Top Ten PA Wines Of 2023

Sommelier Judgement

Inside the 2023 Sommelier Judgement of Pennsylvania Wines

22 of PA’s best sommeliers did a blind taste test of PA wines. Here’s what happened.

by Michele Gargiulo, wine and spirits editor

Lead photo by Galen Glen Winery

At 8:55 am, a light murmur of conversation fills Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery’s tasting room while the morning light makes empty wine glasses glow. The glasses won’t be empty for long. Twenty-two hand-picked sommeliers from across PA  – including me – are here for a blind taste test to select the winners of the PA Wine Association’s Eighth Annual Judgement of Pennsylvania Wines. Although you may never have heard of it, this tasting has a lasting impact on our local wine scene.

Sommeliers from across the state are hand-picked to be here; The PA Wine Association has done a remarkable job of enlisting the help of the local sommelier scene with this summit. We have to fill out applications to be considered for one of the 22 seats at this table. Everyone wants one of those seats, even though it is a long day that starts earlier than we normally are out of bed. Conversation is scarce at the start of the morning and there’s a lot of yawning. But then, out come the score cards – and the wine bottles.

The wine bottles are carefully wrapped in brown paper bags to keep their identities secret. We are told what grape varietal the wine is, what year it was grown, and nothing else. Using the score cards, we assign points based on each wine’s look, aroma and flavor profile.

sommeliers Judgement
Photo courtesy of Galen Glen.

Blind tasting, although a neat party trick, actually serves a larger purpose in the wine world. Perhaps a producer makes a Sauvignon Blanc that tastes amazing, but it drinks like a Chardonnay. This wine would make a Chardonnay drinker happy, but the Sauvignon Blanc lover would hate it. When selecting your wine at the store, you expect it to taste similar in character to the grape varietal listed on the label. This is where blind tasting comes in. Sommeliers and other wine professionals rate their wines based off the characteristics of the grape, and what it is supposed to taste like. Our personal opinions aside, we need to make sure a Cabernet tastes like a Cabernet.

In addition to those rankings, each judge at the summit gives winemakers feedback about their wines’ prices and quality. Price is important, because if your wine tastes good for a $20 price tag, it probably tastes disappointing if you paid $100 for it.

I’ve had the pleasure of being at this summit for six out of the eight years it was held, missing only two due to COVID-19 reasons. All of the wines submitted have improved dramatically in these eight years. In fact, I think there has been a dramatic improvement in all wines in PA.

sommeliers judgement
Photo by Jill Wellington.

While PA’s wine production industry is younger than those of some other states, we do have a good climate for grape growing. There’s no reason that we can’t be as good as places like the Finger Lake area of NY, a region that is much cooler than PA but already has world-renowned wines. And, our state has winemakers that come to PA from all over the world and bring their expertise with them. The blueprint is here for us to make remarkable wines, and some PA wineries already do.

On that, all of the sommeliers agree. Did we agree on which are the best wines of the 2023 Sommelier Judgement of Pennsylvania Wines? Nine hours after we began, we all crowded around at Terrain in Glen Mills to hear the results.

The winning wines of this year are listed below. If you do not see your favorite winery listed, don’t get disheartened. It is very possible that the winery did not submit it to be judged. Also, your favorite wine is your favorite wine no matter what anyone else says. Instead, think of this list as a way to explore new vintages that may become your next favorite wine.

The Top Ten PA Wines of 2023

(Listed alphabetically)

Armstrong Valley Chambourcin 2021

Armstrong Valley Riesling 2022

Fero Vineyards & Winery Lemberger 2021

Grandview Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2020

Karamoor Estate Cabernet Franc 2017

Karamoor Estate Meritage 2017

Karamoor Estate Rose of Cabernet Franc 2022

Mazza Vineyards Rose 2022

Penns Woods Winery Chardonnay 2021

Waltz Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2019

Love this story? Share it!

Connect with Main Line Tonight!

One response to “Top Ten PA Wines Of 2023”

Leave a Reply