On the international stage

By Keith Strange

April 7, 2014

The wine-making program at Surry Community College is garnering international attention following a hearty showing at its first attempt at international competition.

Last week the college was awarded eight medals in its first international competition, the 14th Annual Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in Rochester, N.Y.

The student-produced wine, sold under the label Surry Cellars, received six bronze and two silvers at the competition.

Surry Cellars won bronze medals for the 2012 Nativo Reserve Chambourcin, 2010 Blend; 2013 Reserve Traminette; 2013 Chardonnay; Blue Ridge Red and Blue Ridge White.

The college received silver medals for the 50th anniversary edition of Petit Manseng Sparkling and its 2013 Grenache Rose.

The international competition featured wines from 20 countries, six Canadian provinces, and all 50 states. A total of 3,756 wines were entered in the competition.

Entries were blind judged by an internationally-assembled panel of wine experts.

Instructors in the program said the competition highlights the accomplishments of the students.

“Essentially, this represents a big win for Surry Community College and Surry Cellars. Many of these wines have just been bottled and released under our new label lines,” said David Bower, enology instructor. “It’s simply amazing to see that these wines have done so well at their first international competition. Not only does this win show that our wines can compete and win on the international stage, but it means that our students can compete and win on that level as well when they move on from our college.”

Students Mallory Hardy, Justin Taylor, Ryan Keaton, John Caughman, Steve Hedberg, Katy Kinnet and Jeff Wood produced the award-winning wines under Bower’s instruction. They worked with Bower on the harvest, processed the grapes through finishing and bottling, named the wines and created the labels and packaging.

Bower said last year’s challenging growing season provided the opportunity to test the students’ mettle.

“Last year was extremely difficult because of the amount of rainfall we had in the vineyard,” he said. “There were a lot of complicated things we had to do to change the chemistry of the juice so it could even be made into wine.”

“Much of a wine’s success is dependent on the quality of grapes produced in the field, and 2013 was a very challenging year because of all the rain we had early in the season,” added Ashley Myers, SCC science division chair. “The students worked really hard in the vineyard to ensure that the fruit ripened without rotting. Because of the weather-related challenges, it is especially impressive that the 2013 wines are showing so well on an international scale.”

These recent wins come on the heels of an inaugural national win for Surry – two bronze medals and two silver medals in the 2013 American Wine Society Commercial Wine Competition.

Last fall, the college’s wine-making program garnered five medals at two competitions, the Mid-Atlantic Southeastern at the Dixie Classic Fair and the North Carolina State Fair. At the Dixie Classic, the college won two gold medals for its Nativo Reserve 2012 and Reserve Traminette 2012 and a silver medal for the Merlot Reserve 2012. The col­lege also earned two silver medals at the North Carolina State Fair for the Merlot and Nativo Reserve.

The college is set to release five new wines for Summer 2014.

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.