HARRISBURG, Pa. — Having spent 26 years working in California vineyards, Kevin Robinson has learned that if you want to be recognized alongside the big names in the wine business, you have to commit yourself to a quality product.
“The bottom line is how the wine is judged. It has to taste good,” Robinson said.
And when it comes to this year’s Governor’s Cup winner, Karamoor Estate Wines Meritage, Robinson thinks he has a product that can compete with the best of them.
“It has good fruit content. It has a nice tannic backbone, but not overtly. Everything is in balance,” he said.
The wine was selected by a panel of 25 judges that met in early December in Cream Ridge, N.J., to judge the hundreds of entries in the Pennsylvania Farm Show wine competition.
Ali Duloc, granddaughter of Nicholas and Athena Karabots, owners of Karamoor Estate Wines, accepted the Governor’s Cup award on Jan. 5 at the Farm Show.
The wine is made up of several vinifera grape varieties, including Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Karamoor website describes the wine as an “intense blend that offers concentrated flavors of dark cassis, plum, raspberry and zesty black cherries with a persistently smooth yet expansive finish.”
While the grapes were grown at the 17-acre Karamoor vineyard, which is in Fort Washington, Bucks County, the wine was made at Allegro Vineyard and Winery in Brogue, York County, since Karamoor only got its wine-making license this past April.
Robinson said the vineyard owners wanted a wine that reminded them of the famous French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. And Cabernet Savignon grapes, he said, are well suited to the slightly warmer climate of the Philadelphia region.
“A lot of it is use your best science, best investigative work. And then you pray,” he said.
Robinson joined the vineyard in late spring, having been drawn to the business by the high quality of wines already being produced and the investment in what he describes as a high-tech, modern vineyard.
“One of the reasons I came here was the quality of wines at the time. What I saw here was producing wines of world class caliber. You want to be judged with the best of the best and that is on the world stage,” he said.
Duloc said her grandparents started the business after making many trips to the Bordeaux and Burgundy regions of France and falling in love with the wines produced there. The first vines were planted in 2003.
Nicholas Karabots owns several companies and has made a fortune in the publishing and real estate business. He and Athena are well-known philanthropists in the Philadelphia area.
Mark Chien, statewide viticulturist for Penn State, said the fact that a vinifera wine won the Governor’s Cup represents a larger statement about the quality of wines coming out of the Keystone State.
“A vinifera wine winning is a huge statement. Our core brand and product is and probably always will be native and hybrid wines, but the vinifera wines, when people look at competitions, is what wine consumers really care about,” Chien said.
Gary Pavlis, who coordinated the judging of the competition and works as a county ag agent with Rutgers Extension Atlantic County, said the consistency of wines from year to year, even in bad vintages, is something he’s been noticing from Pennsylvania producers.
“It’s not big differences in quality. The wine quality is still great in a year you would consider not to be a great vintage,” Pavlis said. “You don’t see the big swings you used to see.”