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San Francisco International Wine Competition 2015 Page 1

Photos and Attempts at Comedy
By
GERALD WEISL

 

I was honored to be invited to the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition judging, held, coincidentally in 2015 and in the city of San Francisco.

With a flurry of late entries, there were close to 5,000 wines to be evaluated and assessed by 16 panels of wine judges from around the planet.

The judges gather a day or two prior to the event, typically.

This year, in fact, I hosted a little dinner for some of the judges who required a passport to attend.
Click here to see that extravaganza.


Anthony Dias Blue is the Executive Director of the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the event is celebrating its 35th year in 2015.

Andy explained the protocol for judging the wines and introduced the newest judges to the old-timers.

Chandler Moore gave everyone some words of advice and wine judging protocol.

She's the Managing Director of the event and has been a pillar at the judging for all 35 of its years.

Assisting Chandler are Chloe and Nicolette.


At 9am we ambled into our tasting rooms, wearing our protective tasting jackets and embarked on an ambitious schedule of wine judging.  There were about 16 panels this year, with three or four experts at each tasting table.

Each panel would taste something like 300 wines and some judges were enlisted to whittle down the Double Gold selections for the Sweepstakes tasting on the final day.

Each panel has a list of the Wine Categories they will be judging.  We know the type of wine or grape variety and we know the vintage.  For some categories, we know the range of sugar in the wines (especially helpful when tasting Rieslings, for example).
We do not know the price of any of the wines, nor do we know if it's a wine that is bottled or entered as a "bag in box."  We do not know if the bottled wines are sealed with a cork or screw-cap.  We do not know if we are tasting wine from a prestigious region or something from Timbuktu.

We typically make some notes about each wine and award it a medal, if we feel it is worthy.  As we make our way through the wines, should we encounter what we believe to be a "corked" bottle (that is, a wine smelling musty, along the lines of a cellar full of dank, wet newspapers), we ask for another bottle to be opened in hopes of finding something of "sound" quality.
This is one reason why wineries are asked to provide multiple bottles of each entry.

For some people, the idea of this kind of "power tasting" is daunting.
But if you're an experienced taster and know what you are looking for, it's actually possible to taste though many flights of wines over the course of the day and do a good job with your assessments.



This year I was on a three member panel, chaired by Dr. Valery Uhl.

Valery moonlights as a wine judge, gallivanting around the world to taste wine.
In addition to being the director of The North of The Gate Wine Competition, she's been invited to judge at competitions in America's Midwest and Asia, as well as numerous judgings in California.
Valery, in real life, is a Radiation Oncologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her X-Ray Vision and ability to harness not only Megavoltage, but judges such as myself and Dan Berger.
Being the proud Mom of an Eagle Scout, she knows how to Be Prepared.

Plus, Valery is famous!




Tasting with the legendary Eno-Scribe Dan Berger is truly a Vintage Experience.
And a good Vintage it was, for that matter!

Dan has logged many years of experience in the world of wine and has terrific stories to tell.  
He shared some with us and then some more...but we enjoyed listening to Dan.

CLICK HERE FOR DAN'S WEB SITE

The Berger-Meister is a widely syndicated columnist and you can find his articles in the Napa Register or the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.


I'm surprised they're not lined up out the door for this!
The film is about as long as a double feature and there's free Buttery Chardonnay
to go with a bucket of Popcorn!

 

 


I recently had a nose job (can you tell?) and my Hair Club For Men subscription expired, so I was wearing the cap issued to members of the Schloss Vollrads Softball Team.
I would have been on their Soccer team, but when the manager asked how I was feeling, I responded with "Well, I can't kick."  So he put me on their softball squad, instead.



Jim Trezise can always be found in a "New York State of Wine."
But, actually, he was the recipient of the New York Wine & Culinary Center's 2014 Chairman's Award at their NEW YORK STATE OF MIND Dinner this past year.

He's the Executive Director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and a major advocate for Riesling.

Trezise also is the director of the International Riesling Foundation.

Jim is one of the most famous people to ever reside in Penn Yan, New York where you'll see signs like this one:




Dr. Rowald Hepp is the Managing Director and winemaker at Germany's famous Rheingau estate, Schloss Vollrads.
It's a reasonably new business, started about 800 years ago, well before Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue and more than 150 years before the start of the Ming Dynasty.  Schloss Vollrads might have been vinifying Riesling long before Chaucer penned his Canterbury Tales and nearly 300 years before da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.  Had she tasted a good bottle of Kabinett Riesling from Vollrads, there would be no question about her smiling.


