Each year, a select group of committed wine drinkers gathers on the eastern Maine coast to swirl, sniff, slurp and savour at the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks.
The table is set. The teams are picked. The rules are simple. Each of us brings a bottle from a different country or region. This year offerings came from Italy, France, Portugal, California, and of course Canada.
The blind-tasting has evolved over the years. We started off with wildly different wines, to give us a fighting chance. We had the year when we got cocky and featured all Cabernet Sauvignon ranging in price from $10 – $50 to find out if price really does matter. It did, sort of. We all identified the least expensive wine, but our favourite was the $30 special – which all of us needed to “sample” again… just to be sure.
It is probably the one time of the week we all take seriously – well semi- seriously, during a beach week of fine wine, fine music and fine food. The Judgement at Fortunes Rocks is like taking the big exam after practicing a whole lot. There is even a trophy.
But this year, the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks 4.0 will be remembered as the year of Canada -Take that Mr. Trump.
Most of the teams nailed the Pinot Noir, a confidence builder because of its lighter colour.
Two teams identified wine #2 from Medoc. Bottle #3 – EVERY SINGLE TEAM – deemed it an obvious Amarone. This group should know – they have sampled many many bottles together – and even toured and tasted at the Zenato winery north of Verona last year.
And every single team got it wrong.
The best wine of the bunch was the Cabernet Franc from Vineland Estates.
Now wine snobs can sneer and call us a bunch of amateurs – we are. But the fact that all of us committed wine drinkers selected the Vineland Grand Reserve over Amarone under any circumstance is worth noting.
OK, this may not be quite on the level of the 1976 Judgement of Paris when a panel of the creme de la creme of French wine judges awarded two California wines – a red and a white – top spots in a blind-tasting. The competition sent shock waves through the wine industry, opened the door to globalization, and even inspired the film “Bottleshock”.
VQA wines have come into their own. It’s never been a better time to buy local. Our wines have lost the asterisk, that old descriptor of “that’s really good for a Canadian wine.”
Wine makers in the Niagara region are making outstanding wines worth savouring. Period.
And for the winner and the losers of the Judgement at Fortunes Rocks 4.0 …. we’ll just keep practicing.