Mead On Wine
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© 1998 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved


by Jerry D. Mead

Results are in from this year's West Coast Wine Competition, the judging which focuses exclusively on wines produced on in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia. For the last two years it has been conducted in Santa Rosa, CA by the trade publication Vineyard & Winery Management (VWM). Many observers still believe the previous sponsor, Reno, Nevada's Convention and Visitor's Bureau, made a major blunder in dropping the long-running event.

Space won't permit anything like a complete list of winners, but we will reveal both sweepstakes winners.

White wine sweepstakes (best of show) award went to Venezia 1997 "Alexander Valley" Viognier ($24). Viognier, if you're not familiar with it, is a rather exotic white variety originating in the Rhone region of France, with a structure not unlike Chardonnay, but with a flavor note I describe as peach-skin.

Venezia is the super-premium label of Geyser Peak Winery (four gold medals) and Canyon Road Winery (two golds), a dandy showing for the privately owned vintner and its "imported from Australia" winemaster Daryl Groom.

Red wine sweepstakes went to a tiny mountain winery, Kathryn Kennedy "Santa Cruz Mountains" 1996 Shiraz ($38). Alas! There are but 200 cases for sale exclusively at the winery. It is from the first crop of a neighbor's vineyard, and time will tell if its success will be repeated, turning it into some kind of limited availability cult wine.

Other major medal winners were Gallo Sonoma and Benziger, and Windsor accomplished the amazing feat of winning medals for 32 wines out of 34 entered!

Complete results are available on the internet at online/westcoast98 and I'll let you know later if a printed booklet will be available.


America's largest producer of "bottle fermented" champagne, is Korbel, and the firm also does some of the most and informative marketing.

This wedding season Korbel has come out with a very informative brochure on wedding toasts, like who toasts who at the rehearsal dinner. Did you know, for example, that etiquette says the best man toasts the bride, the bride toasts the groom, and the groom toasts the bride's mother. And if you haven't run out of champagne, there is a continued order of who should toast who.

Then there's an entirely different toasting order for the reception. These are things you need to know.

There's lots more, like advice against trying to be too funny and including "inside stuff" in your toasts that most people present wouldn't get. And to never, ever say anything to embarrass anyone.

There's also advice on opening a champagne bottle, how many people a bottle will serve during a three hour reception, and what the various (there's about ten of them) Korbel champagnes taste like.

To receive the free brochure and some recorded information as well, call toll free to (800) 7-KORBEL.


Beringer 1994 "Knights Valley" Alluvium Red ($25) You can put this one on the table alongside some of those, $50, $75, even $100 a bottle red wines, and it will hold its own. Really elegant, supple and silky, with intense black fruit flavors, leaning to cassis in the after-flavors and with interesting notes of oak complexity. It's a Meritage style, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other Bordeaux varieties. It's a wine you can serve a boss or a lover when you need to impress, because it's very drinkable now, but if you want to cellar a case it should hold very nicely for five years or more. Rating: 94/87


Rosemount 1997 "Australia" Semillon-Chardonnay ($7.95) Pay close attention. If you're a fan of big California Chardonnays, the kind that usually sell for $15 and up, rush to your wine merchant and demand that he order you a case of this bargain. Rosemount is one of the most consistent Australian producers and Semillon is the French grape that Australians used to make Chardonnay style wines before Chardonnay became popular. The blend of the two is an "Aussie thing," and it's a thing that works. Rich and ripe with tropical fruit flavors and hints of butterscotch and toast. Very nicely oaked, and for all its richness there is a pleasantly tart-crisp finish that lets it work with food. Bring on the salmon, swordfish, tuna, veal or pork, it will handle them all. Or how about scallops in Mornay sauce? And did I mention it won gold medal and the trophy for best of its type at the New World International? Rating: 90/98


A broad range of tastes in music can be satisfied this summer in a concert series in the vineyards, and it can include a great meal and some delicious wine to make it all the better.

The first of the Wente Vineyards & Champagne Cellars concerts is scheduled for June 10, with the series ending on Sept. 18. Space will not permit listing the complete calendar of performers and dates, but you can call Wente's box office in Livermore Valley at (925) 456-2424.

Concert goers can also enjoy a buffet dinner with their dining table serving as concert seats (our favorite way to go), or have a more formal 3-course dinner at Wente's award winning restaurant with reserved stage-front seating for the show.

To name drop of few of the biggies who will be performing: Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Robert Cray, Boz Scaggs, Harry Belafonte, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Night and Bill Cosby.

For assistance in tracking down wines mentioned or reviewed, contact Mead On Wine at (800) 845-9463 or e-mail:

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value.

© 1998 JDM Enterprises. All Rights Reserved
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