Another member of the A Team is New Zealand's Jim Harré.

Jim is a famous globe-trotting wine judge.  He tastes at competitions in the UK and Asia, along with the San Francisco judging and Air New Zealand's Wine Awards, amongst others.
Jim became a Fried Chicken Aficionado (we took him to The Front Porch for Champagne & Fried Chicken) during this year's San Francisco visit and he enjoyed watching the Golden State Warriors basketball team on their way to an NBA Championship.
"Too bad we leave before the parade in Oakland." Jim told a group of Bay Area sports reporters.
"We'd have liked to hang out with Steph Curry and the boys, but we're heading back before the Festus-ivities.  Crikey dick!  I still can't believe they won it all!"

Being such a sports fan, Jim and his lovely wife Wendy stopped on the East Coast to take in a Mets' game.

 


Anthony Dias Blue chaired Panel B (B as in Blue).

Andy fired up his calculator one night and a week later finished tallying the results.  It seems his various efforts in touting food and wine on WCBS in New York, KNX radio in Los Angeles and his various print and internet articles (The Tasting Panel magazine, The Somm Journal, etc.) reach something like 30-Million people each month!
Last year Mr. Blue received an Anthony Dias Blue Bobblehead doll (said to be priceless, as they broke the mold after making the first one), a high honor indeed.



Ask any of the judges at this year's event and they'll all tell you "It's a Scream!"


Yes...Indeed!




Heidi Peterson Barrett is a famous "consulting winemaker," as well as making her own wine called La Sirena.
It seems everything she touches turns to gold in some form or another.

Her husband's family owns Chateau Montelena and the couple embarked on a collaborative project called Barrett & Barrett, producing Napa Cabernet.


Napa Valley Gothic.

When she's not in the vineyard or cellar, she might be found flying over local vineyards, out at the Pacific Ocean, scuba diving, or possibly motoring around in a 4-Wheel-Drive...




Eduardo A. Dingler is the wine guru and Iron Palate for Chef Masaharu Morimoto's (an Iron Chef) restaurant empire.  Señor Dingler-San (he was born in Mexico and travels back home to visit Morimoto Mexico City) is new to the SF International Wine Competition this year. 
We understand Andy had a favorite wine in a flight and was cajoling the panel to consider giving it a Double Gold.
"For Pete's Sake, let's get this to the Sweepstakes tasting!"
Eddy D politely corrected Mr. Blue, saying "Andy, at Morimoto's, we say it's for Pete's Sah-kay.  And we prefer Junmai Daiginjō-shu quality."

As noted above, he travels a lot...

...even wrote his name in the dust on the moon!





 
Sean Ludford is Mister BevX, a jack-of-all-trades in the world of Beer, Wines and Spirits.
He hails from Chicago and is the foremost expert, among these SF International Experts, on the wines of Bali.
He can speak for a good five minutes about grapes such as Alphonse-Lavallée, Belgia and Probolinggo Biru (which he'll tell you is also known as Chasselasloulou or Skip to My Lou).

We suspect this did not get entered in this year's judging.


Mr. Ludford is clearly a celebrity in Chi-Town!

 


Michael Feil, who's in the US Witness Protection Program evidently, led Panel C through its 300 wine marathon.  Michael, after stints at the Westchester Country Club in New York and Lake Merced in San Francisco, has been sequestered in Florida on Jupiter Island.  They, apparently, allow him to travel a couple of times annually and he seems to make a trip to San Francisco to hang out with fellow wine geeks (such as Ziggy E, Dana F and Tim M).
With so much experience on the links, Michael is the only judge at this event capable of "sabering" a magnum of Champagne with a Nine Iron!

Michael says if that doesn't work, he'll simply have to open the bottle of Cristal "the old fashioned way."
See below.

 

 


Ryan "Red" McHendry is new to the San Francisco International Wine Competition this year.  He's a member of the Kroger National Wine Team (we think he's their point guard, but he might be a shortstop, too).
He's from Louisville, so his nickname on this panel was "Slugger."

"Some of the wines have a lot of wood on them, but I think I prefer the ones that really hit it out of the park, if you know what I mean." said The Slugger.

Ryan said he found the Sweepstakes tasting at this event to be sort of a "Kentucky Derby of Wine," though sometimes with less sense of which way to go.
"At least there were a few thoroughbreds in the Sunday tasting..." he said.

