ST. GEORGE — Winemakers and enthusiasts came from all across the state to participate in Utah’s first wine competition.
The competition was hosted by IG Winery in Cedar City and lasted three days over Labor Day weekend, with the judging occurring on Saturday at the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City.
“It’s never been done in Utah, so it was our way of trying to bring the state together,” Tony Piersanti, director of operations and marketing at IG Winery, said.
Over 80 wines were submitted in both the amateur and professional categories, and all 11 wineries in the state were represented at the competition.
The wines were judged based on the same 20-point evaluation system used by the American Wine Society, in which wines are scored in five different categories: appearance; aroma and bouquet; taste and texture; aftertaste; and overall impression.
Each judge ranked the wines individually, then their scores were averaged. A rank between 12-14 is awarded a bronze medal, 15-17 is silver and 18-20 is gold.
Nearly every winery that entered received at least one bronze or silver medal, but no gold or best of show medals were awarded.
“We had a very tough judge circuit,” Piersanti said. “These people know wine. They scored it very fairly and justly.”
The judges awarded 29 bronze and 14 silver medals at the competition. While the full list of awards has yet to be released, several wineries stood out among the rest.
The Hive Winery in Layton came out on top, winning a total of nine medals for their varietals. IG Winery also did well, winning five medals. Twisted Cedar in Cedar City and Old Town Cellars in Park City tied for third, receiving four medals each.
“It kind of gives validation to the hard work that they’ve been doing,” Piersanti said. “It’s something that they can put on their walls, share with their customers, that not only did they win awards for their wines and ciders and meads but were able to win in the very first Utah Wine Competition.”
Piersanti said each of the eight judges for the competition are “very notable wine enthusiasts throughout the state.” The panel included Southern Utah residents Doug Hamilton, leader of the St. George Wine Club, the largest wine club in the state; Tom Hart, chef of the Switchback Grille in Springdale; and John Delaney, co-owner of the Painted Pony in St. George and the Bold and Delaney Winery in Dammeron Valley.
Delaney, who has been part of an effort to establish Southern Utah as an American Viticultural Area, said it was exciting to have a majority of the winemakers and grape growers in the state come together to talk about the future of winemaking in Utah.
“It was an amazing experience. It was a great way to get a feel for what the direction is that wine is heading for in Utah – Southern Utah especially,” Delaney said.
Other judges on the panel included Sheral Schowe, founder of the Wasatch Academy of Wine, LLC, Utah’s first and largest wine school based in Salt Lake City; Devin Schowe, chef and wine educator from Salt Lake City; Jeff Labounty, a well-known restaurateur in Salt Lake City and Park City; David McCurdy, Army veteran and a top graduate of the Wine Academy of Utah; and Jim Santangelo, founder of the Wine Academy of Utah.
The competition was not the only event in the weekend’s festivities.
After the competition, there was a “Farm to Fork” dinner at the Red Acre Farms, which was attended by many of the competitors. Some of the winning varietals of wine were served to celebrate.
On Sunday, IG Winery hosted a “Picnic in the Vineyard,” which took place at the Twin Peaks Vineyard in St. George.
“That was just a way for people to come up and see what the wine industry is doing in Southern Utah,” Piersanti said.
On Monday, IG Winery involved Utah breweries in the festivities by hosting “Bikes and Brews,” an event in which bicyclists could ride on a set course and enjoy Utah beer at the winery afterward.
To see the full list of wine awards from the competition when it is published, follow IG Winery on Facebook.
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