New wine competition created for North Coast
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 8:33 a.m.
North Coast wineries will soon have another competition to enter, this time competing against some familiar rivals: their neighbors.
The Press Democrat and Vineyard & Winery Management have teamed up to create The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge, which will allow entries from wineries that source fruit from the North Coast, including the American Viticultural Areas spanning Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, and parts of Marin and Solano counties.
"There are so many competitions out there, and they all start to feel exactly the same," said George Christie, CEO of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine and Wine Industry Network. "So I just started thinking, what could we do that's different? ... There are so many great wines that are being produced in the region, I just thought it would be fun to put together a targeted competition so neighbors can pit their wines against each other."
Vineyard & Winery Management, a trade publication based in Santa Rosa, hosts six winery competitions per year, including one focused on Millennials and another targeted at women, said Debra Del Fiorentino, the company's director of wine competitions.
"This is a true partnership," said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat. "We bring the journalism and coverage and reputation of The Press Democrat, they bring the technical expertise in conducting a wine competition."
Falk also has experience with wine competitions. As former president and then publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, he and his colleagues transformed the Cloverdale Citrus Fair's Wine Competition into the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The contest grew rapidly and had more than 5,500 entries from across the country this year.
Organizers of the new competition hired Daryl Groom, owner and winemaker at Groom Australian Premium Wines, as the chief judge. Groom, who has been named winemaker of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and several other publications, is recruiting a panel of judges for the competition. He has served as a judge in more than 100 competitions, he said.
"This competition is a lot more focused," Groom said. "And I personally feel that because we're just North Coast, the quality level and the competition among the wines will be higher."
Fewer awards will be given than other competitions like the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, which drew 951 entries last year and offers bronze, silver and gold medals, he said.
Instead, judges will award best in category, best in county, and overall best of the best awards. There will also be a tier for luxury wines priced over $75 a bottle.
For The Press Democrat, the partnership creates an opportunity to enhance the newspaper's reputation as a trusted source for information on Wine Country, Falk said. Serving the same goal, the newspaper plans to reinstate home delivery in Napa, Falk said.
Organizers hope to attract 1,000 or more entries in the competition's first year and hold a public tasting event after the competition.
The competition is now open to entries, with a deadline of May 10. Judging will take place May 29-30 at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel in Santa Rosa, according to Christie.
Anticipated revenues are unknown at this stage, organizers said.
"If we do a public tasting and the interest level exceeds the expenses, then we will reinvest that money into our coverage of the wine industry," Falk said.
Despite an abundance of wine competitions, vintners are likely to enter because they're always looking for additional voices to endorse or lend credibility to their wines, Groom said.
"I don't know that there's a need for any (competitions), let alone another," Christie said.
"But to me ... it's an opportunity to have a little fun, with some backyard bragging rights."
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