My goal here is to share with other wine enthusiasts my discoveries as I judge at wine competitions and visit wine regions, with occasional commentary about issues touching the wine scene, especially in California.
Judges at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo commercial wine competition sure do like California cabernet sauvignon. For the seventh time in the eight years that the competition has been run, either a cabernet sauvignon or a blend based on cabernet sauvignon from California has been declared the Grand Champion. This year it's the Alexander Valley Vineyards 2006 Alexander Valley Cyrus, a Bordeaux-inspired blend with 58 percent cabernet sauvignon, 25 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent merlot and lesser amounts of malbec and petit verdot. What's more, the Reserve Grand Champion - basically, the runnerup - is the Stanton Vineyards 2007 Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the sixth straight year that a California cabernet sauvignon has led the competition, which customarily attracts about 1,800 wines from around the world, as it did this year. And this wasn't even the first win at the judging for the Cyrus, the 1999 version of which won the very first Houston competition in the fall of 2003. For the record, the only non-cabernet-based wine to take top honors at Houston was the Hangtime Cellars 2003 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir for the 2005 roundup.
Indeed, another pinot noir, the Vision Cellars 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir was voted the competition's top red wine, which put it in contention for Grand Champion. The top white wine was the Vasse Felix 2008 Margaret River Chardonnay from Australia. Top sparking wine was the Heidsieck & Co. Reims Monopole Blue Top Brut, while the best dessert wine was the Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars 2008 Finger Lakes Bunch Select Late Harvest Riesling. The top value wine was the Fat Monk 2009 Central Coast Merlot, which customarily sells for $10. (Fat Monk is a brand of Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery at Paso Robles.)
For Alexander Valley Vineyards, the second Grand Champion award means the winery has won a second custom hand-tooled saddle from the Houston judging, which suggests that the winery might want to consider renaming itself Alexander Valley Stables.