PAGE 2 SF INTL WINE COMPETITION 2008
It was Saturday morning and Andy gave the judges some guidelines and parameters
regarding the awarding of medals.
And so we were off to the races...
Wilfred Wong, the Bevmo Wine Guru, looking for wines with legs as nice as the
ones he'd seen at the Judge's Dinner Friday night...
Rosina Tinari Wilson put down her ukulele and picked up a wine glass.
"I think this one's a bit out of tune, although Wine C was rather
She can be rather picky...
Jerry Cooper of Swirl on Castro wine shop.
"Some of the Chardonnays," notes Jerry, "will make your head
Ellen Landis, of the Landis Shores Inn in Half Moon Bay, takes the notion of
"blind-tasting" to the limit by evaluating the wines with her eyes
Nick Ponomareff is Mister California Grapevine. His journal is one of the
oldest and most reliable wine guides.
Ron Siragusa (of Kuleto's Italian Restaurant in The City) takes a shine to some
of the white wines evaluated by his panel.
Meanwhile, someone snuck off to a local newsstand and found this:
Imagine finding Carol Seibert on the cover of such a famous magazine!
Even more astonishing was this...
Charles "Maratona" Mara came to The Left Coast from L'east
Mara is a no-nonsense wine judge:
"Bada bing, bada boom, this here is one gold medal Cabernet!"
Drake McCarthy, currently a "free agent" in the wine business, loves
tasting good Barolo, Barbaresco and Brunello. He can't explain why they put him
on the panel tasting "Wines with Critters on the Label."
Michael Feil of the Westchester Country Club in Rye, New York, smiles because
he's in a place where he doesn't have to dodge golf balls.
The fellow lives in a part of the world where, apparently, there has to be a
golf facility every mile or so.
As a result he's usually near winy places such as "Burning Tree" (you
like toasty oak, don't you?), Ridgeway and Round Hill golf
courses. But they also have places such as "Wykagi,"
"Apawamis" and "Spook Rock" for courses with unusual names.
"Double Gold!" says George "What, Me Worry?" Skorka...
Dana Farner knows it takes a lot of singing and dancing to sell bottles of wine
to her Hollywood-area customers. Luckily, she's made The Cut.
But today she's looking for wines which are "a cut above."
One journal dubbed Ms. Farner as "the indie-rock goddess sommelier."
Seeing this magazine cover had a jarring effect on many of the judges.
Robert Silverstein, though, was unfazed.
"I can taste better in stereo," he explained.
Ronald Brown joined us from Tokyo as he sampled a little nip of a heavenly Chardonnay.
"I'd say this is a Silver...but not a Silverstein."
Former cop Michael Hantman found a few of the wines to be arresting.
"I've cited a handful with gold medals," he explained, "but my
palate was handcuffed by a number of these."
Hantman owns "Wine Tasting of Sonoma," a wine and cheese emporium in
Duncan's Mills, about 70-something miles north of San Francisco.
"Thank goodness I'm not on the malt liquor panel!" said Tim
Teichgraeber, who writes for a Minnesota newspaper, a Silicon Valley magazine
called "The Wave," Wines & Vines, the SF Chronicle and whose name
is sometimes seen in Britain's Decanter magazine.
Tim also finds time to practice law and knows how to distinguish between Chank,
Dipstick and Lifter Puller.
Leslie Sbrocco, hostess of the famous TV program called "Check,
Please!," checks out a bunch of wines during the weekend.
Her book is called "Wine for Women, A Guide to Buying, Sharing and
Jim McMahon came up from Down Under to give us a different perspective on the
We noticed he swirls the glass in a counter-clockwise manner.
"Being from Australia and knowing all the Regions and Rituals," he
explained, "I find the wines easier to judge when I swirl them in southern
Deborah Parker Wong is Patterson's The Tasting Panel magazine's Northern
California editor. She grew up in Pennsylvania before heading west in the
1980s. The vituperative D-P-W is an avid taster.
Sommelier and wine consultant Mark Bowery of Mark Bowery Consulting (what a
Mark is a California Wine Tasting Champion...
