March 20, 2017 by Anthony B. Barthel

Chronicle wine competition

The largest blind wine competition in the US – the San Francisco Chronicle event.

Lake County wines made headlines at the prestigious San Francisco Chronicle wine competitions as accolades and  awards rolled in for this picturesque and internationally-recognized wine region.

In all, Lake County wineries collected 84 awards. The very prestigious Best of Class award was earned by five wineries; the 2014 Zinfandel from Shed Horn Cellars, Brassfield Estate’s 2013 Eruption, a Rhone-style blend; Steele Wines’ 2014 Cabernet Franc from their Writer’s Block line and two of Gregory Graham’s wines – a 2013 Pinot Noir and a 2012 Syrah.

In addition to the five Best of Class honors, there were three Double Golds, 17 Golds, 42 Silvers and 17 Bronze medals.

Twenty-eight varietals of Lake County grapes picked up medals at the competition, from Aglianico to Zinfandel. Cabernet Sauvignon was the judges’ favorite red with 13 medals and Lake County Sauvignon Blancs were a big winner as well with a dozen. Chardonnay also made a solid showing at 10 medals earned.

Entries are divided into categories based first upon varietal of style, next upon price point. A team of three or more judges are then assigned to each category which is judged with blind tastings. Only varietal and price point are known to the team. Judges confer after the rounds to determine Gold, Silver, Bronze or no medal at all.

This kind of winning streak by Lake County’s wine is, by no means, unusual. Last year Lake County wineries earned four Best of Class, two Double Golds and 19 Golds at the nation’s largest competition. This year they hauled in five, three and 17, respectively — with outside wineries contributing another Best of Class, two Double Golds and two Golds from Lake County grapes.

Stephanie Cruz-Green

Sommelier Stephanie Cruz-Green

In addition to those proudly bearing Lake County labels, several wineries from outside the area using Lake County grapes also made great showings at the awards.

Lake County’s own Stephanie Cruz-Green  served as a judge in the competition the past two years and is already looking forward to next year’s competition.

Cruz-Green, a sommelier, has participated in wine events in the United States as well as in France and “I have even poured wine for the Queen of England.”

“It’s amazing how organized they are, the categories, the numbering system, the unbiased judging. There are writers, sommeliers, and grouping people so there’s a good variety.”

Wines are judged by category, and by value as well. The price a wine would sell for is considered in the judging and wines are segregated by their price.

Cruz-Green commented “You wouldn’t rate a $50 zinfandel the same as you would a $6 zinfandel. We want to keep it honorable and full of integrity.”

Surprisingly, the Chronicle wine competition is staffed completely by volunteers from the judges to the people behind the scenes. “It’s a very prestigious event,” continued Cruz-Green, “This is the largest wine competition in the nation.”

The people who make up the judging panels include everything from sommeliers to writers and people in the wine industry. The wines are judged anonymously so there’s no knowing what you’re tasting, just the type of wine and the price category.

These awards are hot off the press and a great starting place toward planning your own Lake County wine tasting adventure.  Schedule some vacation time, clear some space in your cellar and plan for a great tasting experience as you award your own medals to some favorites you’ll definitely want to stock up on. Not bad when you consider your next getaway could be an award-winning experience.

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Best of Class

2013 Brassfield Eruption

2013 Gregory Graham Pinot Noir

2012 Gregory Graham Syrah

2014 Shed Horn Zinfandel

2014 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc (Steele Wines)

2014 Oak Cliff Cellars Mourvedre

Double Gold

2013 Cache Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

2014 Obsidian Ridge Syrah

2014 Steele Pinot Noir

2015 Marilyn Sauvignon Blonde (Using Lake County grapes)

2014 Sunce Winery Barbera (Using Lake County grapes)

Gold

2014 Brassfield Petite Sirah

2014 Brassfield Pinot Gris

2013 Chacewater Petite Sirah

2014 Chacewater Zinfandel

2015 Cache Creek Rose

2014 Fore Family GSM

2012 Gregory Graham Grenache

2012 Gregory Graham Magma Red

2014 Buck Shack Cabernet Sauvignon

2014 Vigilance Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Six Sigma Tempranillo

2015 Shooting Star Riesling

2013 Steele Zinfandel

2012 Steele-Stymie Merlot

2015 Writer’s Block Roussanne

2015 Wildhurst Chardonnay

2013 Wildhurst Porch Swing

2014 Carruth Cellars Malbec (Using Lake County grapes)

2011 Park Avenue Petit Verdot (Using Lake County grapes)