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.
Wines from Sacramento's backyard continue to win high honors on the spring competition circuit. The latest is the Shenandoah Vineyards 2008 Amador County Paul's Vineyard ReZerve Zinfandel, which earlier today was voted the top entry in the third annual Zin Challenge in Pleasanton.
It was one of 13 entries to win gold medals in the early stages of the judging, thus qualifying for the final best-of-show round. A total 75 zinfandels had been entered. The final 13 came from virtually every prime zinfandel region in the state, including Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Paso Robles and Lodi as well as Amador County. Among the wines with which the Shenandoah Vineyards competed in the final round was an entry from its sister winery, the Sobon Estate 2008 Amador County ReZerve Zinfandel. Both wineries are owned and run by the Leon Sobon family.
Though both wines pack 15.1 percent alcohol, they were two of the lighter, brighter and zestier candidates in the final flight. Both are relatively lean and lithe, but spirited with zinfandel's natural and sunny charm, an attribute lacking in many of the other contenders.
The best-of-show round concluded two days of judging on the soggy grounds of the Alameda County Fair. The first day was devoted to a separate competition, the Best of the Bay, which drew 123 wines by wineries in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Though the competing wineries had to be based in the Bay Area, they could enter wines made from grapes grown outside the region. In that contest, Fenestra Winery of Livermore won both of the highest honors: The Fenestra Winery 2008 Livermore Valley Ghielmetti Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was named best red wine, while the Fenestra Winery 2010 Lodi Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyard Verdelho was crowned best white wine. Silvaspoons Vineyard is at Galt, meaning grapes from the Sacramento area were responsible for two of the three top awards in the Pleasanton competitions. What's more, Fenestra is on a roll. Just last week the Fenestra Winery 2007 Livermore Valley Ghielmetti Vineyard Petite Sirah won the red-wine sweepstakes at the Riverside International Wine Competition in Temecula Valley.