Some people have all the luck. For three days each June, I am one lucky guy. I have the privilege of swirling, swishing, sniffing, tasting and -- most importantly -- spitting more than 400 wines during the three days of judging the 32nd annual San Francisco International Wine Competition.
The competition, the brainchild of wine guru and publisher Anthony Dias Blue, is unique because the evaluation is done by a three-person panel on a blind, consensual procedure. That means that in order for a wine to be awarded a double gold medal, all three judges must agree to grant a gold medal. From there, only a handful of double gold winners are nominated to go on to the sweepstakes round, where they are judged by all 49 judges, a prestigious panel of nationally recognized wine experts, on the final day of the competition. So only the best of the best wines earn the Best in Show title.
The competition this year was fierce. More than 1,300 wineries from 26 states and 29 countries submitted 4,556 wines for evaluation. The medal count included 202 double gold awards, 363 gold medals, 1,358 silver medals and 1,613 bronze medals. Wines were judged in several categories, including best white wine, best red wine, best sparkling wine and best dessert wine.
Blue has undoubtedly developed one of the most rigorous and well-respected wine competitions in the industry. In addition to his role as executive director of the San Francisco International Wine Competition, Blue is also a highly regarded authority on food, wine, travel and spirits. Currently, his work reaches more than 30 million consumers each month through a variety of media outlets, including the Tasting Panel magazine and his weekly radio shows. He is the author of "The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks" and its companion, "The Complete Book of Spirits."
Here are the top results from this year's competition. Retail prices are approximate, and availability in our region may vary.
Best of Show winners
Best Reisling and Best of Show White: 2011 Maryhill Winery Riesling (3.1 percent residual sugar), Columbia Valley, Wash.; $10
Best of Show Sparkling: 2004 Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Vintage Brut, Champagne, France; $46
Best Bordeaux Blend and Best of Show Red: 2008 Kestrel Vintners Raptor Red Premium Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley, Wash.; $60
Best of Show Dessert Wine: 2007 Barboursville Vineyards Passito Malvaxia (12 percent rs), Virginia; $30
Double gold whites
Chardonnay: 2010 Five Rivers Chardonnay, California; $11
Gewurztraminer: 2011 Vina stvi Libal Gewurztraminer Select (3.97 percent rs), Czech Republic; $14
Moscato: 2010 Cameron Hughes Moscato Lot 319, Sori, Italy; $14
Pinot gris: 2011 Kenwood Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, California; $16
Rose: 2011 Pech Merle Winery Ivy Rose of Syrah, Dry Creek Valley, Calif.; $17
Sauvignon blanc: 2011 South Coast Winery Sauvignon Blanc Musque Clone, Temecula Valley, Calif.; $14
Viognier: 2011 Honey Moon Viognier, California; $6
White blend: 2010 San Antonio White Blend Heritage Blanc, Central Coast, Calif.; $19
Double gold reds
Cabernet sauvignon: 2008 Parallel Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Calif.; $125
Carmenere: 2010 Locomotora Carmenere Curico Sagrada Familia, Lontue Valley, Chile; $10
Grenache: 2010 Alexandria Nicole Cellars Grenache Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Wash.; $35
Malbec: 2009 Alamos Malbec Seleccion, Mendoza, Argentina; $20
Merlot: 2009 Summers Estate Wines Merlot Summers Ranch Reserve, Calistoga, Calif.; $30
Non-bordeaux blend: 2010 Crush Red Blend, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada; $13
Petite sirah: 2009 Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah, St. Helena, Calif.; $45
Petit verdot: Ingleside Vineyards Petit Verdot, Virginia; $20
Pinot noir: 2009 Lawson's Dry Hills Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand; $23
Red Rhone: 2009 Hearst Ranch Winery Red Rhone Blend Three Sisters Cuvee, Paso Robles, Calif.; $20
Syrah/shiraz: 2010 Gatt Old Vine Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia; $103
Tempranillo: 2008 Bumgarner Winery Tempranillo, El Dorado, Calif.; $27
Zinfandel: 2008 DePaola Vineyards Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley, Calif.; $30
Best sweet wines
Ice wine: 2011 Seifried Estate Sweet Agnes Riesling Winemaker's Collection (20.4 percent rs), Nelson, New Zealand; $25
Late harvest wine: 2011 Navarro Vineyards Late Harvest Muscat Blanc Cluster Select (14.4 percent rs), Anderson Valley, Calif.; $59
Sherry: Gonzalez Byass Non-Vintage Palo Cortado Leonor Palomino Sherry, Jerez, Spain (0.6 percent rs); $20