Jared Liebscher’s HB491 Special Topics hospitality business class at Michigan State University turned out to be a real-life exercise in throwing a big event — the 2019 Michigan Wine Competition and subsequent Gold Medal Wine Reception.
The nine students in the class worked with staff at MSU’s Kellogg Center and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and members of the Michigan Wine Collaborative to coordinate the competition and celebration, previously handled by the now-disbanded Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.
“It was a fantastic learning experience and it was also quite a bit of fun,” says Liebscher, a senior. “I was able to really immerse myself in the industry and gain real-life experience, rather than sitting around taking quizzes and not retaining very much.”
Sixty-three wineries from around Michigan submitted 439 entries for this year’s contest. Dave Miller, president of the Michigan Wine Collaborative and owner of White Pine Winery in Southwest Michigan, said judges gave high praise to the latest crop of entries.
“The judges couldn’t say enough about the quality,” he says. “That just shows the growth of our industry — and critical to the growth is consistent quality.”
The format for the reception, held Aug. 8 at Kellogg Center, was changed up a little with strolling servers offering small bites, reducing the number of stationary buffet-like spreads.
“The food was awesome,” Miller says.
The plan is for the Michigan Wine Collaborative to take over management of the process in several years, Miller says. The group is forming a committee to work with MSU on next year’s competition and reception, and School of Hospitality Business Director Carl P. Borchgrevink says student involvement will continue.
“The students suggested it was hard work,” he says, “but that they learned a great amount about event planning, event implementations, wine judging and Michigan wines in general.”
Here are the Best of Class winners for 2019:
Dry Red: Youngblood Vineyards Marquette Estate Grown 2018
Semi-Dry Red: Chateau Fontaine Winery Big Paw Red NV
Dry White: Verterra Winery Pinot Blanc 2018
Semi-Dry White: Amoritas Vineyards Mary’s Folly White Wine Field Blend 2017
Sparkling: Mawby Sparkling Wines Blanc Brut NV
Fruit: Yooper Winery Little Portal Point Plum NV
Rose: Verterra Winery Rosé of Pinot Noir Dry 2018
Dessert: Bel Lago Riesling Ice Wine 2017