Hazlitt and Weis win top NY Wine Classic awards

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

Governor's Cup presented to Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards and Wölffer Estate Vineyard; Weis Vineyards named Winery of the Year

Hazlitt winemaker Tim Benedict, of Penn Yan, crafted the Hazlitt's winning Solera Sherry at the Naples Cellar

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the winners of the 36th annual New York Wine Classic, a nationally recognized competition highlighting the best of New York State wines. During a live virtual event hosted by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, Governor Hochul presented the Governor's Cup, the competition's most esteemed award, to two wineries in a surprise tie. The award was presented to Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards' Solera Sherry from the Finger Lakes region and Wölffer Estate Vineyard's 2020 Diosa Late-Harvest from Long Island. Additionally, Weis Vineyards from the Finger Lakes was awarded with "Winery of the Year", which is presented to the winery with the best overall showing.  

"The New York Wine Classic celebrates the very best of New York's wine and grape industries, and this year's winners are stellar examples of the high-quality wine we've come to know and love in our State," Hochul said."I congratulate Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, Wölffer Estate Vineyard, and Weis Vineyards on receiving these prestigious awards. The wine industry is an essential part of New York's agricultural economy and I'm proud to support the continued innovation, growth, and success of our wineries and farmers."   

NYWC

Organized annually by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation (NYWGF), the New York Wine Classic celebrates a diverse selection of world-class wines from producers within the State. For the second year, NYWGF has partnered with the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) to judge wines submitted. Scores were awarded by BTI's trained sensory panel comprised of beverage directors, sommeliers, top bartenders, retail buyers, and educators.   

Governor's Cup

In addition to winning the Governor's Cup, Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards also received a platinum medal and tied for Best Dessert Wine for their Solera Sherry. Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, located in Hector on Seneca Lake, was established in 1985 by the late Jerry Hazlitt and his wife Elaine. The family has been growing grapes and orchard fruits as their business since 1852. The winery and vineyards are now managed by sixth generation family members Doug Hazlitt and Leigh (Hazlitt) Triner.   

Winemaker Tim Benedict crafted the Governor's Cup-winning Solera Sherry at Hazlitt's Naples Winery.

Hazlitt's winning Solera Sherry was crafted by winemaker Tim Benedict, of Penn Yan, at the Hazlitt Red Cat Cellars in Naples (formerly Widmer Wine Cellars). Benedict has been Hazlitt's winemaker for 16 years, first at the vinifera operation in Hector before taking over the Naples cellar 11 years ago to expand the native grape product lines. In addition to Hazlitt's core products, the popular Red Cat and White Cat lines, Naples produces their ciders and dessert wines. But it is the Solera Sherry that has finally been recognized as the star.

Hazlitt's Solera Sherry, the latest winner of The Governor's Cup.

"It was kind of a surprise that a dessert wine won the Governor's Cup," says Benedict. "We spent a lot of years waiting, so it is very satisfying."

Grapes are in Benedict's blood. The Penn Yan native lives on his grandparents' farm in Yatesville as the seventh generation of his family to work that land. As a boy, he recalls seeing his grandmother trimming and tying in the 12 acres of Concord grapes his grandfather grew, and remembers riding in the stone boat dragged between the rows, laden with crates of fragrant, freshly picked grapes.

"One of the components of our Solera Sherry is Concord, so winning the Governor's Cup is celebrating the native grapes that have been grown around the Penn Yan area forever," says Benedict. Some of the growers who supply those grapes have called Benedict to express their appreciation for Hazlitt "representing the native grapes in New York that don't often get the recognition they deserve," he adds.

"We are honored to receive the coveted Governor's Cup," said Leigh Hazlitt-Triner, Co-CEO of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards. "This award is a testament to our talented and hardworking winemaking and vineyard teams; we couldn't be more proud."  

