The second Harding's Cup Challenge proved that award-winning Cabernet Franc can be grown and made across the entire state. One hundred enthusiastic wine lovers joined together at the Kellogg Manor House Aug. 19 to sample the best of Michigan Cabernet Franc and cheeses and enjoy live music.
Fifteen Michigan Cabernet Francs and two wines from Chinon, France, all from the 2008 vintage, were tasted blind by a panel of acclaimed judges, including sommeliers Jean-Jacques Fertal of Eagle Eye Imports, Michael Cregar of Wines of Distinction and Dean Rondy of Oxford Wines and Spirits.
"Not only was the competition meaningful, but it was a powerful testimony to the infinity and resourcefulness of our winemakers," said Terry Stingley, the event's organizer and wine buyer for Harding's Markets. "It also highlighted how an average vintage year could produce some exceptional expressions from across the state's entire canvas."
Fresh off a dominating performance at the Michigan Wine & Spirits Competition, where it won three Best in Class trophies, Black Star Farms took home the coveted Harding's Cup for its 2008 Arcturos Cabernet Franc. Second place went to one of the French entries (Le Boisclair of Chinon). Free Run Cellars garnered the bronze medal, becoming the first southern Michigan winery to place at the event. Fourth and fifth place went to Shady Lane Cellars and Hickory Creek, respectively.
"Although these accolades came to a northwest winery, they represent the efforts of all winemakers in this region to drive the quality for this variety," said Black Star Farms winemaker Lee Lutes. "For the past ten plus years, there has been a concerted effort by many in this region to constructively critique, share successes and push for overall better quality with our red varieties. It is this work that I believe is lifting the status of these reds form our beautiful area of the state."
The Harding's Cup Challenge began last year and was conceived by third-generation neighborhood grocer Tim Harding and Stingley. Their passion for promoting Michigan vinifera has made their wine competition one of the most prestigious wine events in the state.