Forget the three-hour shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel. Who cares about the overcooked $30 room service cheeseburger? The Wine Curmudgeon judged four flights of riesling at this year’s Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and my panel gave 24 of the 51 wines gold medals.
To say that is unprecedented is to damn with faint praise. My panels don’t give 24 gold medals in two or three competitions combined, let alone in four flights of a two-day event. The wines reminded me why I love wine and what honest winemaking is all about, and that terroir and varietal character are all. And that rieslin, now that we’ve rescued rose, may be the best wine no one drinks.
We judged the wines blind; I’ll post the best of the best when the results are announced on June 1.
The others 150 or so wines weren’t quite as good, but we gave more gold medals than I expected, and only a couple of flights were truly awful. I’m not sure why. The quality of wines I’ve judged this year has been better than in years past, and maybe that’s a trend to enjoy and not worry about. Some of it might have been the competition. Maybe L.A. attracts those kinds of wines in a way that others don’t. In which case, I hope they ask me back in 2017. Besides, we only had to judge 100 wines a day, something other competitions should note.
Plus, much of the wine I’ve judged this year hasn’t been especially commercial; that is, hybrids, odd grapes (diamond, anyone?), and wine made in the U.S. that isn’t California. If you’re making wine that the Winestream Media doesn’t pay attention to, it might be easier to make it the way it should be made, instead of making it so it will score 92 points.
Finally, a tip of the WC’s fedora to the people I judged with, who were even more open-minded about hybrids, odd grapes, and lesser-known appellations than I am. We gave a gold medal to a concord, and I was the only one on the panel who had doubts. Which has never happened to me before; usually, it’s all I can do to get the other judges to take a concord wine seriously.
So thank you, Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, who is one of the world’s best riesling people; Ann Miller of Missouri’s St. James, who works for a winery that has turned hybrids into quality wine that is also commercial; and Chris Braun, an importer, who should teach a seminar in how to judge wine objectively.