"Geary Blackwell" gives the 'thumbs up' to fun wines and
'thumbs down' to the not-so-fun wines.
Gary has a great little wine emporium out on Geary Boulevard in The City.
A contender for the Purple Palate Award this year is Chris Sawyer, a Sonoma area
sommelier and writer...
He, apparently, has the same 'look' after running the Bay to Breakers marathon
in The City (which takes him a full day since he stops at every wine bar along
Someone else, though, was in the running for the Purple Palate Award...
Kimberly Charles of Charles Communications is good at flapping her tongue on
behalf of many in the wine biz. She's got a most impressive palate.
She may not appear to be undercover, but Traci Dutton is a CIA operative.
Traci is the head sommelier at the Culinary Institute of America's Napa
restaurant, Greystone. She's doing some industrial espionage here.
Jeffery K. Stivers is the GM and sommelier at Pasadena's "Bistro 45."
The "Stive-Meister" is routinely an anchor for an "Angry
Panel," since he and his comrades often get rather worked up and emotional
about some of the wines they're judging.
Apparently that "A" is for TCA, not a judgment of the quality of the
New Zealand's Jim Harré fastened his seatbelt and got busy assessing the
wines. Jim is the senior judge for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards (he's
too experienced to be a "junior" judge) and is a wine consultant for
Air New Zealand.
His panel reported encountering a minimum of turbulence in evaluating their
flights of wine.
Jim and his wife operate The Gates Country Lodge in Waiau, North
Canterbury in New Zealand.
Sonoma County eno-scribe Linda Murphy used to follow the San Diego Padres
baseball team in a former life as a sports-writer. Today she says she
prefers The Tasting Room to the locker room.
"For one thing, the aromas are better. For another, people are
generally better behaved in tasting rooms."
Linda covers the west coast wine scene for Britain's Jancis Robinson, racking up
many runs, reporting on many hits and with no errors.
Along the theme of baseball, Linda reports she was in London recently for a wine
judging and encountered a taster who was a "no-spitter."
Rusty Albert is a famous Wine Impressionist, known as The Frank Gorshin of
Gewurztraminer or the Rich Little of Lagrein or the Frank Caliendo of Cabernet.
Rusty is a partner and prominent San Francisco wine merchant at Wine
Denise Johnson runs the Napa Valley Winery Exchange in San Francisco.
Happily, she's not allergic to non-Napa Valley wines.
More wines to judge...
The infamous Ann Littlefield nose a good wine when she sniffs one.
She's aware of the logistics of judging so many wines in a few days of tasting.
Ann brings her own fork to the judging...
"T-G-I-C!" cries out Lisa Weeks.
"Thank God It's Chardonnay!"
Lisa is the public relations gal at TGIC Importers when she's not gallivanting
around the planet at wine tastings.
The radiant Valery Uhl is a wine judging maestra. She looks for
great range in the wines and verismo as she tabs the noteworthy and
eliminates the not-worthy.
Asked what wines she prefers to judge, Valery says "cosi fan tutte."
I think that means she'll taste all of them...
The Old Grey Beard, Señor Mendel Kohn enjoys his weekend of tasting various
vinos, especially the vinos tintos.
"I just have to try to not spill on my chin curtains." he explains.
Beverage Expert Sean Ludford flew in from Chicago and was shocked (clearly) to
have a flight of wines from Bali.
"March was an unusually good vintage in Bali," Ludford explains.
"But I found the wines from June were a bit more concentrated, while the
August harvest made wines which are softer and rounder than most."
Brian Baker, of Chateau Montelena, was immersed in his tasting efforts.
His palate isn't quite as purple as others, though he was certainly in the swim
"Just like in Napa at the winery, I'm flooded with wines to taste!"
Tim McDonald has Wine Spoken Here, after many years as a P-R
guy for a little winery out in Modesto.
Now things are a bit "sketchy", so-to-speak, as he's out on his own.
Tim likes both horizontal and vertical tastings.
I was sure glad I wasn't sitting next to Tim, though.
Andy and Dana were, though.
Dana will know, next year: Scotch Guard or an umbrella.
