May 4, 2008
Overcast, But No Thunder

Today shouldn't be as long or as tough as yesterday at the 2008 Riverside International Wine Competition. Saturday, our four-person panel tasted through 137 entries, ranging from light chardonnays to weighty cherry wines. Today, we're scheduled to taste just 48; zinfandel, syrah and sherry for breakfast, anyone? And after that, we'll have the sweepstakes round, which traditionally involves about 40 wines, though it doesn't look as if we will face that many today. Our panel, for one, didn't nominate a single one of our gold-medal wines for sweepstakes consideration, and from what I've been hearing other panels also have been tight with coming up with candidates. Not sure what it means. A weak field? Stern judges? All that could change this morning, however.

My fellow panelists, incidentally, are Don Galleano, owner/winemaker of the historic Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, Riverside County; Carol Shelton, owner/winemaker of Carol Shelton Wines in Santa Rosa; and Doug Frost, a Kansas City wine and spirits consultant and writer. Galleano has an interesting shorthand comment when he comes across a wine he doesn't like: "Yuba City, I have no reason to go there."

By the way, if you find yourself hungry in downtown Riverside, consider Omakase, the only Japanese restaurant I've been in for some time that doesn't have sushi. What it does have is a boldly modern and creative take on Japanese cookery. A thick cut of seared steelhead trout, served on artichoke risotto, was spicy with arugula and tangy with lemon, while the sweet richness of roasted pork belly was intensified on one hand with a blackberry gastrique and mellowed on the other by potato gnocchi. And don't get me started on the light-hearted joy of the pineapple custard cake. Omakase is at 3720 Mission Inn Ave.

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