Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. I No. 11


by Jerry D. Mead

The New World International Wine Competition is the first show of each competition season to announce its winners and is the only judging to award trophies for the "Best of Show" wines, in addition to gold, silver and bronze medals.

This second in a series of reports of top winners will alert you to wines that the panel of 54 professional judges, and four judges in training, found to be exceptional examples of their varieties and types. Some are extremely limited and will be difficult to find...others will be readily available and in good supply. You can call my office at (800) 845-9463 for assistance in tracking any of them down.

The Beaulieu Vineyard Trophy for Best New World Red Wine goes to a consistent medal winner, Gary Farrell, this time for his 1995 "Russian River-Sonoma County" Zinfandel ($20). This is one of the hard to find ones as Farrell's wines have an almost cult following.

As chief judge at the NWIWC, all the finalists are brought to my attention. When the champion Chardonnay from the "Up to $10" price range was brought to me, I did not recognize the brand. It was new to me.

I smelled it. I tasted it. I was instantly suspicious. It seemed too good for its price category and I immediately ordered a price check, both in the computer and on the original entry form to make sure it wasn't judged in the wrong price class. It was a $10 wine. Wow!

So off it went to participate in the Chardonnay shoot-out between the champions of each of the four Chardonnay price categories, including reserve wines priced $25 and more, for a chance to be named "Best New World Chardonnay."

And that's just what this $10 wonder did. It won gold medal, "Best Chardonnay of Price Class," and the Beringer Vineyards/Myron Nightingale Memorial Trophy for Best New World Chardonnay...and there are 20,000 cases of it...but not for long!

The Chardonnay for the top of your shopping list is: Indigo Hills 1995 "Mendocino" Chardonnay ($10). It is one of several new alternative labels from Gallo, designed to give separate identity to wines from vineyards and appellations other than Gallo's Sonoma. You'll be amazed, I think, at the quality level for the price range.

Another interesting story for the wine that won the Bandiera Winery Trophy for Best New World Cabernet Sauvignon. After the taste-off of the four best Cabernets from the four different price categories, it turns out the champ came from the second most expensive price range and was another brand I wasn't familiar with. It's not nice to keep fooling supposed wine experts!

You may have trouble finding Curtis Winery 1994 "La Cuesta Vineyard-Santa Ynez Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon ($18). Total production was less than 500 cases and the winery has about 200 cases as this is written.

Oh! Who is Curtis? A few years back, the Firestone family bought a small winery down the road apiece called J. Carey Cellars, named for the founding family. Managed by Kate Firestone and with wines made by Santa Barbara area legend John Kerr, the Firestones changed the name to that of one of their ancestors without telling me. But I should have recognized the vineyard name. It's small hillside part of the estate that has been yielding award-winning wine for nearly 20 years.

The wine, by the way, is at once intense and powerful, yet round and supple. It is deserving of its award.

The owner of Briar Ridge Winery in Australia is more than a little upset that he's giving the Neil McGuigan Trophy for Best New World Syrah/Shiraz to a "bloody Yank." The winner is another South Central Coast vintner, Santa Barbara Winery 1995 "Santa Barbara County" Syrah ($18).

Davis Bynum Winery 1996 "Shone Farm-Russian River" Sauvignon Blanc ($10.50) is winner of the Dry Creek Vineyards Trophy for Best New World Sauvignon (Fume) Blanc and has its own interesting side note. The winemaker at Bynum is Gary Farrell, who won the Best Red Wine Trophy for the Zinfandel under his own label. Getting enough trivia this week?

Another huge, intense (and very expensive) red wine winner is Merryvale Vineyards 1993 "Napa Valley Reserve" Meritage ($48), which takes home the Geyser Peak/Trione Family Trophy for Best New World Meritage Red.

Then there are some categories with "Best of Show" winners for which there are no trophies, only because there are no sponsors, but that makes the wines no less special.

It won't surprise anyone that Best New World Gewurztraminer honors go to Adler Fels 1996 "Sonoma County" ($11) as the winery consistently wins gold at major competitions year after year.

Kendall-Jackson wins the title of Best New World White Meritage for 1995 "Grand Reserve White" ($25).

Best New World Muscat went to the delicious and quaffable Eberle 1996 "Paso Robles" Muscat Canelli ($10).

Best Low Alcohol wine went to another "sweetie," and a wine containing only 4 percent alcohol. Quady 1996 "Electra" Orange Muscat ($7.50) is an amazing, delicious, bite-of-the-grape taste treat. What a brunch wine.

Geyser Peak picked up two Best of Shows, a feat accomplished by no other winery this year.

Best New World Cabernet Franc to Geyser Peak 1995 "Alexander Valley" ($20).

Best New World Petit Verdot to Geyser Peak 1995 "Alexander Valley" ($20). And here's a sleeper and a red wine bargain, Best New World Malbec to Grove Street 1995 "Mendoza, Argentina" ($7.50).

Next week a few more trophies, some golds from the most popular classes and arguably the best value wine of the entire show.


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Latest Update: April 12, 1997