This year I once again had the honor of judging alongside several of my wine biz cohorts at what has become one of my favorite weekends all year: the San Francisco International Wine Competition, held at the swanky and suave Hotel Nikko in downtown SF. The 2019 SFIWC incarnation took place November 9th through November 11th, and is now in its 39th year – an impressive testament in any industry, and probably even more so in the wine business.
The results of the 2019 competition are now available, and so I can share some thoughts on the big-big Best-in-Show winners. These are wines that have to make it through 1) achieving a unanimous Double Gold award from a panel of three to four seasoned competition judges; 2) selection to be sent to the sweepstakes round by that same panel; 3) surviving a super-panel tasting (consisting of the competition’s chief judges); and, finally 4) receive a plurality of votes from all judges in the final Sweepstakes rounds for its class/category, and then, ultimately for its Best-in-Show category. All tasted blind, of course, which always yields some interesting surprises (I’m looking at you, Virginia; well done!).
So… these wines are no slouches, and are well worth your time seeking out if you’re in the splurging mood, and quality is on your mind…
Best in Show Sparkling: 2008 Champagne COLLET Millésime Brut Champagne, (France, $60)
I suppose this is what one could refer to as a ringer; I mean, if you’re breaking out something this vivacious, yeasty, mature, and fruity in a room full of professional wine nerds, good things are bound to happen to it. Which is precisely what transpired, of course.
Best in Show White: Picchetti Winery Leslie’s Estate Chardonnay
(Santa Cruz Mountains, $55)
This little outfit (producing fewer than 10,000 cases annually) has a century of winemaking know-how under its belt in what is CA’s oldest (and perennially underestimated) wine-producing region. Their classic (think largesse in fruit and body) CA Chard has been steadily improving over the years, winning more medals and gradually hitting its stride. Congrats to them on playing the long game, as it seems to have paid off pretty well, if this white is any indication.
Best in Show Red: 2018 Fog Crest Vineyards Upper Block Estate Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, $69)
Former San Francisco restaurateur James Manoogian’s small but mighty Fog Crest brand is certainly proving to be much more than a vanity project. This Pinot wowed most of us in judging cadre and won big on the final day of the competition (which was stiff, with Pinots showing well in general; my group particularly dug selections from J. Lohr, Talbott, and Nicholson).
Best in Show Dessert: Rancho de Philo Triple Cream Sherry
(Cucamonga Valley, $40)
While not a household name for most, Rancho de Philo’s Triple is no stranger to garnering wine comp awards, and this time took home the Big Kahuna stickies prize. This unctuous sipper deftly pulled off the potent combo of convincing you that it wasn’t from a classic Sherry producing region, and also making you not care, primarily because it was so f*cking good.