If you’re attending Saturday’s big Wine & Jazz Music Festival at the University of Charleston and want to know the best wines to try that night, you’ve come to the right place.
Once again, I was invited to join a panel of judges to sip, swirl and taste every wine entered into this year’s Fund for the Arts West Virginia wine competition — and I snagged the list of the winning bottles you’ll see adorned with medals Saturday night.
That complete honor roll is below, but I’m here to share a little behind-the-scenes tip as well. When in doubt about what to drink, it’s a pretty safe bet to pick anything The Sweeter Side of the Feud is offering.
Just like last year, that winery in Spencer pretty much dominated this year’s competition by claiming 10 of the 14 medals awarded and winning five of the six categories judged, including Best in Show.
And I know what many of you are thinking, because I hear it all the time. West Virginia wine? How good could it be?
While the Mountain State isn’t known as a vino hotspot, there are some good bottles out there — and they’re not all fruit-flavored and overly sweet. My fellow judges and I sampled a few this year we agreed were legitimately and enjoyably drinkable.
Now for that full list of winners:
Dry White from Grapes: 1) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Cotton Top Pinot Grigio. 2) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Swine Wine Riesling. 3) WineTree Vineyards, Riesling.
Semi-Dry White from Grapes: 1) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Little Devil White Raspberry. 2) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, MeeMaw Goes South Muscat.
Dry Red from Grapes: 1) Chestnut Ridge, Forbidden Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah. 2) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Heart Breaker Pinot Noir. 3) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Petite Syrah.
Fruit & Berry: 1) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Little Devil Raspberry. 2) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Bad Frank Blackberry.
Dessert & Specialty: 1) The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Cranberry Shiraz. 2) Chestnut Ridge, Peach Chardonnay. 3) Stone Road, Alternate Route Maple Wine.
Best West Virginia Estate Grown: The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Hatfield Farm Honey Mead.
Best in Show: The Sweeter Side of the Feud, Little Devil White Raspberry.
For more information on this year’s big winery winner, visit www.sweetersideofthefeud.com. For more information about Saturday’s Wine & Jazz Music Festival, visit www.festivallcharleston.com/events/wineandjazz.
I also had a great time judging West Virginia’s official state food on West Virginia’s official birthday at last Thursday’s Rolls on the River pepperoni roll festival along Kanawha Boulevard at Haddad Riverfront Park.
With the rain (mostly) staying away, a nice crowd came out to sample pepperoni rolls from more than 10 restaurants and bakeries, while sipping craft beer from Lewisburg’s Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company.
While all of that was happening up on the boulevard, I joined a panel of judges down next to the stage for a blind tasting of all entries to determine whose reigned supreme. That process led to interesting discussions along the lines of stick vs. sliced pepperoni, bread that is too soft or too hard — and most hotly debated, items that were more like calzones or strombolis and not really “rolls” at all.
But when all was said, tasted and done, our group of five judges almost all had the same top three picks, just in slightly different orders. So you can rest assured these winners really were our best of the bunch that night!
First place went to Chico Bakery in Morgantown, second was Charleston’s own Mea Cuppa (which was actually my first-place choice) and third went to Charleston’s Swiftwater Café (my second pick).
And after eating 10 pepperoni rolls, yes, I did pretty much have to roll myself home!
Finally, after sharing last week’s news about one of the brothers behind Bellissimo Pizza in Belle planning to open a new restaurant in the old Red Line Diner in St. Albans, the Red Line reached out to let me know they’re up and running!
The reader who shared the original scoop, David Gurley, said he’s already eaten there several times and thinks the new location will be a big hit in that area.
My fingers are crossed as well.