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NORTHEAST – Robert Mazza Inc. wineries have won hundreds of awards and medals since Mazza Winery became one of Pennsylvania’s first wineries in 1972.

Yet until this year, none of Mazza’s three wineries had won a gold medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards, the world’s largest wine competition and by many accounts one of the most prestigious. In fact, in more than 20 years, no Pennsylvania winery has ever won a gold Decanter medal.

This photo from 2022 shows the Mazza Winery sign.This photo from 2022 shows the Mazza Winery sign.

This photo from 2022 shows the Mazza Winery sign.

Mazza recently ended that streak when The Perfect Rosé was one of only 20 U.S. wines to be awarded gold.

In the world of wine, that’s a big deal, said Robert Mazza, founder and president of the winery.

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In an article about the US winners, Clive Pursehouse, Decanter’s US editor, wrote: “Perhaps the biggest result was the first-ever gold awards for a wine from Virginia and a Franco-American hybrid rosé from the state of Pennsylvania… From the shores of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania comes an astonishing rosé made from the Franco-American hybrid grape Chambourcin, Mazza’s The Perfect Rosé 2022, made in a crisp, bone-dry style, which scored 95 points – a first for Pennsylvania and a hybrid from the United States.”

Robert Mazza (left) and his son Mario Mazza (right) are seen in a wine barrel storage area at Mazza Vineyards in North East Township in this 2018 file photo.Robert Mazza (left) and his son Mario Mazza (right) are seen in a wine barrel storage area at Mazza Vineyards in North East Township in this 2018 file photo.

Robert Mazza (left) and his son Mario Mazza (right) are seen in a wine barrel storage area at Mazza Vineyards in North East Township in this 2018 file photo.

Like other Pennsylvania winemakers, Mario Mazza, vice president and general manager of the family-owned company, knows that discerning wine lovers often pay little attention to the region’s offerings. He believes that’s changing as winemakers in Pennsylvania and throughout the Lake Erie Wine Belt continue to improve their craft and use different grape varieties.

The right grape

Chambourcin grapes, which grow naturally on Lake Erie, were an obvious choice for The Perfect Rosé, said Mario Mazza.

According to a comment attributed to him in the Decanter article, “We are very familiar with its brilliant color and radiant acidity – both of which form the perfect basis for an excellent rosé.”

He continued: “We have approached the perfect rosé with conscious and flawless craftsmanship both inside and outside the bottle.”

An industry in transition

Traditionally, the region is often associated with sweet wines such as Niagara. These wines remain popular and an important part of the business for Mazza and other wineries in the region.

“But the industry has a lot more to offer,” said Mario Mazza. “Great wines are made here, and it’s not just us. The sweet wines have their place in the program. We will not deny them. There is a place for them.”

At the same time, Mazza said he expects stronger growth in higher-quality wines for different tastes.

“We’re really proud of what we do,” he said. “I want all the other wineries to continue to grow and improve. We still have a lot of work to do. I want them all to make really good wine. I’m a competitive person and I want us to push each other.”

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Mazza said he is now focused on raising the bar.

“I was lucky to be part of this amazing operation,” he said. “I’m proud to have helped move it forward. It feels like the effort was worth it. Now we’re thinking about how we can repeat this feat.”

Contact Jim Martin at [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the Erie Times-News: Northeastern Mazza Vineyards wins gold among 18,000 entries