Ohio nabs the gold at water tasting
Although both Berkeley Club and Berkeley Springs municipal water made the finals, it was Montpelier, Ohio that nabbed the gold in the recent Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting. Montpelier won the same category in 2006 and 2003. Three British Columbia towns -- Clearbrook, Elkford and Campbell River -- placed second, third and fourth respectively. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a former gold medal winner, came in fifth making the "water of the stars" the second best water in the United States. There were 32 waters from 13 states and three Canadian provinces entered.
Event producer Jill Klein Rone explained that the last time the tasting saw back to back gold medalists was in 1993 and 1994 when Atlantic City placed first. "Good water rises to the top," said Klein Rone. "Our tasting process is vindicated when the same waters are rated by a completely different panel of judges and still win." Atlantic City was the only other three time gold medalist.
More than 200 people watched the event, held for the first time at the Country Inn, where a dozen media judges spent hours tasting more than 100 waters from 23 states and 10 foreign countries from New Zealand and Armenia to Grenada and the Philippines. Among writers from Travel Leisure, Conde Nast, Washington Post and Baltimore Sun were two local women who now work for metropolitan newspapers. Katie Leslie represented the Frederick bureau of the Baltimore Sun and Stephanie Earls represented the Albany Times Union.
The challenge to distinguish and rate subtle differences in the bottled water led to another first this year -- two ties in the bottled water category where an American and a Canadian water tied for both gold and silver. I Am Healthy from Mount Palomar, Calif. tied for gold with Muskoka Natural Spring water from Gravenhurst, Ontario. Tied for silver were John Deere Artisan Water of Grayling, Mich. and Ramona Springs, Washago, Ontario. Third place was ESKA from St-Mathiew d'Harricana, Quebec; fourth was Aquaroyale from Baguio, Philippines and fifth was Woolrich Spring Water from Woolrich, Pa. All seven of the top five bottled waters were new to the winners circle this year.
Unlike 2006, international waters did not sweep the sparkling water category although four different Bosnian waters did rate second through fifth place. Sparkling StoneClear Springs from Vanleer, Tenn. won the gold medal for sparkling waters. Their previous placement was a bronze in 2004.
Purified water which is processed and bottled municipal tap water became a category in 2001. "We added them because this is a growing field," said Arthur von Wiesenberger, author, founder of BottledWaterWeb.com and the event's longtime watermaster. The 2007 winner was Coral Water from Rost Labs, Fla. Crystal Mountain Natural Spring Water from Huntsville, Ala. placed second; third was Daytona Beach, Fla. Chill from Mechanicsville, Va. placed fourth even though it boasted a silver medal on its label earned in 2005. Fifth was Stone Clear Premium from Vanleer, Tenn.
The crowd was most interested in the people's choice packaging competition where it was their votes that chose which product was the most alluring. "We knew our choice of being the Academy Awards of Water was a good one when we saw the entry from Aquadeco," said Klein Rone. "Their glass bottle has a look remarkably similar to Oscar," she said. The crowd agreed. Voting all day, Aquadeco filled with water from Mount Ararat, Armenia wowed the crowd winning first place in packaging. Second place was the sleek glass column from Dabau Luxury Water of New York City; third was StoneClear Springs Natural Spring Water from Vanleer, Tenn; Waiwera Infinity Artesian Water which won in 2006 placed fourth. The curvy light green glass bottle came from Waiwera, New Zealand. Closing out the field was the deep blue Aquarius Oxygen Water from Eugene, Ore.
"It will be interesting to see how many of this year's winners follow the pattern and use an image of the medal they won in Berkeley Springs on their bottles," said Jeanne Mozier, one of the event's founders. Mozier collected a dozen entrants from the event that already sported the Berkeley Springs seal. "This is exactly the type of global recognition for Berkeley Springs that we hoped for when the event was initiated in 1991," she said. "It's the result of the water tasting being the largest and longest running in the world. Winning in Berkeley Springs means something in Europe and Canada and the United States." Bottles with the event medal on them are kept on display in the Visitors Center office.
Media judges were instructed by von Wiesenberger to look, sniff and taste each water under guidelines like those in a wine tasting. The waters were rated for each attribute including appearance (it should be clear - or slightly opaque for glacial waters), aroma (there should be none), taste (it should taste clean), mouth feel (it should feel light), aftertaste (it should leave you thirsty for more). Waters were tasted in four separate flights over two days.
The water tasting is the centerpiece of the Winter Festival of Waters, a three-month series of special activities produced by Travel Berkeley Springs to heighten winter tourism business in Morgan County.
The 18th annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting is scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2008.
Best Municipal Water
1st - Montpelier, Ohio
2nd -- Clearbrook, British Columbia
3rd -- Elkford, British Columbia
4th -- Campbell River, British Columbia
5th -- Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Best Bottled Water
I Am Healthy, Mount Palomar, Calif.
Muskoka Natural Spring Water, Gravenhurst, Ontario. Tied for silver were
2nd -- TIE
John Deere Artisan Water of Grayling, Mich.
Ramona Springs, Washago, Ontario.
3rd --ESKA from St-Mathiew d'Harricana, Quebec
4th -- Aquaroyale, Baguio, Philippines
5th -- Woolrich Spring Water, Woolrich, Pa.
1st -- Sparkling StoneClear Springs, Vanleer, Tenn.
2nd - Esparanza, Tesanj, Bosnia
3rd - Tesanjski Dijamant, Tesanj, Bosnia
4th - Tesanjski Kiseljak, Tesanj, Bosnia
5th - Hana Sparkling, Tesanj, Bosnia
1st -- Aquadeco, Mount Ararat, Armenia
2nd -- Dabau Luxury Water, New York, N.Y.
3rd -- StoneClear Springs Natural Spring Water, Vanleer, Tenn.
4th -- Waiwera Infinity Artesian Water, Waiwera, New Zealand.
5th -- Aquarius Oxygen Water from Eugene, Ore.
Purified Drinking Water
1st -- Coral Water, Rost Labs, Fla.
2nd -- Crystal Mountain Natural Spring Water, Huntsville, Ala.
3rd -- Daytona Beach, Fla.
4th -- Chill, Mechanicsville, Va.
5th -- Stone Clear Premium, Vanleer, Tenn.