Monday, February 8, 2016

Organic Winners in the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

This year the country's largest wine competition - in which judges selected the winners from more than 7,000 wines entered - will hold its annual public wine tasting day this Sat., Feb. 13 at Fort Mason.

In this past Sunday's edition of the Chronicle, a pullout section featured a list of all the winning wines. Here are the organically grown among them.

All of these will be available to taste at the event.

What's interesting overall is that a lot of these wines win year after year (McFadden, Bokisch, King, Benziger's Pinots, Campovida's Dark Horse Grenache). Some win less consistently (Montemaggiore, Canihan) but deserve it each year. Which should tell you something about all of these wines (i.e. they ARE really good).

Newcomers: Viluko Vineyards, Petroni, Hawk and Horse, Beaver Creek.

And who would have thought that out of 26 wines, two would be from Lake County's only Biodynamic vineayrds (Hawk and Horse and Beaver Creek.)


Sweepstakes Winner

Korbel, N/V, Brut, Organically Grown Grapes, California AVA, $13.99

• This was a bit of a surprise. What's good about this wine: a lot of it is made - about 12,000 cases a year. And it's affordably priced. What's curious about this wine: it's made with French Colombard, Sangiovese and Chardonnay (probably sourced from the Central Valley), not your usual sparkling wine blend, but a unique, industrial concoction that apparently was tasty enough for the judges' palates. The AVA is "California."

Korbel is a not very nice big corporation and it makes 1.3 million cases of wine a year. This is the only organically grown wine Korbel makes, so, in a best case scenario, perhaps this could be a sign for them that organic grapes are a win.

Double Gold

Cuvee Brut, McFadden Vineyard, NV, Potter Valley AVA, Mendocino, $25

• This has been one of my personal favorites for years and a lot of my friends have now gotten turned on to this as well, having sampled it at my house at various gatherings. Become a wine club member of McFadden's (they'll customize your membership so you just buy what you want) and this goes on sale for a price twice a year at a price very close to what the Korbel costs.

This is a winery you'll feel good about supporting - a grower in Mendocino for more than 40 years, Guinness McFadden became a vintner as well in the last decade. And this wine is his best, in my humble opinion. It's consistently performed exceptionally well at this competition (and others). It's got great farming behind it and a well deserved track record of winning (meaningful) medals.

Sauvignon Blanc 

Best of Class

• Petroni, 2014, $28 (Moon Mountain District AVA, Sonoma County)

From deep in the Moon Mountain District AVA comes this white wine from the mountain lair that is Petroni Vineyards. Founded and run by an Italian restaurant family from North Beach.

Pinot Gris

Best of Class

King Estate, Domaine, 2014, $29 (Oregon AVA)

• A perennial favorite from southern Oregon (just outside the Willamette Valley boundary in southern Oregon).



Bokisch Vineyards, Clement Hills, Terra Alta Vineyard, 2014, $18 (Lodi AVA)

• One of the best in the state.



Barra of Mendocino, Pinot Noir Rosé, 2015, $18 (Mendocino AVA)

• A surprise win - I look forward to tasting this one from long time grower turned vintner Charlie Barra.

Pinot Noir

Double Gold

Canihan Cellars, 2013, $50 (Sonoma Valley AVA)

• Nice to see this family owned vineyard (and vintner) getting kudos for its Pinot Noir.

Alma Rosa, 2013, $55 (Sta. Rita Hills AVA, Santa Barbara County)

• A classic.

Benziger, Arbore Sacra, 2013, $75 (Sonoma Coast AVA)

Benziger, Quintus, 2013, $75 (Sonoma Coast AVA)

• Both of these Benziger Pinot Noirs are Biodynamic Wines, meaning they have been farmed in Demeter certified Biodynamic vineyards and that nothing has been added to the wines (save sulfites to preserve them).


Benziger, Bella Luna, 2013, $49 (Russian River Valley AVA)

McFadden Vineyard, 2013, $19 (Potter Valley AVA, Mendocino)

• A tribute to McFadden's farming and Potter Valley's unique climate.



Grgich Hills Estate, 2012, $36 (Napa Valley AVA)

• From a famous Napa family that's long known a lot about Zinfandel (and fine winemaking overall).


Best of Class

Montemaggiore, Paolo's Vineyard, 2013, $38 (Dry Creek Valley AVA)

Double Gold

Montemaggiore, Syrafina, 2013, $45 (Dry Creek Valley AVA)

• It was very sweet to see that Montemaggiore got a little bit of glory. The family has been focused on Syrah and the vineyard sits on a spectacular and semi-secret spot above Dry Creek Valley. If you haven't been, it's well worth the visit.


Canihan Cellars, 2013, $49 (Sonoma Coast AVA)

Petite Sirah


Beaver Creek Vineyards, 2013, $24 (Lake County AVA)

• Nice to see a Lake County winery get some recognition, and especially in a year where Lake County bore the brunt of the wildfire that spread at lightning speed through a number of vineyards. This was one.



Bokisch Vineyards, 2013, $20 (Lodi AVA)

Campovida, Dark Horse Ranch, 2013, $38 (Mendocino AVA)

• Both of the above are favorites of mine. The Dark Horse, at $38, is a bit spendy but the biodynamic grapes from the Dolan families' gorgeous hillside estate shine through. The Bokisch is affordable enough to drink a case of. Winemaker and grower Marc Bokisch is half Spanish and his Grenache is a perennial winner.



Bonterra, 2013, $15 (Mendocino AVA)

• A great buy at Costco ($10 the last time I was there). Good weekday wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Double Gold

Viluko Vineyards,  Split Rock, 2012, $35 (Sonoma Valley AVA)


Viluko Vineyards, Mayacamas Mountains, 2012, $50 (Sonoma Valley AVA)

• It's lovely to see Viluko getting this kind of recognition. Another great spot to visit during one of their annual release parties. Another secret, tucked away golden spot with a creek and hillsides and a charming old wooden barn. This is a family headed by a very successful Chilean; they're taking the slow road and doing things right.

Long Meadow Ranch, 2012, $52 (Napa Valley AVA)

• From the Hall family in Napa, long time organic leaders in Napa Valley.

Bordeaux Blends

Best of Class

Lateral, 2013, $42 (Napa Valley AVA)

• A nice win for Lateral, from select Napa vineyards. This wine hasn't gotten its due in recent vintages. This medal is well deserved.

Red Blends


Benziger, Tribute, 2013, $80 (Sonoma Mountain AVA)

• Traditionally Benziger's flagship wine, this is also a Biodynamic wine.

Dessert - Red Wine

Best of Class

Hawk and Horse Vineyards, 2010, $45 (Lake County AVA)

• This Lake County Biodynamic vineyard has a unique site, perched on some east facing hillsides. The vines were magically protected from the fire (not even the firefighters could explain why), which spread all around the edges of the vineyard this fall just days after the grapes had been picked. The vineyard features the famous "Lake County diamonds," quartz crystals that sparkle in the red dirt.

Dessert - White Wine

Double Gold

Campovida, Campo des Robles, $28 (Lake County AVA)

• Made from Viognier from the Campovida estate adjacent to Bonterra's vines in Hopland.

1 comment:

  1. We look forward to seeing everyone at Ft. Mason in SF and to sharing our award-winning wines with you all!