2014 Gold Medal Wines
The following comments are tasting notes on gold medal-winning wines written by Mike Dunne, wine columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Mike’s notes were written during the double-blind competition, so he did not know the winery or the origin of the wine as he was composing these tasting notes. See the 2014 winners.
NV Barbera, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant (American)(Best of Class): Developed, with a well-balanced maturity.
2011 Barbera, Eberle Winery (California): Ripe, floral, gritty and severe, a wine meant for the collector more than the hedonist.
2012 Barbera, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): Here is a wine that shows why Barbera is intriguing wine enthusiasts. It has sweet fruit, structure, and zip to an unusual degree, making it compatible with a wide range of foods.
2013 Bonarda, Argento (Argentina): Lush fruit in a frame of oak artfully crafted.
2010 Cabernet Franc, Lex Julia (California)(Best of Class): Ripe and blustery, just the kind of wine you take to a rodeo or cockfight.
2010 Cabernet Franc/Merlot/Malbec Blend, Oso Libre Winery (California)(Best of Class): A wine of structure and focus, which will be most rewarding with five years in the cellar.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Avalon Winery (California): Anyone looking for honesty – a lack of makeup – in their Cabernet Sauvignon will be delighted with this direct and composed interpretation.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Becker Vineyards (Texas): The matinée idol of Cabernets: Bold, dusty, assured, relentless.
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Winemaker Reserve/Late Harvest, Callaway Vineyard & Winery (California): Delightfully interesting wine, its jammy fruit not at all listless; just the opposite, actually.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Taylor Reserve, Dutcher Crossing Winery (California): Puts the fun into Cabernet Sauvignon for its friskiness, its easily accessible definition and its length.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Legends of the Vine (California): A Cabernet Sauvignon of structure and early restraint, shorthand for laying it down for three years to really get your money’s worth, and more.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cote del Sol, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards (California): An herbal take on Cabernet Sauvignon, and that’s a good thing, for it expresses the varietal’s historic unfolding, to which growers and vintners are returning.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cave, Oak Mountain Winery (California): A luxury-division Cabernet that harks back to its origins as a wine of community and unadulterated pleasure after a day of shameless and honest work.
NV Cabernet Sauvignon, Primoroso Winemaker’s Blend, Oso Libre Winery (California): All power and layering, wrapped in a package ready to spring all sorts of surprises on the buyer.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rodney Strong Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): Hunter Pence hits another one out of the park – a Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers with unexpected force, speed and an equilibrium that is a joy to experience.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, ZD Wines (California): A throwback to the early glory days of Napa Valley. It has character, relaxed expressiveness and an approachability that reminds you that fine wine is to be enjoyed at the table with unassuming friends and unassuming food.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, ZD Wines (California): The brooding style of Cabernet Sauvignon, given its dense color, rich dark fruit and imposing timber.
2012 Chambourcin, Midnight, Narmada Winery (Virginia): An uncommonly artful chambourcin, dense with plummy fruit on a frame built to last
2012 Cooper’s Blend Red, Ranch 32 (California): Dark and robust, but keenly balanced.
2010 Cotes-du-Robles Red Blend, Eberle Winery (California): A Rhone blend all broad shoulders and strapping legs, ready to take on the most marbled of meats.
2013 Twisted Sister Late Harvest Red, Coyote Moon Vineyards (New York)(Best of Class): Herbal and fruity, medium bodied in composure, and satisfying for the spice that punches up the fruit.
2013 Fire Boat Red, Coyote Moon Vineyards (New York)(Best of Class): Probably from the country’s heartland, where something is known of quality and value.
2013 Malbec, Black Box Wines (Argentina)(Best of Class): If what you want in Malbec is bluster, intense fruit and more than usual suggestions of complexity, this is what you want to buy.
2012 Malbec, Chakras (Argentina): A damn fine Malbec, rich with red meat and juicy fruit, bracketed with earthiness and floral notes.
