Pezzi King, Angeline take Harvest Fair sweepstakes
Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 7:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.
“Two out of three ain't bad,” should be Pezzi King's theme song, after it snagged two of the three sweepstakes awards Saturday in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition.
The Healdsburg winery won the sweepstakes red with its Pezzi King 2010 Row 26 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County Reserve Zinfandel at $50, and it also won the sweepstakes for specialty wines with its Pezzi King Vineyards “A Royal Rot,” 2010 Dry Creek Valley Botrytized Sauvignon Blanc at $50.
As for the sweepstakes white, it went to Angeline for its 2011 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc at $15.
The winners were announced Saturday night at a dinner dedicated to recognizing the Sonoma County wine industry and its best wines.
About 800 people attended the awards event at the Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The pavilion never looked so sleek, taking on the look and feel of a high-brow restaurant with piano music, candles and even props — a colossal 6-foot silver bottle of wine to greet the guests.
“You would never know this was a Quonset hut. It is transformed,” said Melinda Hill, co-owner of Healdsburg's Cannonball Wine Company. “It looks great.”
The awards night celebration was the culmination of the wine competition. A panel of 25 judges sampled nearly 1,000 competing wines from Wednesday to Friday, and handed out 863 awards. The three sweepstakes winners were included in the 37 Best of Class awards. In addition, there were 21 double gold, 173 gold, 340 silver and 292 bronze awards.
The public will have access to the wines on Friday during the Harvest Fair's Grand Tasting from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Pezzi King will no doubt be among the producers drawing the longest lines. The winery, founded in 1993, is a leading zinfandel producer in the Dry Creek Valley. Earlier this year it was purchased by fellow zinfandel enthusiasts Ken and Diane Wilson, owners of Healdsburg's Wilson Winery & Vineyards. But Pezzi King, according to its website, retained its winemaker Chris Barrett.
This is the first sweepstakes win for Pezzi King, even though Wilson Winery has snagged the sweepstakes red for zinfandel in 2011, 2006 and 2005.
This is also the first sweepstakes win for Angeline, a second label at Santa Rosa's Martin Ray Winery. Courtney Benham re-established the Martin Ray brand after discovering 1,500 cases of Martin Ray library wines in an old warehouse in 1990. He contacted the Ray family and purchased the Martin Ray label, adding Angeline as a lower-priced option.
Now that all the medal-winning wines have been awarded, the mad dash to buy them begins.
“We pray and pray and pray that all the sweepstakes winners are available in some kind of quantity,” said judge Ben Pearson, wine buyer for Santa Rosa's Bottle Barn. “When there's little wine, you upset your customers more than make them happy.”
Wilfred Wong, cellar master of Concord wine and liquor chain BevMo, said his customers will also be looking for the Harvest Fair winning wines.
“Because Sonoma County is such a major wine-growing region, what happens here gets transmitted beyond county lines,” Wong said.
Retailers say the medal winners — and particularly the sweepstakes winners — get more than their 15 minutes of fame. But what exactly does a Harvest Fair sweepstakes win mean in dollars and prestige?
Diane Wilson, who won last year's sweepstakes red with her $36 zinfandel, said the award had a powerful effect.
“We sold out of the Sawyer Zinfandel within three weeks and that was with careful allocation of the wine, but it was difficult trying to keep everyone happy,” Wilson said. “The sweepstakes win definitely boosted the sale of that wine, but also brought a lot of new customers into the winery and helped our overall sales.”
Pat Henderson, senior winemaker of Kenwood Vineyards, agreed a sweepstakes win has an impact on buying patterns. Kenwood took the sweepstakes white with its 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, priced at $16.
“We sell most of our pinot gris in our tasting room and sales really picked up after the sweepstakes with a lot of customers visiting the winery just to buy it,” Henderson said. “We put a two-bottle limit per person on the wine so we would not run out right away. The next vintage, the 2012, has also enjoyed strong sales since we released it last spring.”
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards won the sweepstakes for specialty wines with its Gloria Ferrer 2007 Carneros Brut Rosé, and Eva Bertran, vice president of marketing said the win made for a stronger sales pitch.
“Our sales manager was able to make several new placements,” Bertran said. “The restaurant purchases were wine list placements in high-end restaurants such as the Healdsburg Hotel and Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar.”
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