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State Fair Announces Wine, Cheese Winners

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Guinness McFadden pours PicmonkeyGuinness McFadden pours his sparkler

TASTE News Service Sacramento, CA June 25, 2014 - The California State Fair has announced winners of its 2014 Commercial Wine Competition. First held in 1855, the State Fair Wine Competition is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wine events in the country.

A total of 2,829 entries were received from 746 participating winery brands this year. Seventy-four judges on 18 panels awarded 2,068 medals, including 52 Double Gold, 217 Gold, 1,085 Silver and 714 Bronze.

Chief Judges Mike Dunne and Rick Kushman presented awards to winners at an industry tasting held yesterday afternoon at the fairgrounds in Sacramento. Honors for Best of Show Red went to Sterling Vineyards for its 2010 Platinum Cabernet Sauvignon. Best of Show White was taken by Carol Shelton Wines for their 2012 Coquille Blanc. Other Best of Show category winners included McFadden Vineyard for their NV Cuvée Brut (Sparkling), Pedroncelli Winery for their 2013 Zinfandel Signature Selection (Pink) and Navarro Vineyards for their 2013 Late Harvest Riesling (Dessert).

Bleating Heart cheese table PicmonkeyBleating Heart reps discuss their cheeseThe cheese competition is a more recent innovation but seems a natural complement to the wine judging. Bleating Heart Cheese of Tomales in western Marin County was awarded Best of Show & Best of Division in two areas. Their Fat Bottom Girl took top honors in the Soft Hard Category (Sheep) and Moolicious Blue did likewise in the Semi-Soft Cheese Category (Cow).


Notes from the Publisher . . .

The afternoon was good opportunity to do a bit of sampling and meet some of the wine makers and cheese makers providing tastes of their medal winners. It was also a great opportunity to visit with many old friends and acquaintances who've been fixtures around the wine business for the three decades Taste Calfornia Travel and its predecessors have been covering California's wine scene.

Greg Boeger with Barbera PicmonkeyGreg Boeger with state's best BarberaAt 77 years old Jerry Lohr is almost a legend in Monterey County. He has (somewhat) relinquished the reins to the next generation, but still seems as busy as ever (He mentioned that a friend commented that he's reduced his work week from 100 hours to just 90.). Much of that time is spent in promoting the health of not just his own winery, but of California's entire wine industry. Jerry's 2012 Falcon's Perch from J. Lohr Estates was selected as the state's best Pinot Noir

Greg Boeger is one of the pioneer El Dorado County winemakers and was proudly pouring samples of his Estate Bottled 2011 Barbera, judged the best example of that variety in California. I noticed Jack Clara who was pouring the Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, which had just picked up a Gold medal. We chatted a bit and I told Jack that I'd just been in Livermore earlier that same day to interview Carolyn Wente for an upcoming article in American Vineyard. Jack started with the winery way back in 1954. Though already retired, he still helps out with tastings such as this one. Carol Shelton has a huge reputation for Zinfandel, but proved she has a deft hand with other varietals as her 2012 Coquille Blanc won a Double Gold and was chosen Best White Wine of the Show. Her husband Mitch Mackenzie told me that Carol had also gotten great notice at a recent San Diego Wine Judging for another wine in her non-Zinfandel portfolio.

But my afternoon wasn't just a reunion of old friends. One of the winemakers and growers I met for the first time was Guinness McFadden whose non-vintage Cuvée Brut got a Double Gold and accolade as the Best Sparkling Wine of the Show.

Gregory Ahn and Riesling with D Corti PicmonkeyGregory Ahn talks Riesling with Darrell Corti  Pedroncelli is another storied name in California. Their 2013 Zinfandel Signature Selection, a dry rosé wine, won a Double Gold and Best of Show nod in the “Pink” category. Gold medals are nothing new to this family-run operation in Sonoma County. Ed St. John said that they've been making this style of rosé for a long time and first garnered a gold medal for it at a county fair in 1955. Mitch Blakeley would like to display that medal, but commented that his grandfather, Jim Pedroncelli, put it in such a secure location nobody's been able to find it

Attracted by a bottle bearing a stark label, I later stopped to taste State of Art 2011 Arroyo Seco Riesling. Winemaker Greg Ahn explained that the soils in the Mission Ranch Vineyard near Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands region contributes to a minerality rarely found in California Rielsings. The wine was awarded a Double Gold and was judged Best White Wine of the North Central Coast.

Though Tuesday afternoon's event was not open to the general public, State Fair visitors will be able to taste many of these medal winners, including Best of Region and Best of California winners, at the Save Mart Supermarkets Wine Garden July 11-27.

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