The 2022 Santé Wine and Spirits Competition received hundreds of high-quality wines and spirits. These are exciting times, with innovation abounding in the industry. This year we judged ready-to-drink spirits as well as wines and spirits.
While we target an on-premise readership, we also reach out to serious foodies and beverage enthusiasts. We hope these awards inspire you to try these products and for the producers to continue to produce high-quality beverages for a discerning readership.
In the Santé Wine and Spirits competition, the wines and spirits are not compared to each other. Rather, they are judged against a standard. Exceptional products receive gold awards. The next level receives silver awards, and the third level is rewarded with bronze. We had three main categories, wine, spirits, and RTD (Ready-to-Drink). Wines were subdivided into Red, White, Rosé, and Sparkling, and there is a Best-in-Show in each category. The differences between the awards are subtle – often the result of a small imperfection in the expression of the wine or spirit. This should be interpreted as room for improvement and definitely for you, the restaurateur, to add the products to your restaurant menu.
The Judging Process
Judging was conducted completely blind. All wine and spirit bottles were obscured in plain paper bags. An event manager poured, ensuring proper protocol was followed. The judges did not discuss their impressions with the other judges until all judging was complete, and the products they judged were not revealed until after they cast their votes.
Judges assigned a value to each wine or spirit based on its merits. Awards are assigned based on that absolute value rather than simply comparing it to other products.
And the Winners Are!
|BRAND||VARIETY AND BLEND||CATEGORY||AWARD||TASTING NOTES|
|Tolosa||Chardonnay||White Wine||Best in Show||Excellent mouth feel with a long fruit finish. It’s got a great nose, is complex, the palate is perfectly in balance, and the finish goes and goes and goes. Hurray!|
|Diora||La Splendeur du Soleil Chardonnay||White Wine||Gold||Oaked beautifully. High on the alcohol spectrum. A little weird on the nose but it’ll blow off. Round, zippy with some great wheaty and grassy notes under yellow fruit. Great!|
|Whitehaven||Sauvignon Blanc||White Wine||Gold||Smells like jalapenos and delivers spicy greenness on the palate. A plethora of peppers!|
|Winemaker’s Selection||Chardonnay||White Wine||Gold||Wow! Really beautiful. Everything it should be.|
|Director’s Cut||Chardonnay||White Wine||Silver||Appealing and approachable. Soft with good acid and complex.|
|Diamond Collection||Chardonnay||White Wine||Silver||Lots of tropical notes, very good. It shows so much promise! A great, complex white with all of the layers of finessed oak.|
|JOLO Winery & Vineyards||65% Traminette, 20% Vidal Blanc, 15% Sauvignon Blanc||White Wine||Silver||Something herbal on the palate, lovely!|
|Black Box||Pinot Grigio||White Wine||Bronze|
|Le Chemin Du Roi Brut Rose||40% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, 45% Pinot Meunier||Sparkling||Gold||Muted red fruit and nice acid. Different. Very interesting and unique.|
|Barefoot Bubbly||Prosecco||Sparkling||Silver||Good stone fruit, nice acid, great finish. Round and fruity. Delightful finish.|
|Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé||Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay||Sparkling||Silver||Very good.|
|Angels & Cowboys||Brut||Sparkling||Bronze|
|Angels & Cowboys||Brut Rosé||Sparkling||Bronze|
|Barefoot Bubbly||Extra Dry||Sparkling||Bronze|
|Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Réserve||Chardonnay, Pinot Noir||Sparkling||Bronze|
|Barefoot Cellars||Red Moscato||Rosé Wine||Gold||Nice color and texture with bright red fruit and acid. It is zippy with a touch of residual sugar – a refreshing sip.|
