal Foch), WI  $10  Unlike many wines of the Midwest, Cedar Creek prices their wines to sell.  You can’t beat this for its nice black fruit nose and long ripe finish.   My score GOLD, panel score SILVER

2014 Sharpe Hill Winery Cabernet Franc, CT  $16  The pure Vinifera elegance in the nose shows very Bordeaux-like class with subtle cedar, stones and compost in the delicate yet persistent Cabernet fruit essence.   My score GOLD, panel score BRONZE (I guess it just wasn’t big enough for someone’s palate)

2017 Glenora Wine Cellars Black Diamond Express Red Blend Finger Lakes, NY  $20+  Right up front the exotic wood and green herb spice invites in the lush supple ripe fruit.   Though fat and soft, it is not sweet holding fine balance through the finish.   My score GOLD, panel score GOLD.

2016 Cherry Creek Cellars Montage Red Blend, MI  $20+  Posseses the fine fruit purity of a Vinifera blend, though, from the name, I would guess it is probably a Vinifera/Hybrid blend.   Nice balance with a long clean finish.   It could be a double gold with just a bit more heft and vigor.   My score GOLD, panel score SILVER. 

2013 Cherry Creek Cellars Lynn Aleksandr Meritage Red, MI  $25  Perfectly correct for a Bordeaux-like expectation with fine complexities of red fruit and earth with a monsterously ripe middle and a long toasty oak finish.  My score GOLD, panel scores DOUBLE GOLD.

2016 South Hill Pacifica Kosher Meritage Red  West Coast, WA  $30+   This winery sources from both Oregon and Washington, thus, no specific appellation.   By doing so, one can see the beautiful raspberry like essence superimposed on dense fat ripe fruit that stays to the end of the very long lush finish.   My score GOLD, panel score SILVER.

2016 Frog’s Tooth Winery Petite Sirah Calaveras County, CA  $40  This was my very favorite wine of the entire judging.   It is everything one could ever hope to find in a Petite Sirah.  The fruit is classic ripe black berry with generous yet not over the top smooth ripe fruit that just glides over the palate.   Though substantial, the fine balance makes it a wine that just disappears at the dinner table.  My score GOLD!! panel score GOLD.

2016 Satori Cellars Ha Ha Petite Sirah Santa Clara Valley, CA  $25+  Here is Petite Sirah with a rich ripe prune like concentration and fine herbal and tobacco subtleties.  Plenty of tannin is balanced by the lush black fruit.   My score GOLD, panel score DOUBLE GOLD.

NV Barefoot Cellars Pinot Noir, CA  under$8  Barefoot (Gallo) always enters this competition and amazingly, these very low priced (something like $5 on sale) always seem to do well.   Yes, there is a silver lining to mass production.   Here we see a plump, ripe, generous fat red with good firm mouth feel ample fruit and a clean finish.  Classic Pinot Noir?  Maybe not, but, an astonishing wine for the money.   My score SILVER, panel score SILVER.

2017 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, CA  $8+  Another mass produced wine that will satisfy any palate.  Here, interesting spice and fruit mingle to form a pretty hefty effort from this delicate grape.  One does not expect this level of complexity and class that this price point.   My score SILVER, panel score SILVER.

2017 Hyatt Vineyards Merlot Rattlesnake Hills, Yakima Valley, WA  $10  Wow is this ever a bargain!  Really classy Pacific NW style with loads of ripe fruit and sense of place.   Remarkably complex for its price point.   My score GOLD, panel score SILVER.

Finally, I have one more wine that I’m very proud to include.   Obviously, they don’t let me taste my own wine, so, I have no score for it, but, the panel gave it GOLD!   I drink this all the time, so, yes, I do have lots of tasting notes.                                 

NV Michigan Vintner Wine Company Red Hybrid (Leon Millot, Foch and St.Croix), MI  $10 Though the color is a little lighter than most Michigan Vintner reds due to the light vintage of 2016, the wine is ample and satisfying.   The rich Midwestern aroma of hybrid grapes is the first thing one notices with plenty of strawberry and black cherry following on the palate.   It finishes with a nice chocolate cherry-like sweetness tempered by toasty oak and dried berries.   Panel score GOLD.

Enjoy in Good Health and Enjoy Michigan Wine,

A Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner