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Fourteen wineries from Michigan and two from France competed in the recently held Harding’s Cup Challenge, to determine the best Cabernet Franc. The event was held at the Kellogg Manor House on the scenic bluffs of Gull Lake in Michigan. The place appropriately looks like a grand European getaway more than a Michigan lake house.
Lee Lutes, Master Wine Maker at Black Star Farms and last year's champion, addressed the crowd and stressed the importance of the camaraderie in Michigan wine making and shared the excitement of last year's win, along with moving forward to more success as Cabernet Franc vines mature here in Michigan.
The French Judge, Jean-Jacques Fertal, also took time to share his judge's notes and tease that the French wines had flags on them in the back room for the blind tasting. But of course, the competition takes pride in its integrity. Thank you letters stream in from winemakers and participants following the exciting night, thanking Harding's and their famed Wine Guru for such an amazing event.
The importance of our region competing against the French with a "Noble Red" such as Cabernet Franc is "history making," according to Terry Stingley, the Wine Guru whose passion drives the annual event. A local neighborhood grocer, "Harding's Friendly Market" helped Terry pick up the torch for Michigan's flagship wine Cabernet Franc and create this world class competition for World Class Wines.
The sentiment among the winemakers is the same no matter if they placed or not. Fourteen vintners represented Michigan and two represented the Chinon region of France, which has been producing Cabernet Franc for a millennium. Four wines placed last night with a tie for third place. The top six, however, were mentioned and recognized at the event, all Michigan.
The winners of 2011 Cabernet Franc Harding's Cup "Best of" Challenge are:
5th place: Domaine Berrien Cellars 2002
4th place: Hickory Creek 2007
3rd place tie: Brys Estate 2007 & Free Run 2005
2nd place: Domaine Berrien 2005
1st place Cup Winner: Brys Estate Artisan Series 2007
Mark your calendars and save the date for Thursday, August 16, 2012, where we will challenge the 2010 vintage and see once again who will go home with the Harding's Cup, Michigan or France?