2013 Malbec, Handsome Devil (Argentina): A wine direct and blunt, the quality admirable in police detectives squeezing out the truth.
2013 Marquette Red, Coyote Moon Vineyards (New York)(Best of Class): Defines terms like husky, broad and subtly complex in the wine lexicon.
2012 Meritage, Estate, FiveWise (California): The bouquet does exactly what it is supposed to (bring you in) while the pretty flavor and long finish make you feel right at home.
2011 Estate Meritage, Hawley Wines (California): The candy counter at the cinema, all bright temptation, but be forewarned that the wine’s seductive fruit will keep you from concentrating on the film.
2010 Meritage, Diamond Reserve Aria, Harmony Cellars (California): Classic Cabernet for its assertive all-around cherry fruit and herbal underpinning.
2010 Meritage, Middle Ridge Winery (California): A mannerly Cabernet that speaks to breeding and proper upbringing, resulting in a wine composed and reliable.
2012 Merlot, Black Box Wine (California): The plummy side of Merlot in a package lithe and agile.
2012 Merlot, J. Lohr Estates (California): A youthful merlot on entry, evolving quickly on the palate to a rendition muscular and firm.
2012 Merlot, Menage a Trois (California): A merlot of unusual complexity and depth, opening with suggestions of dried herbs and freshly harvested plums and closing with tart cherries.
2010 Merlot, Peju (California)(Best of Class): A gloriously expressive wine, whose display of fruit comes across with breadth and depth to a rarely encountered degree.
2011 Merlot, Rodney Strong Vineyards (California): Merlot? Are you kidding me? Nothing simple, one dimensional or dismissive here. It’s all quality and definition.
2012 Merlot, Stonehedge Winery (California): Textbook merlot, though not dense and challenging, more the kind of lively lesson that gets you excited about school.
2011 Mouvedre/Grenache/Syrah/Petite Syrah Blend, Rideau Vineyard (California)(Best of Class): Juicy, seamless and persistent, exactly why blends are gaining in esteem.
2012 Nebbiolo, Thornton Winery (California): A Nebbiolo that captures all the grape’s complex charm while avoiding the strict tannins that often make the wine intimidating
2011 Petite Syrah, Carol Shelton Wines (California): Glorious now, but leave it in your will if you really want to delight your great-great grandchildren.
2008 Pinot Noir, Blanc de Noirs, Chateau Frank (New York)(Best of Class): Not a frivolous bubbly here, but a serious sparkling wine in its weight, vigor and complexity; that whiff of cheese on the fruit likely will make you think this is farmer fizz.
2012 Pinot Noir, Larson Vineyard, Carol Shelton Vineyards (California): You want spice with grace in your life? Here it is.
2012 Pinot Noir, Frank Family Vineyards (California): If you don’t know pinot noir, here is a most frank yet approachable introduction.
2012 Pinot Noir, Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards (California): A wine you would want to pick up and open when you throw a tri-tip on the grill, and start sipping well before the beef is finished.
2012 Pinot Noir, Reata (California): For grip and forthrightness, look no further.
2012 Pinot Noir, Three County, Reata (California): A real tease of a Pinot noir, revealing just enough of itself to keep bringing you back.
2013 Pinot Noir, SeaGlass (California)(Best of Class): Wow, which is the only natural reaction you can express when you come across a Pinot noir with so much muscle and, well, downright authority.
2012 Pinot Noir, Whiplash (California)(Best of Class): A blustery yet mannerly take on pinot noir, fruity and earthy, with balance and persistence.
2013 Pioneer Red Blend, St. James Winery (Missouri): The morning fruit bowl livened up with lashings of pepper.
2010 Platinum, Sterling Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): Classic representative of Cabernet for its expression of developed friuit, sense of place, and ageability.
