The first major U.S. wine competition begins today. It’s also the largest judging of American wines in the nation.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition takes place in the northern Sonoma County town of Cloverdale (it’s so close to Mendocino County, you can smell the marijuana). The Chron judging is formerly known as the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition and included wines from the surrounding region when it launched in 1983.
In 2000, the San Francisco Chronicle became the competition’s title sponsor, and the judging has since taken off, expanding first to a statewide competition, then the West Coast and now nationwide.
That first competition in 1983 included just 45 wines. By 2007, it drew 4,913 entries, and last year, it expanded to more than 5,500 entries, making it the largest in the country.
The Pacific Northwest has always fared well at the Chronicle judging. In fact, Barnard Griffin in Richland, Wash., has won a gold medal for its rosé of Sangiovese for an astonishing seven consecutive years. And it has won best rosé for each of the last two years.
Northwest winners from 2012 wine competition
Also last year, the following Northwest wines won gold/best in class awards at the Chronicle judging:
- Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley
- Pebblestone Cellars 2010 Pinot Gris, Rogue Valley
- Nicola’s Redmark 2009 White, Columbia Valley
- Maryhill Winery 2009 Proprietor’s Reserve Grenache, Columbia Valley
- Milbrandt Vineyards 2009 Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope
- Kiona Vineyards Winery 2009 Lemberger, Red Mountain
The competition begins this morning, and the sweepstakes judging, which will involve more than 100 top wines, will conclude about 11 a.m. Friday. Soon after, we will begin reporting results here on Great Northwest Wine.
Also part of the Chronicle judging is the public tasting. This year, it is Saturday, Feb. 16, at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco in the northern Marina District east of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tickets are $70 in advance and $85 at the door (don’t rely on any tickets being available at the door, as the event often is sold out).