 

Also on this panel was The Great Kate.

Kate Radburnd is the winemaker and manager of the Pask Winery in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay as well as being a big-wig with the Wine Institute of New Zealand.
She is said to have a chair at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, New Zealand's longest running wine competition.  One of the judges claimed the chair was a throne, but we're fairly certain it's more like these:


Bill Ward writes for the Star-Tribune in Minnesota, as well as his Decant This web site.

Bill spent many years as a sports writer and now he writes about the hits & misses of the wine world.
He's got a cool web site and it's written in plain English.

He is definitely an "old timer."



Bob Silverstein led the congregation of Panel D this year.
As you can see in the photo, Bob has eclectic tastes and likes Red, Whites, Golds, Silvers, etc.
Signor Roccia d'Argento makes an annual pilgrimage to Italy and the Pope, we're told, comes to visit Bob and his friends (as long as Silverstein provides a few bottles of Pontiff-Worthy Wines).
Bob's panel pontificated about this year's wines and sent a few bottles to the Sweepstakes tasting (held on Sunday, naturally).

He's often heard, during panel deliberations, "Hey, you're preaching to the choir!"

 


Steve Izzo is the beverage director at San Francisco's famed Waterbar restaurant along the Embarcadero.

If you like seafood, Steve's restaurant is wunderbar, too.

Steve set sail from his hometown in Connecticut a couple of decades ago and his boat came ashore in San Francisco (or so the legend goes).   He's a big fan of Rosé wines, as well as Champagne...(of course!  Waterbar is a great place for Oysters!).

Steve shared his pearls of wisdom with his panel mates in judging this year's wines which made his colleagues happy as a clam.

 


Mike Tadich rounds out Panel D.
He's an Italian Wine Guru based in Las Vegas, working for Wirtz Beverage Group.

He was asked to "find the gold," so naturally he obliged and picked up the glass you see in the photo.
Solid Gold.

Tadich grilled his colleagues about which wines they preferred in each flight.
He is the only judge who's a master at the card game known as Tablić (Vegas casinos will not allow him to play!).
Tadich owns the largest collection of Lepa Brena albums of any of the SF International judges.
Andy Blue owns the second largest, while Judge Ron Washam has her as a Facebook friend (along with Alice Feiring).


As All Panel D Members are Follicly-Challenged,
The Following Message is Presented as a 
Public Service

 



 

 

 

 

That video was made (and posted) prior to anyone running either for cover or elected political office.
It is not intended as a political endorsement or statement, but merely as additional humor.
If you do not find it amusing, please click here and we will transport you to a more sensible web page.


"Don" Charles Mara chaired (if you call a bicycle seat a 'chair') Panel E.
This snapshot was taken during a "test flight" of wines, as Andy and Tim wanted to be sure judges could differentiate between a red wine and a white.

The Mara-thon Man heads The Mara Wine Group and Charles is well known on both the L'East Coast and The Best Coast.
Dmitry Medvedev, current Prime Minister and head Sommelier in Russia (he's known as the Dim Somm there)  asked US President Barack Obama about possibly purchasing some Mara wines for service in the Kremlin.



Obama said "nyet, we don't have enough for this country.  By the way, do you know your last name is a nightmare for dyslexics?"
"Crimeans, too." said Medvedev.


Drake McCarthy is the director of sales (both of them) at the Golden State Wine Company.
Drake has many years of experience in the wine business.
Diamond Wine Merchants, Villa Italia, Europvin and now Golden State.
"This cat has nine lives," explained Tim McDonald (another Mc) "and he's on number 4 presently."
"That's not counting his work as an Eno-Fashion model, though."

 


Andy Perdue is "Curly" to the Moe and Larry on this wine tasting triumvirate.
Andy writes for the The Seattle Times and Great Northwest Wine.
He's the only Judge to have had his living room carpeted with Astroturf.

Mr. Perdue is also one of the few to have been enshrined in the Double (Gold) Bubble Wine Taster Trading Cards, Series One.

He's so famous, there's even a University named after him, though they misspelled his name.


One judge reminded me there's even a chicken named after this guy...



 


Nick Ponomareff is the other judge who's in the Witness Protection Program.  Nick is the Coxswain of Panel F (he's had rowing experience, being coached by the legendary Stork Sanford!), so he's able to navigate some choppy waters with the capable scullers such as Mr. Whitley and Mr. Franz.
The Cornell team for which Nick rowed is still called the "Big Red," which explains, to some degree, his taste in wine!


