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!…
We can surely file this one in the I-still-can’t-believe-that-I’ve-fooled-everyone-for-so-long pile: I’ve been asked to judge yet another wine competition. This time, it’s the 2018 incarnation of The Oregon Wine Competition, part of the more comprehensive Oregon Wine Experience, taking place August 20-26, 2018 in Jacksonville, OR, and benefiting Asante Foundation and Asante’s Children’s Miracle Network.
I’m looking forward to getting my mouth (and the rest of me) back in OR, and to putting the competition’s 100% Oregon AVA wines under the palate microscope (palmiscope?). In that latter regard, I’ll be joining five distinguished members of the wine biz who are also judging, and most of whom have much more impressive initials after their surnames than I do.
For those of you reading this who have OR wine that they’d like to enter, here are the pertinent details. (note that only wines composed of 100% grapes grown in officially-recognized Oregon AVAs, with TTB-approved labels, and produced by Oregon-licensed wineries are eligible).
Critics Challenge is top-notch, with excellent, experienced judges and a killer-good volunteer crew (yeah, I don’t understand why they keep inviting me back, either). So the results should, I’d argue, be taken seriously, and you can check out the full list of 2018 medal winners right now at http://www.criticschallenge.com/results.htm.
I wanted to highlight the wines that Linda and I collectively awarded Platinum, as there are some fantastic wines – several of which are surprising bargains – in that lineup of winners. This is why we judge them blind, folks! Fortunately for all of us, picking up many of these wines won’t make the bank account seem appreciably lighter…
“As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy… me… or everyone else.”
– Max Rockatansky, Mad Max: Fury Road
I think the wine judging world has officially gone batsh*t crazy. More on that in a minute.
As many of you might have already surmised from my recent updates on The Book of Face, my recent press jaunt to Madeira was, from a tasting perspective, extraordinary. So, there will likely be much more info. to come from that trip soon (after I catch up on writing up some Napa shizzle from the fourth quarter of 2015).
Today, however, I am still reeling (in positive ways) from finally getting my hiney to Madeira, and am just dropping a quick line to let you know about two upcoming wine competitions in which I’ll be playing a small part.
First up: the TexSom International Wine Awards, taking place later this month. This is my first judging stint with TIWA, the organizers of which have apparently lost their minds entirely, as evidenced by my inclusion on a judging lineup consisting primarily of baddass wine people with either “MW or “MS” after their names. I know, I don’t get it, either, but I’m excited to check it out and to return to the Dallas/Fort Worth area (despite the spot being overrun with Cowboys fans).
Next, I’ll be returning as a judge to the venerable Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition, this year moved up to March. This will be, I think, my fourth stint with CC, and as always I considered myself blessed to be able to work with such a professional, well-organized, and fun group of organizers, volunteers, and judges. I have been lucky enough now to have judged in a not-insignificant number of wine competitions, and I would easily rank CC as one of the best worldwide; it has become one of my favorite long-weekend work gigs of the year.
I know, I know… that was all way too much positivity for a single 1WD post. In fact, we might have just fulfilled the feel-good quotient here for the entire first quarter…
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