How great is that petite sirah our panel nominated for best red wine at the Riverside International Wine Competition, the one I mention in the post just below?
Great enough to beat out 40 other candidates, which had been winnowed from an initial field of 1,923 entires in the 29th annual judging.
And the winner: Christopher Creek Winery 2008 Russian River Valley Reserve Estate Petite Sirah ($32). I liked it when we first tasted it early in the competition, and I liked it just as much in the sweepstakes voting, from its lilac-like smell at first sip to its plush fruitiness and snappy acidity that lingered on the palate long after the final. In the sweepstakes round, as earlier, we didn't know the identity of any of the wines.
At the end of the first vote, the Christopher Creek petite sirah was deadlocked with what we later learned was the Foster's Wine Estates Lindemanns 2008 Bin 50 Southeastern Australia Shiraz ($7), but in the next balloting the petite sirah was a clear favorite.
The Riverside competition long has had a reputation for honoring obscure wines from unheralded regions, and Friday's results reaffirmed that standing. The white-wine sweepstakes field was unusually even and provocative, with each entry clearly and justifiably showing off its gold-medal credentials. Competition director Dan Berger remarked that the field was extraordinarily strong from top to bottom - "and there's no bottom." Of the 28 nominated whites, nine were riesling, assuring that none would win as partisans of the varietal split their votes among so many different interpretations. Another four were pinot grigio, a surprise, given how delicate the wine usually is; but in nominating four the judges could have been sending a message: We're working more diligently to single out finely crafted but understated wines that frequently get overlooked when up against wines of more weight and bluster in competitions.
In the end, the white-wine sweepstakes went to another fine-boned, fine-tuned wine, the JoieFarm 2009 Okanagan Valley "A Noble Blend" ($22), an aromatic and spicy Alsatian-inspired mix of gewurztraminer, pinot gris, pinot auxerrois and riesling. JoieFarm is at Naramata, British Columbia. Distribution of its wines is almost entirely in Canada, though the Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse has been known to include some JoieFarm on its wine list.
The other sweepstakes winners were E&J Gallo's Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante ($11) as best sparkling wine; Callaway Vineyard & Winery 2009 Temecula Valley Rose of Sangiovese ($18) as best rose (this is the third straight compensation in which the Callaway rose has won a high honor); and Casa Larga Vineyards 2006 Finger Lakes Vidal Blanc Ice Wine ($45) as best dessert wine.
What makes a winery great?
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