2011 Primitivo, Estate, Oso Libre Winery (California)(Best of Class): A ballerina of a Zinfandel – lithe but athletic, its sweet berry fruit tripping across the palate with confidence and grace, finishing with a pirouette of peppery spice.
NV Ella’s Red, Red Blend, 21 Brix Winery (New York): A veritable patch of nettles, berries and spice in a tightly woven tapestry.
NV Red Blend, Neptune, Belhurst Estate Winery (New York): Will reward the adventurous wine enthusiast with a bouquet of balanced and bright fruit, tied with a ribbon silken and wide and bright.
2011 Red Blend, Cryptic Wines (California): Tobacco leaves just starting to be dried; get the pipe out and get ready for a treat.
2012 Red Blend, Tranzino (California): Welcome to my Victorian, all classic lines and busy appointments.
NV Red Moscato, Rex Goliath (Chile): Sweet, yes, but also lilting, and especially refreshing.
NV Reggae Red, Reggae Wines (Indiana): Trite as it may be to say, this truly is summer in a glass – all sunshine, sweet fruit and long days of luxury and relaxation.
2009 Sangiovese, CRU Wine Company (California): Wiry and adroitly balanced take on Sangiovese, the delicate berry fruit underlined with an artful herbal note. The spine is lean but dependable, the acidity reinforcing.
2011 Syrah, Rideau Vineyard (California): A wine lush, concentrated and true, its richness balanced with acidic vitality.
2010 Syrah/Grenache Blend, Lafond Winery (California): Robust and juicy, its dark fruit a testament to thoughtful blending.
2011 Tempranillo, Hearst Ranch Winery (California)(Best of Class): Wonderfully aromatic. The fruit is mature and generous, the structure sturdy, the acid cleansing and the oak far in the background.
2011 Tempranillo, CRU Wine Company (California): A beginner’s Tempranillo, introducing the neophyte to the intensity of the varietal cleanly and gently.
2011 Touriga, Chatom Vineyards (California): A big round Touriga nacional, its dark jammy fruit dovetailing smoothly with the chocolate and smoke from the barrels in which it has been resting, now eager to get out and around.
2010 Zinfandel (Harris-Kratka Vineyard), Manzanita Creek Winery (California)(Sweepstakes): From the Big Boy School of Zinfandel – husky and warm, yet jammed with invigorating blackberry fruit and pie spices that absolutely refuse to relinquish their grip on taste buds.
2012 Zinfandel Sin Zin, Alexander Valley Vineyards (California): A veritable seamless integration of fruit and Wood; old style in a modern package.
2012 Zinfandel, Wild Thing Zin, Carol Shelton Wines (California): A classic interpretation of Zinfandel – berries, spice, structure and length, what more can you want?
2012 Zinfandel, Folie a Deux (California): A fully developed wine.
2012 Zinfandel, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): Bright and spicy fruit, with a gutsiness that speaks to the enduring appeal of Zinfandel.
2013 Albarino, Silver Horse Winery (California): An Albariño that shows why white wines shouldn’t be relegated to steerage; it has the heft, confidence and perseverance to go first class all the way.
2013 Brianna, Coyote Moon Vineyards (New York): For its floral and soapy notes, it could be from South America, but it well may be North American, perhaps from an area underappreciated for its wines.
2013 Cayuga/Seyval, Thirsty Owl Wine Company (New York)(Best of Class): The kind of wine you would like a glass of just before the late-night news: Comforting, unchallenging, refreshing.
NV Cayuga White, St. James Winery (Missouri)(Sweepstakes): Somehow, they got the entire apple orchard in the bottle, given the wine’s snap and refreshment. Off-dry, but with the acidity to balance the sweetness.
2013 Chardonnay Winemaker Reserve Late Harvest, Callaway Vineyard & Winery (California)(Best of Class): The versatility of Chardonnay is displayed with grace and power in this finely balanced late-harvest interpretation.
