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‘Stunning’: Illinois Winery Wins Double Gold Medal at Prestigious Wine Competition

Spoon River Junction Winery’s Forgottonia White Vermouth was named Best of Show and Best of Class for vermouths at the 2023 International Eastern Wine Competition. The Canton winery was the only awardee from Illinois, with its new vermouth scoring 97 out of 100 and earning a double gold medal.

Owner and winemaker Bradley Beam – who has worked with wine for over two decades – described the recognition as a “huge honor,” but added that it also came as a bit of a surprise.

The focus of Spoon River Junction, Beam said, is on creating unique wines he believes “could be tremendously successful products, but nobody’s making them.” In competition, though, he said this inventive nature can also pose a challenge for judges.  

“They don’t have a comparative benchmark for (the vermouth), and so (judging) has to be just solely on what it is and how delicious it is,” Beam said. “And apparently it struck a chord with them – which is very exciting.”

This was also the first time the winery has entered its Forgottonia White Vermouth into a competition, Beam said. Judges described the wine as “stunning” with an “excellent beautiful texture, pure on its own.”

Beam said the vermouth is a dynamic wine infused with herbs to create a “sweet, very aromatic” drink with a slight bitterness. He said vermouths also have a higher alcohol content – around 16% for the Forgottonia White, according to the winery’s online shop.

Overall, Beam said the drink is “complex and delicious” and can be used in a variety of ways – whether people want to pour themselves a glass or use the wine as an element of a cocktail.

“It’s made to play with and have fun with,” Beam said. “I think that’s what’s exciting for it for me – is like once you take the bottle home, that’s when the adventure begins.”

Customers can currently purchase a bottle of the Forgottonia White for $30 either online or in-person.

The International Eastern Wine Competition began in 1975 and described itself as “one of the oldest and longest-running wine competitions in the nation.” Wines can be entered from 41 states, Africa, Europe, central and south America and various areas throughout North America.

For Beam, the competition has always stood out.

“There are plenty of competitions out there,” Beam said, “but that’s the one that stuck in my mind as one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions in the country.”

The eastern competition was part of a larger East vs. West International Wine Competition, which also includes a West Coast Wine Competition. The final round of judging pits best of show winners from both competitions against one another.

While the recognition from the International Eastern Wine Competition is a “very big honor,” Beam said he is most proud when Spoon River Junction receives positive responses from those in the community. The Canton winery opened in December of 2020, and Beam described it as “small and modest” establishment.

“We still get very excited any time anyone comes in and you see their eyes light up when they first try something… We like to provide that element of surprise to folks,” Beam said, “and so far, the response to all of our wines have been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re very grateful to everybody for giving us a shot.”

Visit Spoon River Junction Winery

Address: 15100 E. State Highway 9, Canton

Source : Journal Star