Wine Judging

7/18/07 Michael McCollum/The Record Colleen Stockton, of Carson City, Nevada, sniffs, tastes, swishes, and expels wine being judged for the California State Fair Wine Competition at Wine and Roses in Lodi Wednesday afternoon.

Imagine having 35 glasses of wine placed in front of you, each labeled with a number waiting for you to decide whether it is worthy of an award. The only information you will be given is the grape variety and the vintage. Repeat this scenario three or four times a day for three days strait. Yes, you must spit out all the wine, even the good ones! Major wine competitions require panels of four or five judges to evaluate over a hundred wines each day giving the best wines medals of gold, silver or bronze.  


Each year over 2000 wines are submitted to the California State Fair of which only a few hundred will receive medals. Judges are wine professionals who must pass a rigorous all day test involving the identification of wine quality, faults and varietals. The competition is exhausting but one we enjoy.  

Wineries submit wine to these competitions hoping to gain the marketing advantage a medal brings. There is an old saying in the wine industry that “gold means sold!”A medal winning wine must be free of faults, balanced and typical for the varietal.

A gold medal tells the consumer that the judges felt the wine was exceptional. Silver is given to very good wine lacking the completeness of gold quality. Bronze indicates an enjoyable wine, free of faults but without complexity.  

A medal is no guarantee that you will like a wine but you will know that someone did.


12th Annual Pinot Noir Summit

After twelpnsve years in San Francisco, the annual Pinot Noir Summit found its way to Reno, Nevada where the best pinot noir winemakers around the world came to dazzle wine lovers with their creations. It’s an amazing idea to bring together the fussiest of pinot producers, hold them in suspense for three months while judges taste through more than 500 entries before the top 96 wines move on to a final grand shootout featuring a consumer/gender judging mayhem. The Pinot Noir Shootout is considered one of the toughest competitions in the world to earn a medal, giving the winning winemakers something to brag about.

For those attending, there were no disappointments. Not only did participants get to taste great wines, there were two educational seminars where winemakers talked about the difficulties of producing great pinot noir and why the grape expresses itself differently in each region it is grown. The secret to great pinot is location and passion. Known as the “heartbreak grape” among winemakers, great pinot noir takes patience and attention to detail when growing and selecting a harvest time. After a scrumptious lunch, participants were divided into two groups to blind taste 46 wines and pick their own winners which were announced at the evening grand tasting. So much fun for consumers to then see how their picks aligned with the judges choices at the end!

So….without further ado here are the winners:

Best of Show: TR Elliot Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Second Place: Handley Cellars 2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

The Pinot Noir Summit is produced by Affairs of the Vine, one of many top notch events they produce every year. Chief Wine Evangelist, Barbara Drady is well known in the wine industry for her seminars on aroma identification and wine blending in addition to large tasting events. Drady teamed up with Atlantis, Reno’s cellar master, Christian O’Kuinghttons to create the memorable event. The Atlantis chefs pulled out all the stops to create food offerings that paired well with the incredible wines. “Pork Belly Lollipops”, “Ponzu and maple glazed goat cheese and wild mushroom crostini with white truffle oil” and “steamed buns with Asian duck confit” were just the beginning of a fabulous spread.

If you missed this years event, make your plans now to attend next year