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SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION 2013


Photos and Silliness By
Gerald Weisl

In June when the wind kicks up, allergy season opens and a bunch of Noses return to San Francisco like swallows to Capistrano.

It's the annual SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION and 2013 marked the 33rd edition of this hallowed event.

This year some 51 wine judges followed their noses and gathered on a weekend in San Francisco to judge approximately 4500 different wines.

And in the parlance of Wine-Speak, we critique the appearance, color, "nose" and flavor of the wines presented at the tastings.
So, basically, with respect to the wines, picking a good nose is ideal.

 


Leading the troops through the weekend is Anthony Dias Blue, Bon Vivant, columnist, critic, author and radio personality (WCBS in New York, KABC in LA) and publisher of The Tasting Panel magazine.

The Opening Ceremonies commence Friday morning as the judges  don their tasting smocks, procure their name tags and limber up for numerous flights of fancy (and sometimes not-so-fancy).


Andy gives a motivational speech, enumerating various statistics and Chandler Moore (seen standing behind our fearless leader, corrects him.

Fifty one judges were in attendance and a couple of more were there but in spirit (arriving Sunday for the Sweepstakes, Best of Show Judging, as you will see if you continue reading this) as we had 16 panels sniffing, sipping and spitting well north of 4000 wines from around the planet.

Andy then says, "Ladies & Gentlemen, Tim, Gerald and The Hosemaster, Start Your Engines!"

And with that, the panel members and their noses head on over to their tasting tables.

We look to award medals to the wines.
There are numerous bottles worthy of a Bronze Medal.
Some 'more special' wines are recognized with a Silver Medal.
Top wines are given a Gold Medal.
If all the judges award a particular wine a Gold Medal, that wine is designated as a "Double Gold Medal" winner and it may be tasted again Sunday in the Best of Show runoffs for the Sweepstakes awards.

But some bottles may have "an off day" or simply be a "bad bottle" and Goodfella Charles "The Nostril" Mara is periodically heard saying "D-N-P-I-M" in assessing a particular wine.
This translates to "Do Not Put In Mouth."

Charles is one smooth operator.

We typically have a dozen, or so, glasses before us and we make notes and assessments quietly and independently before sharing our findings with the other panel members.


I was tabbed to chair Panel "P" and had two brilliant partners...



Patrick Comiskey is a Senior Editor (I suppose he gets a cheaper train fare or movie ticket than us youngsters!) of Wine & Spirits Magazine.  He is a bit of a specialist, evaluating wines from Oregon, Washington, New York and other non-California locales.  Patrick's name has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the LA Times, Bon Appetit magazine, The Robb Report and more...


Jim Harre is a globe-trotting wine judge, hailing from New Zealand.
He and his wife Wendy run a little "bed & breakfast" called The Gates Country Lodge in Waiau, about an hour and a half north of Christchurch.
The Gates Country Lodge
Jim, who spends a fair bit of time up in the air, has studied the effects of one's sensory perception of wine in-flight.
He has found many California wines do require one to fasten one's seatbelt.
You know Jim is passionate about wine when he is willing to admit to enjoying Loire Valley Chenin Blancs and well-aged German Rieslings.


We were able to find some Gold Medal-worthy wines and even a handful of Double Golds!

Here's what we tasted on Friday and Saturday:

 


Kimberly Charles chaired Panel A...

Kimberly has been known to hang out in interesting places...
...such as museums.

We don't know if they're looking at her or if Kimberly is looking at them.

One of Kimberly's Partners in Wine was the Great Janet Dyer.

Janet is one of the few serious Thespians amongst the crowd of judges.
She's not only a star in the Bay Area wine scene, she recently starred in a stage production in The City and she's cultivating her film career, too!

 


Who Dat?
That's Mister New Orleans, Tim McNally.
Tim knows which wines are the picayune bottlings and which ones over-achieve (the lagniappe-sort of wines)...
He introduced his panel colleagues to a bit of New Orleans-Speak:
"You gonna give dat a silva' medal, or whut?"
"Where y'at on dat wine, ladies?"
I'm pretty sure I heard Kimberly say "Awrite, I's givin' dis one a gold, so dere ya go. F'sure."

With that kind of banter, I'm thinking of ersters, hush puppies and Jambalaya...
Meanwhile, a couple of judges, in between sessions, were playing cards and one had a hand of all "Jokers"!!!





Anthony Dias Blue chaired Panel B, as well as coordinating the whole show.

Speaking of shows, his radio show is popular, we're told, in a remarkably diverse range of cities...
Paducah, Kentucky...Great Falls, Montana...Traverse City, Michigan...Anchorage, Alaska...Joplin, Missouri...
CLICK HERE TO GIVE A LISTEN TO ANDY...

