A few thoughts after tasting 250 wines in two days as one of the 36 judges:
• Regional wine scored big. The best of show white wine was Dr. Konstantin Frank’s semi-dry riesling and the dessert wine winner was from Wolffler Estate Vineyards, both from New York state. Both were stunning wines (and, as ice wines go, the Wolffler wasn’t ridiculously expensive at $37). Missouri did well, including a gold medal for St. James’ very interesting strawberry wine. I was also impressed with Texas’ efforts. Llano Estacado won a gold (its riesling dessert wine) and silver (its Viviano Italian-style blend) and Stone House in the Hill Country won a silver for its norton.
• And yes, I was surprised by the success of regional wine. Call me a reverse snob, but I didn’t expect a competition with mostly California judges to see the merits of regional wine. Shows how much I know.
• Biggest surprise? The best champagne/sparkling wine was Pink from Australia’s Yellowglen. The $12 bubbly beat several much more expensive and better known wines, demonstrating the advantages of blind tasting. I actually voted for another wine in the sweepstakes balloting. I didn’t think the Pink was fruity enough.
• High alcohol hasn’t left us yet. Many of the gold-medal red wines were higher than 14.5 percent, and quite a few were higher than 15 percent. I think this is one area that shows the influence of California judges, and especially winemakers as judges. They aren’t bothered by high alcohol the way many of the rest of us are.
• Complete results are here. Thanks to Robert Whitely for asking me to judge and to Richard Carey of Vitis Research and Kimberly Charles of Charles Communications, who were the other two judges at my table.