How much fun is it when one gets to judge regional wine at an important U.S. wine competition, and to do it with people who know just as much about regional wine as the Wine Curmudgeon does?
Lots and lots of fun, which is why I always enjoy judging the Texsom International Wine Awards (formerly The Dallas Morning News Wine Competition). The judges are matched with their specialties, so that I usually get to judge wine from the other 47 states, which I did again this year — Michigan, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, and Nevada among them.
And, as noted, the other judges are my panel were top-notch — Quebec’s Remy Charest, who knows as much about obscure Canadian grapes as anyone has a right to know; Madeline Triffon, an MS from Michigan; and Colorado’s Wayne Belding, another master sommelier and one of the best friends regional wine has.
More importantly, the quality of the wine continued its improvement. Some of the whites had their problems, but the reds were among the best I’ve judged in years, and we gave gold and silver medals to match. Particularly impressive were a Rhone-style blend from Arizona and a Bordeaux-style blend from Maryland, both golds. We judged the wines blind, so I don’t know what they were, but I’ll update when the results are announced.
The second day of judging wasn’t quite as much fun, when Remy and I did lots and lots of wine from the Lodi region in California. We held up, though, and much thanks to Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications and Ben Roberts, an MS in Houston who works for the distributor RNDC. They kept me on track when I wanted to run screaming from the room in the middle of judging 23 Lodi zinfandels that mostly tasted the same — lots of sweet fruit, little tannins or acidity to balance the fruit, and a mouth feel closer to dessert wine than table wine.
We also judged two rounds of Italian varietals from Amador County, an under-appreciated region in California, and the wines were mainly spot on. A barbera won gold, and I’ll update this as well.