Panel B goes from A to Z...


Ziggy Eschliman, The Wine Gal, is another radio star.
She can be heard in Sonoma on your FM Radio at 95.9 or 96.7.
  



Lisa Weeks managed to find time to participate this year, as she's routinely busy eating & drinking and then posting photos on the internet of her bowl of breakfast cereal & glass of Metamucil or her Lobster dinner accompanied by a bottle of Le Montrachet.
Her current mantra is:

and Lisa is working in The Big Apple as an account executive for Hall Company.

 

Tim MacDonald is an M-S.

Some people believe the initials MS stand for "Master Sommelier," but Tim is actually
a Master Spitter.
We've heard some folks describe Tim as another kind of Master and it rhymes with Spitter...




Debbie Zachareas, who's been described as "Bonkers from Yonkers," is the reigning Ferry God-Mother.  Her Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants shop on the Embarcadero is a San Francisco landmark.
In her spare time, she masquerades as a Wilfred Wong Impersonator.
Debbie spends a bit of time at some of The City's famed Tattoo Parlors, apparently...




Kevin Vogt adds a note of decorum to Panel C and he IS a Master Sommelier, a title he earned last century...
...So the man knows the difference between Spit & Shinola.
Kevin is the wine director at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steak House in Las Vegas, as well as owning a brand of Napa Valley wine called Mastery.

 




Mister New York/Mister Riesling chaired Panel D...
"D" as in Dynamite!

Jim Trezise heads up the New York Wine And Grape Foundation as well as being active in the "IRF" (Homeland Security is keeping an eye on him, we're told), the International Riesling Foundation.


Mister Director even brings his own chair to the judging!



Ann Littlefield spends a lot of time judging wines at various US wine competitions, tallying more than a dozen of these events annually.  Her Mother tries to keep tabs on Ann, who is now on a first name basis with screeners at various airport security stations around the country.

Ms. Littlefield is so famous she was even mentioned on the web site of the Irondequoit Post!



Also on this august panel was Dan Berger.
He's been a syndicated columnist for decades and has a lot of Vintage Experience.
Dan coordinates the Riverside International Wine Competition as well as provoking thought with his enological insights.
We had heard someone describe Dan as a "Space Cadet" (better, we suppose, than being a Mouton Cadet) and then we found evidence of his Star Treks!



Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Michael Feil is from Jupiter!

Michael is now the General Manager of The Jupiter Island Club, a remarkable, secluded little community about 90 miles north of Miami.
The Secret(ive) Feil couldn't tell us much about his new gig, as the place is ultra private and its members prefer it that way.




Ron Siragusa is able to speak about his work and he's the Wine Director as San Francisco's Kuleto's restaurant, a place that's now regarded as a San Francisco "institution."
We had heard Ron "marches to the beat of his own drum" and, lo & behold...



Also on the panel is the Reverend Dr. Bill McNabb of the Piedmont Community Church across the Bay.
Dr. Bill preaches the Gold Medal Gospel and he made believers out of Michael and Ron!
And, Hallelujah, they found some medal-winning wines!



Apparently the organizers have a good sense of humor and so they assembled a remarkable panel of true "characters."
Chairing the panel is Rosina Tinari Wilson...

Rosina is an absolute wine & food aficionado.
Check out her cool little website...CLICK HERE...

She's an absolute gem, but she must have done something wrong to be punished by having such a rogue's gallery of panel members.


First, there's Ron Washam, noted Hosemaster of Wine™.
Ron's little wine blog, if you want to call it that, is a scream!
Ron is the Class Clown and he's a brilliant Punster, as well as being a fair and critical wine judge.
Apparently it's been a Goodyear for Mr. Washbag, as he attended the judging by flying south from Healdsburg in his very own blimp!
"When you're full of hot air, you're full of hot air." Ron explained.


Then there's the lovely Manager of Tannin, Rebecca Chapa.

Rebecca, who's a bottle shy of a full case, sentenced herself earlier in the year to a stay on Alcatraz, as she thought that would be a nice venue for wine, food and to showcase her musical talents.
Familiar with the world of wine, Rebecca is often on the Road to Know Where (she says)...
She is livin' large and won The Lottery (she says)...
Her advice to her panel colleagues: "Keep track of your drinks, And always trust your instincts."




The 4th Member of Panel F is the inimitable Jeffery K. Stivers.

Stivers-san is the wine and sake guru at a famed Los Angeles dining establishment called
n/naka
and he has a Black Belt in wine-tasting.