2012 Chardonnay, Crème de Lys (California): A stately Chardonnay for its heft, balance and restraint in the use of oak.
2012 Chardonnay, Draxton (California): From the Esteemed School of Chardonnay Production, meaning it is clear about what it is – a Chardonnay dry, round, medium-bodied and generous.
2013 Chardonnay, Forty-Five North Vineyard & Winery (Michigan): An unusually refreshing Chardonnay, owing to its complex fresh fruit, its notes of spice and its vigorous and lasting finish.
2012 Chardonnay, Four Vines (California): An autumnal Chardonnay, suggesting cozy fire, fresh cracked nuts and an early but vivid sunset.
2013 Chardonnay, Navarro Vineyards (California): The popcorn style of Chardonnay: Buttery, soft and addictive.
2013 Chardonnay, Newman’s Own (California)(Best of Class): Direct and dry, and nicely framed with wood, or what comes across as oak.
2013 Chardonnay, Robert Oatley (Australia): Who says Chardonnay doesn’t show spice? This has it, bringing a welcome but not distracting note of complexity to the wine’s fresh citric fruit.
2012 Chardonnay, Rodney Strong Vineyards (California): You want pronouncements in your Chardonnay? This shouts ripe tropical fruit, an oak forest smoldering with campfires and a finish that just won’t give up even long after the glass is empty.
2012 Chardonnay, Sterling Vintner Collection (California): When wine critics talk of tropical fruit in Chardonnay, this is what they mean. The wine is medium-bodied and dry. It introduces itself with a warm oak handshake that lets go before it overwhelms the fruit.
NV Chardonnay, The Naked Grape (California): The reason why Chardonnay is the most popular varietal in the U.S.: Fresh fruit, softness, sweetness and just enough layering to invite you back for another taste or two.
2013 Chardonnay, Thirsty Owl Wine Company (New York): A fruity introductory Chardonnay with a whiff of smoke to set it apart from others of moderate fruit and modest acidity.
2012 Chardonnay, Twirl (California): A bright, citric, vivacious Chardonnay that will delight any party host who is handed it by an appreciative guest.
2013 Chenin Blanc, Sutter Home Family Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): Shows just how interesting Chenin Blanc can be when it is cultivated with care and handled with respect in the cellar – forward with ripe pear in the smell, fat with moist fruit on the palate, and just the right proportion of sugar to enhance the fruit.
2013 Diamond, Goose Watch Winery (New York)(Best of Class): A perennial favorite on the competition circuit for its flamboyant fruit and bracing acidity.
2013 Gewurztraminer (Late Harvest), Navarro Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): A honeyed apricot-flavored take on the varietal that is fittingly rich yet vivid with acidity, and it lasts and lasts.
2013 Gewurztraminer, Estate Bottled, Navarro Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): A wine that brings you up short, asking one question after another, leaving you to happily puzzle out the answers.
2013 Dry Gewurztraminer, South Coast Winery (California): So floral and spicy that if it were planted extensively in California we would not have to fret about the bee population.
2013 Gewurztraminer, Thirsty Owl Wine Company (New York): The laser of wine, a Gewürztraminer that gets to the point: fruit, structure and persistence.
2013 Gruner Veltiliner, Fulkerson Winery (New York)(Best of Class): Gruner veltliner is an intellectually challenging wine, demanding that the consumer pay attention, which is painless with this lean, dry and pointed take, which seizes the varietal’s focused fruit and punctuates it with a dash of white pepper.
2012 La Crescent, Coyote Moon Vineyards (New York): A lovely wine for its uncontrived fruit, spice and balance.
2013 Marquis, 21 Brix Winery (New York): A nice spring morning, all floral dew and promising sunshine, delivered with a Faulknerian twist of depth and mystery.
NV Moscato, Barefoot Cellars (California): A muscat not far removed in sweetness from biting into a peach plucked from the tree just before it was to fall from its own juicy weight.
