Wow!!! Here we are, Christmas is just days away and everyone is scrambling to prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend. Yes, last minute shopping, decorations and so much more that is related to the Christmas season. It seems to be everyone’s primary focus…….or is it??? Up in the northern Sonoma County community of Cloverdale, the people have Christmas on the mind, but it shares time with a major event. Yes, Cloverdale is preparing for the beginning of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (winejudging.com is the official website), which starts the judging of the wine on January 3rd, 2012. Yes, a San Francisco competition is actually held in a small rural place, at the location that it actually began as the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition. It is a great location, staffed with wonderful people that enjoy making this an extremely successful event.
Ok, so maybe you don’t think it is that significant to rave about. BUT………..have you ever given much thought to wine judging competitions???? Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t. I thought that they were events where pompous wine snobs gathered to rake some wines over the coals and praise others to reward their favorite producers’ efforts. Needless to say, I did not have a high opinion of their efforts, as I have always been one to trust my own palate and the recommendations of friends. All that has changed over the last few years, based on current experiences I have had.
Now……….I’ll bet you are wondering how I know so much about this specific event! Well after a couple years of working with the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition as a college student, an intern to the competition and as a judge during the 2011 event, my eyes were opened!!! Honestly, it all has been a great experience and I have the honor of returning as a judge again for the 2012 Competition.
First of all, do you have any idea what it takes to make an event, that in 2011, had over 5,000 different wines entered into the competition? It takes hundreds of volunteers, interns and college students to make happen, with much of the activity taking place from November through the public tasting event in mid-February. These activities include letters, media advertising and a website to attract winery entries from across the United States. Yes, the competition takes in wine from the whole US, with entries from 23 states in 2011. Additionally, the staff handles the incoming wines to be judged, categorized, coded and eventually set up in a staging area for the days of the actual judging.
All of the work I have mentioned (and trust me it is a lot of work) must be complete when the 60 judges sit down to begin their tasting. The judges come from across the US and represent a variety of wine industry professionals. Included in the populace of judges are wine educators, wine buyers (retail, restaurant and hospitality), wine media, and winemaker/industry representatives. This combination of knowledge and experience within the judging panels gives the competition a great level of credibility. The panels are normally made up of 5 participants. They all work together for 3 full days of tasting, finishing on a Friday morning by judging all of the best of class wines to determine the sweepstakes winners in final five categories. The sweepstakes awards come under Red wines, White wines, Sparkling wines, Rose wines, and Dessert wines.
There is substantially more I could share about this event, but am holding out to share my actual experiences during the 2012 event as a judge. This article is intended to whet your palate for my observations beginning on January 3rd, 2012. I look forward to sharing insights into the judging and the two dinners held for the wine judges (the formal Wine Judge Dinner will be hosted by The Hess Collection at their Mount Veeder facility in the Napa Valley). Included will be the sweepstakes judging and announcement of the best of class and sweepstakes winners. My final report will be in February after the public tasting is held on February 18th, 2012, at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
For the time being, check out the website for the competition at winejudging.com, learn about the event, the judges, award winning wines and more. If you think that you would like the opportunity to taste some 2012 award winners, consider tickets to the public tasting event in San Francisco in February and make a weekend of it. No matter what, check the event out and enjoy. Life is still Too Short to Drink Bad Wine!