Many of you may or may not know I run the Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition.  It fell in my lap a few years ago. At the time I needed to know how other wine competitions run because I thought this one could use some improving. I volunteered at the New York Wine & Food Classic to work the back room and have been doing it ever since and have improved my own competition from the experience.  I’ve always been on the administrative side of the wine competition table but to my surprise I ended up on the other side of the table this month.

Imaging my surprise when a few days before the Ultimate Wine Challenge I received a phone call from the organizer Paul who runs this wine competition and is a judge for my wine competition. He had a judge who had to cancel at the last minute and asked if I would like to judge.  WOW!  Me? Really? I’m thinking to myself, am I qualified?  Is my palate good enough? I know I have my Certified Specialist of Wine designation, but many of the other judges have their Masters of Wine, am I out of my league?  Paul must not think so since he asked me to judge.

I accepted the opportunity, brushed up on wine faults (actually read Wine Faults book by John Huddelson) and with great anticipation headed to New York City June 4th to begin the three day judging.   On my panel was Doug Frost who I knew from the Finger Lakes Competition and Jack Robertiello. Nervous as the judging began and I was dutifully filling out the evaluation sheet according to breakdown.  I think I was putting to much thought into each category and number.  Thinking to hard about each number and bringing up the rear but I took my time because every score is important. I was worried my scores would be way different from the other two judges.  That wasn’t the case.  I soon realized that my scores were in line with the other two judges on my panel.  I began to get excited after every flight as we discussed our scores for each wine.  I can do this and am qualified.  I guess I need to give myself a little credit.

Day 1 we tasted 89 wines. Day 2, 74 wines and that brought us to the final rounds on Day 3 which consisted of 25 wines.  How do you feel after you taste so much wine? By the second day after lunch it felt like the 10th time you were running to go jump off the diving board into the pool. A bit on the palate fatigue. I promised myself I wouldn’t touch any wine that evening so my palate would be fresh for the final round and it was.

My biggest takeaway from this experience was the last flight of the competition, a wonderful Oloroso Sherry glass number 2.357. Since our panel was done early, I didn’t let them take the glasses, I sat there and enjoyed our Sherry and waited for lunch to arrive. What brand was 2.357….it’s a Barbadillo San Rafael Oloroso Dulce NV Jerez-Xeres Sherry that retails for $28

I really enjoyed this judging experience and would love to do it again. Thank you Paul for giving me this opportunity.

To see the entire results of the Ultimate Wine Challenge visit