January 11, 2008
Cloverdale's Best

With 75 wines in front of each of them, Luigi Velo, owner of The Italian Importing Co. in Sacramento, and Ralph Kunkee, professor emeritus of enology at UC Davis, joined other judges of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in Cloverdale earlier today for the event's final task, selecting the sweepstakes wines.

With a record 4,235 wines, the Chronicle competition is the largest judging of American wine in the country, at least until other commercial wine competitions get under way in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston later this year.

At any rate, here are the sweepstakes winners from the Chronicle judging:

Sparkling wine: A tie between the Gloria Ferrer 2000 Carneros Royal Cuvee Brut ($32) and the Mumm Napa non-vintage Napa Valley Blanc de Noirs ($19).

White wine: Merryvale Vineyards 2005 Carneros Chardonnay ($35).

Pink wine: Barnard Griffin 2007 Columbia Valley Rose of Sangiovese ($12).

Red wine: A tie between the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2005 Russian River Valley Jane's Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir ($45) and the Savannah Chanelle Vineyards 2005 Sonoma Coast Armagh Vineyard Pinot Noir ($40).

Dessert or other specialty wine: S3X 2006 Russian River Valley Late Harvest White Riesling ($38).

The 75 wines qualified for the sweepstakes round by being declared the best in their individual classes. The Chronicle crowns more best-of-class wines than most competitions because it groups varietals and styles by price brackets, such as zinfandels up to $14.99, zinfandels $15 to $24.99, and so forth. Of the 75, six were from wineries close to Sacramento. I plan to report on those and on other aspects of the judging in the Dunne on Wine column in The Bee's Taste section this coming Wednesday. Right now, I have to try to scrub all this purple from my teeth.

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