Getting to the Sweepstakes round at the largest wine competition in North America takes a wine that outshines and outlasts 5,700 entries from more than 1,000 wineries in North America, Mexico and Canada.
The San Francisco Chronicle is not only the first official wine competition of the year, but it’s one of the toughest, just by the nature of its sheer size and the diversity of judges from all over the country.
The Sweepstakes round is where all the wines that have won Best of Class are assembled for a final verdict. All 50 judges were presented with a total of 69 wines this year, including whites, reds, sparklings, rosés and dessert wines.
The winners of each of those categories respectively were: Best White, 2023 Las Positas Estate Verdelho from Livermore tied with 2022 Annadel Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma; Best Red, 2021 Cooper Vineyards Barbera, Amador County; Best Rose, 2022 Four Graces, Williamette Valley; and Best Sparkling, Chandon Blanc de Noirs.
Locally, in the Santa Clara Valley, Cinnabar scored a Best of Class for their 2021 Mercury Rising Cabernet-based blend, which literally put them on the broader map. They also scored Gold for their 2021 Cabernet Franc from the Lewis Vineyard in Lodi and Silvers for their Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and 2021 Denice Vineyards Petite Sirah, Santa Clara Valley.
Bella Montagna in San Jose, scored Gold for their 2022 Estate Santa Clara Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and Silvers for their 2021 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2021 Estate Merlot.
Big Dog Vineyards in Milpitas scored Gold for their 2019 Cinq Chevaux Block Cabernet (San Francisco Bay), and Silvers for their 2020 Cienega Valley Cabernet Franc and 2021 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay.
Cooper Garrod from Saratoga, who were founding members of the Santa Clara Winegrowers Association, scored Double Gold for their 2019 Estate Cabernet Franc. That wine is a great example of the “francness” of Cab Franc, displaying distinctive aromas of red raspberry and pine. They also came home with Silver for their 2022 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay.
Guglielmo (Morgan Hill) scored Silver for their 2021 Private Reserve Chardonnay from Arroyo Seco.
Kirigin Cellars scored Double Gold for their distilled Vino de Mocca and Owner’s Reserve Cab blend and Silvers for their Santa Clara Valley 2019 Barbera, 2022 Chardonnay, 2022 Malvasia Bianca, 2019 Petite Sirah, 2022 Pinot Grigio, Estate Red, NV Kirigin’s Delight, NV Kirigin’s Red, 2019 Syrah and 2020 Tempranillo. (NV means “non-vintage,” meaning it is generally a blend of two or more vintages.)
L&M Vineyard in Gilroy scored Silver for their 2020 Cabernet Franc, San Ysidro District (tiny sub AVA in the south of Gilroy).
Little Uvas entered four wines in this year’s competition and ended up with three Golds and a Silver, including a Double Gold for the 2020 Merlot, Gold for the 2021 Barbera, Gold for the 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, and Silver for the 2022 Sauvignon Blanc. Owner Rich Bergin said, “The last two years, we submitted eight wines and received eight medals: two double golds, four golds and two silver.” Way to go, Rich and Rosy. And congrats also to Alphonse de Rose, who makes their red wines, and to Jeff Fadness, who makes their whites.
Martin Ranch (Gilroy) scored Gold for the 2022 Therese Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Griva Vineyard in Arroyo Seco and Silver for the 2018 Therese Signature Selections Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains. The 2020 JD Hurley Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020 JD Hurley Central Coast R.E.D Vineyards Pinot Noir and 2020 JD Hurley Santa Clara Valley Merlot, all scored Silver.
Moose Mountain in San Martin scored Gold for the 2020 Prodigal Son Merlot-leading blend and Silver for the 2020 Merlot, both from Santa Clara Valley.
P & V Winery in Morgan Hill scored Double Gold for their 2020 Aram Cab Sauv leading blend from Santa Clara County, Gold for their 2019 Santa Clara County Zinfandel, and 2021 for their Santa Margarita Ranch Chardonnay.
Sarah’s Vineyard (Gilroy) scored Gold for their 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, a solidly made and rewarding effort, and Gold for the lively 2021 Rose d’Ella-Rae sparkling wine, named for proprietor Tim Slater and his wife, Megan’s, daughter. They also scored Silver for the 2021 Estate Pinot Noir.
Solis Winery (Gilroy) scored Silvers for their 2021 Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2022 Fiano, 2019 Syrah and 2019 Zinfandel, all from the Santa Clara Valley.
The complete results can be viewed at winejudging.com.
Taste all the Gold medal winners from the San Francisco Chronicle Competition, at the public tasting, which will be held at Fort Mason in San Francisco on Saturday, Feb. 17, from 1:30-4:30pm. For information, visit tinyurl.com/4yxbaxcd.