NV Moscato, Sweet Tulip (American): The especially refreshing aspect of this muscat is how its sweetness is so adroitly balanced with spice and acid, revealing a wine floral, fruity and astonishingly long for the genre.
2013 Muscat, Estate, Navarro Vineyards (California): An exquisitely balanced muscat that shows that the varietal doesn’t need sugar to be distinctive and expressive.
NV Pinot Grigio, Barefoot Cellars (American): A deceptive pinot grigio/Pinot Gris, its clean and delicate aroma giving little hint of all the fruit that blossoms on the palate.
2013 Pinot Grigio, Beringer Founders’ Estates (California): Precisely why pinot grigio is seen as summer’s most refreshing wine, given its forthright tropical and apple fruit, tantalizing spice and zesty acidity.
2013 Pinot Grigio, Duck Commander (California)(Best of Class): Lean and dry, but not at all shy in showing off he apple and peach sides of Pinot grigio.
2013 Pinot Grigio, SeaGlass (California): Shows just how surprisingly complex pinot grigio can be. It’s a linebacker of a Pinot grigio – strong, brisk and ready to stand up to most any food.
2013 Pinot Grigio, Tenuta Ca’Bolani (Italy): If not Italian, this is a fine interpretation of Italian Pinot Grigio – a dry, developed, well-balanced white wine that is just the right guest to fill out the party table; it’s animated without being a show-off.
2013 Rhone White Blend, Three Sisters, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): This is why blended wines are catching fire. This wine is not only packed with fruit, it is compatibly complicated with earthiness, spiciness and savory notes. It meets the ultimate wine test: It brings you back and back again.
2013 Rhone White Blend, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): A wine that is on the verge of crossing the line from wine to food for its meatiness, deep herbal flavors and elements of forest.
2013 Riesling, Alba Vineyard (New Jersey): Falls into the luscious category of well-balanced Riesling – fat, clear, vigorous.
2013 Dry Riesling, Belhurst Estate Winery (New York)(Best of Class): On the exotica scale of Riesling, this comes down on the end that includes unusually high energy coupled with exceptional voluptuousness.
2013 Semi Dry Riesling, Belhurst Estate Winery (New York): A most sophisticated turn on Riesling, speaking to the grape’s heritage and nobility with balance, clarity and length.
2012 Riesling, Block II Vineyard, Bowers Harbor Vineyards (Michigan)(Best of Class): An exceptional Riesling for its complexity, lit up with a tantalizing thread of lychee.
2013 Riesling, Medium-Dry, Bowers Harbor Vineyards (Michigan): A Riesling whose lilting sweetness is accented with spiciness and ripe peachiness, resulting in an interpretation complete and lasting.
2013 Riesling, Semi-Dry, Dr. Konstantin Frank (New York): A Riesling both broad and deep, its lush fruit running to a big basket completely filled with summer peaches.
2013 Riesling, Cluster Select Late Harvest, Navarro Vineyards (California)(Best of Class): Sweet? Yes, but with remarkable acidity, keeping it from being as thick and sticky as honey. In short, it shakes up the view of what Riesling is and can be.
2012 Riesling, Wagner Vineyards, Dry Caywood East Vineyard, Estate Bottled (New York): A dry domestic Riesling cleanly floral in smell and solid in build, its lush texture underwritten with revitalizing acidity. The current of petrol in the aroma ties it to the finest takes on the varietal from Germany.
2012 Riesling, Wagner Vineyards, Semi-Dry Estate Bottled (New York): As Rieslings with sugar go, this combines lustiness with athleticism, resulting in a wine that clearly is what it claims to be, rewarding the consumer with directness and vigor.