Nick has a long history of writing about wines and his CALIFORNIA GRAPEVINE publication has been around for decades.

 


Robert Whitley is well known in the wine tasting circuit.  He organizes four of his own wine judging events, including the San Diego International Wine Competition, The Critics Challenge, the Winemaker Challenge and the Sommelier Challenge He is on tasting panels on every planet where they make wine and Mr. Whitley is well known to airport security personnel, as he's frequently flying hither and yon in hopes of finding yet another Double Gold.

And the difference between God and Gold is the letter "L."




Michael Franz is an editor and managing partner with Mr. Whitley on the web site called "
Wine Review Online.
After a long stint as the wine writer for The Washington Post, Franz and Whitley launched their wine critics web site which has some terrific and thoughtful articles.
He claims he's
The Guy With The World's Best Job and given the broad spectrum of wines he writes about, the man may be correct!
He dresses in black for wine judgings, eschewing the white lab coat as then nobody can tell he's spilled.

Apparently he's well-versed in wine & doughnut pairings, as well as which wines go best with Ice Cream.

Wilfred Wong was The Chairman of Panel G.

Some judges will tell you Wilfred has a Checkered Past, 
Others contend it's more of a Chinese Checkered Past.

Wilfred had to bail out of Friday's judging, as his Darling Wife Alice (that's what it says on her driver's license, we've been told) had some sort of medical issue in connection with her busted arm.
Standing in (well, sitting in really) for Willie was Wendy Stanford, a colleague of SF Willie's at wine.com.
The good news is that Alice is doing well and is able to match Wilfred one-for-one on their San Francisco Cappuccino outings.

Wilfred did sit in for Wendy on Saturday, though.

Judges on Wilfred's panel, not surprisingly, voted to have Wendy sit in for Wilfred in the future and they even collected $4.32 for a Cappuccino to keep him busy.
One judge brought an old Polaroid "Swinger" Camera for Wilfred to use while he's scoping out yet another place where he can purchase a coffee in San Francisco for less than five bucks.

Here's a photo one of them took with "The Swinger" (the camera, not Wilfred):

Another of this Rogue's Gallery-of-a-Panel is Jeffery Stivers.

Being on Wilfred's Panel means Never Saying No To Fortune Cookies.
You can see a few of them cracked open to the right of Jeffery Stivers.


Jeffery is the Wine Guru at GARDNER JUNCTION, a new joint in West Hollywood.


Mr. Stivers recently traded his Cicada suit for a railroad Conductor's outfit as this new restaurant has a sort of railroad theme.
We wondered what sorts of wines Jeffery will feature...maybe this?




As for fortune telling, though...Andy consulted a Soothsayer and asked "Which of the judges is most likely to topple over an entire flight of wine glasses?"

 


Kevin Vogt is the Sommelier at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse.
That means he takes the gambling out of ordering a bottle of wine at this Las Vegas dining hot-spot.

Kevin also is responsible for a micro-production of a Napa Cabernet called Mastery.
Only a few barrels of this wine are produced each vintage, so it's more of a Mystery to most wine drinkers.

Kevin had been held hostage (in a manner of speaking) in Spain's Costa Brava a few weeks before this year's wine judging.  He's always "on the go," traveling to far off wine lands or taking a safari in Africa and shooting all sorts of wild-life (with his camera).
We found a ticket of his on the floor under the tasting table during the judging...

As part of his 'ransom' payment to be able to come back home, Señor Kevino was required to sit on a panel with Mr. Wong and Mr. Stivers, apparently.
He and his boss, Emeril Lagasse finally decided their own plane was a good option.


After completing our flights at the judging, we went out for a beer.
I asked the bartender (would he be a beerista?) if he had a suggestion for an offbeat brew.
"Yeah, try this one.  Sin City's Ale With a Tale.  It has a nice head every time I pour it."

Oh my Gawd!

 

 


Ziggy Eschliman managed Panel H...She's known as Ziggy The Wine Gal, by the way.


