Behind the scenes at the Central Coast Wine Competition


A cavernous building on the Paso Robles fairground campus became wine central when the 15th annual Central Coast Wine Competition got underway June 21-22. The contest is open to wines made from vineyards within the mega Central Coast American Viticultural Area (AVA), which stretches from San Francisco to Santa Barbara counties. The competition also includes label design, craft spirits and vinegar contests. Winners will be showcased at the 2017 California Mid-State Fair July 19-30.

Much is at stake at these competitions. Best of show and gold medal wines can sell out in days. Retailers may take note and stock their shelves; restauranteurs may add winning wines to their lists. And all the wines are judged blind, meaning the 19 judges — sommeliers, wine educators, retail buyers and journalists, including me — don’t know who made what, let alone blend component percentages, vintage or retail price point.

Preparations for this competition start months in advance, as winemakers send in entries and organizers order glassware and rally volunteers.

A few notable trends emerged from the Paso competition. The 2015 Broken Earth Grenache, a red Rhone varietal, took best of show, beating out more traditional cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel wines; it was the second straight year a Rhone red was voted top wine. Grenache blanc, a crisp, floral wine with stone fruit and citrus flavors, is poised to give chardonnay a run for its money. White Rhone blends (think viognier, grenache blanc, marsanne and roussanne) are hot, and the popularity of red blends has continued to grow. Rosé has been on fire since the pink wine category was added in 2009. And on the Central Coast, Spanish tempranillo is coming on strong.

Running a large wine judging like this one and others — the California State Fair, Los Angeles County Wine Competition and San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition — takes a tremendous amount of logistics planning.

To see photos click the link directly to the story:

Our slide show gallery takes you from set-up the day before the judging to the last glass. Below, you’ll find this year’s wine competition stats, as well as the lowdown on the top winners. Go to for results in best in class and medal counts for gold (140), silver (227) and bronze (189), plus awards in other categories.

  • Number of gold, silver and bronze wine medals: 556
  • Best in Show: 2015 Broken Earth Grenache
  • Best White Wine: 2016 Eberle Muscat Canelli
  • Best Pink Wine: 2016 Kita Wines Grenache Rosé
  • Best Sparkling Wine: 2014 Laetitia Vineyards & Winery Brut Cuvee
  • Best Dessert Wine: NV Glunz Family Winery Mission Angelica
  • Number of entries: 680
  • Number of categories: 67
  • Largest category: 2014 cabernet sauvignon, with 44 entries
  • Smallest category: primitivo (a red wine similar to zinfandel)
  • Number of bottles: 2,700
  • Number of glasses used: Nearly 3,600
  • Number of volunteers: 32
  • Number of producers: 132
  • Number of wines: 678
  • Number of craft spirits: 27
  • Number of vinegars: 14

By  | | Bay Area News Group



Awards given to the most exciting labels in wine, spirits, and vinegar

PASO ROBLES (CA) – The Central Coast Wine Competition is proud to announce the winners of the coveted Design & Packaging Competition.

The design awards were in conjunction with the Central Coast Wine Competition (CCWC), California Craft Spirits Competition (CCSC), and the Central Coast Vinegar Competition(CCVC), which were held June 21 and 22 at the California Mid-State Fair.

A team of six judges from marketing and graphic design studios in San Luis Obispo County voted on different labels for the five categories: Most Evocative of the Central Coast, Classic, Modern, Untraditional, and Artistic Brand Series.

“Labels have more recently become extremely important in adding to the experience of the wine and spirits, and some of the best labels in the world have been placed on bottles made right here in the Central Coast,” said Tim McDonald, the CCWC Chief Wine Judge, and president of Wine Spoken Here.

In the Wine Category, Most Evocative of the Central Coast was awarded to San Simeon’s 2015 Monterey Chardonnay (Paso Robles, CA). The winner of the Classic category was Summerwood’s 2014 Sentio (Paso Robles, CA). The Untraditional winner was Scheid Family Wine’s 2015 Odd Lot (Greenfield, CA). The Modern winner was Grey Wolf’s 2014 Zinfandel (Paso Robles, CA). The Artistic Brand Series winner was Marin’s Vineyard’s 2014 Petit Verdot (Lockwood, CA).

In the Spirits Category, Most Evocative of the Central Coast went to Willow Creek Distillery Chamomile Liqueur (Paso Robles, CA); the Classic winner was Bethel Rd Distillery Aged Grape Brandy (Templeton, CA); the Untraditional winner was Calwise Blonde Rum (San Luis Obispo, CA); the Modern winner was Re:Find Barrel Finished Vodka (Paso Robles, CA); and the Artistic Brand Series winner was Calwise Spiced Rum (San Luis Obispo, CA).

The judges voted on their top Vinegar labels based on an overall evaluation of the labels. The Gold Medal was awarded to Kimberly Wine Vinegar (Acampo, CA), Silver went to Aris Tangerine Vinegar (Paso Robles, CA), and the Bronze medal was awarded to Chaparral Gardens Balsamic Vinegar (Atascadero, CA).

About The Design & Packaging Competition

The Design & Packaging Competition highlights the excellent quality and creativity that is growing in the packaging and labels of wine, craft spirits, and vinegar. The gold medal winners are recognized for their uniqueness and ability to represent their product with diversity and artfulness. The Design & Packaging Competition is a collaboration of six California fairs: California Mid-State Fair (July 19-30); Contra Costa County Fair; Cow Palace/Grand National Livestock Exposition, Horse Show and Rodeo; Monterey County Fair; San Benito County Fair; and Santa Maria Fairpark.