Edible Monterey Bay

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Local Love From the SF Chronicle Competition

March 9, 2021 – This year’s San Francisco Chronicle Competition was delayed two months by the pandemic, but on it went, attracting almost 6k entries. It’s a long one, with four days of judging and 17 panels of judges, including yours truly. My panel had Muscat (what a perfumey ride!), $40 and over Petit Verdots (inky and interesting), $14—$15.99 Chardonnays (mostly meh, but some quite nice), under $12.99 Cabernets (a sea of mediocrity with the occasional island of brilliance), $38—$40.99 Zinfandels (universally awesome), Cab blends up to $24.99 (brutal beasts), $65—$71.99 Cabernet Sauvignons (back the tannin truck up, please!), White Native American and Hybrids (a crazy trip to the frozen hinterland), $44—$47.99 Pinot Noirs (no room for error, and plenty of Silvers) and Cabernet blends from $45—$55.99 (more short stories than novels). 

Sweepstakes winners at the San Francisco Chronicle Competition

And now, to the overall winners.

Tied for Best Sparkling were two polar opposites: an intense, acid-laced Blanc de Noirs from Trump Winery in Charlottesville, VA (please, I know), and a lively, creamy apple-tinged Blanc de Blancs from Gruet Winery in New Mexico, a longtime favorite of mine. It was an East vs. West kinda thing. 

Best Rosé went to a 2020 Dancing Crow Syrah Rosé from Lake County (excellent). Best White went to a 2019 Darjean “Envie” Viognier from Russian River in a cool blue bottle, and Best Red was a tie between two wines grown in Paso Robles, the 2018 Lightpost Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, made by a local up and comer in Morgan Hill, and a 2018 Runquist Syrah. 

Other highlights from the Sweepstakes round were a spicy Carignan from Sunce, a solid Mourvedre from Helwig, a good Grenache from Grenachista in Mendocino, and a very elegant Zin from Del La Montanya, Dry Creek. There was also a fantastic Barbera from Runquist, a killer perfect Cab Franc from Barrister in the Columbia Valley, and a superb Merlot blend by Trail 3150 ($60), sourced from the Oak Knoll District of Napa. This is the way to do Napa! A brilliant wine.

From our Monterey and Santa Cruz Mountains regions, additional Best of Class winners that made it to the Sweepstakes round included:

  • 2019 Pierce Ranch Vineyard Albarino
  • 2019 Hive & Honey Riesling (Scheid) 
  • 2018 J. Lohr Vineyard Series “Fogs Reach” Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco                   
  • 2019 Soquel Vineyards Partners Reserve Coast Grade Pinot Noir, Ben Lomond Mountain 

By the way, to achieve the Sweepstakes Round is a big deal in such a huge competition. Congrats to all those wineries and winemakers!

Other local Best of Class winners included:

  • 2017 Cinnabar Winery Cabernet Franc, Lodi
  • 2019 Lightpost Winery Pinot Noir Ferrari Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains 
  • 2019 Soquel Vineyards Partners’ Reserve Nebbiolo Lago Lomita Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyards

Two quick notes: (1.) The Ferrari Vineyard, on Browns Valley Road, used to be known as the Mattison Vineyard, and is farmed by local viticulturist, Prudy Foxx. Winemaker Christian Roguenant of Lightpost is doing an amazing job with this fruit. (2.) The Lago Lomita Vineyard is located on Loma Prieta Ave, and is owned by Mark and Robin Porter. Here is planted not only Nebbiolo but Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Prudy Foxx also farms this vineyard. 

By local winery, here are the top results, including Silver and Gold medals. Grab a glass and toast our local talent!

Bargetto Winery

  • 2018 Regan Vineyards Mount Eden Clone Pinot Noir, Double Gold
  • 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve Merlot, Double Gold
  • 2019 Regan Vineyards Pinot Grigio, Gold
  • 2016 Santa Cruz Mountains Lavita, Silver
  • 2018 Regan Vineyards Dolcetto, Silver
  • 2019 Regan Vineyards Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2018 Regan Vineyards Pinot Noir, Silver

Bernardus Winery

  • 2018 Sierra Mar Pinot Noir, Double Gold
  • 2019 Sierra Mar Vineyard Chardonnay, Gold
  • 2018 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2019 Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Arroyo Seco, Silver
  • 2014 Marinus Estate Bordeaux Blend, Carmel Valley, Silver

Blair Estate

  •  2016 Delfina’s Vineyard Reserve Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, Gold
  • 2017 The Matriarch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Gold
  • 2019 Delfina’s Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, Silver
  • 2016 Tasting Room Series, Morgantini Vineyard Pinot Noir, Arroyo Seco, Silver

Chalone Vineyard

  • 2018 Chalone Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2018 Chalone Chardonnay, Gold


  • 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, Gold

CRU Winery

  • 2018   Sarmento Vineyard Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, Double Gold
  • 2019   Edna Valley Albarino, Gold
  • 2018   Santa Maria Valley Sierra Madre Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2017   Santa Lucia Highlands Vineyard Montage Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2017   Arroyo Seco Vineyard Montage Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2019   Arroyo Seco Unoaked Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2018   Monterey County Library Vineyard Pinot Noir, Silver