Ziggy is heard over the airwaves in North Coast Wine Country here in California or around the planet (and maybe beyond) on the world wine wide web:


Many people have a "Krush" on Ziggy...she routinely puts a few drops of Pinot Noir behind each ear and some Malvasia on her wrists, which may explain the entourage following her around at this year's competition.
She also carries a Badge:



Michael Cervin, famous writer, speaker and bon vivant was one of Ziggy's Wine Pals for the judging this year.
Mister Santa Barbara authors several interesting blogs and has written articles for a number of publications (Decanter, Forbes Travel Guides, Santa Barbara News-Press and on and on and on).
He's a water expert, too.  CLICK HERE FOR HIS WATER LOG BLOG

And he's got a cool site featuring places the average bear might not ever visit...
CLICK HERE FOR THAT

Michael has interviewed comedians Dan Aykroyd, the late Jonathan Winters and Gina Gallo.  He's had Q&A's with entertainers such as Dave Koz, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Mondavi, Sr.  And he's interrogated sports figures such as Mario Andretti, Greg Norman and Georges DuBoeuf.
And we're told he doesn't "soft soap" these celebrities.




Christopher Sawyer is a wine country Sommelier who's a regular on the wine judging circuit.

In addition, he writes his own blog,
THE SOMMELIER FILES.

Chris is also a movie buff and is not only able to pair wine & food, he's able to pair cinema and wine!

In an article with The Hollywood Reporter, Sawyer paired (for example):

THE MOVIE THE WINE

Yeah, I'm just as perplexed as you are right about now.

****

Meanwhile, Chris recently had a medical check-up...

"It's called Psomm-Riasis and there is no known cure," one doc told the other.

 

 

 



Mark "Baby Face" Bowery is one of the gray-beards of the SF International Wine Competition (if he had facial hair, anyway).
He worked at the Sonoma winery of SIMI back when Zelma Long was in charge...

 ...and Andre Tchelistcheff was a consultant.

 He even played tour guide for Leon Adams, as they drove around Oregon wine country when it was in its infancy...

...and nobody knew what Pinot Gris was.
He wears a number of hats (none of them being Tim McDonald's fedora) and handles the wine program at Mendocino's famed Albion River Inn.

And his photo is nicely framed on the wall of one of the rooms up there in Little Red Riding Hood country.





Tonya Pitts is the Sommelier and wine director at San Francisco's One Market Restaurant.
She's a big fan of California wines, but also features some eclectic imports on her list.
She's been a closet Riesling fan, but says "We don't call it a Closet, per se.  We call it a Kabinett."
An Artist in her spare time, she has a fine palette to go along with her fine wine-tasting palate.


Tonya is a Most Capable Wine Judge!

She's got a big fan club, too.  The members carry around photos of Tonya.




Phil Markert is now working for the Southern California conglomerate that operates grocery stores such as Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions (or as he calls them, "Markert's Markets").
During the tasting someone yelled out "Wine spill on Aisle 6!  Repeat: Wine Spill on Aisle 6" and Phil was the first to jump out of his chair to see about helping with the clean-up.
For the wines Phil tasted, the glasses were brought not on the rolling cart like the rest of the stemware, but his came in a shopping basket.
"12 glasses or less."
His votes for the wines were not tabulated on a standard tasting tabulation sheet, but scanned by a Barcode Reader.


Phil is responsible for truckloads of wine, too.


Jerry Cooper is The Man at Swirl on Castro, a small San Francisco wine & spirits boutique with a tasting bar and he's The "J" of Panel J.

Mr. Cooper is, of course, a swirling expert:
"I swirl Northern Hemisphere wines in a clockwise motion in the glass, with Southern Hemisphere wines show best swirled counter-clockwise."
Actor/Comedian Steve Carrell played the role of Jerry Cooper in the Hollywood movie
"Gone With The Wine."

When asked if he preferred white or red, Cooper responded with:
"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"


Hanging with Mister Cooper was Tim Teichgraeber who, in real life, works as a lawyer in the world of Entertainment Industry.
He moonlights writing about wine (and spirits), with his articles being found in a range of industry and consumer publications.
Tim likes his wines to be "loud" and his music to be "at cool cellar temperature."
Mister T has written articles on really exciting topics such as Concrete Fermenters and Convection Toasting or Farmer's Market Wine Sales and Finding Water with a Divining Rod.

No wonder Timmy Skyscraper is also called "Mister Excitement."

A snapshot of Tim getting ready for another "blind-tasting."




Joe Roberts...1 Wine Dude.
Keeps His Reviews & Ratings Short & Sweet, as he's totally a man of few words.
140 Characters or Less.
Eno-Twitter.
He's also a Bass Player when he's not tasting wines...





