July 2, 2019 – Everybody knows Sunset magazine, for its unabashed love affair with all things American West. After a two-year hiatus, due to changes of ownership with the publication, the Sunset Wine Competition returned to the world stage. It attracted over 2700 entries, and many of them came from right here in our backyard. The field was tight, the quality was high and the overall feeling of the judges was that these were some of the best wines we’d judged all year.
The final sweepstakes round, where Best White, Best Red, Best Sparkling, Best Dessert and Best of Show are chosen, was especially tough, with 31 excellent wines vying for our attention.
Among them, were some of the following Double Gold and Best of Class wines, from the Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey AVA’s. Those with an asterisk appeared in the final sweepstakes.
Double Gold, Best of Class
*2015 Bargetto Family Estate LA VITA
*2015 Furthermore Wines Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir
2017 Lucia Highlands Fogstone Vineyard Pinot Noir
2017 Soquel Vineyards Estate Grown Pinot Noir, 30thAnniversary
*2017 Storrs Wildcat Ridge Chardonnay
Although none of them went on to win, they did hold their own in the sweepstakes round. Going for Best White were a lovely Chenin Blanc, a fine Picpoul Blanc-based Rhone blend, a juicy Pinot Grigio, two excellent Chardonnays, a lively and juicy Verdelho and a fetching Vermentino from Bella Grace in Amador County, which took the Best White crown. I never vote for Chardonnay unless it’s truly extraordinary for a Chard, and in this case, the Storrs Wildcat Ridge proved such a wine. Congrats to Pam and Steve Storrs for this great showing! They were in good company.
In the Best Red dogfight, there were two delightful Pinot Noirs, including the utterly fetching 2015 Furthermore, which garnered my vote, a beauteous Barbera, a tempting Tempranillo, a mighty fine Merlot (St. Francis), a couple of red blends, two decent Cabs, Bargetto’s La Vita Italian red blend (which showed really well) and a gregarious Grenache from Santa Barbara, which ended up winning the day.
When all was said and done, we had to choose Best of Show between the Breathless Brut sparkling, the Apriori Rosé of Pinot Noir, a Chenin Blanc Ice wine that won Best Dessert, the Vermentino and the Grenache. The Sparkling and Rosé each garnered two votes, the Dessert wine one, the Vermentino four and the Grenache took 11 votes to win the shooting match.
Gold medal results for other local wineries are listed here:
Gold, Best of Class
2015 Furthermore Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
2018 Hive & Honey Gewurtztraminer
2015 Storrs Pinot Noir
2017 Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay
2015 J. Lohr Cuvee Series Cuvee PAU
2015 J. Lohr Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold Medal Winners
2013 Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon; George’s Vineyard
2016 Gali Vineyards Tempranillo
2016 Gali Vineyards Pinot Noir
2017 J. Lohr Estates Los Osos Merlot
2018 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguie
2017 J. Lohr Estates Riverstone Chardonnay
2016 J. Lohr Estates South Ridge Syrah
2017 J. Lohr Vineyard Series October Night Chardonnay
2017 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Arroyo Vista Chardonnay
2016 J. Lohr Vineyard Series HILLTOP Cabernet Sauvignon
2015 J. Lohr Vineyard Series Highlands Bench Pinot Noir
2014 Kings Mountain Vineyards Clone 13 Pinot Noir
2018 Scheid Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé
2017 Soquel Vineyards Pinot Noir, Partner’s Reserve
2017 Talbott Kali Hart Pinot Noir
2015 Thérèse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Selection
It should also be mentioned that at the 2019 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, which also took place in May, Bargetto again won Best of Class for La Vita, J Lohr won best White of Region for the 2018 Monterey Riesling, Le Mistral Vineyard won Best of Class of Region for the 2017 Rhone blend, and Storrs won Best of Class for both the 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains barrel fermented Chardonnay, and the 2017 Wild Cat Ridge Chardonnay. Storrs also took a Best of Class for the 2018 Monterey Sauvignon Blanc. Sonnet Wine Cellars (Tony Craig) won a Best of Class for the 2016 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains.
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.