A Yearly Tradition


Each year at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, there are judges who come from all over the world to lend their expertise.  For some, this year will be their first time being involved with the competition, and for others, like Peter Bell, this is a yearly tradition.

Peter Bell, the Senior Winemaker at Fox Run Winery in Penn Yan, New York has been a judge at the FLIWC every year since its inception except for 2004, when he was away on sabbatical in Australia.  He has become a valued part of the competition and a great supporter of Camp Good Days.

Even though wine is now Peter’s life, it took him a little while to become part of the industry. “In my late twenties, it finally occurred to me what profession I needed to be in,” Peter said.  “Becoming a winemaker was, at the time, a highly unorthodox thing to do, especially for a city boy like me.  I did what it took to be accepted in a degree program in Wine Science in Australia.  That was way back in 1986.  My first vintage was in 1988.”

Every year at the FLIWC, each wine is judged on its own merit – its presence, balance and varietal character – not by how it compares to other wines in the flight.

Wines are blind judged in flights, with each wine identified only by a computer-generated code number. Each glass is labeled with this code number and the judges are given a scoring sheet with the number and the type of wine.  All flights are staged in a separate back room and delivered to the judging room.  Re-pours, when necessary, from a second unopened bottle are also staged in the back room.

Each judge will taste around 200 wines over the course of the weekend, but there is always a wine that stays in each judge’s memory.  “There was that time my panel got a flight of ice wines, one of which was actually a jalapeno-infused ice wine that we were not given any prior knowledge of,” Peter said.  “It was the freakiest thing ever, but I could find absolutely nothing to criticize about it, so I gave it a Gold.  And, as it happens, all the other judges on my panel felt the same way, so it got a Double Gold.”

This year, Peter will be joined by about 50 other judges, all of whom will be able to taste some of the best wines in the world.

More Than a Competition…

Started 17 years ago, The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition has become one of the largest wine competitions in the world to benefit a charitable organization.  Last year, 3,824 wines, from 916 wineries, representing 50 states, 24 countries, and 6 Canadian Provinces were entered.
winecompblog3Each year, there is an esteemed panel of judges—they are Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, wine educators, wine journalists, winemakers, and other top internationally certified wine judges. The judges evaluate and award thousands of wines from around the world, all in three days of blind analysis and competition.  All of the wines are presented blind to the judges’ panel in Riedel stemware with only the grape or blend identified.  No indication of geography, vintage, or price point is shared, ensuring totally unbiased evaluation given to each wine.

The competition, along with the Camp Good Days’ Wine Auction Dinner is the largest fundraiser to benefit Camp Good Days.  This competition helps to provide the funds necessary to allow Camp Good Days’ Founder, Gary Mervis, to keep the promise that he made when he started Camp Good Days 38 years ago; that all of the programs and services provided by Camp Good Days would be provided free of charge to the participants.

In 1979, the youngest of Gary’s three children, Elizabeth, “Teddi,” Mervis, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at age 9. During all of her treatments she received, what upset her most was that she was felt she was alienated from her friends—she knew no one else who now looked like her.  As Gary witnessed his child struggle, he decided to give her a place where she would be welcomed and feel just like everyone else.  Thus was born Camp Good Days—a place where children with cancer are not faced with boundaries, but rather open hearts, compassion and fun.  Camp Good Days is a place where children affected by cancer can be around other children who know exactly what it is like to be them.


Teddi lost her battle in 1982 but Camp Good Days continues its mission as a legacy to her and all the children who have braved the fight against cancer. With the summer camping sessions and year-round programming and support, Camp Good Days hopes to give back at least a little bit of the childhood that cancer has taken away.

This year, Camp Good garyandteddiDays is celebrating its 38th anniversary.  Since its inception, it has served more than 47,000 campers from 22 states and 34 countries—a feat only made possible through the generosity of so many people and organizations, and the special fundraising events that benefit Camp Good Days, like the FLIWC.

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition is more than just a competition; it is an event that helps to bring people with common interests together from around the world, and it helps to keep the legacy of Teddi Mervis and all children who have braved the fight against cancer alive through Camp Good Days & Special Times.