2012 Riesling Ice, Wagner Vineyards (New York): Apples dusted with cinnamon and drizzled with a thin line of honey.
2013 Riesling, Wollersheim Winery (Wisconsin)(Best of Class): The kind of friendly, assertively fruity yet dry Riesling ideal for introducing the varietal to people who say they never drink Riesling because of its sweetness.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Brampton (South Africa): Classic New Zealand style – forward with grapefruit and lime, refreshing with prickly acidity, complicated with suggestions of a pack of feral cats.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Echo Bay (New Zealand): Invite in the neighbors, throw some shrimp on the grill, and pop the cork or twist off the cap and start to party with this citrusy Sauvignon Blanc.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Hawley Wines (California): The kind of aggressive Sauvignon Blanc that appeals to bikers who like to ride the white line on multi-lane freeways – aggressive, proud and loud.
2012 Sauvignon Blanc, J. Lohr (California): New Zealand style – Limey, wild in a theatrical way, and vibrant with the kind of acidity that makes it such a friendly companion at the table.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Rodney Strong Vineyards (California): A grounded Sauvignon Blanc – grounded in terroir, balance, dryness and well-handled acidity.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Barbara Winery (California): The stern schoolmarm you come to appreciate many years after graduation for her discipline, direction and ultimate grace.
2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Starz (South Africa)(Best In Class): A good reminder that the Long Beach Grand Cru is an international competition, given the refinement of this Sauvignon Blanc, even if it might be from Oregon or California.
2013 Seyval Blanc, Wollersheim Winery (American)(Best of Class): Watermelon without either the seeds or the rind.
NV Snow Goose, Goose Watch Winery (New York): A wine bold, fruity and spicy, with depth, breadth and terrific length.
2013 Traminette, Big Cork Vineyards (Maryland)(Best of Class): In its floral and viscous attributes, rewards enough.
2013 Traminette, Thirsty Owl Wine Company (New York): A wine floral, balanced and honest; why ask more?
2012 Vidal Blanc, Fulkerson Winery (New York): Honey is drizzled over the peaches in just the correct proportion.
2013 Vidal Blanc, Gray Ghost Vineyards (Virginia): A well-balanced bike for two – fruit up front, smoke in the back.
2013 Vidal Blanc, Swedish Hill Winery (New York): A wine crisp, clean, fruity and ready to stand up to most any dish involving shrimp.
2011 Vidal Ice Wine, 21 Brix Winery (New York): Flowers, fruit and white pepper in a carriage reserved for royalty.
2013 Vidal Ice Wine, Debonne Vineyards (Ohio)(Sweepstakes): Flowers! Spice! Peaches! No wonder the bees will be difficult to keep away from a glass of this.
2013 Russian Kiss white blend, Big Cork Vineyards (Maryland): Pungent herbal and floral aroma is followed by sweet dripping fruit on a medium-bodied frame.
2013 White Blend, St. James Winery (Missouri): Fruit and spice in a compact package.
2012 Riesling/Gewurztraminer, Goose Watch Winery (New York): A voluminous expression of what wine can be – provocative and affirmative.
2013 Viognier, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): As whole a Viognier as you are apt to find, from its spirited smell of honeysuckle and peach through its plush texture, mouth-filling fruit and ticklish spice.
NV Ella’s White, 21 Brix Winery (New York)(Best of Class): Morning jam, just waiting to be spread on the toast.
2013 White, Menage a Trois (California): A white wine of unusual heft that nonetheless trips gracefully across the palate, leaving light footprints of bright and spirited fruit.
NV Ellatawba, 21 Brix Winery (New York)(Best of Class): ‘Foxy’ isn’t pejorative, nor does it mean adolescent, as this sweet, grapey and simply fun wine shows.
NV Perfectly Pink, Barefoot Refresh (California): You want a pink wine fun and unassuming? This is it.
2013 Pinot Noir Blanc, Alpen Cellars (California)(Best of Class): Looks you in the face and isn’t going to back off, which is really rare for a pink wine.
NV Pink Moscato, Sweet Tulip (America): A floral and fruity wine of expansive and embracing generosity.
