"This year, the judges were thrilled with the quality of the wines," Groom said. "We ended up with 19 percent getting gold medals, which was up from (14 percent) last year."
More than 900 wines were entered in this year's North Coast Wine Challenge, but some did not qualify. The competition is only open to wines with 75 percent of their grapes sourced from the North Coast, including the AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties, plus parts of Marin and Solano counties.
"We actually had more entries this year than last," Groom said. "But more wines were culled."
2014 North Coast Wine Challenge Judging
A new category, for Luxury Class wines retailing at over $75, was added this year for both pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon.
<em><strong> More higher-priced wines</strong></em>
The contest, which was co-hosted by The Press Democrat and Vineyard & Winery Management of Santa Rosa, attracted a higher number of higher-priced wines this time around.
"The number of wines entered was up over 10 percent from our inaugural year," said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat. "The average retail price of wine entries was in the $50 to $60 range - more than double that of most wine competitions."
Falk launched the contest last year with the goal of bringing attention to the wines of the North Coast region while determining the region's "best of the best."
"We're trying to bring the best wines of the North Bay and have them judged by the best judges in the country," said Robert Merletti, owner and chairman of Vineyard & Winery Management. "This competition stands to be one of the most prestigious in the country."
This year's judges included winemakers, wine buyers, wine media and sommeliers from across the country, including such well-known names as Heidi Barrett of Barrett & Barrett Wines in Calistoga; William Bloxsom-Carter, executive chef for the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles; and Master Sommelier Fred Dame, the first American to have served as President of the Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide.