The California State Fair's Commercial Wine Competition is a big one, and happens to be the longest standing wine competition in the Golden state, having originated in 1855. It is the only competition of its type to partition California into 11 wine regions and to recognize the best wines in each region. It also recognizes the best of varietals and styles.
Rick Pickering, California State Fair General Manager and CEO, tells us, "The Commercial Wine Competition is not only the oldest wine competition in the country, but it continues to expand its prestige year after year. Winning top honors at the State Fair is seen as a pinnacle achievement and honor for California wine makers."
This year, 2,811 California wines were judged over three days by respected winemakers, wine merchants, writers, promoters, and educators from across the country.
The State Fair awarded 129 double gold medals, 325 gold medals, 1,117 silver medals, and 967 bronze medals this year. There were also 303 Best of Class of Appellation Awards, 24 Best of California Awards, 22 Best of Region Awards, three Best Micro Winery awards, the Best Value Award, and five Best of Show Awards.
Three of the five Best of Shows at the California State Fair went to Livermore Valley wineries this year:
Best of Show Red: Double Gold, 99 points, Concannon Reserve, 2016 Stampmaker’s GSM, Livermore Valley
Best of Show White: Double Gold, 99 points, Las Positas Vineyards, 2018 Verdelho Estate, Livermore Valley
Best Micro Red: Double Gold, 100 points, Rodrigue Molyneaux Estate Winery and Vineyard, 2016 Sangiovese, Livermore Valley
Best of Show Sparkling: Double Gold 99, Korbel, NV Blanc de Noirs, Methode Champenoise, California
Best of Show Pink: Double Gold, 98 points, Buttonwood Winery & Vineyard, 2018 Syrah Rosé, Estate Grown, Santa Ynez Valley
Best of Show Dessert: Double Gold 99, Lewis Grace, 2018 “Fashionably Late,” Late Harvest White Wine, El Dorado
Best Micro White: Double Gold, 99 points, Halleck Vineyard, 2018 Gewurztraminer, Calandrelli Vineyard, Russian River Valley
How exciting for the Livermore Valley to achieve such a significant sweep at this major competition. Great to see such recognition for the winemaking team at Concannon, including winemakers James Foster and Alyssa Barber. Congratulations to Concannon for putting their stamp firmly on this competition.
Brent Amos of Las Positas Winery once again nailed Best White with his awesome 2018 Verdelho. When asked to comment on this significant achievement, he simply said, “four for four.” Which translates to four Best of Shows at four major wine competitions this year alone, beginning with Best Red at the SF Chronicle Competition for the 2016 Malbec, followed by Best White and Best of Show at the 2019 Tri-Valley Conservancy “Uncorked” competition for the 2018 Verdelho, which was then followed by a Best of Show for the 2018 Albarino at the Alameda County Fair, and now this high honor for the Verdelho. Curtis Pipes, Marketing Manager for Las Positas said they had entered one other major competition, Orange County, and were awaiting the results.
Meredith Sarboraria, consulting winemaker at Rodrigue Molyneaux, deserves congratulations for her win at the State Fair for Best Micro Winery Red with the 2016 RM Sangiovese. She also took home a silver for the 2018 RM Pinot Blanc and a double gold for 2016 RM Cabernet Franc at the State Fair.
She and Brent Amos are both alums of the Lanny Repogle “School of wine competition success,” having raked in their fair share of medals over the years while at Fenestra, only to go on to their respective next careers with tremendous success, each winning major competitions in their own right.
For Sarboraria, who started her consultancy, Barrel Down Wine Services, after leaving Fenestra, this win is doubly sweet. “It’s the first 100 point wine for me and I am so proud to win this honor for Garry and Nancy of Rodrigue Molyneaux, and for Livermore.”
She goes on to observe, "I think this shows that just about every varietal can be grown and made well here, without the heavy-handed result. A lot of that has to do with the right farming, picking date, and techniques used on the crushpad and in the cellar. A winemaker has plenty of opportunity to leave their mark on a wine, despite what is widely 'assumed' about the region of origin. I'm hoping that assumptions start to more accurately reflect the facts about this AVA, because we are consistently producing some great wines here in Livermore."
A list of the 2019 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition winners can be found at CAStateFair.org.
The Best of Show Commercial Wine Competition winners will be acknowledged on Thursday, June 27, on the west steps of the Capitol. Later that evening, the winning wine makers will sample their wines at the Best of California Tasting event at Cal Expo, held prior to the California State Fair Gala benefiting The Friends of the California State Fair. You can purchase tickets to the Gala at CAStateFair.org/GALA.
The award-winning wines will be featured before hundreds of thousands of guests at the 2019 California State Fair, which runs July 12-28.