2013 Rosé, Menage a Trois (California): Austere yet expressive in its firm structure.
2013 Rosé Blend, Helwig Vineyards & Winery (California): A wine that speaks to origin in its transparency and endurance.
2013 White Marechal Foc, Wollersheim Winery (Wisconsin)(Best of Class): No watermelon in the picnic basket? This will do, and with no seeds to spit.
2013 White Merlot, Beringer Classics (California): Sweetly fruity, with backbone and length.
2013 White Zinfandel, Montevina (California)(Sweepstakes): A pleasantly fruity introduction to white Zinfandel.
NV Bubbly Moscato, Rose ‘n’ Blum (California)(Best of Class): A stone-fruit and floral sparkler than tempers muscat’s usual viscosity with zippy acidity.
NV Chardonnay Champagne, Korbel Champagne Cellars (California): Want a sparkling wine of unusual muscularity and complexity? Look no farther. This is precisely the kind of sparkling wine you want to serve at the dinner table, both to spark conversation and to go with most any savory dish.
2003, Carneros Cuvee, Gloria Ferrer (California): The kind of sparkling wine to serve on New Year ‘s Eve when the party is two; it has the quietude and subtleties that demand attention; give it, and then enjoy the fireworks later.
2006, Royal Cuvee, Gloria Ferrer (California): Californian? Has to be for its organic fruit, persistent sunshine, refreshing frankness and lingering length. If it isn’t, a great imitation.
NV Sweet Cuvee, Korbel Champagne Cellars (California): For an introductory sparkler, this delivers the sort of floral and fruity attributes that will enhance most any celebration.
NV Sweet Rosé, Korbel Champagne Cellars (California): This is the kind of sparkling wine the bridal contingent would welcome just before the ceremonies, when they want something grounding but not so serious to temper their excitement.
NV Tropical Fusion, Barefoot Bubbly (California): Sweet and exotic, with lots of body.
NV Isabella Sparkling, Belhurst Estate Winery (New York)(Best of Class): A grapey, balanced sparkling wine that would be welcome on the porch after a day of baling hay.
NV Citrus Fusion, Barefoot Bubbly (California)(Best of Class): When adults come trick-or-treating with their kids, greet them with a tulip of this, but be forewarned, they won’t want to leave; it is sweet, luxurious and haunting.
NV Blanc de Noirs, Korbel Champagne Cellars (California)(Sweepstakes): A composed sparkling wine that will please the person looking for a bubbly that is dry, direct and eager to encourage a discussion frank and fair.
NV Naturel, Swedish Hill Winery (New York): A sparkling wine that zeros in on the traditional role of sparkling wine, which isn’t to interfere while contributing to the festive mood.
NV Red Moscato, Barefoot Bubbly (California): From first blush to final swallow, a bubbly of forthright fruit and sturdy structure.
2013 Sparkling Red, Vina Sympatica Sparkling Wines (California): A sparkling wine of unusually deep color, dryness, berry fruit and peppery spice.
NV Brandy XS, Korbel Champagne Cellars (California): All spiced apples and fire.
NV Peach Wine, St. James Winery (Missouri): Captures the whole peach except for the pit
NV Raspberry Wine, St. James Winery (Missouri): Raspberry still-life, seizing the fruit’s come-hither color, aroma and sweet juicy flavor with balance and boldness.
NV Blackberry Wine, St. James Winery (Missouri): Classy fruit wine, capturing the whole patch with clarity and vigor.
NV Raspberry Wine Weibel Family Vineyards (California): Cherry pop for adults, but neither sugary nor soft
2011 Fireside Port, Daniel Gehrs Wines (California)(Best of Class): The down comforter of the wine world – thick and embracing.
NV Zinfandel/Grenache Port, Galleano Winery (California): The whole autumnal package in one glass: Falling leaves, curbside fire, drifting smoke and a bowl of toasted nuts.
NV Zinfandel Port, Terra d’Oro (California)(Best of Class): Jammy fruit whose sweetness lingers considerately, without encasing the taste buds in sugar.