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

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