San Francisco Wine Competition!    by Rick Riozza

One of our favorite summertime destinations is San Francisco.  It’s a fairly quick jaunt, close to wine country, great restaurants big and small, beautiful surroundings with refreshing weather.  Love being up there!

One of the largest, prestigious, and most influential wine competitions in America, the San Francisco International Wine Competition considered 4,556 wines entered from more than 1,300 wineries, representing 26 states and 29 countries.

Now for the bunch of us vino traders who didn’t quite make it to SF in June for the competition, well, the contest came down to us in the form of results: Gold, Double Gold, and Best in Show categories.  Wines were judged in several categories, including best white, red, sparkling and dessert.

Of course the interesting and valuable info coming out of this competition is that you’ll see these wines showing upon the shelves of your market or favorite wine shop; your hunt for a great tasting wine for the price is fortunately assisted by a panel of nationally recognized wine experts. In this competition a panel of three judges, in a blind tasting, must all agree for Double Gold and then on the last day, the best-of-the-best merit the Best in Show title.

For those who recognize the name of the former Wine & Spirits Editor of Bon Appétit Magazine, Anthony Dias Blue is the founder and executive director of the Competition, and, owner and Editor-in-Chief of The Tasting Panel Magazine—considered one of the elite in wine & spirits industry. He is recognized world-wide as a leading food, wine, travel, and spirits authority. His work in all media, that include television and radio, is circulated to millions.

The Tasting Panel Tour 2012 is where these SF top prize winning wines are being toured, and, tasted by the media.  That’s where I came in—and literally, I walked into a beautiful and chic setting, known as the Duplex in L.A., where the three hour tasting was being held. Mr. Anthony Dias Blue was present and it was my first time to meet him. We chatted with a nice glass of Nicolas Feuillatte 2004 Brut Champagne in our hand. It was chosen the “Best in Show” for Sparkling Wine. (This is always a great buy for French Champagne at around $40.)

Usually, a consumer wine tasting event is considered a “good one” if there is a plethora of wineries and wines being offered for tasting. Quite often though, the tastings can become  unmanageable, attempting to make the rounds to get to the wines you like.

Here at the Tasting Panel Tour, around 45 wines were on display.  It’s what I called a “very manageable tasting”. So what do you do with all these world class wines staring you in the face.  Even with your best desires aside, no one is drinking even 10 glasses of wine in the afternoon, which means you have to have a strategy to enjoy the best of the best.

So we pour just an ounce or two of wine in a glass: swirl and sniff, then take and swish it around in the mouth, spit it out in the spit bucket and then relax, take in a little air and savor. You’ll remember the both the flavor profile and the qualities of your favorite and you’ll understand why the judges chose that wine.

Of course what you’ve found to be your “best” will be those glasses you experience at length.  I personally will begin the tasting event by enjoying a nice glass of my favorite sparkling or white wine on hand.  It gets you into the festivities—after all, it is a wine tasting, not a science seminar.

For you enthusiasts, go to for all the results.

“Blind” judging never considers the price of the wine. The “Best” Chardonnay was the $11 bottle of the 2010 Five Rivers.  “With aromas of lemon-lime and lemon-drop, joined by the tropical flavors of papaya, guava and melon, followed by passion fruit, some floral notes and a touch of jasmine.  Creamy mouth-feel and good acid, crisp with a hint of vanilla and spice.”

While the “Best” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Parallel Estate Napa Valley, sells at $120. “Powerful style like a great Saint Estephe from Bordeaux.  Rich and complex with black cherries, black currant, licorice, truffles, and mocha flavors with classic vanilla from extraordinary 2008 Napa vintage.”

And to show that we’re all human, I preferred the 2008 Stoller Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon (Double Gold Winner), “a bouquet of spicy red fruits, floral notes of lilac and violet, barrel spices of cinnamon and clove, and herbes de Provence. Bramble berry flavors, bright acidity, medium tannins, and excellent length.”, as compared to the Panel’s “Best” Pinot Noir, 2009 Lawson Dry Hills, Marlborough, New Zealand.  “Cherry, strawberry and coffee notes, with hints of smoke and roasted meat.”

The 2008 Stoller was stellar! At $40 a bottle, it will be the treat at the holiday table for you and your guests


Rick continues to host business & private wine events and tastings. Contact

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