HOPLAND, 8/18/23 – The Mendocino County Fair held its 44th annual wine competition earlier this month, awarding five best of show winners and numerous double gold, golds and silver medals to 35 wineries. A total of 195 wines from 36 wineries submitted entries to the competition.
Boonville’s Pennyroyal Farm won two Best of Show awards: Best of Show Sparkling Wine for its 2019 Blanc de Noir Best of Show White for its 2022 PinoTrio. In addition to the two big awards, Pennyroyal won a double gold, three golds and five silver medals. All of its wines were produced from Anderson Valley fruit.
The Best of Show Rosé went to Pleiades Wine Company’s 2022 California Rosé Wine. This was the first time Pleiades submitted to the competition and the first edition of Pleiades rosé crafted by winemaker Dustin Durfee. He took over as lead winemaker after the death of his mentor and iconic winemaker Sean Thackery in 2022. The rosé is produced from sangiovese from the historic Gibson Ranch vineyard in Hopland.
Family-owned Graziano Family of Wines won Best of Show Dessert for its Enotrias 2022 Moscato. The fruit came from Nube Biano Vineyard in Potter Valley and is bottled in an adorable short, stubby bottle. The result is a crisp yet sweet Italian style crowd pleaser.
The biggest surprise of the competition was the winner of the Best in Show Red. For the first time in six years, the winner was not a pinot noir, but a 2021 syrah by Greenwood Ridge Vineyards. Judges described the syrah as “bold and herbaceous.”
“I’m delighted and humbled to be the recipient of this prestigious award,” says Antoine Favero, winemaker at Greenwood Ridge. In an interview with the Mendocino Voice, Favero thanked the judges and recognized Greenwood Ridge owners Ken and Diane Wilson for “providing me with the freedom to create these wonderful wines.”
Greenwood Ridge was founded in Philo in 1980 by Allan Green. Greenwood Ridge produced estate grown cabernet sauvignon, merlot and rieslings before Green shifted to pinot noir, the grape that put Greenwood Ridge on wine drinker’s maps. In 2016, Ken and Diane Wilson of Wilson Artisan Wines acquired Greenwood Ridge from Green, who retired from winemaking and is now the director of the International Canned Wine Competition.
With that purchase came the opportunity for an expanded red wine portfolio at Greenwood Ridge, which today includes cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and syrah, in addition to pinot. It’s the syrah that clearly caught the palates of the competition’s nine judges. “The syrah comes from our Jaxon Keys Vineyard north of Hopland,” says Favero, “Syrah does extremely well [there] due to the warm, short growing season. This site consistently produces fruit-forward concentrated wines with round plush tannins.” To craft the award-winning wine, Favero used indigenous yeast to “express the unique varietal and terroir characteristics of the site.”
And while Favero may have crafted the final product that we get to enjoy in our glass, he credits the vineyard team for being a core part of the process. “Big thanks to our vineyard team for providing me with outstanding fruit,” he said. “It is a testament of their artistry, hard work and passion for their craft.”
The gold medal winners will be available for tastings at the Mendocino County Fair in Boonville, September 22-24. A complete list of the 2023 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition awards is available at mendowine.com.
Note: Sarah Stierch covers food, beverage, culture, weather and breaking news for The Mendocino Voice. Contact Stierch at [email protected]. The Voice maintains editorial control.