Late last year, I had the pleasure (once again) of pretending to be an all-growed-up wine pro judging alongside some very notable palates at the 38th annual San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Judging the SFIWC almost always ends up being one of my favorite events of the entire year, and despite quite a bit of behind-the-scenes personnel changes, the competition didn’t skip a beat; I had a blast, with the only downer being the inundation of the city streets by the ominous smoke from the nearby Camp Fire (terribly, California’s deadliest and most destructive to date).
The results of the 2018 SFIWC have been announced, so I am officially allowed to share them with you. Here are some thoughts on the Best In Show winners, which are determined after going through 1) two days of normal judging panels, 2) “super tastings” of judges from multiple panels (meant to whittle down the field of wines deemed excellent enough to potentially vie for Best In Show ), and finally 3) a lively and spirited sweepstakes round in which the the most awarded wines are pitted against one another…
The SFIWC is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Under the watchful eyes of Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue and Director of Judging Tim McDonald, SFIWC assembles a top-notch volunteer crew and some of the best and most experienced tasters in the U.S. wine biz (and yes, I’m still trying to figure out why they keep inviting me to judge).
That large, talented team happens to be chock full of some of the funniest, liveliest, and kindest people in wine, and so it’s a real pleasure to interact, work, and generally just break bread with all of those folks.
Sweepstakes and super tasting require smocks, not capes…
We also happen to taste some killer juice over that weekend, all done blind within categories, in panels of 3-4 people, with “super tastings” and an eventual sweepstakes round to help determine the best-of-the-best. It’s from that latter category – the wines fully deserving of having Tenacious D’s To Be The Best as their theme song – that I draw my personal competition highlights…
Over the next two insane weeks, I’ll be waving to the Midwesterners among you from 30,000 feet as I fly back and forth across our great country twice in order to lend my taste buds (and, no doubt, subsequently further increase not only my frequent flier mileage but also my dental hygiene and surgical fees) to two Left Coast wine competitions.
First, there’s my second stint at the venerable Critics Challenge wine comp., held in (stay classy) San Diego (San Diego is still there, right?), the 11th year for that event, which is unique in its assembly of judges who are pretty much exclusively in the wine journalism/critic biz.
The thing that tickles me Provence-rosé-pink about all of this is not so much that I am getting wined, dined and paid for doing something so cool (ok, that does, in fact, tickle me a bit Provence-rosé-pink now that I think about it), but that I know so many of the other judges, and am fortunate enough to call several of them friends. Technically, these are business trips for me, but they are hardly the kind of business trips about which one could complain, particularly when compared to some of the locales, efforts, and intensely driven personalities I frequented in my corporate life (ever been to Hackettstown, NJ; Slough, England; or Stupino, Russia? No? Well, take it from me, you don’t want to be in too much of a hurry to visit).
Let’s just say I’m not complaining!
More to come from all of that (if you’ve got requests on what you’d like to see in terms of coverage out of those comps., shout it out).
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