CLEVELAND — Earlier this month, the annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition took place virtually, where dozens of judges blind taste-tested wines of the world to categorize winners in several categories, including: best of class, double gold, gold, silver and bronze.
Debonné Vineyards, part of the Grand River Valley in Geauga County in Madison, took home double gold this year for their Unoaked Chardonnay, gold for their Ice Wine, and silvers for their Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
In 2020, Debonné Vineyards scored a best of class in the competition for their Unoaked Chardonnay as well.
Three other northeast Ohio wineries also won big in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition earlier this month:
Laurello Vineyards in Geneva won double gold for its Ice Wine, silvers for its Chambourcin and Pinot Grigio, and bronze for Chardonnay.
North Coast Wine Club based in Solon won silver for their Little Somethin’ Somethin’ red blend and bronze for their Appasimento Grand River Pinot Noir.
And Ficarra Cellars, based in Valley View, took home awards – winning best of class for their Carmenere, silvers for Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, and bronze for Montepulciano and Rossato Rose.
President and owner of Debonné Vineyards, Tony Debevc, says he hopes to win for a third time in the competition next year.
“It's a really big deal for not only us, but for the reputation of the grand river valley region,” Debevc said.
48 judges blind tasted nearly 5,700 wines from more than 1,000 wineries nationwide, representing various north American wine regions.
Michael Harris, a winemaker at Debonné Vineyards, says winning the award for Chardonnay is huge – given it's one of the most popular types of wine – but to beat out California – considered one of the top wine-making areas in the world, is especially huge.
"People came over to the tasting and immediately asked 'what part of California are you from?' I said, 'No, we're from Ohio,' and the looks on their faces were across the spectrum,” Harris says.
According to Debevc, there are 16 wineries within a six-mile radius of Debonné Vineyards, with eight other wineries in the outlying areas in northeast Ohio.
“The Grand River Valley can do some amazing white wines and we seldom get national exposure in the big consumer magazines because so much of our wine is sold within the state and those folks primarily cover nationally distributed brands,” says Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of The Ohio Wine Producers Association. “But we are proud of all the good things that are coming out of Ohio and especially out of the Grand River Valley.”
In total, the four Ohio wineries brought home 18 major medals from competition.
Editor's Note: The below story aired on May 16, 2020