|Tiny Umbrellas||Ripe Peach||Rosé Wine||Gold||Nice balance of acid and residual sugar. It is fun with spritz, good acid, and a kiss of sweet.|
|Barefoot Cellars||Pink Moscato||Rosé Wine||Silver||Zippy and light with simple fruit. A crowd pleaser.|
|Barefoot Cellars||Pink Pinot Grigio||Rosé Wine||Silver||Lots of red fruit and watermelon. This is what a rosé should be – nose of rosé, a palate of rosé, and an excellent finish.|
|Angels & Cowboys||Rosé||Rosé Wine||Bronze|
|Barefoot Cellars||White Zinfandel||Rosé Wine||Bronze|
|Burlwood Pacific Fruit Vineyards||Sweet Peach||Rosé Wine||Bronze|
|Tiny Umbrellas||Pink Moscato||Rosé Wine||Bronze|
|Barefoot Cellars||Cabernet Sauvignon||Red Wine||Gold||Really nice, big but balanced. It has a really good finish. This wine is absolutely delicious right now, but will improve over 5 years. It is a balanced wine that is ready to drink. A crowd pleaser for wine drinkers|
|Zironda||80% Corvina, 20% Rondinella||Red Wine||Silver||Very Good. Outstanding.|
|EHRET||Hillside Reserve Red Wine (74.89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.20% Merlot, 6.95% Cabernet Franc, 5.22% Petit Verdot, 3.74% Malbec||Red Wine||Silver||This is really beautiful, complex and balanced wine. I wanted a longer finish. Amazing!!|
|Director’s Cut||Cabernet Sauvignon||Red Wine||Bronze|
|J. Lohr Cuvée ST. E||Cabernet Franc 71%, Cabernet Sauvignon 27%, Merlot 2%||Red Wine||Bronze|
|J. Lohr Signature Cabernet Sauvignon||Cabernet Sauvignon 92%, Saint-Macaire 7%, Malbec 1%||Red Wine||Bronze|
|BRAND||SPECIAL DESIGNATION||AWARD||TASTING NOTES|
|Familia Camarena||Reposado||Best in Show||A gem! Bright nose, peppery finish. Very nice. Complex aromas and flavors, peppery!|
|Highclere Castle Gin||Gold||Slightly thin mouthfeel with bright florals.Very refreshing with natural aromas, not pinesol. Could use a little more oomph in the mouth, but great!|
|The Community Spirit Co.||Gold||Super smooth. Clean, balanced.|
|Fior||Gold||Nice nose, late smokey finish. Balanced, restrained and finessed.|
|Ugly Mug||Gold||Balanced coffee flavor, very smooth. Well done. I love that the coffee is incorporated and not burnt.|
|Branson Cognac||Silver||Notes of caramel, beautiful bouquet of nuts, caramel, and white blossoms. Wow.|
|E&J Distillers||XO||Silver||Very nice with notes of maple!|
|E&J Distillers||Apple||Silver||Good mouthfeel with bright flavors. The flavor is complex but not cloying. It has good mouthfeel and finish.|
|Millstone||Silver||Solid across the board. Smooth and flavorful with some delightful warmth. Mouth is a little thin.|
|Royal Mash Vintage Vodka||Bronze|
|Keeper’s Heart||Irish + Bourbon||Bronze|
|BRAND||SPECIAL DESIGNATION||COMPOSITION||AWARD||TASTING NOTES|
|High Noon Sun Sips||Lemon||Vodka Based Hard Seltzer||Best in Show||Lemon shines in this category. This is an excellent hard seltzer. Very very good! Wow!|
|Knox & Dobson||Bourbon, Cane Sugar, Bitters||Silver||A slightly non-traditional take on an old-fashioned but will delight.|
|High Noon Sun Sips||Peach||Vodka Based Hard Seltzer||Silver||An interesting, really ripe peach flavor.|
|High Noon Sun Sips||Guava||Vodka Based Hard Seltzer||Bronze|
|High Noon Sun Sips||Kiwi||Vodka Based Hard Seltzer||Bronze|
|LIQS||Mojito||premixed wine cocktail||Bronze|
|Ferme de Romilly cider dry brut||Cider||Apple Cider – Dry||Special Mention||Yeasty, wild, open-top fermentation characteristic. Olives are heavy on the palate. Complex with a funky nose, olives (canned on the palate, kalamata on the finish), and some mint. Very interesting!|
Nancy Koziol is a Bennington-based internationally-certified wine expert, author, and journalist. She is the founder and owner of couch + cork, a global brand providing in-person and virtual wine tastings, including corporate tastings for clients like Square, Amazon, DoorDash, and GoDaddy. Her goal is to make wine accessible and fun while highlighting historically marginalized groups.
