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Illinois State Fair Wine Competition

Sponsored by: The Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Association


Sponsored by: The Illinois Grape Growers & Vintners Association

More than 420 local wines were presented to twelve judges at the Illinois State Fair Wine Competition, June 16-18, 2014 held at Lincoln Land Community College.

A world-class panel of wine experts and enthusiasts judged the wines including:

  • Sarah Bowman, Southern Illinois University
  • Mel Runge, Indiana
  • Daniel Becker, University of Kentucky Extension Viticulturist
  • August Mrozowski, Augie's Front Burner and American Harvest Restaurant
  • Mary Lynn Gietl-Deloney, The Corkscrew Wine Emporium
  • Steve Somermeyer, Chateau Thomas Winery, Indiana
  • Jeffery Wheeler, University of Kentucky
  • Dr. Bradley Taylor, Southern Illinois University
  • Patty Held, Hermann Missouri Wine Trail
  • Glenn Bardgett, Annie Gunn's Restaurant
  • Michael White, Iowa State University
  • Samuel Vandegrift, Urbana

Judges were divided into three panels designed to provide a tremendous depth and variety of experience, with special emphasis on hybrid wine styles and sensory characteristics. Judging was based on color, balance, aroma, clarity, taste and finish. Entries were judged using a 20-point score card. All wines with a panel majority score of 17 and above received a gold medal, 15 and above received a silver medal and wines 12 and higher were awarded a bronze medal. All double gold medal winners competed for the "Best of Class" and the "Best of Show" designations. The special recognition of "Governor's Cup" was awarded to the best red, white, rosé, fruit, and dessert/sparkling wines produced from Illinois-grown fruit.

Best of Show went to Illinois Sparkling Co. for their Franken's French Hybrid Brut. Franken's is an ode to the French-hybrid grapes that make up Illinois Sparkling Co.'s wines, their "frankenvines." Hints of raspberries and a bracing acidity make this a versatile wine for pairing.

The Illinois Sparkling Co.'s Franken's retails for $32 at the winery's tasting room in Utica, Illinois. For a listing of retail locations near you, please visit

The Illinois Wine Competition awards Governor's Cups for the top Illinois-grown grape or fruit wines. This year's winners are:

Governor's Cup Red: Galena Cellars Eric the Red
Governor's Cup White: August Hill Winery Vignoles
Governor's Cup Rosé: Illinois Sparkling Co. Dollface Rose
Governor's Cup Fruit: Galena Cellars Mead Honey Wine
Governor's Cup Dessert: Alto Vineyards Porto di Guido

Top Awards for Wines from any Appellation:

Red – Any Appellation: Von Jakob Vineyard Hillside Red
White – Any Appellation: Blue Sky Vineyard Seyval
Fruit – Any Appellation: Sleepy Creek Vineyards Winey Mary

Best of Show – Amateur Competition

Red Wine: Gerry Podraza Song for Everyone
White Wine: Brenda Nielands Diamond
Non-grape Wine: Ryan Ziegler Sassafrass

Label & Packaging Competition

Best of Show: AcquaViva Winery Piacere
White Wine: Fox Valley Winery Seyval Blanc
Rosé Wine: Owl Creek Vineyard Whoo's Blush
Fruit Wine: Kickapoo Creek Winery Rory's Rosidae
Dessert Wine: Alto Vineyard's Reserve Gold
Sparkling Wine: Illinois Sparkling Co. Brut
Cider: Owl Creek Vineyard Bad Apple
Brand Identity: Illinois Sparkling Co./August Hill Winery

A ceremony and public tasting of the award-winning wines will be held Tuesday, August 12th at the Illinois Wine Experience during the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Illinois. The Illinois Wine Experience Tent is located on Central Avenue between the U.S. Cellular High Dive Show and the Coliseum.

Bradley Beam, the Illinois state enologist, and organizer of the contest, said, "The primary goal of this competition is to recognize the many outstanding wines produced in the state of Illinois. The number of medals awarded this year indicates that we, as an industry, are maintaining a very high degree of quality. For those entries that do not receive medals, the judges provide comments and feedback. While there are several wineries that produce wines of excellent quality year in and year out, it's important to remember that many of the vineyards and wineries in Illinois are relatively inexperienced. This feedback should help winemakers avoid repeating mistakes, and ultimately help our industry continue to improve."

The Illinois State Fair Wine Competition is sponsored and coordinated by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA). For the fourth year, the competition was held at Lincoln Land Community College further cementing its strong partnership with IGGVA.

IGGVA established in 1992, is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the viticulture and enology interests of Illinois through information exchange and cooperation among Illinois grape producers and vintners.

The Illinois wine industry has exploded in recent years, growing from just 12 wineries in 1997 to over 100 today. During this time, the acreage devoted to grape production has grown at a tremendous rate, and today Illinois is consistently among the top 12 wine-producing states.

Today the Illinois wine industry creates a direct economic impact of almost $700 million annually on the Illinois economy.