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!…
2018 Cavit Rosé (Trevenezie, $12)
Technically, this one was filed under the Rosé – Medium Sweet category, which I suspect was a snafu on the part of the whoever submitted this wine for the producer. Doesn’t matter, because this little number would have shined in almost any category at its price-point. Wild raspberry, roses, lemon peel, a zesty flair, and loveliness throughout; enough of this might have you saying things like “that’s the smell of desire, my lady…” Or maybe that’s just me.
2018 SeaGlass Rosé (Monterey County, $13)
Mostly Pinot Noir, with a bit of Syrah, this is as complete a rosé experience as one would hope to get without the word “Provence” on the label. Watermelon, strawberry, flower petals, citrus zest, with a finish that just won’t quit, and a life-affirmative aroma that jumps out of the glass with gusto. “It’s quite pungent. It’s a formidable scent. It stings the nostrils. In a good way.”
2018 Imagery Estate Winery Silva Vineyard Albariño (Sonoma Valley, $29)
One of the better examples of this white grape outside of the Iberian Peninsula, Imagery has crafted a stellar, balanced white here. Sporting verve and amazing length, you get lemon zest, exotic fruits, and playing and trombones and flowers and garlands of fresh herbs…”