The 37th annual San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge introduced a new award this year, making Trinchero Family Estates its first wine company of the year based on its performance at the April 6-7 judging.
The award was created to recognize wine companies that demonstrate a commitment to high quality and consistency across multiple brands and price points. Trinchero, based in the Napa Valley, submitted 87 wines for consideration and was rewarded with a stunning 71 medals, second only to the 81 medals (from 101 entries) claimed by E. & J. Gallo of Modesto, California.
The competition directors gave the edge to Trinchero based on the quality of its medals, particularly platinum (it had eight, Gallo four) and gold (Trinchero had 24, Gallo 27).
Trinchero did especially well with its value brands, priced at $12 or less. The Menage a Trois brand scooped up three platinum and six gold, and the Seaglass wines took two platinum and three gold. Menage a Trois wines retail nationally for $14 or less, the Seaglass wines for $12. Even Trinchero's bargain brand, Sutter Home, with wines that retail for $6 or less, got in on the act with one platinum and seven gold.
Said winemaker Jim Hart, whose panel accounted for a few of the value platinum, "These are solid wines that can hold their own."
To be sure, Gallo didn't go down without a fight. Its own value brand, Barefoot Cellars, let out a roar with five gold and 22 medals overall. Gallo also scored with several of its ultra-premium wines, particularly J Vineyards, which earned a platinum award with its CA Cuvee Brut ($27) and gold with four other wines. Louis Martini, William Hill and Gallo Signature series all earned gold or better. And three premium Gallo imports, Pieropan (Italy), Allegrini (Italy) and Whitehaven (New Zealand), stood out with gold-medal wines.
The import category was once again strong this year, with outstanding performances by Palm Bay International, Kobrand, Banfi Vintners and the Gallo import division, among others. Palm Bay was recognized as importer of the year after taking 22 medals, including three platinum and six gold, from 32 wines entered.
Complete results, including spirits winners, can be found at SanDiegoWineChallenge.com.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Bonny Doon 2018 Picpoul, Beeswax Vineyard, Arroyo Seco ($18) — One of the most popular summer whites in France, especially when vacationing near the seaside oyster beds near Marseilles, is picpoul. A crisp, refreshing white that offers notes of citrus and green apple, picpoul is light and easy. And Bonny Doon has nailed it. Rating: 90.
La Valentina 2015 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Italy ($14) — Soft, plush and round, the La Valentina Montepulciano shows ripe black fruits with a note of anise and smooth, supple tannins. It's a perfect wine for the summer barbecue, at a great price. Rating: 88.
The Vineyard House 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville ($225) — Jeremy Nickel's vineyard in Oakville is situated right in the sweet spot of the Napa Valley for cabernet sauvignon. Throw in the fact that 2013 was an exceptional vintage and he has an unbeatable combination. This vintage illustrates the pedigree of the vineyard, producing a luscious cab that delivers rich, ripe aromas of blackberry and cassis, fine tannins and exquisite balance. One of the best from The Vineyard House. Rating: 98.
Inniskillin 2016 Vidal Icewine, Niagara Peninsula VQA, Canada ($49.95) — Luscious, intense notes of apricot, orange and honey dominate this thoroughly delicious icewine from Inniskillin. Refreshing acidity keeps it fresh and clean on the palate. The lingering finish is quite impressive. Rating: 96.
Spelt 2015 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC Riserva, Italy ($21) — Abruzzo produces some of the world's most generous and fleshy red wines at prices anyone can afford, and the Spelt riserva is one of the most inviting. Showing intense black-fruit flavors with smooth, polished tannins, it's a crowd pleaser from the first sip to the last. And you can drink it immediately, no cellaring required. Rating: 91.
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