Photo courtesy of Chris Jude
Not surprisingly, the annual wine competition at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival
is dominated by established producers, stretching from the Yadkin Valley to the western mountains. It was something of a surprise, then, when Pittsboro's Fair Game Beverage Co.
scored a trifecta on Saturday, taking home gold, silver and bronze medals for its fortified wines. Not bad for a company that only introduced its first bottle in June 2014.
"We competed at the State Fair last year, where Ferris won a silver medal," says Chris Jude, referring to the winery's full-bodied red blend. "And this year, Asheville gave it the gold."
Judges also recognized Fair Game for its Tipper Scuppernong, which earned a silver medal, and the Tipper Peach, which won a bronze.
"I see our wines as unique and different from what's going on in North Carolina," Jude says. "Customers tell us it's like nothing they've seen before. It's been a great reception from the restaurant community, and now, to get that from the wine community, is just great."
Jude says Fair Game was greeted warmly by some of its better known competitors, including one that he especially admires, Jones von Drehle Vineyards of Thurmond.
Fair Game was the only Triangle winner in the wine competition, but it was joined by TOPO of Chapel Hill and Crude Bitters of Raleigh in Elixir, the event's cocktail competition. Three of eight participants used Fair Game's Apple Brandy as an ingredient. (Fair Game suggests several tempting cocktail recipes on its website
This spring, Fait Game introduced an Apple Brandy, along with a sorghum-based No'Lasses
. Jude hopes to add another option this fall. He protectively describes a "vodka infused with a secret ingredient." A new batch of Tipper Apple, a cider-based wine aged in bourbon barrels, will be bottled for sale, too.
"We might have a new rhum agricole,
too, which we've been working on for a year," he says. "Thanks to the new law allowing sales of spirits at distilleries
, it's one of the things we look forward to offering to customers on site."