After eight hours of judging, the first day of tne 2007 New York Wine & Food Classic has concluded at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa. A couple of things set aside this wine competition from others. For one, it involves only New York wines. Secondly, it's in Napa Valley. That may seem bizarre, but it's perfectly logical. If you want to show off your wines, which is a goal of the competition, why not do it in the very heart of the nation's most prominent wine region? After all, there's no other wine competition in Napa Valley, given that local vintners are loathe to have their wines judged blind by a court that involves group consensus rather than personal preference.
But I digress. And I also err, to a degree. All the wines competing for medals are from New York, granted. But they aren't the only wines in the competition. Jim Trezise, the competition's coordinator, also includes in some flights a highly regarded wine from some other region, just to see how New York wines stack up against outsiders.
And how do they? I can speak only for our panel, which today judged 15 flights involving a total 137 wines. They ranged from gewurztraminers to catawbas. Almost all the wines were from New York, but several flights included the kinds of "ringers" that Trezise likes to throw in to see how New York wines measure up to international competition.
New York wines, by our experience, are measuring up quite well, with one notable exception. In our very first flight - sparkling wines - we gave just one gold medal. It went to the ringer, Veuve Clicquot, from Champagne. In vibrancy and crispness, no New York sparkling wine came close. Sorry, but that's the way it was.
In several other flights, however, New York wines did quite well. Among the vidals, for one, we gave just one gold medal, to wine no. 415, the identity of which we won't know until after the competition concludes tomorrow. At the end of each flight, however, we are told whether a ringer was included, and if so, what it was. In this case, the ringer vidal was from Missouri, which generally does quite well by the grape. Today, however, the Missouri vidal in our flight got just a bronze medal.
In another flight - pinot noir - we gave two gold medals out of 10 wines. Both were from New York. The ringer in the flight, we subsequently learned, was from Burgundy. It got only a bronze. Good show, New York.
In our flight of 11 merlots, we gave two gold medals, neither of which went to what turned out to be the ringer, which was from Washington state, where merlot does quite well; it got a bronze medal. Another plus for New York.
So what's it mean? Only on this day in this place that New York wines aren't to be taken lightly. Give them a chance; you might be surprised. Unless, however, we're talking sparkling wines. Looks like some work may be needed there.
In concluding, let me introduce my fellow panelists: Rene Chazottes, sommelier of The Pacific Club at Newport Beach; Michaela Rodeno, CEO of St. Supery Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley; and Bill Moffett of Watkins Glen, N.Y., publisher emeritus of the magazine Vineyard & Winery Management.