Jeffery is also a "mixologist" at Maxwell DeMille's Cicada Club and is that joint jumpin'!



A local crew was attempting to hang a billboard near the tasting venue.
One of the crew members, surprised by the smiling visage of Mr. Stivers, fell off the scaffolding (apparently) at a building over on Post Street.
The worker landed, happily, in a dumpster and suffered only minor bruises (to his ego).








John Cunin traded his Patina for something called CityEats, an on-line restaurant reservation system affiliated with The Food Network.
John said he had no reservations, however,  about awarding a number of gold medals to some of the wines his panel judged over the weekend.
And being a Major League Foodie, 
Mr. Cunin Knows culinary arts from Soup to Nuts.

JC chaired Panel G.


Gary Blackwell is always on the prowl for fun wines for his wine & spirits emporium out on Geary Boulevard in The City.
His shop features lots of off-the-beaten path wines, spirits and beers....

 


Debra Del Fiorentino coordinates 7 wine competition judgings for Vineyard & Winery Management and in her spare time she's a partner in Russian River Vineyards winery and their restaurant, "Corks."
She gained a measure of fame recently on a TV Game Show...

 


Greg Walter is passionate about Pinot Noir and the San Francisco Giants.
He writes The Pinot Report with a focus on West Coast Pinot Noirs.

Greg will tell you Pinot Noir hasn't jumped the shark.
Who knew Greg was so well-versed in Ichthyology?

"Of Pinot We Know" and "Go Giants"???
Hmmm...wonder who might have tagged that wall in Sonoma???


 

 




Chairing Panel H, Il Nostro Comitato, was the inimitable "Don" Charles Mara.
Charles is a famed "BS-er" (Big Spender) having had his name in the Guinness Book of World Records for paying $28,000 for a bottle of 1806 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild!
We asked Charles how the wine tasted and he said "I gave it a Silver Medal...needed another few months of bottle aging and I'da probably given it a Gold."
Meanwhile, throngs of people showed up at a local theater where Don Charles was appearing...

 

 


Tim Teichgraeber is an attorney in real life and he moonlights writing wine articles for various publications (and books)...
Timmy Skyscraper found lots to like in judging 2009 vintage Cabernets, amongst others...

 


Drake McCarthy is one of the "old timers" at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
He's a musician in his spare time and had no trouble trumpeting the virtues of his various picks for gold medal wines over the course of the SF International weekend.
For being in the wine-selling industry as long as he has, it's remarkable Drake still has hair.

Drake is "old school" and he and his musical pals recently recorded some tunes...
...on cassette!

 

 


Deborah Parker Wong hails from the Grape Belt of America and so it's no wonder she's a two-fisted wine judge!
Deborah writes for The Tasting Panel magazine and speaks fluent Pennsylvanian as well as French.
"Some of these wines should receive a Medaille D'Or and others should simply hit the door..."
She spends a lot of time with her computer, so this should not be a surprise:




Scott Clemens is an Epicurean Traveler and his travels take him around the globe.
In fact, immediately following the weekend of wine judging, Scott boarded an airplane bound for Borneo in search of the world's largest flower.




Steve Bell is a wine marketing guru and spent many years plying his trade for the Napa Valley winery of Charles Krug.
These days he's a free agent, affiliated with a wine company called Aerovin.





Mike Dunne made time for the weekend's activities between his escapades on his home turf in Sacramento and his getaway spot in Baja California.
Dunne on Wine is a popular feature in the Sacramento Bee as it makes far more sense than reading about California's latest legislative boondoogles.
He also writes a blog which you can peruse here...
Meanwhile, a State Highway Sign near San Diego:

 


Carl Grubbs is now affiliated with the charming San Francisco restaurant called Incanto.
The restaurant features delightful Italian-themed cooking with famous Chef Chris Cosentino in the kitchen.
Incanto is one of the most wine-friendly hot-spots in The City.
And news of Carl's new gig was seen on City Cabs...

 




Scott Greenberg is Washington DC's Vine Guy.  He is heard on WTOP, where he's got lots of capital ideas about wine.
Scott also has his own blog and is now affiliated with The Tasting Panel magazine.


San Francisco's Rusty Albert...
He's co-owner of a tony little shop in the Laurel Heights/Presidio Heights area of San Francisco called Wine Impressions.
Rusty is big on Pinot Renoir which he says "...can cost some Monet."
There was a famous 49ers Quarterback named Frankie Albert from 1946 until 1952...The grounds crew at Candlestick was so thrilled to know Rusty was related (he's not) and is a fan...




