Taste of Wine

Judging the first-ever San Diego wine competition

When I got the call to be a judge for the first-ever commercial wine competition at the San Diego County Fair, it made me stop and think about just how far the quality of San Diego wines had come that the district could take its place as a formidable wine country. As of this writing, there are 60 wineries and according to Wine Competition Director Rich Cook, and soon to be 100. He received entries for judging from Carlsbad to Jamul.

Cook had his work cut out for him. For many San Diego area wineries this would be their first venture into the quirky world of judgment. “I went to each winery to speak to each of the owners and assure them this would be a professional competition with the highest standards of fairness,” he said.

Some of the 121 local San Diego County wines enjoyed by judges and staff after a hard day’s work of determining winners in the first annual San Diego County Fair Wine Competition. Photo by Frank Mangio

Thirteen judges from outside winemakers to people who judge competitions for a living settled in at one of the fairground racetrack conference rooms as the “blind” entries were split up for several tables of judges to make comments and rate the tasted wine a double gold or gold (best of class or category), silver, bronze or no award. Notes on each wine were encouraged, as well as discussion that was mandatory if a gold or double gold was assigned.

Our congratulations go out to Fallbrook Winery, winemaker Duncan Williams and winery owner Ira Gourvitz for the wine of the year, a 2011 33 Degree N Rosato Rosé. It was also the Best of Class in Rosé Wine. Fallbrook Winery showed it wasn’t a one-trick pony as it took Best White Wine with its 2010 Chardonnay. The winery has been producing quality wines since 1981on 36 acres of rolling hillside vineyards. Check out the website at fallbrookwinery.com or call (760) 728-0156.

The Best Red Wine award went to Glorioso Vineyard of Pine Valley for its Zinfandel. Other Gold/Double Gold winners included Christopher Cameron Vineyards/Costa Azul of Carlsbad, Hawk Watch Winery of Warner Springs, Milagro Farm of Ramona, San Pasqual of La Mesa, Sunshine Mountain of San Marcos and Woof n Rose of Ramona.

In all, 121 wines were tasted by the panel of judges. Seventy-one percent of the wines entered received medals, a testimony to the rising quality of this region, which is just waking up to its potential to produce medal-wining wines.

Fallbrook Winery winemaker Duncan Williams and owner Ira Gourvitz made the Wine of the year, a Rose’ called 33 Degree N Rosato, 2011. Photo by Frank Mangio

As for this columnist, for the first time since I have been tasting and writing about wines, I quickly learned that in this type of high-volume tasting, you must spit rather than swallow, or there’s a good chance of being carried out of this world and into Planet Wine.

Winning wines tasted by the public at the County Fair on June 9

County Fair officials are planning to showcase San Diego wine entrees at their first-ever Wine Festival from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Flower and Garden Show on June 9. The price will be $53, which will include Fair Admission, or $40 for those that have admission passes. Purchasers will receive a wristband voucher that allows unlimited samplings of the wines entered into competition. You must be 21 or older to enter the area and consume wine. You can buy tickets at Ticketmaster or at the Fairgrounds Box Office.

Wine Bytes

A reminder, the Salute to Corporal Dominguez, the Marine triple amputee is from 6 to 9 p.m. May 25 at Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula. It’s an evening of food, wine and entertainment with a live and silent auction. The cost is $65 a ticket, $120 per couple. All proceeds to Corporal Dominguez. Get tickets at deportolatrail.com.

Europa Village Winery in Temecula now has free live music every Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3pm. On June 3, enjoy the Jazz guitar of Mathew Fagan. Call (951) 216-3380 for details.

North County Wine Company in San Marcos presents seven great Pizza Wines from 5 to 8 p.m. May 25. The cost is $10 for the tasting. Also enjoy a great pizza from the Red Oven Pizza Truck. Get the wine names by calling (760) 744-2119.

A Grand Tasting is being held at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, Coast Highway Newport Beach from 7 to 10:30 p.m. May 26. Sixty wineries from around the world will be pouring paired with culinary creations from Executive Chef Josef Lageder. Cheeses and sushi complete the food offerings and there will be live music. The cost is $125 per person. Get details by calling (888) 445-7153.

The Vista Strawberry Festival in downtown Vista is happening from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 27. The feature attraction will be the new Strawberry Stiletto wine, handcrafted from fresh strawberries, at a Vista winery, California Fruit Wine. For more information, call (760) 519-4221.

PAON Restaurant & Wine Bar in Carlsbad is pouring its Red World Tour 305: Barbera, Corvina, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, from 6 to 8 p.m. May 29. From Tuscany to Piedmont, this tasting class will offer the great wines of these regions. Cost is $49. Ticket information is available by calling (858) 442-2749.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His library can be viewed at www.tasteofwinetv.com. (Average Google certified 900 visits per day) He is one of the top five wine commentators on the Web. Reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.