Support from Local Wineries

Wineries from all over the world enter their wines in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition each year, but the Finger Lakes wineries have a special place in the hearts of those at Camp Good Days with their never-ending support.  David Peterson, the President and Co-Owner of Swedish Hill, Goose Watch, and Penguin Bay Wineries in the Finger Lakes region, has been entering wines since the first year of the competition.

“I grew up working in my family’s vineyard, which is now the site of Swedish Hill,”  David said.  “At that time, there was no vision of a winery; my dad just loved the grape growing part.  I was interested in plants in general, which led to me majoring in Plant Science at Cornell University.  This led me to get more interested in the science of growing and led to getting a MS and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology, specializing in grapes while getting my Ph.D.  I got involved in a graduate student and faculty wine tasting group during that time.  This was in the early 1980’s when the small farm winery movement was just getting started in the Finger Lakes.  I talked my Mom and Dad into starting a winery while I was in graduate school, although I moved out of the area to work in grape and wine research and extension in Missouri and later came back to New York in a similar role for Cornell in the Finger Lakes.  In 1996, I joined the family winery, Swedish Hill, and helped to open our second winery, Goose Watch, in 1997.”


What is your history with the FLIWC?

We have entered the FLIWC since its inception.  FLIWC is a nice competition for us to enter as it is local, yet international in scope.  Being local, it also gets a lot of recognition and press in the Rochester market.  As soon as the results are released, we see a bump in sales in Rochester stores of any of our wines that win gold medals.  It also supports a great local cause.

What is your role at Swedish Hill, Goose Watch, and Penguin Bay?

My wife Jean and I now own and operate the 3 wineries, so we wear many hats.  My area is oversight of the winegrowing and winemaking, although we have very good employees who are involved in managing those areas.  I am very involved in decisions regarding planting of new varieties, ideas for new products, and I also do all of our grape contracting with about 15 different growers.  This involves visiting each of these contract growers multiple times each year and I work with the winemakers on making harvest timing decisions.  In addition, I oversee our sales away from our tasting rooms, in other words, the arrangements with our distributors and ultimately wine shops and restaurants.  My wife more directly runs our office and oversees the tastings room, although there is always overlap.  At times, we are involved in every aspect of the business.

What do you like about working with wine?

To me, wine is more interesting than many products as it’s not so much a commodity as most things that people produce.  There are so many factors that go into producing it—soil, grape variety, weather, human interaction in both the vineyard and the winery—these factors have such a profound influence on the final product.  Wine is also something that brings so much enjoyment and entertainment to people.

Do you have a special memory from a past FLIWC?

Well, we have won a number of awards over the years.  I think the very first year we were the only double gold medal winner for Riesling, which is a big deal considering the quality of the local Rieslings.

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition continues to grow each year, and so far this year, about 10% of the wineries that have entered are new wineries!  The support of both new wineries, and long-time supporters like Swedish Hill, Goose Watch, and Penguin Bay help to ensure the success of the competition, and the longevity of Camp Good Days.

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.

Wine Leaders to Take Active Part in Competition

The Finger Lakes International Wine Competition (FLIWC) cannot be a success without the help of knowledgeable leaders in the wine community.  This year, two local leaders: Lorraine Hems and Teresa Knapp are taking on key responsibilities in the FLIWC.

Lorraine Hems is going to be this year’s Head Judge. She will oversee all of the judges at the competition.lorrainehemsheadshot

Lorraine Hems has been in the wine and culinary field since 1981. She started teaching wine courses at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2001 following a career in the retail and wholesale arenas. A fulltime lecturer in the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department since 2005, she later received her Masters of Service Leadership and Innovation there. She loves involving her students with various events that have included this competition.

Lorraine has been judging in competitions for over 20 years and was there at the beginning of the FLIWC. She assisted in the backroom for the first year and, since then, has judged 14 out of 15 subsequent competitions. Lorraine also served on FLIWC committees, has been in charge of the “Candy Store” of wines for the Camp’s dinner auction and has been part of several auction items.  She was also given a Teddi Award from Camp Good Days in 2011. Lorraine has also chaired other local wine competitions.

Lorraine’s a Certified Wine Judge through the American Wine Society, a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and is working on finishing her Wine and Spirit Education Trust Diploma. Lorraine became a Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators’ certification programs and was elected to their Board of Directors and Secretary to the Executive Committee. She also teaches WSET and industry training courses at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY and other locations.

Lorraine has had many opportunities to travel, present, and judge globally.  A local girl, she’s really enjoyed working with the great people in the New York State wine industry; an internationally-recognized quality wine producing region. She received the Women for WineSense’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the New York Wine and Grape Foundation’s Consumer Award in 2016 for promotion and education about the wines of New York. She is currently working on the 2nd edition of her course textbook, Passport to the World of Wines.

“I have been involved in the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition since it began,” Lorriane said, “so I am honored to be asked to be the Head Judge in its 17th year! Over these years, I’ve witnessed many judges crying when they’ve witnessed the impact Camp has on the lives of the campers and how they’re able, through judging at the competition, raise money for more campers to attend. It’s very exciting to be a part of this globally recognized competition that benefits Camp Good Days and Special Times.”

Teresa Knapp is going to be this year’s Flighting and Tabulation Manager.  She will oversee the selections of wine and the scoring of the wines being tasted.


Teresa Knapp has been in the grape and wine industry all of her life. As a 4th generation grape growing member of the Stamp Family, Teresa is a partner of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, NY.  Spending time working in the vineyards made Teresa appreciate all of the hard work that goes into a fine bottle of wine. Upon graduating from Cornell University, her love of the industry brought her to the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

As Project Manager of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, Teresa has been the Competition Director of the New York Wine & Food Classic for the last 17 years.  Other competition experience includes: The Golden Nose, International Eastern Wine Competition and she is a founding partner of the Makers & Masters Classic. Teresa lives in Canandaigua, New York with her very supportive husband, Randy, and three children.

 “This will be my first year of involvement with the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition,” Teresa said. “I am looking forward to putting my experience with the New York Wine & Food Classic to use in such a great way. I am excited to work on an international competition while supporting Camp Good Days and Special Times and all they do.”