Famous Los Angeles funny man Robert Silverstein fastened his seatbelt, chairing Panel K with two prominent San Francisco sommeliers.
"Do you know how to tell certified sommeliers?" Bob asked...
"Don't worry, they'll tell you!"
And the telling thing was they found a few medal-worthy wines.


Being from near Hollywood, this should not be a surprising sight...





Marcus Garcia, when he's not playing the saxophone, is the wine director at Hubert Keller's stellar Fleur de Lys restaurant in San Francisco.

 


Tonya Pitts is the wine director at San Francisco's One Market restaurant.
She's a veritable YouTube star, having a video posted where she describes some of the special bottlings she's curated for the restaurant.
Tonya appreciates a wide range of wines and she likes an eclectic range of hip, modern music.
And she's famous!






Panel L featured a lady who is invited to at least a dozen of these wine judgings annually.
Yet, her wine judging is merely a moonlighting gig...she's a medical doctor in "real life" and also has a degree in viticulture.
Dr. Valery Uhl is also a Bay Area foodie as well as a globe-trotter (her bags are packed in preparation for a little get-away to Austria...and, oh by the way, she sprechens pretty damned good Deutsch, auch!).




Michael Schaefer is a Certified Wine Educator and attending his first SF International weekend this year.
He's been affiliated with the Society of Wine Educators and instrumental in working with a company producing a "Wine App" for tablets and Smart-Phones.






Bohemian Michael Hantman is the President of "Wine Phone" and a fixture at this annual event.
He's a prominent musician, too, serenading folks in Sonoma when he's not working on his telephonic adventure.



 

 


Mendel Kohn is now known as "The Rabbi" after the official event photographer
kept addressing him as "Rabbi."
Oy gevalt, he's the chairman of Panel M.


Alongside The Rabbi is "Decanter Steve Izzo."
Steve Iz the Wine Director at Waterbar along San Francisco's Embarcadero.

You know about news reports claiming to have found an image of Jesus on a piece of toast or something?
Well,  some judges claimed to have seen Steve in a glass of Champagne during the weekend.

We know he has a bubbly personality...but this was remarkable!








Dana Farner is a big hockey fan, as we understand it.
She even works for a guy named Puck!
Dana has been described as the "Indie Rock Goddess Sommelier," a title she wears well.
Her opinions were helpful to The Rabbi and DeCanter in finding wines which made The Cut.

Dana lives in La-La-Land and is seen all over town, from Beverly Hills to Hollywood and beyond!



Brian Baker, a big-wig at the famed Chateau Montelena winery in Napa's Calistoga, penciled in a number of medal-winning wines.
Some people commented that Brian "isn't the sharpest writing implement in the box," but we've found that not to be true...
He brilliantly chaired Panel N.
I can't recall if someone had said Brian was a "piece of work" or a "work of art."
Apparently the latter, though, as he and his wife Linda were seen hanging out in a local museum.

 


Ellen Landis is always looking for gems in her glass and she and her panel found some!

 


William Bloxsom Carter works for Hugh Hefner at LA's Playboy Mansion where he's the executive chef, food & beverage manager and wine guru.
He's a busy fellow, what with preparing food for The Boss and thousands of guests at the Mansion...
Ace Ventura is a Bloxsom-Carter Fan!

"Yeah, that Cat can taste wine and weed out the dogs!"


Australia's Jim McMahon is not related to the wrestling promoting McMahon family, though he grappled with the wines this weekend and pinned down some judges to pick some Double Golds.
Jim selects wines for various enterprises Down Under, including Virgin Australian airline and a couple of hotel chains.

Many judges had Jim on their "speed dial" in case they had a question regarding a wine...





 

Mister California Grapevine headed Panel O...

Nick Ponomareff has been publishing the California Grapevine for about 40 years now!
Nick's San Diego tasting group tastes about a thousand wines annually, so tasting through 250-300 on this weekend is a snap!
Nick helped engineer his panel through a broad range of wines over the weekend.



One of the greatest characters judging wines is The Mad Hungarian (or is he The Green Hungarian?), George Skorka.
George értékeli a szivárvány borok találkozunk a hétvégén, és a báj, szellemes és a kegyelem sokkal nagyra értékelik a bor megítélésében kollégákkal.

Everyone knows George is a "people person," but he's also a "Dog Person," too.

 

Also on the panel is The Great Kate Radburnd, a veritable "Legend of New Zealand Wine" (you can look it up...Kate won this honor in 2010, being recognized for award winning wines as well as her wine judging abilities).
We learned this year that Kate is an Olympic Gold Medalist in Shopping!




 

THE JUDGES DINNER AND SATURDAY FRIVOLITY
Click Here!

 

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