 

 

 

 

 


The famous (infamous, too) HoseMaster of Wine™,
RON WASHAM

Ron is a funny guy, so he can immediately determine when he's tasting a funny wine.
The HoseMaster knows not all wine is bottled poetry.
"Some of these are a bit like dactylic hexameter.  Others are more reminiscent of iambic pentameter.
And then there are the Silvers, Golds and Double Golds."

Yes, the Poem-Master of Wine!
And his acerbic wit often barbs some people who are not at all thrilled to have been skewered by The HoseMaster.
At a recent Gun & Dolls Show at The Cow Palace, we saw these bullets being heavily discounted:

We never discount The HoseMaster, though!

 


Australia's Jim McMahon is no stranger to airport security, as his passport shows he's been judging wines in Switzerland, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Tokyo, London and San Francisco.

"Some of these wines are not my bowl of rice," said McMahon, "while others are a corker!  You know, a dinky di."

"Our job here is that of a fossicker.  We're searching for gold!"

"It's London to a brick that Wine H is getting a gold from me, while Wine L stands out like a shag on a rock.  I'm thinking Wine C isn't worth a zack, though."

Yes, sometimes speaking with Jim is a bit like conversing with Wilfred.
In both instances you might need a translator.

He's a bit old fashioned and was handing out these over the weekend.

Some of the younger judges had never seen a cassette tape!
It had a recording of Jim reading his Shakespearian-styled wine tasting notes.

All that glitters is not gold!



Kimberly Noelle Charles added a bit of decorum to Panel K.
"I had to be on 'K', since I couldn't be on the next Panel.  Noelle, you see. K?"

She's a Great Communicator...owns Charles Communications in San Francisco.

Kimberly routinely dresses for success.
And she's a big fan of the local baseball team, The Orange & Black, San Francisco Giants (Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence have her phone number on their 'speed dial'), as well as being fond of Pierre Peters Champagnes and several domaines' Bonnes Mares.

She's also a fan of Orange Wines.
"I especially like to use one in particular to rinse the Champipple out of my hair in the morning."


Kimberly was singing "back-up" to a famous local singer who was performing that weekend...

 


The Great Mendel Kohn was able to break away from touring with 
ZZ Top to judge wines and Captain Panel L.


Mendel and his Tres Hombres Panel (William B-Good and Leslie B-Great) mined a number of Double Golds.

The SF International photographer routinely calls Mendel "The Rabbi," but Kohn is not one to toot his own Shofar.  "Actually, being in the wine business, maybe I'm more comfortable being De-Cantor."


Mendel is a wine sales "free agent," representing a couple of interesting portfolios:
Vinifera Wine Marketing

and Northwest Wines Ltd.

 




Leslie Sbrocco is the host of a popular TV program here in San Francisco.

She won a James Beard Award and so she opted to be on a panel with the "best beard of the SF International Wine Competition," Mendel Kohn.

Leslie is the author of a couple of wine books, including Wine for Women: A Guide to Buying, Pairing and Sharing Wine.
Ms. Sbrocket is writing her third book (and screenplay): Adventures of a Thirsty Girl.



Leslie is a bit old-fashioned and still has not invested in a fax machine, DVD Player or a color TV.

 




William Bloxsom-Carter is a new man this year at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
He left his chef's toque at LA's Playboy Mansion where he ran the kitchen and moved to Paso Robles where he and his lovely wife run a charming bed & breakfast inn.

Blox-Cart is a regular on the wine judging circuit.
And he's got his own Candy Bar.

We heard he recently gave a ride to some guests who were staying at The Canyon Villa.
William picked up the clients at Niner Wine Estates (Niner won a bunch of medals last year and their Cabernet was "Best of Show Red Wine) to drive them back to the B&B.
Eyeing a bottle bag, Blox-Cart asked one of them "What's that?"
The lady replied "It's a bottle of Cabernet.  I got it for my husband."
"Good trade." said William.

*****

As mentioned, he was the Executive Chef at LA's Playboy Mansion...so it's not a surprise he'd been a sort of centerfold!




"M" as in McDonald.
Tim is the Director of Judging at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and is a Reputation Engineer at  a little PR firm in Napa called "Wine Spoken Here."

Tim is often seen wearing a particular hat, which is why his wife Lisa told us she thinks he's Fedorable.