Jane Rate ranks the wines "Alto" for the good ones and
"Basso" for the poor.
She's well known in New York City...and for good reason...
Apparently, she's on a billboard in Times Square!
was so busy tasting all weekend...
...her hair turned red!
Kimberly was to see if her name was in the paper after the previous night's
Carl Grubbs serves up good wine with the grub at San Francisco's "Local
Kitchen & Wine Merchant."
Wine-tasting is strenuous work, so Carl finds a nap to be helpful, from time to
Carl found a local chair to have a snooze...That's a size 12 shoe...
Tim McGarr rates the wines vintuitively, lauding the blue-chip bottlings.
He's gifted at communicating the art and science of wine.
Some tasters employ a lot of flowery prose in describing the wines being
Here's the Zinnia of Zinfandel, Debbie Zachareas.
She's quite a masterpiece, according to her fellow panel members.
panel tasted quite a range of wines.
Ron "The Mouth" Wash...
Ron Washburn is the wine etchamakatur at Silverado Vineyards in the Napa
Patrick Comiskey writes for the LA Times, Wine & Spirits Magazine and
various other publications.
He's got a sharp palate and is an astute taster.
Our flights of tastings was coordinated by a terrifically competent and
Taster Ron Washrag poses with Peter, Kim and Steve.
PANEL M as in "marvelous."
When we finished, we opened a nice bottle of Belgian brew to refresh our pooped
A bit later in the day we had to pose for a "group"
photo of all the wine judges...
Then it was time to evaluate the "best of the best."
This is where we taste through a series of "Double Gold" medal wines
and determine the "bests" of the weekend.
Andy typical holds court, assembling his minions to sniff, sip and spit and then
vote for their favorite wines.
It's quite a lot of frickin' work, frankly.
Andy explains the protocol for this round of the tasting...
There were about another 80 wines to evaluate...
of the judges got a real kick out of tasting the Double Golds...
Yes, that's Kimberly Charles, who rides around town on a Vespa...
The Bada Bing/Bada Boom boys are on the same page when they voted...
"Early and often" according to Signor Mara.
Some, apparently, tried to phone in a vote.
That didn't work.
One judge tried to get his vote to count twice...
you can't pull a fast one on the vote tabulator, Mister Wizard.
The one and only P.J. Bourbin.
...for organizing such a great weekend.
BEST OF THE BEST
Sunday afternoon the judges are confronted
with a wide range of wines which were awarded "Double Gold"
medals. This happens when all the judges on a panel (three or
four) find a particular wine to be worthy of a gold medal.
These wines took top honors out of the 4200 entries.
BEST SPARKLING WINE:
Perrier-Jouët Champagne 2002 Fleur de Champagne
BEST WHITE WINE:
Epiphany Cellars 2007 Grenache Blanc
Camp Four Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley
BEST RED WINE:
York Mountain Winery 2005 Pinot Noir
Jack Ranch Vineyard, Edna Valley
Quady Winery "VYA" Vermouth, Sweet,
BEST DESSERT WINE:
Forrest Estate Winery 2006 Botrytised Riesling
Marlborough, New Zealand
BEST FORTIFIED WINE:
Mazuran's Vineyards 1949 Port, Royal Reserve
One Vineyard, New Zealand
HERE FOR THE COMPETITION'S OFFICIAL WEB SITE
Many thanks to Carol Seibert, Chandler Moore and Anthony Dias Blue for
inviting me to participate in this fabulous event!
Many thanks to the army of volunteers who make such an event possible and who
make the work of the judges a complete and total joy.
Many thanks to which ever panel put Wine #74 into the "Double Gold"
We needed the laugh.
Many thanks to my panel members,
Ron Washam and Patrick Comiskey for having good palates and for not asking to
have a sniff of some entry from my wine glasses.
Many thanks to Peter, Kim and Steve, our panel's coordinators for doing such a
And thanks to all the judges for having a good sense of humor in allowing me to
take photos of one and all, knowing I might make fun of them...
ON TO 2009....
TO THE FIRST PAGE OF THE 2008 Tasting.