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California's vintners taste Florida's fairest

California wines weren't the only ones to take home gold from the 1990 Florida State Fair wine competition. Wines from Florida, Texas, New York and Washington claimed first prizes in various categories, showing that wine-making has spread well beyond California.

This year's wine competition was the second at the State Fair and was conducted to help promote Florida's young wine industry by giving its wines a chance to compete against products from other parts of the country.

The wines were judged during three days of blind tastings by a panel that included wine experts, journalists, wine makers and agriculture professors.

More than 500 wines were entered. They were divided into more than 100 categories according to type of grape used.

In addition to vinifera grapes, such as Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc, which are popular in California and Europe, the competition had categories for hybrid and native grapes such as Concord, baco noir and Stover, which are used by wineries in the Eastern United States and Florida.

Best-of-show honors went to a 1987 muscat canelli, a dessert wine from Benziger of Glen Ellen. Various Glen Ellen brands and its Sonoma neighbor, M.

G. Vallejo, claimed a number of medals, and wineries from California's Mendocino County and Washington state posted particularly good showings.

The best single showing by a Florida wine was a gold medal won by a brut methode champenoise from Alba Vineyard in Milford. It outclassed wineries in Ohio and Missouri for honors in the hybrid champagne category.

The following categories also showed Florida winners. They are listed by category, then winery, location, wine name and prize awarded.

Blanc du Bois: Lakeridge, Clermont, 1988 Blanc du Bois, silver; Lafayette Vineyards and Winery, Tallahassee, 1988 Blanc du Bois, bronze.

Citrus: Fruit Wine of Florida, Tampa, Palmetto County Orange Wine, bronze.

Lake Emerald: Eden Vineyards, Alva, 1986 Lake Emerald, bronze.

Native white: Lakeridge Winery, Clermont, Florida, Southern White (muscadine), silver; Lakeridge, Florida Classic White (muscadine), also silver.

Native rose: Lafayette, Tallahassee, Lafayette Sun Blush, bronze.

Noble: Lakeridge Winery, Milford, Florida Noble Nouveau, silver.

Stover: Fruit Wine of Florida, Tampa, White Florida Table Wine, silver.

Suwannee: Lafayette, Tallahassee, Proprietor's Reserve Suwannee, silver

Vidal: Alba Vineyard, Milford, 1987 Vidal Blanc, silver.

The following wines were awarded gold medals in vinifera categories. Again, they are listed by category, then winery, location and wine name.

Cabernet Sauvignon: The Hogue Cellars, Prosser, Wash., 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chardonnay: M.

G. Vallejo, Glen Ellen, Calif., 1988 California Chardonnay.

Gewurztraminer: Parducci Wine Cellars, Ukiah, Calif., 1988 Mendocino County gewurztraminer.

Late-harvest riesling: Messina Hof Wine Cellars, Bryan, Texas, 1987 Texas Johannisberg riesling.

Merlot: The Hogue Cellars, Prosser Wash., 1985 merlot.

Muscat: Benziger of Glen Ellen, Glen Ellen, Calif., 1987 Sonoma County muscat canelli; Stevenot Winery, Murphys, Calif., California muscat canelli. (Both won gold; Benziger also won best of show).

Petite sirah: Parducci Wine Cellars, Ukiah, Calif., 1986 petite sirah.

Premium Cabernet Sauvignon: Paul Masson, Gonzales, Calif., 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon; Rivendell Winery, New Paltz, N.Y., 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon; Staton Hills Winery, Wapato, Wash., 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon. (All three won gold.)

Premium Chardonnay: Leeward Winery, Ventura, Calif., 1987 Napa Valley Chardonnay.

Riesling: Geyser Peak Winery, Geyserville, Calif., 1989 California Soft Johannisberg riesling.

White zinfandel: Glen Ellen, Glen Ellen, Calif., 1987 white zinfandel; M.

G. Vallejo, Glen Ellen Calif., 1988 white zinfandel. (Both won gold.)

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