SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION-2010
Notes and photos posted by
Gerald Weisl, WM (wine merchant)
A sure sign Summer is around the corner is the annual San Francisco
International Wine Competition.
So it was time to dive in and taste hundreds of wines!
Tasting chairman, Anthony Dias Blue gave the wine judges a bit
of an introductory welcome to start our Friday morning.
Andy sang out in a Leoncavallo-esque fashion the names of the various members of
each wine judging panel.
And so we dove in, starting our long journey through more than 275 wines with a
couple of flights of Chardonnay.
I'm on the (apparently) notorious Panel L, as we've been told
on several occasions, "Get the L outta here!"
So, we were relegated to the basement to evaluate more than 275 wines.
Along for the ride are my tasting partners, Robert Silverstein and George Skorka.
Robert doesn't award many "gold" medals, hence the name Silverstein.
"Gold Medal, by George!" is a periodic chorus heard around our tasting
As usual, my glasses were ready and so was I...
Meanwhile, on the other side of the curtain, we heard the melodious tasting
descriptions sung by the members of Panel M (as in McMahon).
I noticed famous Australian wine guru Jim McMahon tends to swirl the wines in a
Jim is a globe-trotter, attending tastings around the world.
"Have corkscrew, will travel."
William Bloxsom-Carter is the executive chef and wine geek at the Playboy
Mansion West in Los Angeles.
Ellen Landis searches for gems in her glass...She's a part-time cardiologist,
noting that "In wine, one beholds the heart of another..."
Ellen also is an inn-keeper, owning (with her husband Ken) Landis Shores in Half
Panel M features the taste-buds and tasting buddies of Ann
Littlefield, Jim Trezise and Deborah Parker (not Wilfred's wife) Wong.
Here's a special "shout out" to Ann's mom, who routinely keeps tabs
on her daughter's exploits by searching the internet.
She also has seen Ann's picture displayed at the post office (right next to
Deborah is always examining wines (and spirits), as well as reading the tea
She's the Northern California editor for The Tasting Panel magazine.
Jim Trezise is president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and he's
the best they've ever had at the helm! Like many wine organizations (and
wineries), it's a non-profit outfit. Wines & Vines magazine has
recognized him as a "mover & shaker," the same we heard from
Rebecca Chapa who's seen Jim on the dance floor.
Jim was smiling all weekend, especially since a New York Riesling won the
"Best White Wine of the Show" award.
Mr. Trezise has a degree in psychology, so he's quite capable of working with
people in the wine industry.
Panel A featured the amazing Ron Washam,
author of the brilliant Hosemaster
of Wine blog.
He's not only a Nosemaster of Wine, he's got a
fine palate and a sharp tongue.
The San Francisco Comical newspaper had an article featuring Ron and putting him
well past a quarter of an hour with respect to his proverbial "15 minutes
HERE TO HAVE AN EYE FULL OF THAT
Ron is such a comedian, Carol Seibert
often puts him on panels which taste the "funny wines."
Here are some of Ron's top picks:
The Hosemaster's Tasting Notes: "Baby,
that's good juice."
The Hosemaster's Tasting Notes: "Parker,
who's been dead for a few years, gave this 93 points, while Heimhoff or Heimlick
enthusiastically raved about it. I'm less wild about the recently bottled
"BP Cuvee," finding the texture a bit oily and with too long of an
The Hosemaster's Tasting Notes: "I'm
giving this a glowing review and awarding it 3,500,403 points. Powerful on
the nose and shocking good on the palate, I'm absolutely radiant after drinking
Ron keeps his tasting panel "mates" (or accomplices) in stitches as
they evaluate copious quantities of wines.
Brian Baker, of Calistoga's famed Chateau Montelena, enjoyed some Hosemaster witticisms.
Brian even liked the ones which were 50% funny, too.
Steve Bell works in sales for the historic Charles Krug winery in St. Helena and
frequently chimes in with his assessment of a wine.
That's the famous tasting coordinator, Dan Oppermann, in the background.
Anchoring Panel A is Il Cielo (of Hollywood) sommelier Jeffrey Stivers, who
tells his colleagues "The sky's the limit here, boys."
Jeffrey was a tad under the weather the second day of tasting
and was nicknamed "the ill cielo."
Panel B (as in Blue) featured the
Anthony "Todo los Dias"
Despite being named "Blue," Andy's
favorite colors are "Gold, Silver and Bronze" in that order. He
also is fond of "red, white and rosé."
Andy was tasting with Michael J. Heintz,
a public relations guy for the Gallo family.
Though it was his first year at this event, Heintz was quick to catch up with
his tasting partners.
Also on Panel B (as in
"Blonde"), was Leslie "Thirsty Girl"
The bubbly Sbrocco is a big-time Champagne aficionada and she's frequently seen
on TV, be these appearances on The Today Show, The Winemakers or Check, Please!