Hahn Winery

  • 2019 California Pinot Noir, Best of Class
  • 2019 California GSM, Silver
  • 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2018 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, Silver

J. Lohr

  • 2016 Cuvée Series Paso Robles Cuvée PAU, Gold
  • 2016 Cuvée Series Paso Robles Cuvée POM, Silver
  • 2016 Cuvée Series Paso Robles Cuvée ST.E, Silver
  • 2019 J. Lohr Estates Arroyo Seco Wildflower Valdiguie, Double Gold
  • 2018 J. Lohr Estates Paso Robles Los Osos Merlot, Gold
  • 2018 J. Lohr Estates Paso Robles Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Gold
  • 2019 J. Lohr Estates Arroyo Seco Riverstone Chardonnay, Gold
  • 2019 J. Lohr Estates Arroyo Seco Flume Crossing Sauvignon Blanc, Silver
  • 2019 J. Lohr Estates Monterey County Bay Mist White Riesling, Silver
  • 2018 J. Lohr “Pure Paso” Cab Sauv leading blend, Silver
  • 2016 J. Lohr Signature Paso de Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Gold
  • 2018 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Arroyo Seco Fog’s Reach Pinot Noir, Best of Class
  • 2017 J. Lohr Vineyard Series St. Helena Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Gold
  • 2018 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Arroyo Seco Chardonnay, Gold
  • 2018 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Arroyo Seco October Night Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2017 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Paso Robles Tower Road Petite Sirah, Silver


  • 2018 Carmel Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Double Gold
  • 2019 Carmel Valley Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Silver
  • 2018 Carmel Valley Zinfandel, Silver
  • 2018 Monterey Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2017 San Antonio Valley Argyle Vineyard Syrah, Silver
  • 2018 Arroyo Seco Roger Rose Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2017 Carmel Valley Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver

Lightpost Winery

  • 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains “Sevastien” Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver
  • 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains “Rion” Merlot-based blend, Silver

Longford Estate

  • 2019 Monterey County Pinot Noir Rosé, Gold
  • 2018 Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver

Meniketti Wines

  • 2018 Monterey Chardonnay, Gold
  • 2019 Monterey Rosé of Pinot Noir, Silver

Pierce Ranch Vineyards

  • 2019 San Antonio Valley Albarino, Best of Class
  • 2018 San Antonio Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver
  • 2018 San Antonio Valley Petite Sirah, Silver
  • 2017 San Antonio Valley Tempranillo, Silver

Smith &Hook

  • 2017 Central Coast Proprietary Red Merlot-based Blend, Silver


  • 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains Saveria Vineyard Petite Sirah, Silver
  • 2017 Lodi Karma Vineyard Zinfandel, Silver

Sonnet Wine Cellars           

  • 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains Gali Vineyard Tempranillo, Silver

Soquel Vineyards 

  • 2018 San Francisco Bay Merlot, Double Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Redwood Hill Vineyard Chardonnay, Gold
  • 2019 California Trinity Rosso, Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Lago Lomita Vineyard Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Regan Vineyards Pinot Noir, Gold
  • 2019 Lodi Partners Reserve Jeanne Marie Vineyard Zinfandel, Silver
  • 2019 Lodi Partners Reserve Maley Vineyard Teroldego, Silver
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Unexplored Territory Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Partners Reserve Stretched Boundaries Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2017 Napa Valley Partners Reserve “Pyramid” blend, Silver
  • 2019 California Rodden Vineyard Teroldego, Silver
  • 2019 Monterey County Pinot Grigio, Silver
  • 2018 Atlas Peak Partners Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Silver

Stockwell Cellars

  • 2018 Monterey County Tondre Grapefields Chardonnay, Double Gold
  • 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Vineyard Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2017 Monterey County Tondre Grapefields Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir, Silver


  • 2017 Santa Clara Valley St. Clare, Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, Silver
  • 2017 Santa Cruz Mountains Petite Sirah, Silver
  • 2019 Monterey Sauvignon Blanc, Silver
  • 2016 Santa Cruz Mountains Wildcat Ridge Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2017 Santa Clara County Rusty Ridge Zinfandel, Silver

Wargin Wines

  • 2018 San Benito Montepulciano, Gold

Waxwing Wines      

  • 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyard Syrah, Double Gold
  • 2019 Santa Cruz Mountains Deerheart Vineyard Pinot Noir, Silver
  • 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains Lester Family Vineyard Pinot Noir, Silver

Congratulations to all those who entered and scored medals. 

For those of you looking for a decent Chardonnay in the $14 to $15.99 range, these were among the highlights from my judging panel: 

2019 Raymond – Napa/Monterey

2019 Knotty Vines – Best of Class – really good! – Excellent balance, bold, crisp, good acid 

2019 Sean Miner – lots of vanilla 

2019 Toad Hollow, Mendocino – Unoaked 

2019 Criterion – Napa

2019 Bennett Valley Cellars – GG – lots of creamy pear – very pretty

2019 Andover Estate, Arroyo Seco – GG – really good!

2019 J Lohr, Arroyo Seco – always a winner – a flood of tangerine

2018 Edna Valley Vineyard  – Central Coast 

You can find all the SF Chronicle judging results at winejudging.com

About the author

+ posts

Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.