CLOVERDALE, Calif. – North America’s largest wine competition begins this morning in northern Sonoma County – and it continues to grow at a remarkable rate.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition marks its 30th year in existence and has drawn a record 6,417 wines. That’s up nearly 600 wines from last year’s record numbers.
“Last year, we hit 5,850, which we thought was an anomaly,” said Bob Fraser, chairman of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. “Two years ago, it was 5,500 entries.”
Fraser, who runs the judging with his son Scott, has been involved with the judging long before the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate.com came on as the naming sponsor. He joined the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition 27 years ago. The judging, which is held in this town near the Mendocino County line, became the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition some 15 years ago.
Because of the large increase in entries, the organizers have about 60 judges working together on 19 panels. Each panel will taste about 400 wines over the course of four days. The judging concludes Friday morning with a tasting of the top wines that will determine the best red, white, pink, sparkling and dessert wines.
Last year, Barnard Griffin in Richland, Wash., won best pink for its 2013 Rosé of Sangiovese. In fact, owner/winemaker Rob Griffin has earned a gold medal or better for his rosé nearly every year here for the past decade.
The judging, which began as a competition of wines in Northern California, now includes wines from across the country. This year, wineries from 28 states are participating. While California has the most entries by far, Fraser told Great Northwest Wine that he has seen a strong increase in entries from Washington, Oregon and New York.
As a result of the competition’s reach, Fraser now brings in wine professionals from many areas of the country, including Washington, New York, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Minnesota and Virginia. He also attracts top judges from throughout California.
San Francisco Chronicle public tasting
Each year, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition stages a public tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. This year, the public tasting is from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 14. Tickets are $65 in advance. They almost always sell out, so don’t count on buying a ticket at the door for $80.
Full results of the competition will be posted on winejudging.com and SFGate.com on Friday afternoon. Results from the Pacific Northwest will be posted on Great Northwest Wine.