At this year’s Harvest Challenge Wine Competition, Livermore showed up bigger and better than ever. It was an impressive showing, with 17 great wines, including two head-turning cabernet francs, a gregarious grenache, a solid sangiovese, a mighty malbec, stout petite sirah and a righteous Bordeaux style blend.
This year, the man with the widest smile is once again Aaro Luna, who managed a 98-point score for his 2018 Garré Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Franc, which was crowned Best of Livermore Valley and went on to the Sweepstakes round. That’s the not the first time a Garré wine or a wine from Livermore has been in the Sweeps at this competition, which judges wines strictly by American Viticultural Area (AVA) — a specific type of appellation of origin used on wine labels. There are 260 AVAs within 34 states in the US; 142 of them are in California.
Nobody brought cabernet franc like Livermore this year. Each wine medaled, including the 2018 Fenestra Cabernet Franc, gold, 94 points (silky and juicy with a lively texture, warm ginger and raspberry); the 2018 Garré Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Franc, double gold, 98 points (sexy, with pine, eucalyptus, chocolate mint, cocoa powder, dried cranberry and red currant); and the 2018 Rodrigue Molyneaux, which just missed gold with a high silver (rose perfume, cedar, pine, silky and lithe).
Winning double gold was the 2018 Fenestra Grenache, 97 points, described as captivating, with ripe red strawberry fruit, and the 2016 Fenestra Conjugation, 97 points, noted as herbaceous, with ripe plum, cigar box, rhubarb, good structure and a long finish.
Scoring Gold was the 2018 Rodrigue Molyneaux Malbec, 93 points, described as having explosive red fruit, a savory edge with sage and licorice, and a lush texture. The 2018 Garré Sangiovese also scored gold, 94 points and was noted as high impact, with silky texture, loads of cherry, spice and cedar. The 2016 Fenestra Petite Sirah came away with gold, 94 points, described as having a rich concentrated nose, with blackberry, white pepper and spicy dense mole on the palate.
Bringing home silver medals were the 2020 Fenestra Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Fenestra Infrared Rhone blend, the 2018 Garré Profound Secret, the 2018 Rodrigue Molyneaux Barbera, 2016 Fenestra Estate Syrah, 2018 Garré Syrah, 2018 Fenestra Zinfandel and 2018 Garré Petite Sirah.
In the final voting, a Primitivo from St. Anne’s Crossing (Sonoma Valley) took Best Red and Best of Show, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by Luna’s outstanding cabernet franc. Yes, there is hope for this grape to be the Best of Livermore in more ways than one.