GM-MR-1-Schwartz Orchards 1by Dr. Elizabeth Wahle
The Illinois State Horticulture Society sponsored its 25th Annual Illinois Cider Contest, held in conjunction with the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference on Jan. 9 in Springfield, IL. Schwartz Orchards, located at Centralia, IL, produced the number one overall rated cider at this year’s contest, repeating its 2008 win in both the National and Illinois contests. Tom Schwartz pressed his winning cider for this year’s contests with a bladder press using only Jonathan apples.

Second Place Illinois and National Cider went to last year’s winner, Pat Curran of Curran’s Orchard in Rockford, IL. Keith and Denise Boggio of Boggio’s Orchard & Produce at Grandville, IL took home 3rd place in the National Cider and Illinois Contests. Midwest Cider of Merit, 1st Runner-up, was awarded to Joe Ringhausen of Joe Ringhausen Orchards at Fielden, IL. Trevor and Gary Grissom of Grissom’s Lost Creek Orchard at Greenup, IL, was awarded the Midwest Cider of Merit, 2nd Runner-up, and the Midwest Cider of Merit, 3rd Runner-up, went to Raoul Bergersen of Valley Orchard at Winnebago, IL.
Judges evaluated the entries using a 25 point rating scale for cider quality characteristics. The judges conducted “blind” evaluations where only a randomly chosen sample number identified each cider entry. The judging team was made up of a diverse group, including: Richard Breckenridge, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency; Scott Knight, Growmark; Bill Wright, cider enthusiast; Harry Alten, Illinois Specialty Growers Association; Jim Shannon, Miller Chemical & Fertilizer Corp.; Ben Wright, United Phosphorus Inc.; Craig Musselman, Albaugh Inc.; Joe Wanken, DuPont; Patrick Steppuhn, Hummert International; and Andrew Gunther, Southern FS.
The Illinois State Horticultural Society (ISHS) has annually conducted the contest since the contest started in 1990. The contest presents awards in three different categories: National, Illinois, and Midwest Cider of Merit.
ISHS also sponsored the 12th Annual Hard Cider Contest where contestants vied for the top honor. Trevor and Dalton Grissom from Grissom’s Lost Creek Orchard at Greenup, IL, were awarded the Champion Hard Cider Award, using a blend of Fuji, Mutsu, Idared, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious. Each hard cider was individually awarded points based on characteristics like clarity, color, bouquet, balance of alcohol, acidity, sweetness, sugar/acid balance, body, flavor, astringency and bitterness, any off-flavors, and the overall quality.
The ISHS gratefully acknowledges the dedication and hard work of our judging team. Plus a special thanks to Sangamon County Master Gardeners Bill Budd, Steve and Sharon Petrelli, Jane Morris and Barb Hedden for their help running the contest. Most importantly, thanks are extended to all who entered the contest this year. Start planning now for the next contest in 2015.