Prince Edward County wines took on the vineyards of California during a blind taste test on Saturday with Wellington's Rosehall Run's 2013 Chardonnay placing first.
The first Judgement of Kingston included four Chardonnays from the county and three from California. The event was sold out and included four judges from Canada and the United States. The judges' choices: Rosehall Run's Chardonnay was chosen the winner by the judges with Closson Chase Vineyard's 2014 Chardonnay from Hillier, Ont., placing second. A 2014 Chardonnay from Clos du Val in California placed third.
The attendees also voted for their winners and appeared to prefer the West Coast flavour. In first was Californian Grgich Hill Estate's 2013 Chardonnay, followed by Closson Chase, and a 2013 Chardonnay from Napa Valley's Chateau Montelena.
Despite the friendly competition, organizer and member of The Royal Winers, Lubomyr Luciuk, said during the event that it is primarily a way to appreciate the wine coming from Prince Edward County.
"It is, in a degree, a subjective test, but the idea here is to make sure that people appreciate that is very close to us. Fourty kilometres away, roughly, you can find from very good wines," Luciuk said.
Luciuk said the Judgement of Kingston was modelled off 1976's Judgement of Paris where American wines took on the vineyards of France.
"The anticipation was that the Americans would lose, but in fact they won," Luciuk said. "That changed the wine world. New-world wine suddenly became very popular. Now 40 years later we're getting wines from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and lots of places in Canada including the county."
The certified sommelier on hand was Dr. Kim Meathrel. She said unlike some other wines, the flavour of a Chardonnay can vary based on where the grapes are grown and how it is aged. When judging a good Chardonnay, Meathrel said, they're looking for a complexity of flavours.
"The more we start to pick out tells us it's a little more of a higher-quality wine," Meathrel said. "We want to see lots of different fruit, and we want to see it as a long-lasting flavour that develops on your palate."
Meathrel said the styles of wine from California and Prince Edward County are very different, making the judging subjective. California wine can be very "OK" while Prince Edward County can be acidic.
"It's about finding the style you personally love, because there is no right answer," Meathrel said. "Objectively, when the judges are looking for quality they are looking at the intensity of flavours, the number of characteristics, how well balanced they are. We don't want one thing jumping out at you. One of the wines I just tasted was so acidic, it was overwhelming. It was a little out of balance, you shouldn't have one element that really takes over."
The 2017 Judgement of Kingston is already in the works. Instead of Chardonnays, the event will pit Pinot Noirs from Prince Edward County against those from Burgundy, France. It will be held on Nov. 4, 2017, and tickets are already available at Kingston's Visitor Information Centre (209 Ontario St.).