He was once found skinny-dipping in a temperature-controlled tank at a Napa winery after an outdoor harvest-season barbecue, wearing nothing but his Old McDonald Fedora.
"That's why they call it a submerged cap fermentation.  Besides, this vintage the wine needs a bit more body." said Mister Tim, clearly Speaking Wine.

By the way, we hacked into Tim's office computer and found a curious "error" message on the screen:


Tim is always in search of good palates for the judging, but it seems he found one person with a good palette.

 

 



Virginie Boone was Tim's right-hand palate at the judging.
She enthusiastically writes for The Wine Enthusiast as well as the Santa Rosa Press Democrat .

Virginie is an expert concerning the wines of French Guyana and Suriname, but, more importantly about the wines of California's North Coast.  She's a fan of Pinot Noir and also enjoys pairing a Cabernet Sauvignon with a steak.

I think it was Jeffery Stivers who saw her name tag and said "Oh yeah...I used to drink your wine when I was in college.  Strawberry Hill was my favorite.  You didn't happen to bring a bottle for the Judge's Dinner, did you?"


At a recent Press Conference to tout the new Exterminator Movie, former California Governator Arnold Schwazenegger was asked if he had a favorite wine guru.

"Milk is for babies," he's been quoted as saying.  "Vhen you grow up you haff to drink wine.  Cahlifornia wine.  Austrian wine, like a good Blaufrankie or Groovy Veltliner.  Or maybe a Napa Valley Cahbernet.  Maybe a Peanut Nore.  Whatever Virginie Booooone says is good.  She knows."




Kristina Spencer is the Wine Guru for the Cost Plus World Market chain of stores.

She's a fashionista and, as a result, is a big fan of the TV show "Project Runway" and, especially designer Peach Carr.
When Tim McDonald heard the name Peach Carr, he told Kristina "Well, I drive a Prius."
Kristina then mentioned she once rented a Volkswagen Passat and Tim replied "Oh, I do enjoy a good Passito from time to time."

Meanwhile, she's found buying wine for Cost Plus to be a bit like solving a Rubik's Cube puzzle...




The Great Dame, Sir Frederick Dame.

Fred is affiliated with Southern Wines & Spirits.
We're not sure if he works for them or they work for him.

He's credited, though, with consuming numerous bottles of Clicquot's top Champagne, so they actually changed the name from The Great Dame to this:


The had a Fred Dame Roast and he came out "Rare," which isn't surprising since they broke the mold when they made Fred Dame.

A little known factoid about The Great Dame is that he appeared in the Hollywood holiday movie Elf.

He appeared in a snow globe in that film.

 


Bob Paulinski is a Master of Wine and works for the large retail chain of stores called BevMo.
He's their Senior VP of their wine division.

It was great watching Bob arm wrestle Fred Dame over which wines should receive a Silver or Gold Medal.  He wasn't just whistling Dixie when lobbying for various medal awards, as Mr. Paulinski used to work for Bi-Lo Holdings, owners of Winn-Dixie stores.  He got his start in a little shop called The Blue Goat in Traverse City, Michigan.

Bo-Paul enjoyed judging at this year's San Francisco International Wine Competition and routinely offered his two-cents' worth about various wines.
Sometimes he'd offer his Five-Cents' worth since, after all, he's affiliated with BevMo.

He's got a good P-R Agent and you never know when you'll run into an article about Bob...





Former Sommelier Dana Farner is an expert in "racking" and these days she's hung up her Somm's Tastevin  and is working as a "Senior Wine Advisor" (she looks young, though, doesn't she?) for a company called Soutirage.

Not surprisingly, Dana was dubbed "the Indie Rock Goddess Sommelier" by a Southern California restaurant critic while she was working at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant called "Cut."

La Grande Dame (Ms. Farner) had Bo-Paul and the other Dame on Panel O following her around all weekend, so they were her "Entourage."

They were all being followed by a crew from the TV News show, 60 Minutes.


Dana, by the way, taught Paul Simon how to taste wine.

Clearly this snapshot was not made on Kodachrome.
"Yes, I've known Paul for a long time.  And you know, he's still crazy after all these years!"
Dana says her favorite Paul Simon tune is "Ernest & Julio, Down By The School Yard."
She still has the original 45 RPM record!




"Come on! I'll pay you a buck to taste this wine!" said Panel P chairman Brian Baker.

Brian is the VP of Sales & Marketing at Napa's famed Chateau Montelena winery.

