MENDOCINO Co., 2/15/23 – The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest wine competition in the country, wrapped up last month, and Mendocino County wine producers, and those of us who love to drink local wine, have a reason to be proud. In fact, 20 Mendocino County wineries and one cidery took home over 100 medals this year, including a local favorite winning a Sweepstakes award, the equivalent of Best in Show.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was founded in 1983 as the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition. The first competition had 45 wine submissions from 15 wineries from within 20 miles of Cloverdale, including Hopland and Anderson Valley. Five judges reviewed the wines, one of them Mendocino County wine pioneer John Parducci of Parducci Wine Cellars. Thirty medals were awarded at that first go-round. Over time, the competition grew bigger and eventually was renamed the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Today, nearly 1,000 wineries from across the country submit approximately 5,500 wines to be reviewed by over 60 industry judges.
Of all the medals awarded in the competition, the most prestigious is the Sweepstake Medal. Each year, judges award seven Sweepstakes Medals to the highest scoring wines in the competition. This year, one of Mendocino County’s most iconic wineries was awarded a Sweepstakes Medal for the rosé category: Navarro Vineyards for its 2022 Mendocino County Rosé of Sangiovese ($24). Suffice to say, this award is like being given the Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance, but in pink liquid form.
Navarro Vineyards has been producing wine in the heart of Anderson Valley for almost 50 years. “It was really an honor to gain recognition among thousands of wines for a rosé, a variety that is often treated as an unpretentious simpleton in the wine world,” says Deborah Cahn, owner of Navarro Vineyards. Cahn and her partner, Ted Bennett, founded Navarro Vineyards on the site of a sheep farm in 1973. “This wine is a testament to the specialness of Mendocino County as a wine-growing region,” she continues.
The sangiovese grapes for the rosé were grown by Bob Gibson, a fourth-generation winegrower from Hopland. Gibson is also the director of operations for Roederer Estate. “The wine was fermented in stainless steel and since the grapes had a generous leaf canopy in the vineyards, the alcohol level was controlled,” says Cahn. Cahn describes the wine as crisp with notes of “lovely watermelon and strawberry fruit notes.” Those mouthwatering tasting notes and the lower alcohol of this wine make it perfect for lazy poolside afternoons this summer.
Cahn describes the Sweepstakes honor as a “tribute” to the Navarro Vineyards winemaking team, including longtime winemaker Jim Klein. “As a small family winery, everyone plays an important role,” says Cahn. “[The winemaking team] often starts harvest work in the wee hours of the morning to crush the grapes while they are still cool to help maintain aromatics.” The team takes great pride in all the wines they produce, Cahn says. “Of course, the tasting room crew loves having wines to crow about with our customers,” and the winning 2022 Rosé of Sangiovese is no exception.
However, before you rush off to grab a bottle or twelve of Navarro Vineyards’ 2022 Rosé of Sangiovese, take note. The wine is not yet available to the public. According to Cahn, supply chain issues have caused a delay in the bottle labels. However, she encourages thirsty readers to sign up for Navarro Vineyards’ email list for first notice of the wine’s release.
In addition to Navarro, which won nine additional medals for its wines, six Mendocino County wineries and one cidery won awards for Best of Class, meaning a wine received outstanding scores in its respective submission category. The winners of Best of Class awards are as follows:
- Cabernet Sauvignon $27-$30.99: Yokayo 2020 Frost Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- Gewürztraminer: Husch Vineyards 2021 Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer
- Muscat: Husch Vineyards 2021 Mendocino County Muscat Canelli
- Red Blend: Cab Sauv leading blend $35-$44.99: Jaxon Keyes Winery 2020 Burnee Hill Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- Speciality or All Other Cider: Gowan’s Heirloom Spiced Apple Cider
- White Blends $28 and over: Pennyroyal Farm 2021 Anderson Valley Pinotrio
- White Dessert/Late Harvest Residual Sugar under 3.5: Husch Vineyards 202
1 Anderson Valley Late Harvest Gewürztraminer
- Wood Aged Cider: Gowan’s Heirloom Rosé Cider
- Zinfandel $26-$28.99: Husch Vineyards 2021 Garzini Ranch Old Vines Zinfandel
The Sweepstakes and Best of Class awards are in addition to fourteen additional wineries that won Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals.
Not only are the over 100 medals a point of pride for the wineries themselves, they are a boon for Mendocino Winegrowers, the nonprofit trade organization that promotes and celebrates all things Mendocino County wine. “We are so proud of all the Mendocino wineries that placed in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition,” says Makenzie Blaylock, the newly appointed executive director of Mendocino Winegrowers, “and we aren’t surprised in the slightest… There isn’t a single winery in Mendocino County that doesn’t do something unique with their wines, and we’re glad to see that’s coming to light!”
Readers can explore the additional winners and medals awarded in the 2023 San Francisco Wine Competition here.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.