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2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition tasting at Ft. Mason this Saturday

Over a hundred wines are sampled per judge, during the final "Sweepstakes" round
Over a hundred wines are sampled per judge, during the final "Sweepstakes" round
Bob Ecker

The 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is in the books and was another stirring success. This competition, the largest of its kind, judged a whopping 5,825 wines entered from 25 states, with over 1,500 winery brands represented. I was one of the 65 wine judges coming from media, wine educators, wine industry trade and various food/wine professionals. Held once again at the humble yet effective Citrus Fair complex in Cloverdale, (northern Sonoma County) the wines were flowing. I personally sampled some 520 wines blind - before it was over. That’s a lot of tasting and spitting. Discovering the eventual winners is always a treat and full of surprises. Now the important public tasting event is happening this Saturday, February 15th at Ft. Mason, in San Francisco. See this website for further details.

I know some people (and you know who you are) quibble about the efficacy of wine judging, I believe the process works very well. Despite personal differences and predilections, all experienced judges try their best to choose wines that are of the highest quality and - the cream really does rise to the top. The winning wine chosen by judges truly are the best of breed. Try them.

Okay, time for winners and my personal favorite wines from the competition.
First of all I have to comment on the 2014 Sweepstakes Winner in the White Wine category. Though many judge pooh pooh Chardonnay (been there done that, ABC, anything but Chardonnay etc.) the Baldacci Family Vineyards, 2012 Chardonnay, Carneros-Napa, Sorelle, $38.00 was the winning white wine. What a spectacular wine and one of the best, most luscious Chardonnays I’ve ever tasted. Not over the top, carefully crafted, fragrant nose, simply delicious and a true crowd pleaser. I’m very pleased to say that I was among the judges who voted for it during the Sweepstakes round. It is a great wine.

I also chose the lovely Domaine Carneros Brut, and the tasty Ferrante Winery Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. From Ohio!

Here is the official list of 2014 Sweepstake Winners of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition:

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, 2009 Brut, Carneros, Domaine Carneros, $32.00
Korbel Champagne Cellars, NV Brut Rosé, California, $11.00

Baldacci Family Vineyards, 2012 Chardonnay, Carneros-Napa, Sorelle, $38.00

Barnard Griffin, 2013 Rose of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $12.00

RED -tie
3 Steves Winery, 2011 Zinfandel, Cienega Valley, $31.00
Calcareous Vineyard, 2010 Syrah, Paso Robles, $40.00

Ferrante Winery, 2012 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley, $28.99

Predator - 2012 Zinfandel – Lodi

Full Medals list here:‎

Among for standout wines that I judged and tasted – I discovered many excellent wines including: the Sobon Estates Zinfandel, the Imagery Barbera, Castello de Amarosa’s Cabernet, Helwig Red Blend and a blend from Alexandria & Nicole. The Cowboy Syrah was delightful as was the Syrah produced by Fieldstone Winery. I enjoyed a wonderful Pinot Noir from Savannah Channel, also the Sanford, William Knuttel and La Follete Pinots. Another standout was the Starmont Chardonnay, the Chardonnay from Fritz and the Chard produced by Krutz Family. Of course, there are so many others I have yet to try – and hope to sample on Saturday.

I’d like to give a shout out to Wilson Artisan Wineries who hosted a magnificent dinner for the judges at Soda Rock Winery. The event had fantastic food, wines (loved that Mazzocco) and entertainment. Soda Rock has come a long way and is a perfect stop in Alexander Valley.

Though this competition is huge, nobody does it better than Bob Fraser, Ray Johnson, Scot Fraser and Anne Vercelli. Along with a hearty legion of spirited volunteers, they all deserve credit for putting together a massive and successful undertaking. The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is always busy, fun, well run, has great people involved and always exhibits good humor amidst the bottles. And sometimes a flashing mirror ball too. Congratulations on another job well done.

The celebratory event this weekend at Ft. Mason should be a blast, as attendees will have the opportunity of sampling all the winning wines, plus many more. I will be there and look forward to meeting you all.

C. Bob Ecker 2014

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