Local winemaker scores another big award

The winemaker and co-founder of Olde Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery, which is scheduled to open next spring north of Eaton in Preble County, captured the “Amateur Wine of the Year” trophy at the 2015 Indy International Wine Competition.

Mark Zdobinski’s 2014 Valvin Muscat was selected as the top wine out of 383 entries in the amateur portion of the contest, which also drew more than 1,700 entries in the commercial-wine category.

Zdobinski has been an amateur winemaker for more than 20 years, and he won a coveted double-gold medal at last year’s Indy International Wine Competition for another wine. And the 2014 Valvin Muscat that received the top honor this year also captured a “Best of Show” white-wine award in the 2015 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition.

“Having the same person win best-of-show at two independent wine competitions against hundreds of other entries is pretty impressive,” said Christian Butzke, Purdue University professor of enology and chairman of the Indy International Wine Competition. “Proving that you can make a great wine even before you start doing it professionally is important, and this will give him a great start for his commercial winery.”

Zdobinski and business partner Jim Meeks have purchased a 125-year-old one-room schoolhouse near the corner of Ohio 127 and Ohio 726 north of Eaton and intend to refurbish it to serve as a winery and tasting room. They’ve also planted 1,000 grapevines and have applied for the necessary licenses from the state to open their winery.

It will take four years for the newly planted grapevines to produce a commercially viable crop, so plans call for purchasing grapes from other regions to make as many as 14 wines expected to be on the tasting-room menu when the winery opens, Zdobinski said in a story published here last month.

In an email this morning, Zdobinski said the Indy competition’s Wine of the Year award “solidifies the high quality” of the Valvin Muscat, and he said he was further gratified that all five wines he entered into the competition were awarded medals.

The medals, and previous awards Zdobinski has won, will be on display in Olde Schoolhouse’s tasting room when it opens this spring. “I think it’s important for a new winery to display their medals to show the customers that the winemaker has the experience to produce wines are of high quality,” he said. “Preble County is going to have a real popular winery, I believe.”

On the commercial side of the judging, three Ohio wineries captured “best of class” designations: Breitenbach Wine Cellars in the “Port-style wine” category for its “4-Barrel” Tawny Port; Hillside Winery in the “White American-varietal blend” category for its Quarry Blush Niagara; and A.R. Winery in the “Apple/Pear Fruit-Wine” category for its “Forbidden” Apple wine. The overall commercial “Wine of the Year” award was given to Easley Winery in Indiana for its 2014 Traminette.

For a list of trophy winners, go to www.indyinternational.org/winners/trophies. For a full list of medal-award winners, go to www.indyinternational.org/winners/awards/year/2015.

And for more information about the new winery coming to Preble County, go to the Olde Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery Facebook page at www.facebook.com/oldeschoolhousewinery.

Note: I served as one of the judges for commercial wines at the Indy International Wine Competition held July 29-31 on the campus of Purdue University. The evaluation of amateur wines was conducted by separate panels. All wines, commercial and amateur, are evaluated “blind,” with judges not knowing the identity of the producer, brand or cost of each entry.

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