The California State Fair just began last week and runs through July 26. If you are planning to be near Sacramento over the next two weeks, mark your calendar for a great show and some great wines at the wine booth!
As part of my job as a a wine writer and CEO/ Co-Founder of VineSleuth/ Wine4.Me, I sometimes have the opportunity to judge wines at competitions. ( I taste thousands of wines a year for different reasons.)
Back in May, I had the privilege of judging wines for the California State Fair. I judged Pinot Noirs, sparkling wines and more and, fortunately for me, (and you, too!) many of them were delicious. There were some standouts… some due to gorgeous balance and flavor and one, due to its blue (yes BLUE) color.
All of the wines in the competition were from California, and this is California’s oldest wine competition, having started in the 1850s. Of the more than 2900 wines judged, both the Best of Show Red and White were Spanish Varieties: Albariño and Tempranillo, which was a surprise for me, and I love those types of surprises!
I find judging wines to be a lot of fun and a great exercise for my taste buds. This was my second year judging for the California State Fair and I was lucky enough to be judging with the same panel this year as last year… everyone on the panel is a delight to judge with and even when we disagree with the scores given by other panelists, we always find a way to do so respectfully, as was the case last year. Our scores were often in agreement, and when they were not, the conversation that ensued sometimes convinced others to give the wine a second or third taste… and sometimes that resulted in a changed score, but not always.
How wines are judged by panel at the California State Fair
In judging wines, each judge scores each wine individually in terms of what medal he or she believes the wine should be awarded. Then we discuss the individual medal ’scores’ for each wine to see what the group consensus may be. Sometimes those group conversations are enlightening, helping you to see something you might not have noticed at your first pass, and sometimes they make you even more convicted of what you initially observed. In any event, lively discussion happens often and, with this group I really enjoyed every bit of the conversation.
In judging wines there is also a lot of waiting as more wines are poured or scores are tabulated. The California State Fair has such a fantastic group of friendly, knowledgeable judges and the set up of the room is such that it makes visiting with old friends, and being introduced to new ones, very easy.
After the warm up, the wines are brought in and the wines are judged flight by flight over the next 3 days. As judges, we have no idea which wines we are judging. Often, learning the names of the winners surprises us, too.
Here is a summary of the Best of Show wines from this year’s competition:
- Red – Lewis Grace Tempranillo, El Dorado County
- White – Oak Farm Vineyards Albarino, Lodi
- Sparkling – Korbel Blanc de Noir, CA
- Pink – Gold Hill Barbera Rose, El Dorado
- Dessert – Sutter Home Moscato, CA
- Best Value Wine – Delicato “Torn” Old Vine Zin, Lodi
For full results, click over to the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition Page.
As I said above, if you plan to be in or near Sacramento now through July 26, I suggest you make plans to visit the State Fair to take in the fun (cute animals, soccer, drone racing, demolition derby, rugby, horse racing, a carnival, concerts, fair food and more…) and also the wine booth to enjoy some of these wines. One year I hope to make it there, myself.
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