Judging the First-Ever San Diego Wine Competition


May 20, 2012 – TASTE OF WINE – by Frank Mangio

When I got the call to be a judge for the first-ever commercial wine competition at the San Diego County Fair, it made me stop and think about just how far the quality of San Diego wines has come that the district can take its place as a formidable wine country.As of this writing, there are 60 wineries and, according to Wine Competition Director Rich Cook, soon to be 100; he received entries for judging from Carlsbad to Jamul.

Cook had his work cut out for him.For many San Diego area wineries, this would be their first venture into the quirky world of judgment. ” I went to each winery to speak to each of the owners and assure them this would be a professional competition with the highest standards of fairness,” he explained. Thirteen judges, from outside winemakers to people who judge competitions for a living, settled in at one of the fairground racetrack conference rooms as “blind” entries were split up for several tables of judges to make comments and rate the tasted wine a double gold or gold (best of class or category), silver, bronze, or no award. Notes on each wine were encouraged, as well as discussion, which was mandatory for gold or double gold assignment.

Our congratulations go out to Fallbrook Winery, winemaker Duncan Williams and winery owner Ira Gourvitz (pictured) for the wine of the year, a 2011 33 Degree N Rosato Rose’.It was also the Best of Class in Rose’ Wine.Fallbrook Winery showed it wasn’t a one trick pony as it took Best White Wine with its 2010 Chardonnay.The winery has been producing quality wines since 1981 on 36 acres of rolling hillside vineyards.Check out the web site at www.fallbrookwinery.com.The phone number is 760-728-0156.

The Best Red Wine award went to Glorioso Vineyard of Pine Valley for its Zinfandel.Other Gold/Double Gold winners included:Christopher Cameron Vineyards/Costa Azul of Carlsbad, Hawk Watch Winery of Warner Springs, Milagro Farm of Ramona, San Pasqual of La Mesa, Sunshine Mountain of San Marcos, and Woof n Rose of Ramona.

In all, 121 wines (see photo) were tasted by the panel of judges.71% of the wines entered received medals, a testimony to the rising quality of this region, which is just waking up to its potential to produce medal-wining wines.

As for this columnist, for the first time since I have been tasting and writing about wines, I quickly learned that in this type of high volume tasting, you must spit rather than swallow, or there’s a good chance of being carried out of this world and into “Planet Wine.”

Winning Wines Tasted by the Public at the County Fair Saturday June 9

County Fair officials are planning to showcase San Diego wine entrees at their first-ever Wine Festival from 1 to 5pm at the Flower and Garden Show on June 9th. The price will be $53 and include Fair Admission.($40 for those that have admission passes.)Purchasers will receive a wristband voucher that allows unlimited samplings of the wines entered into competition. (You must be 21 or older to enter the area and consume wine).You can buy tickets at Ticketmaster or at the Fairgrounds Box Office.

Wine Bytes

  • A reminder, the Salute to Corporal Dominguez, the Marine triple amputee is Fri. May 25 from 6 to 9pm at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula. It’s an evening of food, wine and entertainment with a live and silent auction. $65 a ticket, $120 per couple.All proceeds to Corporal Dominguez. Get tickets at www.deportolatrail.com.
  • Europa Village Winery in Temecula now has free live music every Friday 6:30 to 9:30pm and Sunday 12 Noon to 3pm.Sunday June 3, enjoy the Jazz guitar of Mathew Fagan.951-216-3380 for details.
  • North County Wine Company in San Marcos presents 7 great Pizza Wines Fri. May 25 from 5 to 8pm.$10. for the tasting.Also enjoy a great pizza from the Red Oven Pizza Truck. Get the wine names at 760-744-2119.
  • A Grand Tasting was held at the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, Coast Highway Newport Beach, Sat. night, May 26 from 7 to 10:30pm.60 wineries from around the world will be pouring paired with culinary creations from Executive Chef Josef Lageder.Cheeses and Sushi complete the food offerings.Live Music.$125. pp. Details at 888-445-7153.
  • The Vista Strawberry Festival, downtown Vista is happening Sun. May 27 from 9am to 7pm.Feature attraction will be the new Strawberry Stiletto wine, handcrafted from fresh strawberries, at a Vista winery, California Fruit Wine.For more, call 760-519-4221.
  • PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad is pouring its Red World Tour 305: Barbera, Corvina, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, Tues. May 29 from 6 to 8pm. From Tuscany to Piedmont, this tasting class will offer the great wines of these regions.Cost is $49.Ticket information at 858-442-2749.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web.View and link up with his columns at www.tasteofwinetv.com. Listen to Frank’s comments on KFSD 1450 AM every Saturday from 1 to 2pm on Wine and Dine Radio.