Panel C (as in "Cabernet")
featured local San Francisco sommelier, Carl Grubbs.
Carl is the sommelier at Local Kitchen in San Francisco, where they serve good
And good vino.
Greg Walter, who's initials are G-W, as in "good wine," publishes
He's based in Sonoma and does all sorts of wine reportage and he's the
His "Shanken" tattoo started fading in the 1990s...
...it was in 1993, or so, that he decided he'd rather be a wine participant
instead of merely a spectator.
Also on the panel is
She was easily able to Zig and, just as importantly, Zag through several hundred
wines over the course of the weekend.
Ms. Eschliman can be heard on Sonoma's
95.9FM on Wednesday mornings precisely at 7:35.
The Unabomber was also on Panel C (as in
Ms. Kimberly runs Charles
Communications and she's All The Swirl when tasting wine.
Her passport has been stamped in Lebanon, Greenland, Russia (she was heading for
Spain, but someone at the travel agency added the letter "s" to
"Iberia"), Iceland (she was looking for a a frozen margarita, we're
told) as well as Japan (Kimberly wanted to go someplace where she'd be tall).
We saw Little Bits & Pieces of Kimberly's tasting notes: "Things
are Tough All Over," "Anyone Who Had a Heart" would give this a
gold medal, "Tell Me I'm Crazy" but this wine is Double Gold caliber,
"Go With It" and give it a Bronze, "You Don't Have a Heart"
or a palate if you don't think this wine is medal-worthy, etc.
Panel D (as in Debra and Del
Fiorentino) featured four wine luminaries.
Debra Del Fiorentino has all sorts of letters following her name and we're told
she's a big fan of Alphabet Soup:
Siragusa is the Wine Director at Kuleto's
in San Francisco and he was directing all sorts of traffic on Panel D.
had a full head of hair at the start of the judging, but being on a panel with
Also on this illustrious panel is the incomparable Rosina
Rosina is a major league wine guru who bridges food, wine and fun.
She was the "question" on a recent game show...Jeopardy.
Also on Panel D is the Amazing Wilfred Wong.
ON THE IMAGE...Hopefully it takes you to a clip of Wilfred's movie,
"Gone With the Wine", an Asian version of an American classic...
Or is it "The Cabernet Kid"?
Wilfred burns a lot of calories tasting wine, especially when on his elliptical
His panel members will also tell you "Yes, he's a work-out!"
Mr. Wong is the Bev-Mo "cellar master" and he's required to reside in
a town named after a grape, so he picked his favorite: Concord.
WillieBoySF is an avid photographer, too, rating wines on a scale of one
to five lens caps.
I noticed one entry was noted as "lens crap" due to the grapes
having been over exposed to the sun.
E, as in "Excellent", was comprised of three stellar judges.
Famed sommelier Gillian Equilibrium says she "really enjoys wines which
have great Ballance and vestibularity."
A Plumpjack graduate, she's currently the wine maven at Santa Rosa's Santi
restaurant. Gillian is noted for being a Pinot Noirista as well as having
an appreciation for Italian wines.
Nick Ponomareff is Mister California Grapevine.
The Pennsylvania native shares the same misfortune as another Keystone state
native (W.C. Fields)...he lost the corkscrew out of his bag and he had to
subsist on food and water for several days!
Nick's bi-monthly newsletter features the results of various blind-tastings of
With the initials N-A-P, Nick;s motto is "You snooze, you lose."
The third "Muscateer" on this panel is the inimitable Steve Pitcher.
Steve was a real "Wine Advocate," having retired as cellar master for
the Lawyer Friends of Wine.
He puts wine to words in The Wine News and, from time to time, in the San
Francisco Chronicle. Steve's the Cy Young of the San Francisco
International Wine Competition judging and he's always ready to taste, right off
Panel F you'd find the Famous John Cunin.
Thirty-five years in the wine & food business, John's résumé features
stops at famous places such as Auberge du Soleil, Masa's, the Cypress Club and
today he's at Jose Andre's "The
Bazaar" in Beverly Hills.
Scott Greenberg's panel mates described him as a "fine guy" or perhaps
they said he was "The Vine Guy." Scott writes in "almost
plain English" and in real life, when he's not writing or speaking
about wine, he's in the insurance business in Maryland.
Greenberg tasted wine to his heart's delight over the course of the weekend.
When he's not selling policies or tasting wine, Scott's "The Commish"
of a youth hockey league, which explains his puckish outlook on wine.
Kevin Vogt is a Master Sommelier as well as the owner of Mastery Wines.
He works for Chef Emeril Lagasse in Las Vegas and he's always on the run.
An avid traveler, Kevin appreciates wines with a sense of place.
First place, especially.
Panel G had a trio of old pros.
Rusty Albert's palate is anything but corroded or rusty. He's a partner in
the Wine Impressions shop in San Francisco's Laurel Village on California
Tim Teichgraeber (rhymes with "skyscraper") is a San
Francisco-based attorney who's a total
wine geek, wine writer and music fan. One of his favorite bands, The
Stooges, was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
And here I thought Iggy Pop was some sort of soft drink!