Koziol is active in her community, serving on The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce boards and Better Bennington Corporation. She is the Business Community Representative to Alliance for Community Transformations. As couch + cork and an individual, she has donated to causes, fundraisers, galas, and benefits for Bennington Performing Arts Center/Home of Oldcastle Theater, Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning, Bennington Museum, Billsville House Concerts, The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Better Bennington Corporation, Project Against Violent Encounters and many others. Nancy is a proud Rotarian.
She was The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce Member of the Year (2020).
Nancy lives in downtown Bennington with her husband, Kris, their cat and dog, and more wine corks than they know what to do with. She enjoys live music, being outdoors, travel, beer, and reading.
Philip S. Kampe is a writer and consultant for U.S.-based wine, travel, food, and spirits. At a very early age, he developed a discerning palate. He followed his path through his palate at a young age, later recommending to established food and ice cream shops to improve their products.
Philip spent four years in Europe in a VW camper, following the wine and cheese trails of France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece, and Spain.
Upon returning to America, he opened an ice cream and candy shop with his recipes, credited as one of the cookie dough ice cream co-inventors. His Fabulous Phil’s shops achieved a top ten rating of all of the ice cream shops in the United States.
Philip also holds several wine certificates from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and France. He is a certified Armagnac teacher, as well. He was a jury member for numerous prestigious worldwide wine competitions, including Antiprima Amarone, Languedoc Millesime, The Bar Show, Star Chefs Sommelier Competition, Southwest Wines of America, Berkshire Tasting Panel, and TAP Airlines Business Class Wines, to name a few. He has also attended nearly fifty wine press trips around the world. Philip is a current member of the Wine Media Guild and a wine consultant for the two branches of Sparrow Wine & Liquor of New Jersey. Philip taught several wine classes, created wine lists for restaurants, was a brand ambassador for Domodimanti Wines of Italy at Vinitaly, set up the cheese and gourmet food section of the Wine Library, and renovated the cheese department at Sickles Market.
He has published hundreds of articles, and he authored a wine-by-the-glass column for restaurants.
Philip lives in western Massachusetts and metro New York City with his wife, Maria, and Daisy Mae, their two-year-old Boston Terrier.
Kaiya Kirk is a Los Angeles native and graduate of Bennington College in Southern Vermont. She is many things, including a wine expert, and holds a Wine and Spirits Education Trust level 2 Certification with Distinction. She works with couch + cork as the Lead Tasting Educator and enjoys sharing and teaching about wines from emerging regions. She lives in North Bennington, VT, where she drinks wine and takes care of foster kittens in equal amounts.
Sean Dunleavy is the owner, head brewer, and executive chef at Harvest Brewing in Bennington, Vermont. Founded in 2016, Harvest Brewing has established itself as an eclectic centerpiece of downtown Bennington. It provides a destination for visitors and locals to enjoy in-house craft brews, high-quality food, and music.
Dunleavy began working in the restaurant business at age 15. He has worked as a bartender, chef, and owner in bars and restaurants in Boston, Cape Cod, New York City, Portland (Oregon), Tampa, and beyond.
Although best known as a founding member and lead guitarist of the early 2000’s alt-rock pop punk band Drugs In The Alley, he has become a staple in the craft beer, spirits, and cocktail scene throughout the northeastern United States.
Winners will receive an official email notification with their badge that can be used for promotion.
Feature photo by Carolyn on Unsplash
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