Niner Winemaker Patrick Muran and friend supervise the 2013 harvest at their Paso Robles vineyard. Photo courtesy of Niner
Niner Winemaker Patrick Muran and friend supervise the 2013 harvest at their Paso Robles vineyard. Photo courtesy of Niner
Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Olympic-size awards in San Francisco wine competition

The 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, biggest of its kind, saw some 6,000 entries from more than 1,500 wineries from all over America gather for the massive task of choosing the best of the best in blind tasting with 65 judges participating.

These thousands of wines were put through careful testing by media experts, educational leaders, winemakers, restaurants and hospitality professionals. It is hailed as the largest competition of American wines in the world with an exclusive few sharing the spotlight.

In Olympics style awarding, there were gold, silver and bronze medals, as well as special recognition: the prestigious Sweepstakes and Best of Class.

I pay closest attention to the Best of Class category as the competition gets highly focused on wines that match up in varietal and price point.

So it was that Niner Wine Estates, in tough competition in the Bordeaux Blend and Cabernet Sauvignon categories, came out with Best of Class in both. Their entries were the 2009 Fog Catcher Blend ($58), and the 2010 Cabernet ($35).

Patrick Muran, Niner’s winemaker is an avid surfer and sailor who grew up in the San Luis Obispo wine country with “a keen observation of the natural world.”

Muran joined Niner in 2009, first as assistant winemaker where he supervised the certified sustainable program for natural grape growing.

Owners Pam and Dick Niner will be joining other honored wineries in a Grand Public Wine and Food Tasting Feb. 15 from 1:30 to 5 p.m. in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavilion. Cost is $65 in advance and $80 at the door. To secure tickets, call (888) 695-0888.

Taste Of Wine’s Top Tastes of 2014

Wines are off to a great start for 2014. Only five weeks into the new year and I have counted some 75 new wines that have crossed my lips as new releases. Most are 2011 and from California.

With apologies for the lack of space (usually I show a top 10) let’s line up seven that I feel are great values.

Adelaida Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Paso Robles Viking Estate 2010. $75. On a coastal ridge of the west side of Paso, and one of the major players in a movement to level the Cabernet playing field with Napa Valley.

Bogle Old Vine Essential Red Blend, Clarksburg 2011. $10. A breakthrough wine for Bogle with a mix of Zin, Syrah, Cabernet and Petite Sirah. Bogle kept the alcohol level low despite the zin/syrah injection.

DAOU Cabernet Reserve, Paso Robles 2011. $53. Benchmark Cabernet with moderate acidity and firm tannins; yields a fresh tasting fruit with beautiful balance. Structure will allow drink-now, or hold for age; it earned 95 points in a recent evaluation.

Hess Collection Mt. Veeder 19 BlockCuveee, Napa Valley 2009. $28. Vineyard sits high above the valley floor on Mt. Veeder. Choice block of grapes at an average 1,600 feet. Tastes black cherry and ripe plum with choice herb notes.

Holman Ranch Pinot Noir, Hunter’s Cuvee Carmel Valley 2010. $40. In Monterey wine country, taste sweet vanilla bean and strawberry. Aged in French Oak for seven months. Estate grown grapes since 1928. A true discovery for Pinot admirers.

Mionetto Spumante Prosecco Brut, Veneto Italy, non vintage. $14. The biggest name in the Prosecco world and right for Valentine’s Day. Aromas of golden apples with a hint of peach in the sparkling wine mix. Should be available in most wine stores.

Pedroncelli Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Sonoma 2011. $19. Active at the palate with cherry and a dash of pepper, following a 12-month barrel aging; a bit of Petite Sirah complements the presentation.

Wine Bytes

Solterra Winery & Kitchen in Encinitas is holding a Valentine’s Day Wine Dinner Feb. 14 from 5 to 10 p.m. It’s a four-course Prix Fixe menu in the Barrel Room. Opera singer for entertainment. Cost is $75 with wine, $60. without. RSVP at (760) 230-2079.

Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad has a Wine, Cheese and Chocolate pairing on Valentine’s Day 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $35. Call (760) 720-7499.

Holiday Wine Cellar has a Valentines Day tasting from 5:40 to 7:30 p.m. Only library wines both red and white. $30. Club members $20. RSVP at (760) 745-1200.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. His columns can be viewed at He is one of the top wine commentators on the web. Reach him at