Mead On Wine
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© 1998 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

Competition results are flooding my desk these days, and wines that wine medals from the top competitions are always good shopping tips...maybe better than the recommendations of top magazines, newsletters and critics (present company excepted, of course).

The Wine Spectator, for example, doesn't identify who is doing the tasting on any particular wine review, and it's not unusual for one of their critics to love a wine and an issue or two later another person will bomb the very same bottling.

Critic Robert Parker is just one guy, who can presumably have a bad day...I know I had one, one time.

With the major wine shows, panels of experts are employed, and for a wine to earn the kind of approval necessary for a gold medal from several panelists is the kind of consensus one can generally rely on.

Why don't you read more about wine competition results? Because the wine publications basically run their own wine tastings every issue, and they see the major wine judgings as competition, therefore they refuse to publicize them or their winners.


The Orange County Fair is still the world's largest all- California wine competition, even if it has been passed in overall size by numerous national and international shows.

Because the judges work independently, turning in scores without consulting each other to reach consensus, unanimous golds are a rarity. When it does happen (12 wines out of nearly 2300 entries in 1998), the wines are declared "Four Star Golds" and are the equivalent of other competition's double golds.

The only winery to win more than one 4-Star is Gallo Sonoma, both for 1994 Cabernet Sauvignons. One for "Frei Ranch - Dry Creek Valley," the other for "Barreli Creek Vineyard - Alexander Valley."

If you order the official awards booklet by sending $6 to: OC Wine Winners, Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702 (800) 845-9463, you should be alerted to a 4-Star typo.

A 4-Star went to Stags' Leap Winery 1994 "Napa" Petite Sirah. Alas! They misplaced the apostrophe and listed the wine as Stag's Leap. I know it's confusing, but there are two Stags and two Leaps. "Stag's Leap" is owned by the Winiarski family, which also makes Petite Sirah, while "Stags' Leap" is owned by Beringer Wine Estates. The latter won the award, but OC spelled it like the former. Got that? And by the way, when "Stags Leap District" appears on a label as an appellation, there's no apostrophe at all. Call the apostrophe police!

Three different producers, with three different styles of Gewurztraminer, all won 4-Star Golds: Mill Creek 1996 "Dry Creek Valley"; Kendall-Jackson 1996 "California-Vintner's Reserve"; and for a sweet late harvest style, Husch 1997 "Anderson Valley."

One of my consistently favorite Pinot Blancs won a 4-Star too, Wild Horse 1997 "Monterey."

Two Rieslings won, Gainey 1997 "Santa Ynez" White Riesling and Temecula Crest 1997 White Riesling.

Monthaven 1996 "Monterey" was the only Chardonnay to be so honored.

A very young Cilurzo 1997 "Temecula-Reserve" Merlot and a blended red wine Castoro Cellars 1995 "Quattordici Anni" from Paso Robles rounded out the field of 4-Stars. We'll mention more in Orange County winners in future columns.


It didn't come as a bit of a surprise to me when I was told the name of the overall "Best of Show" winner at the San Francisco Fair, as well as "Best Red Wine" and winner of a double-gold medal.

Mead On Wine readers shouldn't be surprised either. The wine appeared here as "Wine of the Week" roughly three months ago and with a perfect 100 point score for quality. Hope you got your Joseph Phelps 1995 "Insignia" then, because it's going to be almost impossible to find now. It's a Cabernet Sauvignon blend, by the way.


A few weeks back we reported on the "Best of Class" wines from a number of important varieties at the L.A. County Fair, but failed to report on some of the most import red wine categories.

Best of Class Pinot Noir in the up to $13 price class was Domaine St. George 1996 "Santa Maria Valley."

Best of Class Pinots from the $13.01 to $23 range were both from Meridian, 1996 "Santa Barbara" and 1995 "Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo" Reserve.

The top Merlots from the $13.01 to $23 range were Benziger 1996 "Sonoma" and Concannon 1995 "Alameda."

And the "Best" above $23 was Swanson 1996 "Napa" Merlot.

Two Best of Class winners again for inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Ridge 1996 "Central Coast" and Meridian 1995 "California."

At $13.01 to $23 the available-only-at-the-winery V. Sattui 1995 "Napa- Suzanne's Vineyard" was the one.

And two more "Bests" for the $23.01 and up class, Le Ducq 1995 "Napa Valley-Sylviane," and the very collectable Beaulieu Vineyard 1994 "Georges De Latour-Private Reserve."


Peter Rumball NV Sparkling Shiraz ($24) Very unusual by world sparkling wine standards, though it has been a popular style in Australia for eons. Brought into the country by a small importer, it may be difficult to find so call (760) 598-7888 for retail information. What this wine offers is serious Shiraz (Syrah) red wine flavors, but with threshold sweetness to smooth out the tannins and astringency, with the added fun of bubbles. Drink it with barbecues this summer, Peking duck anytime or with next Thanksgiving's turkey dinner. Rating: 88/85


Maddalena 1997 Muscat Canelli ($7) Lichee, kumquat and grapefruit in the nose...and all that and more in the taste. At 2% residual sugar, there's just a hint of sweetness showing through the very crisp acidity. Great poolside or brunch wine for the summer and fall. And a "Best Buy" too. Rating: 90/94

To track down any wines mentioned, call Mead's office at (800) 845-9463 for assistance.

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1998 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
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