The mammoth 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is complete, in the books and was eminently successful. Over 5,500 wines were judged over three days in Sonoma, with a final Sweepstakes round pitting the Best in Class wines against each other to select the very best red, white, sparkling, pink and sweet wines. There is also a category for best wine label. This competition is run expertly by coordinator Bob Fraser who once again put together a professional team of organizers, volunteers, sponsors and judges.This is an entirely “blind” wine competition and the judges only know what wine varietal and price point is being judged.
Categories include Chardonnays $10.00 - $14.99, Syrah $25.00 - $29.99, Cabernets $50 and up and so on. Some 60 categories in all.
I was one of the judges on a three member panel with noted wine expert Wilfred Wong, of BevMo and Ken Landis, proprietor of Landis Shores on Half Moon Bay. Our panel got along well discussing the wines in front of us, occasionally hearing or telling a joke, trying to guess a wine’s province, asking for re-pours for flawed or possibly flawed bottles - all while briskly making our way through the many rounds of ten or twelve wines. (We also found time to discuss the chances of the 49ers going all the way) We sampled about 140 wines per day. One time a re-pour of a flawed wine turned into Gold, literally - as a Gold medal was ultimate awarded from a second non-flawed sample. As always, price is not always an indicator of quality. Our panel sometimes gave out more Gold medals from less expensive categories than ones featuring far higher price points. Case in point, the Zinfandel $25.00 - $29.99 category turned out to be a good one and produced many excellent wine samples. We awarded 14 Gold Medals (Three Double Golds) out of 50 wines, a very high rate. The Best in Class turned out to be The Gunfighter from Dry Creek. Also of note were Zins from Tin Barn, Rodney Strong and two different succulent Zinfandels from Mazzocco Winery. Other categories did not fair so well. Hey, you call them like you see them. The most important aspect to judging is to be fair, sincere and consistent.
Though it sounds fun, judging can be hard work slogging though wine after wine, category after category. Your mouth, teeth and lips turn red, you can get tired and eventually the tannins and alcohol can take its toll. Food and drink is critical as we are provided crackers, bread and bits of meat along with water, sparkling water or anything else that help keep us happy and focused.
This competition would not be a success without the yeoman duties performed by Cindy, Mike, Tony and other proctors plus the nearly hundred volunteer behind the scenes. These dedicated folks are not paid but are simply “working for wine” (some three cases of opened wine per person) while also learning about wine in the process. Many of the younger volunteers are enrolled in the Santa Rosa Junior College Wine Studies Program.
The judges were hosted by DeLoach Winery one evening and a delightful meal and wines from the Boisset Family Estates portfolio were offered. A fine time was had by all.
The grand tasting of medaled wines will be held on February 16th at Fort Mason. Tickets are $70 in advance and $85 at the door. Full medal results as well as information about the public tasting can be found at www.winejudging.com,
Other wines of note that I sampled included our Best of Class Barnard Griffin Chardonnay from Columbia Valley, also Geyser Peak and Sawbuck Chardonnay. Best of Class Pope Valley Winery Merlot plus Rutherford Hill and V. Sattui Napa Valley Merlots; Fine Cabernets including Best of Class Winner, St. Anne’s Crossing from Kenwood, Double Gold winners Ehler Vineyard from Solano County and Husch from Mendocino, and gold medalist Markham from Napa. So much wine, so little time. Below are the overall Sweepstakes winners chosen from the Vest of Class winners then judged collectively against one another.
Korbel Champagne Cellars California Blanc de Noirs $11.00
Keuka Spring Vineyards 2011 Finger Lakes Riesling $13.99
Sorelle Winery 2011 Lodi Sangiovese Rosato $16.00
Terlato Family Vineyards 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $60.00
Wilson Winery 2009 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah $38.00
Castello di Amorosa 2011 Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewürztraminer $35.00
Mutt Lynch Winery Man’s Best Friend Series
Congratulations again go out to all participating wineries, sponsors like the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Fraser and his entire family, volunteers as well as my fellow judges. It was another fun and worthy competition. See you all at the Fort Mason tasting.
c. Bob Ecker, 2013