a barrel full of awards

Geoffrey August Deimel can say he makes the best wine in New York state.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said so earlier this month.

Mr. Deimel, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon and graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2001, went on to eventually earn a master’s degree in enology from Cornell University in 2010, and in 2011 landed a job as winemaker at Keuka Spring Vineyards in Penn Yan in New York’s Finger Lakes region.

Last week, several of his wines were among the 875 entries from across that state entered in the 2013 New York Wine & Food Classic competition, held Aug. 12 and 13 the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.

There, that second night, Gov. Cuomo announced that Keuka Spring 2012 Riesling had won the Governor’s Cup for best of show, and he personally presented the silver chalice to the winery’s owners, Len and Judy Wiltberger as Mr. Deimer hung back a bit on the stage.

August Deimel, left, with the Governor's Cup and his bosses, Judy and Len Wiltberger. Photo courtesy Keuka Spring Vineyards
August Deimel, left, with the Governor’s Cup and his bosses, Judy and Len Wiltberger.
Photo courtesy Keuka Spring Vineyards

They got to take the cup back to the winery — “It’s like the Lombardi Trophy, not the Stanley Cup,” the Pittsburgh native explains with a laugh — and it remains on display there, where the riesling is selling like crazy.

“This is the first time I’ve ever made riesling, honestly,” Mr. Deimel says.

The riesling had won Best White Wine, Best Overall Riesling and Best Medium Dry Riesling.

The winery also won Best Gewürztraminer with its 2012 Gewürzt and Best Limited Production Wine for its Dry Rose in the competition, which is sponsored by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, and is open to all 337 New York wineries.

The awards were based on blind tastings by 22 expert judges. Full results of “the Oscars of New York wine” can be found here.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Mr. Deimel about winning the Governor’s Cup, which has people from other wineries offering to swap bottles with him to check out the winning wine.

“It’s the biggest award for us because it means so much locally.” While the winery also enters national competition and international competitions, “Our core constituency, our core business, is people who live in upstate New York or people who come here for the wineries.”

His father, Lionel E. Deimel, Ph.D., of Rockwood Avenue, is obviously very proud and wrote about the win on his own blog.

His father may even attend the Governor’s Cup Celebration the winery is holding on Aug. 30.

Like father, the son was active in his church, which is how he figures people in Mt. Lebanon will remember him. He attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, then worked in various pursuits, from politics to wine wholesaling, before deciding to get serious about wine production.

Alas, only one Keuka Spring wine seems to be available at Pennsylvania state stores. At least for now.

“I think the award is just a confirmation that what we’re doing is working,” says Mr. Deimel, who appreciates how well he gets along with the owners of Keuka Spring. He and his wife, Sara Wagner — a native of Pittsburgh’s North Hills — live in Romulus, N.Y.

“I hope that I’m here for many years.”

Read more of Bob’s blog at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: pgplate.com/forks.


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