Hazlitt's Solera Sherry

The co-winner of the Governor's Cup, Wölffer Estate Vineyard also took home a platinum medal and tied for Best Dessert Wine with their 2020 Diosa Late-Harvest.  Located in Sagaponack, Long Island, Wölffer was founded in 1988 by Christian Wölffer, the estate is currently owned and operated by his children, Marc and Joey Wölffer, and Winemaker/Partner Roman Roth.   

Winery of the Year

Ashlee and Peter Weis, co-owners of Weis Vineyards on Keuka Lake, are the winners of Winery of the Year.

Winery of the Year Weis Vineyards is located in Hammondsport, Steuben County. Weis also brought home a platinum medal and Best Pink Wine award for their 2021 Dry Rosé, along with the Best White Wine award for their 2020 Winzer Select Riesling A which received a gold medal. They also won gold medals for their 2019 Merlot, 2021 Zweigelt Dry Rosé, 2017 Riesling Ice Wine, 2019 Riesling Ice Wine, 2020 Semi Dry Riesling, and their 2020 Dry Riesling.

Weis also won a platinum medal for their Dry Rosé.

Winemaker and co-owner Hans Peter Weis was born in Zell Mosel, Germany and grew up in the vineyards and cellar of his family winery. It is there that he gained his passion for wine. In the spring of 2016, he and his wife Ashlee, a native of the Finger Lakes, decided they would begin this adventure together and open Weis Vineyards. He found the Finger Lakes to be the perfect place to pursue his passion of handcrafting traditional German-style wines for all to enjoy.   

"Wow! We are so honored to receive this recognition of our hard work," exclaimed Peter and Ashlee. "As a relatively new winery, only five years in, this is an unexpected honor. It means so much for our continued growth and success. We put our heart and soul into our business, and we are overwhelmed with gratitude for this award. We would like to thank our entire Weis team, as we would not be here without them. Zum Wohl!"

Samuel Filler, executive director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation based in Penn Yan, commented, "We wish to extend our congratulations to all the winners and recognize the two historic and important wineries that tied for the Governor's Cup trophy this year. They, along with the Winery of the Year, Weis Vineyards, are perfect examples of the breadth and depth of quality wines New York can produce. From Long Island to the Finger Lakes, from dry wines to dessert wines, New York truly does have something for every wine enthusiast. What an adventure it would be to plan a visit to each of these winners this summer and fall."   

The New York Wine Classic "Best in Category" winners were also announced today. They are:   

  • Best Red Wine   Keuka Lake Vineyards 2020 Leon Millot   
  • Best White Wine   Weis Vineyards 2020 Winzer Select Riesling A   
  • Best Sparkling Wine   Dr. Konstantin Frank 2017 Blanc De Blanc   
  • Best Pink Wine   Weis Vineyards 2021 Dry Rosé   
  • Best Dessert Wine   Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards Solera Sherry   Wölffer Estate Vineyard 2020 Diosa Late-Harvest   
  • Best Specialty Wine   Winery of Ellicottville Red Raspberry Wine   

"Best of Class" winners of the New York Wine Classic can be found here.   

Judging for The New York Wine Classic took place from April 15 through June 15, 2022 and included 694 entries from 101 wineries from across the state. A total of seven platinum, 234 gold, 324 silver, and 110 bronze medals were awarded.   

Since taking office, Governor Hochul has supported efforts to grow New York's craft beverage industry, including a plan to permanently legalize to-go drinks, and to ensure a more efficient State Liquor Authority. Governor Hochul also announced proposals to update the state's liquor laws and to fund operational improvements at the State Liquor Authority to revitalize the state's multi-billion-dollar hospitality industry, one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic. Today, there are 496 licensed wineries across the State, including 394 farm wineries.    

About the New York Wine & Grape Foundation The mission of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation is to promote the world-class image of New York grapes and wines from our diverse regions to responsibly benefit farmers, producers and consumers through innovative marketing, research, communication, and advocacy. We endeavor to ensure that New York State is recognized as the world's premier region for cool and cold climate viticulture. To learn more about the New York Wine Classic please visit www.newyorkwines.org/classic.