January 9, 2008
In the Clover at Cloverdale

chronIMGP2450_edited.jpgSo, I check in to the 25th annual Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition, now known as the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and find that I'm on a panel assigned chardonnays and zinfandels this first day of the judging. I'm pumped, not only because I'm a zinfandel partisan but because the chardonnay class our panel has been assigned is the category priced $30 and above.

OK, at that level the chardonnay not only should be drinkable but downright forceful and elegant. We weren't disappointed. Of the 64 chardonnays we tasted, 18 got gold medals, one of which ultimately was voted best of class, qualifying for the sweepstakes round Friday. It's a blind tasting, so at this time we have no idea who made the wine. To us, it's just No. 67 in Class 213. Here are my notes on the wine from the first round: "Smoky, ripe, wiry, kind of thin but nonetheless with varietal character." I didn't think it warranted more than a silver medal, but it got a gold.
In the best of class round I said, "Dry, elegant, Chablis-like, fitting for a dinner party where all the guests are open, non-defensive and highly literate; I'm not there, of course, but I can dream." Remember, we were spitting throughout the judging, but still....

For the record, my fellow panelists are Bob Foster, assistant editor of the wine newsletter California Grapevine and recently retired deputy attorney general for the State of California; Kristi Mohar, wine manager for the Pacific Market group of grocery stores in Sonoma County, Kent Rosenblum, owner/winemaker of Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda; and Mark Chandler, executive director of the Lodi/Woodbridge Winegrape Commission.

Tomorrow, we start off with rieslings, followed by more zinfandel. People who live in Cloverdale call it heaven. I'm almost convinced.

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