Now that the California State Fair is in full swing (July 10th-26th), and Save Mart Supermarket’s Wine Country is open for tasting, I wanted to give you a heads up on my favorite wines this year from the Winners of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.
Andy and I attended a media event a few weeks ago at which the 2015 Best of Show winners were announced, and here’s what we liked best:
2012 Handley Pinot Noir (Mendocino County)
Andy and I discovered Handley Cellars at the Pinot on the River event last year in Healdsburg, and we have been buying their Pinot Noir ever since. Not a shock to see them win an award. They took silver for the pinot noir pictured above and their 2013 Anderson Valley Gewürtztraminer pictured below. Congrats to a well-deserving winery!
The Rosé of Barbera pictured above from Gold Hill Vineyard took Best of Show Pink DOUBLE Gold 98. If you remember a few years ago, I told you it was hip to drink rosé, and I chose some of my favorites at Total Wine. You can read those picks here. If I were to rewrite my list of summer sippers this year, the 2014 Gold Hill Barbera Rosato would be one to buy!
Speaking of rosés, here’s one from Zucca Mountain Vineyards, the 2014 Belle Nipoti a rosé blend. This wine earned a Silver for Best of Class of Region.
Upon the suggestion of California State Fair wine judge and co-host of the Bottle Talk with Rick and Paul radio show and podcast Rick Kushman, I visited the table where Robert Hall wines were featured. I found this Orange Muscat I liked very much, even though I am not typically a fan of dessert wines. It won a Gold honor for Best of California, Best of Region ‐ White.
I also found this sparkling wine made by Barsetti quite delightful. It was actually the first wine I tasted when we arrived at the event. What a way to kick things off. This wine scored a Gold Best of Class of Region.
This Rosato di Primitivo was Amador’s Uphill Vineyards first attempt at making a blush wine. Nice job there, because it made my list of wine picks and more importantly, took a Double Gold honor from the wine judges.
Last but not least, we have a Chardonnay produced by one of my favorite local wineries, Matchbook Wine Company. You might remember my recent tour of their facilities. Matchbook’s The Arsonist Chardonnay won a Silver, and even though I knew exactly how the wine tasted, of course I had a little taste anyway. 😉
There’s Andy and Rick deep in discussion, no doubt. 😉 Actually, Andy met Rick through running before he met me. And I met Rick through the whole Sacramento food and wine scene before I met Andy. So now it’s always fun to see him at events and get each others’ opinions on what we liked (and didn’t like) and why. Good times! 🙂
About the State Fair Wine Competition
The first State Fair Wine Competition was held in 1855. The competition is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wine events in the country. Top wines including Best of Region and Best of California winners will be featured at the State Fair in the Save Mart Supermarkets Wine Garden for visitors to enjoy July 10-26.
A complete listing of award-winning wines can be found at castatefair.org. Hope to see you at the fair (most likely in the Save Mart Supermarket Wine Country)! 😉
Last week, Andy and I had the privilege of attending a private wine tasting at Total Wine & More to select my holiday picks that will be featured in the Sacramento area Total Wine & More stores, as well as right here and right now on cavegrrl.com. For the next month, I’ll be pictured next to my wine selections (with a tag that will resemble the one below) in Sacramento area stores with a link back to this website.
Total Wine & More is pretty much my version of a Chocolate Factory and Theo Snyder is my Willy Wonka. She’s the manager of the Arden Total Wine & More, and has come to know my tastes in wine. For the tasting, she pulled several wines for me that were a refreshing departure from the normal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir picks synonymous with Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.
And now, I get to pass them on to you. As not only fantastic beverage choices that will leave your taste buds dancing, but also as picks of value. Nothing in this round up is more than $29.99 per bottle, and you could actually buy all 6 wines on my list for $112!
First up is a sparkling wine that hails from Lodi! It’s the Oak Ridge Sparkling Wine (Private Cuvee) that as far as we know is probably a bubbly made from grapes of Pinot and Chardonnay. It’s $12.99 per bottle and approachable for all of your party guests. It’s off dry, and spectacular with appetizers… a great pairing with anything that has little cheese or a buttery crust. I like sparkling wines so much I could drink them during my entire meal. 🙂
Next up is a wine made by Shenandoah Vineyards (Sobon Family Wines). It’s their 2011 Amador Chenin Viognier Blend. I don’t want to give away my favorite wine of the tasting so soon in the blog post, but I have to tell you… this is the wine I am really still thinking about a week later. It was so unique. It was earthy, buttery and had a certain petroleum characteristic to it. I really love those kinds of wine. They can stand by themselves or pair beautifully with the first course of your holiday meal! Well done, Sobons! A true gem for the $14.99 price. 🙂
For my next pick, we’ll travel into Placer County near the Newcastle/Auburn area to Dono dal Cielo. That’s the 2009 Zinfandel (Foothills) I have chosen to drink with our holiday meal. Maybe you aren’t on speaking terms with your parents, but this wine will ease the tension and have everyone singing together by the second course. It’s also the most expensive wine of my picks coming in at $29.99, but I am pretty sure that’s cheaper than therapy and a whole lot more palatable.
Let’s travel back to Lodi for a visit with one of my favorite wineries, St. Amant. They make two of my favorite local wines in existence: a Barbera and a Tempranillo (the grapes in the Tempranillo hail from Amador). You can find both the Barbera and the Tempranillo at Total Wines & More, but for today, let’s focus on their Tempranillo. Tempranillo is probably my favorite red wine. I love the subtle fruit and the earthiness of the varietal. If I see it on a wine list next to any other red wine, I always choose it. It’s typically cheaper than most other reds, but far more interesting. I would drink this Tempranillo with any of the following ingredients: mushrooms, truffle, olives, meats like pork chops, prosciutto, pancetta, etc, stews, hard cheeses.
Are you ready for a powerhouse wine? Then try the 2011 Macchia Barbera Delicious. ($21.99) Macchia is located in Lodi and makes some of the best (and more potent) wines in the region. Barbera is an Italian grape varietal is the second most widely planted grape variety in Italy. If you are into big and bold, you’ll love the Delicious. It’s an intense concentration of berries with a 14.8% alcohol content.
When God gave out wine making talent, he gave an unfair advantage to Paul Sobon. I don’t think he could make a bad wine if he tried. He’s also the winemaker behind my final holiday selection, and a perfect ending to any celebration, the 2011 Sobon Zinfandel Port ($14.00, 375 mL). Port is something I only drink on very special occasions (and usually during winter) because its sugar level is very high. I treat it like dessert: I would rather have a little glass of it with some fruit and cheese instead of a piece of pecan pie any day! Another reason I like port is because it keeps longer than other wines do in the refrigerator, so no pressure to drink it all in one day. (Even though I don’t think that will be a problem with the Sobon port!)