June 13, 2008
We Have Winners

After five hours of tasting and voting, and then tasting and voting again, and again, and again, judges at the 2008 California State Fair commercial wine competition finally chose a best-of-show white and a best-of-show red at 1:55 p.m. today.

I wish I could reveal the two top wines, but I don't know their identity. They aren't to be unveiled until the evening of July 10, when the fair holds its annual Grape & Gourmet gala at Cal Expo.

This much I know: The best-of-show white is a riesling, the best-of-show red is a pinot noir. Both are terrific representatives of their respective varietals, the riesling fresh, fruity, and persistent, the pinot noir striking a rare balance between youthful fruitiness and mature complexity.

Each was chosen from a field of 12 candidates, which earlier had been elected the best wines of the regions into which the competition divides the state (Sierra foothills, Lodi, South Central Coast and so forth). The group of 12 candidates for best-of-show white was interesting in that three of the candidates were sparkling wines, two were viogniers and two were riesling, all varietals or styles for which California isn't especially noted; only one was a chardonnay. The 12 reds were almost as provocative, with only one candidate being a zinfandel, one being a sangiovese rose, and two being unusual blends; three, however, were cabernet sauvignon, helping restore a semblance of balance to the wine world.

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