I have just returned from the last trip to China as part of the second Ningxia Winemakers’ Challenge. This final trip was so much fun because we were able to finally meet up with the other winemaker contestants, most of whom I had not seen since the first trip in September of 2015. We spent a few days in Yinchuan, attending government events and the annual Wine Expo. After that, we all flew to Beijing for the final judging and awards ceremony.
Going into the judging, I was happy with my wine. It reflected the challenging aspect of the competition but also was a testament to perseverance that was needed to adapt to the “challenge” aspects. These included a total language barrier, limited time (in my case) to attend to the wine, non-standard vineyard practices, as well as social and cultural isolation particularly during the first few weeks during harvest. The 10 judges were all professionals, led by China Agricultural University professor Ma Huiqin and Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.
They announced the silver medal winners first and I was surprised to hear Lansai called first! I was so excited to have won a medal for this even after all the hard work and dedication of both myself and the winery team. There were 10 total silver medals awarded with many of my favorite people joining me on the stage.
After another course of dinner, we finally learned the gold medal winners. They were Justin Corrans of South Africa, Tony Kalleske of Australia, Brent Trela, a fellow American, Slavina Stefanova of Sweden, and Sarah Williams of the UK. Each and everyone of these amazing people were a pleasure to get to know and totally deserving of the highest honors. I was so excited for everyone and there was lots of hugging and congratulations all around.
We finished out the night at the hotel bar catching up and reminiscing over our time in Ningxia. On Wednesday, many winemakers traveled to other cities within China for the competition road show while I spent a few leisure hours in Beijing with my winery owner, Ms Zheng prior to boarding my flight home. We are in harvest already and I didn’t want to miss too much of it.
See the full coverage and complete list of judges and all the winners here.