The news is out. The winners of the 2011 Winetasting Challenge have been announced.
The Challenge was created in 2004 as part of The Renaissance Project, brainchild of Felice Sabatino of Via Allegro Ristorante, to celebrate and encourage excellence in our wine service industry. It was a huge success and, as the competition grew, Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute was appointed as the organizing, presenting and auditing body in 2005. It is now the most unique and largest wine tasting competition in the world, with the largest prize purse of its kind in the world – upwards of $100,000 including cash, trips, Spiegelau stemware and scholarships.
In the Challenge’s early days, Toronto Life was a media sponsor, an association that has since been dissolved but which made me proud when I was still involved with the magazine. I particularly liked the fact that the competition was open to anyone, professional and amateur, and that no entry fee was required. That is still the case. The event is operated by volunteers and all awards and competition expenses (venue, food, wines, etc.) are provided courtesy of the sponsors. In a healthy spirit of competition, neither The Renaissance Project nor CCOVI keeps or publishes any individual scores. Only the names of the winners and runner-ups for each of the categories are announced.
It’s a very tough competition – as it should be with so much at stake. All the wines and spirits are presented ‘double blind’ (purchased and at the competition, pre-poured out of sight by “bonded” representatives from CCOVI at Brock University) the “challenge” is to correctly identify the grape varietal, country, region of origin and vintage from a diverse range of world wines. The professionals try to identify seven wines while the amateurs attempt to identify three wines. There are two supplementary rounds where (1) three VQA wines are presented double blind and (2) three spirits are presented double blind.
You can find out much more and see a list of the noble sponsors who make all this possible at the Challenge’s website, http://winetastingchallenge.com/.
And so to business:
1st Prize, professional: Peter Boyd, Sommelier at Scaramouche and an Instructor with the International Sommelier Guild, songwriter and preternaturally gifted blues musician.
2nd Prize, professional: Jonathan Salem-Wiseman, Professor at the Humber School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, winner of 1st Prize, amateur in 2010.
3rd Prize, professional: Eugene Mlynczyk, Key Account Manager, Sales at Vincor Canada.
1st Prize, amateur: Anthea deSouza
2nd Prize, amateur: Jordan Mills
3rd Prize, amateur: Monika Janek
Spirit Champion: Mark Coster, familiar to all as a contributing writer at Good Food Revolution.
CCOVI VQA Challenge Champion: Peter Bodnar Rod, Director of sales and marketing at 13th Street Winery and the Director Online education, Wine Industry Liaison at the International Sommelier Guild. He was also the first Grand Award winner of the Challenge, back in 2004.
Huge congratulations to them all!