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Uncorked: NC wine competitions provide insightful choices

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Ed Williams

North Carolina’s two annual wine competitions — the Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern and the N.C. State Fair — can sometimes provide an insightful consumer scorecard.

As a judge who has served in both competitions, I eagerly await medal winning announcements. Sure, I have my own opinion about North Carolina’s many vinifera, hybrid, native and fruit wines. But I like to step back, merge the results and see where there is strong consensus.

In 2021, Childress Vineyards won Double Gold at both competitions for its Starbound blueberry dessert wine. To win Double Gold means a panel of judges independently scored a wine 19 points or higher on a 20-point scale.

Also in 2021, Laurel Gray Vineyards won a Double Gold at the Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern for its barrel fermented chardonnay. It then won a Gold for that same wine at the N.C. State Fair.

Some others that showed well at both competitions:

Shelton Vineyards Riesling: Double Gold at Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern; Silver at the N.C. State Fair.

Shelton Vineyards 2-5-9 Petit Verdot: Double Gold at Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern, Silver at the N.C. State Fair.

Shadow Springs Vineyards Seyval Blanc: Silver at the Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern; Gold at the N.C. State Fair.

JOLO Vineyards Golden Hallows (Vidal Blanc/Traminette): Gold at the Mid-Atlantic-Southeastern; Silver at the N.C. State Fair.

Find them before inventory runs out.

* * * *

Some international fare that impresses:

Spain

2017 Beronia Reserva Rioja ($25): Classic Tempranillo from northern Spain’s famed Rioja region.

2018 Arano Crianza ($30): Also Tempranillo but from the Ribera del Duero Rueda region in north central Spain.

2019 Arindo Verdejo ($11) and 2020 Marques de Caceres Verdejo ($12): Both are from the Rueda region in north central Spain. Verdejo is a workhorse grape in making sherry. But as a still white, it’s crisp, minerally and spicy, screaming for spring drinking.

2019 Domino de Eguren Castilla Protocolo ($8): From the Castilla region, an everyday red crafted from Tempranillo.

New Zealand

Sauvignon blanc rules the roost here. World-class, value-based recommendations: Kim Crawford ($17); Villa Maria ($14); The Seeker ($14); Giesen ($12); Kono ($13); Nobilo ($11); Loveblock ($19); Allan Scott ($17). On a tight budget? Try Costco’s Kirkland Ti Point ($7).

Don’t overlook New Zealand for tight, bright pinot noir. Kim Crawford also produces 2020 Loveblock Pinot Noir ($38) from the Central Otago region. Fold this into a comparative tasting with similarly-priced pinot noir from California’s Russian River Valley, Oregon’s Willamette Valley and France’s Burgundy region.

Italy

2019 Santa Cristina Toscana ($13): Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot.

2019 Banfi Centine Toscana ($13): Similar blend without the syrah.

2020 Villa Antinori Toscana White ($13): Refreshing white blend of Trebbiano, pinot blanc, pinot grigio, riesling and Malvasia.

2020 Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna ($17): A crisp alternative to sauvignon blanc.

2020 Anselmi San Vincenzo ($18): White blend of primarily Garganega and some Chardonnay.

2017 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore ($19): Red blend leaning on Corvina and Rondinella.

2018 Renato Ratti Langhe Ochetti Nebbiolo ($23): A go-to if you can’t afford high-priced Barolo.

2019 Cecchi Chianti Classico Storia Di Famiglia ($26): Sangiovese-based as you might expect from the Chianti region but with a dash of cabernet sauvignon.

Australia

2019 Yalumba Y Series Shiraz ($14) and 2020 Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($14): Consistently good across vintages. Both give the French Rhone a run for the money.

2018 d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Red ($14): Grenache, syrah and Mourvedre blend.

2020 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab ($18): Blends viognier and Marsanne for juicy honeysuckle, melon and citrus.

Freelance writer Ed Williams has written about wine for the News & Record since 1990. Send wine news or events to williamsonwine@gmail.com.

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