A few weeks ago, I visited San Diego for yet another stint of judging at the annual Critics Challenge International Wine Competition, now in its sixteenth year. As is always the case with CC, the organization, staff, and execution were all top-notch, allowing us critic-judge-types to give the wines their fair due under the palate evaluation microscope. As is always the case with CC, I count myself extremely fortunate to have once again fooled everyone into thinking that I have some talent been invited to join such a finely-tuned event.
For those who are new to CC, a quick word on the format: judges are usually paired (or in some rare cases, trio-ed) into panels and judge several flights of wines blind. All of the judges are wine critics with wine competition experience, and judge all of the wines independently, awarding Silver, Gold, or Platinum medals (there is no Bronze category in CC). For each wine, the highest medal awarded “wins,” so judges in the same panel need not agree for a wine to be awarded a medal (in my experience, we do often discuss the results and generally agree about 80% – or more – of the time).
Now that the results have been published, I can share some of my thoughts on a few of the excellent wines that my panel were able to taste, and to Platinum (which, in wine judging parlance, is absolutely a verb; as in “did you Platinum anything this morning?” and – with the appropriate past-tense – “yeah, we totally Platinumed some killer dessert wines in that last flight”).
And so, here are a handful of interesting wines that stood out to me over two days of evaluation, with the more interesting result being that they are from less than a handful of producers…
I recently had the honor of judging at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge (now in its 37th year!), the results of which have been published, allowing me to share some of my thoughts on a few surprises that my panel had the good fortune of tasting during the competition. When I wasn’t feeding errant seagulls who begged at my hotel room window, that is. It’s a long story.
Anyway, seasoned 1WD readers will recall that I’ve been infecting the Stay-Classy-San-Diego-based Critics Challenge competition for the last few years, but this was my first time joining much of the same well-heeled, finely-tuned crew for the SD Challenge. I’m happy to report that the SD incarnation is every bit as fun and professionally-executed as CC, and I’m already crossing my fingers that I’ll be back next year. [ By the way, if you’re curious about how the details on these competitions go down, listen to head honcho Robert Whitley dish on it over at the Wine Biz 360 podcast. ]
One of the most interesting – and fun… and humbling – things about judging wines blind is that occasionally some items surprise you, busting up your preconceived notions and turning you on to things you might otherwise overlook. The 2019 SD Challenge proved particularly generous in that regard. Here are a handful of vinous items that impressed my panel (Platinum medal winners all), the majority of which are over-achieving budget lovelies, tailor-made for Spring sipping by the San Diego seaside in a manner that would make Ron Burgundy himself beam with pride. Okay, before we start, let’s go over the ground-rules… No touching of the hair or face… And that’s it. Now FIGHT!…
During my recent travels in Piedmont, I was part of a (rather large) media group that took part in a “Barbera Revolution” masterclass, held in the small town of Nizza Monferrato, organized by the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e vini del Monferrato. There was nothing about that tasting of 2016 vintage releases to make me personally think that Barbera was undergoing some sort of quality revolution; likely a result of the fact that, given my history with the region, I was already convinced that Barbera in Asti was experiencing a quality renaissance.
So, no arms were taken up during the sampling of these 2016, but we did take up several glasses of promising Asti reds. Now that my stint with the My Name is Barbera program has wrapped up (for now, anyway), I felt comfy in taking a more critical eye on some of the latest Barbera d’Asti releases (not that you can ever fully take the critical eye from the critical guy, but I’ve generally avoided talking about Piedmonte Barbera here on 1WD while I was cashing checks for the video and blog work over at mynameisbarbera.com).
Here are my personal highlights from the tasting, many of which I think have been given short shrift from other critics in the past, and others that might be looking for US representation (importers… I’m looking at you!)…
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