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mission: competition Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

The Tasting Panel Magazine Tour of Double-Gold Winning Wines
from the San Francisco International Wine Competiton

dark_bottlesThey stood proudly.  Stately, in fact.  And for good reason, because these were among the 125 top winning wines from the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition.  Directed by The Tasting Panel magazine's Chief Editor, Anthony Dias Blue, this annual competition is touted as the country's largest and most influential of its kind, and is "judged by a prestigious panel of nationally recognized wine experts."  Following the event, the Double Gold Award winners go on a multi-city tour, allowing industry professionals the opportunity to taste what was chosen as the best of the competition's more than four thousand entrants.  A portion of these top winners were showcased on fully dressed tables in a quiet and intimate dining room of Silks Restaurant in San Francisco's Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  It was here that I found myself on the afternoon of the Tour's stop in Northern California, to take part in the special occasion.

The 2008 competition, now in its 27th year, was judged in June by a panel of 45 representatives from various areas of the wine industry: retail sales, restaurant service, consultancies, media and public relations.  4,250 wines were submitted by 1,150 wineries in 21 countries — impressive in its own rite.  Among these, a total of 2,839 awards were given: bronze, silver, gold, and double gold (the highest of which were bestowed the honor of Best of Show).  The Tasting Panel magazine tour provides the top award winners the choice of presenting their wines to the trade in any or all of seven American cities later in the fall: Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, and Washington DC.

Thirty-four of the top winning wines were showcased during the San Francisco portion of the tour.  Among those, my personal favorites were primarily those that I felt demonstrated good quality-to-price ratio.  In a market where the value category is flooded with mediocrity, it's always a pleasure to discover a wine whose quality is solid on its own, but which then becomes truly stellar when taken in the context of its competitive retail price:

  • Alamos: 2007 Chardonnay (Mendoza); a stunning value, showcasing a brighter, leaner style of this varietal, lighthanded in the oak treatment, yet still expressive and nicely balanced ($10)
  • Cambiata Winery: 2007 Albariño (Monterey); an exemplary New World version of this Iberian varietal, ripe with pineapple and lime flavors, bright in acidity, and a long finish ($25)
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle: 2005 Merlot, Canoe Ridge (Horse Heaven Hills); ripe of plum and blueberry aromas that come through on the palate along with a soft mouthfeel shored up with good acidity and a lengthy finish ($26)
  • Epiphany Cellars: 2007 Grenache Blanc, Camp Our Vineyard (Santa Ynez); a sensational — and sensual — treat of white flower aromas, with pronounced flavors of apricot, white peach, and melon, and a creamy mouthfeel ending in a luxuriously long finish ($23)
  • Loredona: 2006 Pinot Grigio (Monterey); an astonishing value for what is perhaps more aptly named a Pinot Gris, given its style, redolent of fragrant white flowers and ripe yellow peaches ($12)
  • Omaka Springs Estates: 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough); fresh with aromas and flavors of lime, lemongrass, and a touch of apricot, along vibrant acidity, making this a terrific value ($15)
  • Portalupi Wine Company: 2006 Barbera (Nevada County); a lush New World version of this Italian varietal, ripe with plum flavors, medium acidity, and soft tannins ($30)
  • Schild Estate: 2006 Shiraz (Barossa Valley); unexpectedly restrained dark berry fruit with a beautiful balance, making this a decidedly food-friendly choice ($22)
  • Watermill Winery: 2005 Estate Midnight Red Wine (Walla Walla); a show-stopper with aromas of violet and plum, a soft and velvety mouthfeel, and generous dark berry fruit flavors, performing well above it's retail price ($30)



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