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By John Salvi
December 2005

1332 Pittsford–Meadon Road, NY14506. Fax 585 624 5799

I can do no better than to start by quoting the official statement of the Camp itself.
“Camp Good Days and Special Times is a 501 (c) 3 not–for–profit organisation dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and their families, whose lives have been touched by cancer and other life–threatening challenges, through residential camping programmes and year–round activities and events. The camp is located in the heart of the New York Finger Lakes Wine Country, on the shores of Lake Keuka. 100% of Net Proceeds from the wine auction and the wine tasting competition go to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times. The camp has existed now for over 25 years and can be found on www.campgooddays.org and the wine competition on www.fliwc.com 2005 Finger Lakes International”


564,000 people will die of cancer in the USA during 2005. More will die in 14 months than perished in every war that the USA has ever fought. The majority are under 75 years old. Cancer, from the age of 45, is responsible for more deaths than heart diseases, accidents and strokes combined.


I have very real pleasure in writing about the above Wine Tasting Competition for all of the reasons above. Could there possibly be a better cause or a better reason???

The tasting was created by a small group of altruistic and energetic persons, exclusively with a view to raising money and increasing the funds of the camp, thereby allowing it to do more and for more people. It has been quite incredibly successful. The driving force and the leading light is an ex–marine, a disciplinarian, an organiser and a great character – David Male. Founded 1979–80, Camp Good Days was the first camp in the Adirondack Mountains – 63 boys and girls and 70 volunteers. In 1983 they moved to a new home on Canandaigua Lake. In 1985, a junior camp for cancer victims from 4–6 years of age was created. It has continued to grow, and today looks after many THOUSANDS of cancer victims, supported by HUNDREDS of generous volunteers, and has become the largest organisation of its kind in the world. Gary Mervis was, and is, the Founder and Chairman of the camp, motivated by the tragedy of his own cancer–ridden daughter, Teddy.

The Wine Competition is now in its 5th year of “International World Class” judging.

Industry wine professionals have teamed up to make this judging event, and its complementary charity auction, truly worthwhile events. I was fortunate enough to be invited as a judge this year. It took place in Rochester, New York State, from April 2–3.

The judges were wine writers, sommeliers, educators, wine makers, importers, retailers and industry consultants. David Male, already mentioned, was competition chairman. About 28 judges attended, including many well known names both from the USA and abroad. I was one of the fortunate ones flown over from France. We made up 7 judging panels of 4 each. The chief judge was the highly respected Craig Goldwyn and David Male’s decisions were final. Discussion was not only allowed but actively encouraged. All the glasses were Riedel, which was wonderful for tasting. We were firmly instructed to judge the wines, not on what they might become, but for what they were at the time of judging and entirely on their own independent merit. The OIV 100–point system was used to give the marks, and Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were awarded. Hedonism was given great importance.

It was not a small tasting. Over 1000 wines had been submitted from 15 countries and from no less than 30 different States throughout the USA. When our job was done we found that we had awarded 131 medals. This is under 15% and is less than half the total number of medals permitted by the rules of FEDAVIN (see below). This attests to the seriousness of the competition and the value of the medals awarded.

We worked slowly and carefully, but we none the less judged 14 flights of up to 7 wines per flight, on each of the two days, using an adaptation of the OIV tasting sheet. I think it is safe to affirm that the judging was in every way as serious, as competent and as professional as at any of the well known tasting competitions in Europe, Canada, Argentina or Brazil, which are members of FEDAVIN (Federation of International Tasting Competitions) and patronised by the OIV or the International Union of Oenologists, or of those competitions held in Australia.

For me personally, coming from Europe and France, one of the most fascinating aspects of the tasting was the chance to taste both hybrids and fruit wines. We almost never come across these in Europe, especially since EU law forbids the importation of wines made with hybrid grapes, and also strictly forbids the importation of hybrid plant-material. We were given a short talk on these wines by Bill Rochford. We were told how a classical fruit wine should capture the essence of the pure fresh fruit. How it should be in balance, like a wine, not too sweet and not too acid. These wines are made to drink fresh and not to age, and should NOT show signs of maturity. Bonus points should be given for complexity. A taste of cherry pie with cinnamon and spice should rate higher than plain cherry pie.

The tasting of hybrids was fascinating and enormously enlightening and instructive. In Europe no “quality wine” can be made from a hybrid. We tasted Aurore, Bacchus (not really a hybrid), Baco Noir, Bianca, Cabernet Severny, Catawba, Cayuga, Chancellor, Chardonel, Concord, De Chaunac, Cameo, Delaware, Marechal Foch, Melody, Niagara, Norton, Noah, Rkatsitela (probably vinifera), Seyval Blanc, Saint Vincent, Traminette, Vidal, Vignoles and a few others who escape me.

I learned, to my amazement, that wine is now grown in every single one of the 50 States of America – including Puerto Rico!- and that many of these States produce wines with these aforementioned hybrids as well as with the full range of Vinifera varieties. Contrary to what France and a number of other European wine producing countries believe, or rather want to believe and insist upon believing, hybrids are very far indeed from a thing of the past of even from a thing receding into the past. They are being improved and developed and are not even vaguely being phased out. They still represent the majority of both the plantation and the production in many of the smaller producing states outside California, Oregon and Washington State. Some of them were very good indeed. Europe has been decidedly hypocritical about them and, as we know, one of them, Vidal, has been allowed to be imported in the Canadian Ice Wine by some very clever bargaining.

This Wine Tasting Competition is not only an event for a cause and a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days; it is also an instructive, fascinating, useful and eye–opening competition with serious and professional tasting and judgement. I commend it to anybody who is interested in broadening his or her horizons and who is prepared to go with an open mind and an eager palate.

Talking of eager palates, the competition was followed a few weeks later by a gala dinner and an auction of the winning wines. The auctioneer was Dennis Foley from Zachys in New York, the Master of Ceremonies was Chet Walker and the Honorary Chairman no less than my old friend Donald Ziraldo of Inniskillin. Once again all proceeds went to Camp Good Days and Special Times. Any more bids anyone??

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