Tim's articles have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle,
Decanter magazine, Wines & Vines and Tasting Panel. Mister Skyscraper even
spent 6 years doing "pro bono" wine articles for the Minneapolis
Star Tribune (though he, apparently, didn't know it at the time).
He's not a wine snob, but does admit to being unbearably opinionated when
it comes to music.
Anchoring the Rusty Skyscraper panel was Jim Harré from New Zealand.
Jim and his wife Wendy run The Gates Country Lodge in Waiau, an hour and a half
drive from Christchurch.
Jim is a veteran wine judge and he's associated with Air New Zealand (wine
with altitude, not attitude). He's the senior judge with the Air New
Zealand Wine Awards
Jim-san also judges at the Japan International Wine Challenge, since he owns a
black belt in wine tasting.
They won't let him be on the same judging panel in Tokyo with anyone named Caray
or Carey, lest some of the non-medal winning winemakers turn suicidal.
Panel H is comprised of three notorious tasters who are really on the ball.
Drake "The Snake" McCarthy, of the Golden State Wine Company,
routinely carries a 45 caliber corkscrew in a violin case to the judging.
Michael "The Nose" Feil is undercover as the wine guy at New York's
Westchester Country Club in Rye.
The tasting coordinator/auditor for Panel H asked "Anybody giving Wine C a
The Nose responded with "Fuhgeddaboutit!" as the other two
partners in crime nodded in agreement.
Bada Bing, Bada Boom, heading up the happy famiglia that is Panel
H is the Capo:
Charles "Il Padrone" Mara.
"I dunno who made Wine D, but they oughta lose a couple a teeth.
Wine G, though...that guy's wine is getting a gold with a bullet!"
Panel I -- The Bowery Boys!
Mark Bowery takes care of the wine list at Mendocino's Albion River Inn.
His list of credits include a number of years as the sommelier at Masa's in San
Francisco and he's often had his name on the champion's list at the California
Wine Tasting Championship.
Mr. Gary Blackwell appreciates a fine wine and has a way with words in
describing those less-than-stellar entries:
FROM MISTER BLACKWELL'S LIST:
"dull, dowdy and devastatingly dreary..."
"an enological bore and a snore..."
"...tastes like layered lunacy...all crass and no class."
"This wine finishes before it starts...it's a profusion of confusion!"
"enological excess expressly exceeds, easily enchaining its effusive
Rounding out the panel is Mendel Kohn of the Oak Ridge Boys.
Mendel is also in a skiffle band where he plays the Whamola, while in a Ska band
he's noted for his proficiency with an electric harmonica.
Kohn hails from KC-MO, The City of Fountains...no wonder Mendel is a font of
Panel J brought together three people of varied backgrounds.
One is Michael Hantman, a famous Sonoma wine guy, who's "President" of
Talk about connections!
He's also the voice of "Wine Phone," a telemarketing company
Dial 1-800-CAB-ERNET ???
Also on the panel and answering the call was the Reverend Dr.
Dr. Bill is the Minister of Merlot, Mourvedre, Montepulciano and Malbec!
He writes a wine column for the Piedmont Post
Bill tastes wines with a diachronic and synchronic perspective, though his medal
ratings are "here and now." His evaluations include prima
facie impressions along with carefully considered gustatory investigation.
Once Bill's associates have had their ipsissima verba, the votes are
tabulated and medals awarded in an ontological manner.
The third member is Dr. Valery Uhl...
The intrepid Doc has been on a gallant circuit of wine judgings this past year.
She's the director of the North of The Gate wine competition, but she also
ventures south of the gate, northeast of the gate, well east of the gate and
even west of the gate.
And she'll tell you, in her best German, "Gehts gut, auch!"
Valery is a fan of floral and fruity wines.
Panel K was comprised of a trio of esteemed wine judges.
Sommelier Jane Rate is currently pulling corks in Portland at the Genoa
Genoa is a first Rate restaurant in The City of Roses (and Blanc de Noirs).
Wine Diva Janet Dyer was also on this panel...
She's been a long-time wine judge as well as representing several importers and
vintners in the San Francisco Bay Area wine market.
Sommelier Jeff Anderson is currently the wine director at the fantabulous Gary
Danko restaurant in San Francisco. He and his crew there won a
Restaurant Service Award from the James Beard Foundation this year!
He's also been affiliated with House, Martini House, Citron and A-16.
And so, once the tasting panels finished judging Friday, some of us headed for
Foley's, a nearby beer place.
and then it was on to the Judge's Dinner at the Hotel Nikko.
TO THE NEXT PAGE
This year's judging:
Nearly 3900 wines.
Nearly 1300 wineries.
Wines from 28 US States.
Wines from 27 Countries.