Winners of the Virginia State Fair wine awards. 

Fair Treatment

Aaah! The State Fair of Virginia. Corn dogs and roller coasters; the bearded lady; ring toss and Whack-a-Mole. Beyond the cerebral midway, however, and closer to the festival's roots is the celebration of Virginia's agriculture. Champion roosters and chickens, sheep shearing, blue-ribbon corn and the state's largest pumpkin. Not to be missed, though, is one of the state's subtler agricultural products: wine.

This year the state's 53 wineries entered 125 wines into competition for gold, silver and bronze medals and that most coveted of all State Fair awards, the Blue Ribbon. A panel of eight judges, including a former retailer, two distributors, a wine maker (his wines weren't in the competition), a restaurateur, myself and another wine columnist, spent nearly five hours sipping and spitting, and trying desperately to be objectively subjective.

All wines were tasted blind, that is we had no idea who the producers were, and the scores for each wine in our 25 flights were computer tallied, which was a good thing. In the end our scores yielded 10 ribbons for Best in Class, 17 Gold Medals, 14 Silver Medals, and nine Bronze Medals.

And the Blue Ribbon for Best in Show? Well there were two: Ingleside Plantation Vineyards Cabernet Franc 1997, and White Hall Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 1997.

At various times throughout the Fair, which runs Sept. 23-Oct. 3, wineries will have representatives on hand to offer tastings and to talk about their wines. The wines will be displayed in the Virginia Showcase building — that's the one with the giant pumpkins

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