Local wineries vie for ‘Best in Show’ at ice wine competition

RIT faculty and students help coordinate annual competition and festival

A. Sue Weisler

Abby Holland and Tom Small assisted with the set up and distribution of the different ice wines in the recent New York State Ice Wine competition held at Henry’s restaurant. Both will supervise students from the School of International Hospitality and Service Innovation at the New York Ice Wine Festival on Feb. 5.

If it’s winter, it’s ice wine season.

Ice wines, the sweeter siblings of traditional wines and spirits, have grown in popularity, and while Canada and Germany continue to be the largest producers of ice wines, New York state is catching up.

The third annual New York Ice Wine Festival takes place Feb. 5 at Casa Larga Vineyard. The event will have an RIT flavor with Lorraine Hems, a faculty member in the hospitality school, helping to organize the event, starting with the recent ice wine competition Jan. 14 at Henry’s restaurant at RIT.

Nine wineries have entered new vintages of white and red ice wines. Judged in a blind tasting, the wines will vie for the prestigious Best in Show award.

“The New York Ice Wine competition furthers our mission of positioning New York state as a leading ice wine producing region in the U.S.,” says Hems, who is also the competition chairperson. “I am proud to be a part of this competition. Helping recognize the labors of New York vintners is fulfilling and rewarding.”

Hems and students Tom Small and Abby Holland assisted with the competition by setting up, pouring and helping to tabulate the scores from local judges. Paul Brock, Johannes Reinhardt and Angelo Pavin, all experienced judges and winemakers, used a blind taste-testing method to assess the selections. Winners in the different categories and the overall Best in Show will be awarded during the festival. The Best in Show glass sculpture was designed by RIT graduate Beccy Feather.

Both Holland and Small have worked at the festival, participating in the educational programs and tours offered to guests. Small, who has worked at Casa Larga for more than a year, says the event is a great way to make connections in the hospitality business. Holland, last year’s executive chef for the annual Puttin’ on the RITz black-tie dinner, says it is one more step toward a career as a chef in a Washington, D.C., restaurant. Both Holland and Small will supervise the student volunteers at the Ice Wine Festival.

The festival takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Feb. 5 at Casa Larga Winery, located at 2287 Turk Hill Road in Victor. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. Go to www.NYIceWineFestival.com for more information. Participating wineries include the host winery and Sheldrake Point, Johnson Estate, Heron Hill and Hunt Country wineries.


NOTE: Visit the RIT YouTube site for an interview with Lorraine Hems and competition judges about the event: www.youtube.com/user/RITUniversityNews.