The recently conducted 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was a record-breaking success. With a whopping 5,050 American wines tasted representing 23 states, judges had a tough task in selecting the very best but gave their all sincerely, honestly and blind. The public tasting from the event will be held at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, February 19 from 2:00 PM – 5: 00 PM. http://winejudging.com/event_tickets.htm
The judges represented many areas in the wine/culinary world including winemakers, journalists, chefs, sales and marketing folks, hospitality insiders and noted academics. As a wine writer, I was one of the approximately sixty participating wine judges and offered up my palate and professional assessment.
In a precise ballet of organization, a myriad of friendly volunteers at the Wine Competition (held in the Northern Sonoma County town of Cloverdale) brought in approximately ten, numbered glasses of wines per round. Judges had bread, crackers, olives, water and anything else we desired to help the process along. We had to run through the tastings fast, since we had many wines to judge — and then were polled for scores. Each wine was given a Bronze, Silver or coveted Gold Medal. A Gold Medal from all judges earns a wine an extremely rare, “Double Gold.”
On the other hand, some wines were given no medal at all. A bit of horse trading occasionally reared where one judge tried to convince or cajole a higher or lower score from his fellow judges. When the tallying was complete, the glasses were whisked away soon to be replaced by another round. Though it sounds fun – and is – this is hard work. Even with continual spitting, the tannins and alcohol start to add up.
One day I sampled 120 Cabernet Sauvignons under $15.00. That was a tough and long day – but my group, which included the irrepressible Christopher Sawyer and the knowledgeable, chatty Wilfred Wong from Bevmo, found many good wines in the bunch. Another crazy tasting we endured was sampling 50 Petite Sirahs $20.00 and up. Everyone ended that tasting with purple teeth, gums, lips, beards, and shirt collars. It turns out we chose the J Lohr 2008 Tower Road Petite Sirah from Paso Robles for our Best of Class Award.
In fact the Paso Robles region was the huge winner in this year’s competition. Paso Robles’ Ecluse Wines 2008 Lock Vineyard Cabernet and Thacher 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel tied for Red Wine Sweepstake Winner, wines which were voted on by all judges. In addition Paso Robles also was the Dessert Sweepstake Winner category for Alapay Cellars Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. For a full list of winners see:
A surprise White Wine Sweepstakes winner turned out to be a lovely Gewurztraminer from St. Claire Winery, New Mexico. Gloria Ferrer’s 2006 Carneros Brut Rose won theSparkling Wine Sweepstakes and the Pink Sweepstakes winner turned out to be a Rose of Sangiovese from Barnard Griffin out of Richland, Washington.
And for the list of all medal winners see:
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is among the largest and most prestigious in America, and the upcoming tasting at Fort Mason is the place to taste these winners for yourself.
c. Bob Ecker 2011