Clang, Clang, Clang Went The Trolley! (Results From The 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition)

SFIWC 2016 view

Ah, San Francisco… sourdough, trolley cars, wine competitions…

If you’re so inclined, you can now browse the medal-winning results from the 2016 San Fransisco International Wine Competition in which I was fortunate enough to have taken part once again (for more details, see the 2014 and 2015 results write-ups).

Judging in that event has become one of my favorite weekends of the year, thanks in no small part to the competition’s excellent staff, its professional organization, the ever-increasing quality of its wine submissions, and (primarily) the caliber and dispositions of the other judges. The judges list (present company excluded) reads like a Who’s Who compendium of the people who totally rock the judging circuit in the wine biz.

Over the past few years, wine competitions in the U.S. have taken hits from their share of critical salvos. I’m happy to report that fire seems to have abated a bit. I suppose that, at this point, I could be considered a veteran of the American wine competition judging scene, and while I understand that competition circumstances are likely to encourage some inconsistency in results, I’m confident that the best competitions (in which SFIWC should undoubtedly be included) take great pains to maximize the professionalism involved, and give each wine the fairest shake possible.

SFIWC Usual Suspects 2016

Some of the SFIWC’s Usual Suspects…

As to the usefulness of such competitions, I’m like a broken record on that topic for the last few years: differentiation is important, and wine competition medals potentially differentiate you from the competition. Interestingly, I’m actually quoted on the same topic in the SFIWC 2016 results press release:

“Wine is an extremely competitive product, and being judged by industry tastemakers and receiving a top award here at the San Francisco Wine Competition can help a wine stand out amongst its peers,” says wine writer, blogger and competition judge Joe Roberts.

Which begs the question: did I really use the word “amongst?” I must have, because Jarvis Communications’s Sam Dependahl was using a voice recorded when he asked me for a quote about it. Dang it!…

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Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For July 11, 2016

Vinted on July 11, 2016 binned in wine mini-reviews

So, like, what is this stuff, anyway?
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes with you via twitter (limited to 140 characters). They are meant to be quirky, fun, and easily-digestible reviews of currently available wines. Below is a wrap-up of those twitter wine reviews from the past week (click here for the skinny on how to read them), along with links to help you find these wines, so that you can try them for yourself. Cheers!

  • 12 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru (Puligny-Montrachet): Don't like it? Well, don't drink embryos, doofus. $150 A >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Chateau Lassegue Les Cadrans de Lassegue (Saint-Emilion): Save some of this deliciousness for later? LOLZ!!! That's pretty funny. $35 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Ascevi Cerou Ronco Superiore Ribolla Gialla (Venezia): We should be pretty friggin' happy they cleared out WWI bombs to plant this $18 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • NV Barbeito 20 Year Old Malvasia (Madeira): The cognac-and-spices nose alone ought to keep you occupied for most of the evening. $140 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 13 Dutton Goldfield Devil's Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Marin County): A friend of this devil is most definitely a friend of mine. $68 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Spell Wines Umino Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): How deep can that cherry fruit go? I'm thinking Outer Core levels. $48 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 13 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast): Remember those hippo ballerinas in Fantasia? It's kind of like that, only tastier. $45 B+ >>find this wine<<
  • 13 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay (Napa Valley): You might hate yourself for such a guilty pleasure. But then again, you might not. $43 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 12 Joseph Swan Vineyards Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): Showy *&* refined? Well, yeah, I guess that is possible. $45 A- >>find this wine<<
  • 14 Bacigalupi Estate Chardonnay (Russian River Valley): Quintessentially Californian, in just about every good way imaginable. $56 A- >>find this wine<<
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Golden Years (Tasting Fifty Harvests Of Mondavi Reserve Cabernet)

Vinted on July 6, 2016 binned in California wine, on the road, wine review

Robert Mondavi Winery

Know how to get a cavalcade of seasoned (read: potentially jaded) wine writers, winemakers, wine growers, and wine industry insiders to go as quiet as mice (I’m talking pin-drop-sounds-like-a-jet-engine-on-fire quiet), and as stupefied as deer in the headlights?

I do.

I saw Robert Mondavi Winery pull it off a few weeks ago in Napa Valley.

You tell the crowd that you’ve just tapped the keg on the remaining bottles of the winery’s inaugural Reserve-level Cabernet Sauvignon bottling (in this case, the 1966), and that wine is now in everyone’s glasses. Oh, yeah, then you have the creator of that wine stand up and say “I’m Warren Winiarski, and I made this wine.”

As once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting events go, that one ranks pretty highly, even for those of us who have already had outsized amounts of once-in-a-lifetime wine tasting event opportunities (this was helped by the genuine combination of pride, awe, and shock in Winarski’s voice as he described that he never expected to be speaking about the 1966 Cab fifty years later).

During the course of the multi-day Mondavi event at the Napa Valley winery (which I attended as a media guest), we ended up going through a sizeable portion of the last fifty vintages of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

What became clear as we were lead through the various tasting proceedings and events by RMW educator Mark de Vere, and winemaking team Genevieve Janssens, Joe Harden, and Megan Schofield, was that this iconic wine is impossible to separate from its equally iconic winery, and its arguably much more iconic namesake.

I half expected the ghost of Robert Mondavi to waltz in on us like a whirling dervish at some point during our tastings, and I don’t at all mean that flippantly; at this point, his presence and influence is as firmly embedded in the superstructure of RMW as the material in its literal foundation…

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