I recently had the pleasure of judging the San Diego International Wine Competition. In three tasting sessions over two days, nearly 150 wines passed through my palate (lots of spitting, of course) including Barbera, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier and white blends. I judged alongside Gary Eberle, the father of Paso Robles and owner of Eberle Winery, and Ed Moore, owner of Southern California's The 3rd Corner Wine Bar and Bistro. Gary's wine are beautiful -- consistent, balanced, and focused. I haven't yet been to one of Ed's three locations, but from speaking with other judges, I know I'd like his concept; he's one of the foremost wine experts in Southern California.
Judges are brought into panels to express their individual opinions about each of the wines we taste. We are tasked with finding the good in each wine, evaluating its overall structure, varietal characteristics (or lack there of) and making a decision as to its merit. We also need to be on the look out for flawed wines. And do all of this relatively quickly -- you'll see that my notes are more short-hand than full wine review.
So there is always lively discussion among panels. For the most part, the three of us were in sync; thankfully, when we weren't, the conversation remained respectful.
Below is a list of wines and tasting notes that appealed to me. These may or may not coincide with Gold medal winning wines.
Eberle 2011 Viognier, Mill Road Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA $20
Pretty tropical fruit with abundant peach; floral; very nice balance (Gold)
Frank Family 2011 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California $35
Lemon-lime, fresh cut grass; good acid balance with tropical note at mid-palate; full finish.
Gary Farrell 2010 Chardonnay, Russian River, $35
Lemon-lime, oregano, crusty baguette; pretty oaky with a lasting finish; good for this style of Chardonnay.
Stinson 2011 Chardonnay, Monticello, Virginia, $19
Lemon, green apple; good mouthfeel with little lime note on finish; refreshing.
Wildhurst 2011 Chardonnay Reserve , Lake County, CA, $16
Barrel spice, red apple; good weight and acid balance.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2011 Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, CA, $18
Butter, lemon lime basil and a little tropical fruit. Very pleasant.
Brazin 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, CA $20
Raspberry, dried cherry, herbal notes; juicy palate with nice, lengthy finish.
Green Truck 2009 Zinfandel, Mencodino, CA, $12
Mint, raspberry, juicy fruit; pleasant.
Redwood Creek 2010 Zinfandel, California, $8
Raspberry, cherry jam; little pepper on palate. Pleasant, especially for price.
Fetzer 2010 Valley Oaks Zinfandel, California, $9
Raspberry, tinge of herbal; good balance with some nice acidity to balance fruit.
Barefoot NV Zinfandel, California, $7
We taste blind, but this one is especially nice for the price. Blackberry, pepper, cherry; fruity and fun.
Chatom 2009 Syrah, Calaverus County, $23
Cougar Crest 2009 Syrah, Walla Walla, WA, $34
Sopressata, blackberry, forest floor and pepper. Loved this wine!
Calcareous Vineyard 2009 Syrah, Paso Robles, CA, $36
Raspberry, black cherry; juicy with little mineral and mint. Fabulous.
Double Crossing 2010 Petit Sirah, Dry Creek, CA, $29
Deep raspberry jam, fresh leather and tobacco box notes. Quite yummy.
Green Truck 2010 Petit Sirah, Mendocino, CA, $12
Raspberry, leather, baking spice, herbal notes and slight curing tobacco aromas; balanced.
Crooked Vine 2009 Petit Sirah, Livermore Valley, CA, $34
More subtle approach (there were some that were just monsters so this was a positive), blackberry and blueberry fruit with touch of herbal notes and balanced acidity.
Rodney Strong 2009 Merlot, Sonoma, CA, $18
Smoke, plum, cedar, eucalyptus; balanced with just a slight bitter quality that dissipates.
Bonterra 2010 Merlot, Mendocino, $16
Raspberry, plum, spice rack; juicy on palate with solid tannin structure.
Nello Olivo 2009 Barbera, El Dorado County, CA, $28
Juicy raspberry, black cherry, herbal with good acid lift.
Luna Rossa 2006 Barbera Reserve, Mimbres Valley, NM, $45
Plum, prune, mint and raspberry; finishes a little light but overall a very nice effort.
Eberle 2010 Barbera, Paso Robles, CA, $28
Deep cherry, hay, raspberry; nice balance and crushed floral component on finish. (This was our first wine so it was great to start off the tasting with something so well done.) Our panel voted silver but for the record, I had it as a gold plus and possibly platinum.
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