If you thought the weather in Sacramento this weekend was pleasant, you should have been in Dallas, where temperatures rose into the 70s under skies blue and still. Unfortunately, I only got to enjoy spring's early tease as I walked between the Magnolia Hotel and the Dallas Convention Center, where along with about 60 other wine judges I was sequestered in a ballroom staring at a large white screen where our scores were projected for debate and tabulation.
This was the setting for the 24th annual Dallas Morning News Wine Competition, which drew nearly 3,500 wines, a record high. Our panel was assigned about 240 wines, including large classes of cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, pinot grigio and zinfandel.
We won't get our coded results for a week or two, so I have no idea of the identity of the wines that we gave gold medals. I do know that there weren't many of them. The most surprising class was the pinot grigios, which as a group showed more refreshing and alluring fruit than I've generally associated with the varietal.
A few days ago, a reader emailed me to ask what I thought of zinfandels from the 2006 vintage that I tasted at the recent Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco. I haven't answered because I didn't taste many zinfandels of any vintage that day. At Dallas, however, the 37 zinfandels our panel tasted were almost solely from the 2006 harvest. We weren't awed by the category, and ended up giving just three gold medals. It was an unusually uneven group, with a bright and clean zinfandel often followed by a string of muddled and clumsy releases. An unusually high number had funky smells and flavors. Based on this experience, I suggest zinfandel partisans approach the 2006s cautiously. Taste before you buy; short of that, look for wines that rank high either at several competitions or are scored high by several critics whose view you tend to share.