Hello again!

Last week, we talked about the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in terms of its magnitude (7162 entries) and seamless organization (thanks to Directors Bob and Scott Fraser and their entire team). Today, let’s take a look at how the competition functions.

My wine mentor Bill Stevens taught me long ago that drinking wine and tasting wine is fun, but judging wine is hard work. It is, and being at the SFCWC was like boot camp for some of the best wine judges in the country.

Breakfast was from 8:00 – 9 a.m. all four days, with daily announcements given by Bob at exactly 9 o’clock. At noon, lunch began and each panel would break for 30 minutes based on their progress judging. The food was great, and there was even a cooler full of cold Lagunitas Ales for the judges at lunch!

There are three judges per panel, and I was fortunate to be matched with Mike Dunne and Andy Perdue. Andy is the wine columnist for The Seattle Times and Mike is the former food editor, wine columnist, and restaurant critic for the Sacramento Bee. We judged well together, and after three days with these guys my head was swelling with new wine info.
7162 wines were broken down into over 100 categories, and the types of categories are based on varietals (Zinfandels, e.g. ) or styles (Bordeaux-style blends, e.g.). Large categories, like Zinfandels, are further divided by price, such as $28.00-$31.99.

Judging is simple. A wine scores no medal, or a bronze, silver, or gold. A wine can also score a bronze or silver plus or minus. If a wine scores a gold from all 3 judges, it becomes a double gold. Judges can change their scores based on panel discussion. At the end of each category, wines that won gold and double gold are revisited, and only one is chosen “Best in Class” for that flight.
Categories can be large, on Wednesday I judged 64 Cabernet Sauvignons priced from $39.00 to $42.99. They arrive in flights of 12, and are set in a near perfect 1/2 circle. When I arrived back from lunch the first day, I found my napkin folded, pencil sharpened, bread refreshed, and water replenished.

This brings me to a most appreciative mention of the incredible panel crew that Andy, Mike, and I were fortunate to have assist us. Our panel monitor was Ginny Barnett. She tallied our scores, posted medals, kept us organized and on track, and pretty much spoiled us rotten. Ellen, Sue, and Gary did the trench work behind the curtains, bringing us endless wine and keeping our tables tidy.

One last THANKS to everyone, here and there…