Adventurous, surprising, diverse. That's California, so it's only fitting that the results of the Californnia State Fair commercial wine competition reflect those traits, especially when it comes to the competition's top awards. The latest installment of the State Fair competition was convened last week at Cal Expo in Sacramento. In the opinion of the judges, here are the best wines the state has to offer, drawn from an initial field of nearly 3,000 entries:
Best of Show Dessert Wine: R.A. Harrison Family Cellars 2008 Napa County Nobility ($75 per 375-milliliter bottle). For Roger Harrison, this is a return trip to the winner's circle. Two years ago, his 2007 Nobility won the same award. Then, the wine was a blend of 78 percent sauvignon blanc and 22 percent semillon. This year's mix is 50/50 sauvignon blanc and semillon, the balance he originally anticipated when he started to make the wine in 2006. In 2007, however, birds raided the vineyard providing his semillon, thus reducing substantially the fruit he got. Either way, the wine is a honeyed California interpretation of the dense and golden Sauternes of Chateau d'Yquem in Bordeax.
Best Value Wine: Oak Grove Wines 2011 California Viognier ($8). Haven't tasted this wine, nor yet learned much about it. The "California" appellation indicates the grapes could be from anywhere in the state. The award is sure to give a boost to a Rhone Valley varietal that could use the endorsement. The wine reportedly is stocked by Ralphs supermarkets and the chain Total Wine and More.