November is one of the most active times in the wine world, and a pretty slow time for those of us in the wine festival world. All our wine making friends are busy, well, making wine. This is harvest time – from late August when the first white grapes start to come in until early October when the last of the reds show up at the winery. By the end of the year, the newly fermented wines are resting in tanks (if they are fruity, fragrant whites) or barrels (muscular reds), and winemakers are finally catching up on sleep, unless they have kids and are gearing up for the holidays.
Here at VeritageMiami, we are taking advantage in the lull of winemaker visits to plan two upcoming events: VeritageMiami 2015 in April and, in January, Best in Glass Wine Challenge. Best in Glass is our annual wine competition, unique in the U.S. for being judged solely by working sommeliers with the aim of selecting great wines for sharing by the glass.
How do you plan a competition like that? With a lot of zest, for one thing! It takes advance planning because, when the judging takes place in January, the sommeliers are swamped since it is “high season” in South Florida’s restaurant world. Seriously, where would you rather be in January – in the snow back up north, or on a sunny Florida beach? I thought so.
Sommeliers’ Souvenir of Syrah
Not only are the sommeliers pressed for time right when we want to do the judging (so the winning wines are all set to go in the weeks immediately prior to VeritageMiami), the wineries are pressed in December when we are asking them to submit all the bottles they want the judges to taste. The wineries are wrapping up their holiday sales and getting ready to close down for the holidays, so we start connecting with them in October – right now – to encourage them to get their entries in. I expect we’ll have just over 300 wines entered this year.
Our sommelier-judges have been invited and are setting aside time on their calendars. The wineries are starting to think about what to put in the competition, and struggling to look ahead – they can only submit wines they will have available when the awards are presented and restaurants begin featuring the winners in March, 2015. That means it is a challenging time for everyone – coordinating entries, booking time, anticipating wine.
It’s an exciting time too – about this time I start to wonder what surprises will turn up at this year’s Best in Glass. Every year, there are several wines we didn’t see coming – a few years ago it was a killer Pinot Noir from Oregon. The following year, a Rosé from Romania dazzled the judges. Last year, it was a bargain priced Petite Chablis and a terrific Italian rosé that threw the judges a curve ball. What will it be in 2015?
Stay tuned – I’ll keep you posted as things start to come together!