© 1998 JDM Enterprises
THE CHAMPIONSby Jerry D. Mead
The results of the 8th annual New World International Wine Competition are on their way to the printers. Open to wines produced anywhere in the "new world," specifically North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, nearly 2000 wines were evaluated by more than 50 professional judges.
One thing that is unique about the NWIWC is that the best wines from up to four price categories compete with each other for "Best of Class" honors. Other competitions have price classes, but none that I'm aware of pit the best inexpensive wine of a type against the most expensive and everything in between, to determine the best of class or variety. And it isn't always the priciest wine that wins, as you'll see as we publish the results.
NWIWC is also the only competition in the U.S. to offer not only gold, silver and bronze medals, but to present sponsored trophies for most major categories.
The official awards book containing all the winning wines is still a few weeks away, but if you want to be among the first to receive it, send $6 to: New World Wine Winners, Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702.
Cutting to the chase, the top award winner, the "Best of Show," so to speak, wins the American Airlines Trophy for New World Grand Champion.
To win this title (remember, one wine out of nearly 2000) is no small achievement. The wine must first win a gold medal in its class and be determined the best gold medalist of that price class for that type.
Then it goes up against the other "best ofs" for the other price ranges of that same variety (usually three additional wines) to be named best of type/variety, regardless of price.
Let's suppose our wine is a Riesling and has just been named "Best New World Riesling." Next it has to compete against every other "Best" of the same color, so it would have to compete against the "Best Chardonnay," "Best Sauvignon Blanc," "Best Gewurztraminer" and so on, to win the title, "Best New World White Wine."
Finally, the best white, red, sparkling, dessert and blush or rose compete for best of show honors.
The largest production of any of the top five is 5000 cases, while the others are available by the hundreds of cases...which might have been enough for the market had they not been named a champion.
Even though the wines will be tough to find, you have the advantage of reading the first published results anywhere. We'll also provide winery direct information.
Kenwood 1995 "Nun's Canyon" Zinfandel ($19) Winner of the "American Airlines Grand Champion Trophy" and the "Beaulieu Vineyard Trophy for Best New World Red Wine," fewer than 700 cases of this stunning wine were produced, but the good news is that the limited production was allocated to 15 states, including California and Nevada, making it a bit more likely to find. A few cases remain at the winery where sales will be allocated. Ripe and intense from what I'm supposing to be older dry-farmed vineyards. It has that rich and powerful concentration of berry and plum fruit that says enjoy me now or watch me get more wonderful for 5-10 years. Kenwood Vineyards, Box 447, Kenwood (Sonoma County), CA 95452 (707) 833-5891.
One of the more interesting stories to come out of this year's judging is the winery that won its own trophy. We knew it was bound to happen someday, as in the example of Beaulieu Vineyard sponsoring the Red Wine Trophy. BV makes great red wine and over the years has been a contender numerous times. So far, though, they've always ended up presenting the trophy to a friendly competitor. The idea of trophy sponsorship is, after all, to promote and recognize excellence, and the sponsors have set aside petty concerns that they're making a competitor look good.
The sponsor of the Champagne/Sparkling Wine Trophy is Thornton Winery in Temecula, which makes both sparkling and traditional table wines, and in recent years this trophy has gone to some of the most prestigious names in sparkling wine, including Codorniu Napa, Schramsberg's "J Schram" and "J" by Jordan.
Thornton actually came in second one year, and third or fourth another. I predicted that one year the Thornton family would have the privilege of presenting that trophy to their own winemaker Jon McPherson, just as they had in previous years to representatives of their famous peers. This is the year!
Thornton 1990 Brut Reserve ($30) Toasty, yeasty, creamy, very "French" in style and definitely worthy of the "Reserve" designation. I'm a big fan of mature champagne. If you are too, check this one out. For availability on this limited production item: Thornton Winery, Box 9008, Temecula, CA 92591 (909) 699-0099.
Five years ago, Andrew Quady took home the trophy for Best New World Dessert Wine for his wine called Elysium. I'm always amazed when anyone repeats, considering the amount of competition, but it does happen.
Quady 1996 Elysium ($14; $9 the half bottle) is delicious and unique dessert wine made from Black Muscat grapes. Quady takes juice that has just barely started to ferment and adds a tiny amount of high proof brandy which stops the fermentation. At around 4 percent, it is very low in alcohol, containing only about one third of what is in table wines like Chardonnay or Merlot. Bite-of-a-grape fresh and sweet tasting, this one has broad national distribution to specialty wine stores and restaurants. Quady Winery, Box 728, Madera, CA 93639 (209) 673-8068.
More trophy winners and top medalists next week.
You can contact Jerry Mead's office directly at (800) 845-9463; Fax (702) 884-2484; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org