Brian has worked in the wine industry for many years, but prior to that he was in the travel business, so he's quite skilled at telling people where they can go.

In addition, he's quite The Rock Star.  As we noticed by watching MTV that weekend.

 




The always delightful George Skorka, is one of the fixtures in the Los Angeles wine scene.

George, also known as The Mad Hungarian (or is he The Green Hungarian?)...

...has many years of experience in selling and serving wines.
He is passionate about wine and loves discovering something new and exciting; a wine he'd be interested in sharing with friends and family.

Some people think George is a bit of a Buda-Pest, but we know him as a wine-savvy Eno-Savant.

George, by the way, made the cover of a recent copy of ELLE.

He thought he was posing for L-A Magazine.




Adding further decorum to Panel O is NOLA's Tim McNally.
Tim is "Mister Wine" in the Crescent City and is one busy fellow!
In addition to writing for New Orleans Magazine, Tim is heard of Louisiana radio:


Tim has a simple rule when it comes to wine:
Drink what you like, when you like.

That and:
Only drink wine on days ending with the letter Y.

Tim is frequently seen hanging around museums in the New Orleans area.




After a long day of evaluating wines, the panels adjourn for the day in the late afternoon.

Some go have a beer at Foley's next door to the Nikko, while others mosey on over to Bartlett Hall across the street.

At the appointed hour, the Judges and the organizers of this marvelous wine-weekend gather for dinner at The Nikko.

There's typically some bubbly and hors d'oeuvres.

Everyone grabs a glass of sparkling wine and there's an informal half hour, or so, where people mingle, sip and scarf down some nibbles.

Valery (The Doc of the Bay)  and Drake
 

Two-Maras and Michael
 
 
A Wine Dudette and Some Wine Dude


Kate, Jim, Rowald and Valery

 


The Dapper Dingler

 


Mendel and Mark

 


Kevin, Heidi and Sean


Jokers Wild!
Tim and Ron

 


Simon and Garfunkel

 


Linda Baker and Phil Markert

 

 


People with the Letter "Y" in their Name:  Tonya and Ryan

 


Tim, Mrs. Richard Batchelor and The Batchelor (Winemaker at Washington State's Maryhill Winery).


Roy Rogers and Dale Evans



John, Paul, George & Ringo

 


Mikey, Roy, Boy George and Jon (Culture Club)


Signor Michele Tadich


"When you find a fork in the road, pick it up!" said Jeffery Stivers.


Laurel and Hardy

 



Gladys Knight and The Pips

 


Andy and Chandler


The San Francisco International Wine Competition "Brain Trust."


Chandler and Dottie


Chandler and George


Wendy & Jim


Jim & Gerald

 


The Brothers:  Johann Sebastian Schambach and Ludwig van Schamthoven.


Rocky & Bullwinkle


Rowald, Kellee and Kristina


One Market Meets One Somm


The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 


Joe Roberts and Kevin Vogt

 

 


Chanterelle Strudel
 

Andy then introduced winemaker Richard Batchelor of Washington State's  Maryhill Winery, as Maryhill wines were featured as accompaniments to the menu.
 
 

Maryhill Pinot Gris
 
We opened a "jug" of Drautz-Able 1999 Spatlese Riesling Trocken...

This was a cool bottle to share with the crowd.

The Maryhill winery had a really nice Mourvedre.
 

Heirloom Tomato Tartare
 
Brian Baker (Mister Chateau Montelena) has smuggled in a nicely aged bottle of Chardonnay.

2007!
 
It was showing well, too!
 

Penn & Teller
 

Leslie Sprockets, Good Time Charlie and The Fantastic Valery Uhl
 

Washbag and Doctor Valery
 


Delicious Austrian Red!
Blaufränkisch, Merlot, Zweigelt and  a small drop of Cabernet Sauvignon


Spain's 2012 Aalto, a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, was also quite good.

 
 

Kate Radburnd brought over a nice bottle of Bellingham Wines "Bush Vine" Pinotage.
2013 Vintage.
Nicely intense...good fruit on the nose with a faintly earthy tone and a touch of wood.


You can tell it's getting late when the Tokaji Aszú is making the rounds (Courtesy of Kimberly Charles).


Kimberly:  "Tim, some
Tokaji Aszú?"

Tim (grabbing some Kleenex): "Gesundheit!"




The Dynamic Duo:  Chloe and Nicolette
 


And with that, it was time to recharge the batteries!


 

 

 

 



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