May 30, 2008
For Now, Sweepstakes Wine a Mystery

After three days and some 3,500 wines, judges at the 2008 Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition in Pomona concluded their deliberations today by electing a 2006 zinfandel the show's best wine.

Officials of the judging's sponsors - the Los Angeles County Fair and the supermarket chain Ralphs - won't release the identities of the wines until June 14, but judges began to speculate immediately about where the grapes for the sweepstakes wine might have been grown. Almost certainly California, given that zinfandel is cultivated here more extensively than any place else. Beyond that, a random survey of several judges found no consensus, though Sonoma County generally and either the Russian River Valley or the Dry Creek Valley were mentioned more often as the possible appellation of origin. Paso Robles also looked to be in the running. The winning wine is lithe, jammy and persistent, with a brightness of fruit and a lean structure that seemed to rule out Amador County and Lodi as the likely source of the grapes; in both those appellations, zinfandels customarily are riper and weightier. Curiously, no one mentioned El Dorado County or Napa Valley as the possible source of the zinfandel's grapes, even though zinfandels from both areas often are stylistically similar to the sweepstakes winner.

A total 47 wines were candidates for the sweepstakes. The final two hours of deliberation first involved selecting a best white wine, a best sparkling wine and so forth until 10 wines were left standing, one from each of the major divisions.

I'm looking forward to learning the identities of all 47, but especially the gewurztraminer that was declared the best white wine of the competition. It also was the runnerup to the zinfandel for the sweepstakes title. And then there's a spectacular sangiovese, a close second to the zinfandel when the best red wine was chosen.

A Moscato D'Asti beat out a Champagne, a Brut and a prosecco for best sparkling wine, while a sherry handily beat an angelica and a tawny port for best dessert wine.

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