Family-owned wineries — both large and small — won the coveted sweepstakes awards Sunday at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards Gala.
Boutique wineries J. Rickards Winery of Cloverdale and Russian River Vineyards of Forestville won top honors for the white and the red respectively, with the J. Rickards 2015 Croft Vineyard, Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc, at $22, and the Russian River Vineyards 2014 Horse Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, at $65. Sonoma Valley’s Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, the large sparkling wine house founded by the Ferrer family of Spain, snagged the specialty wine award with its Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvee Carneros Sparkling Wine at $39. The entire list of winners is at harvestfair.org.
More than 500 gathered at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts Sunday night, each paying between $75 to $125, to end the suspense of the Harvest Fair’s wine competition. The event recognized the Sonoma County champions, the industry’s best winemaking and culinary efforts.
“I’m anxious,” Madeline Kelley Stewart, wine club manager of Kelley & Young, said at the reception before the awards were announced. “I want to know. This year we won best of class for our rosé so we’re up for the sweepstakes and it’s very exciting to see my family come this far. Either way it’s a great compliment to be awarded best of class.”
Kelley Stewart and others were grazing on award-winning dishes that included a pasta entrée from Santa Rosa’s Gaia’s Garden, Lamb Kabobs from Oliver’s market, and the Fresh Summer Roll from Thai Time Asian Bistro.
The Fresh Summer Roll was the favorite of Diana Karren, who tasted a total of five dishes. Karren is the owner of Land of Promise Winery in Petaluma.
“With the hot weather outside, the Fresh Summer Roll is so fresh and refreshing,” she said.
Eclectic appeared the dress code for the evening with everything from sequins to jeans, wing tips to cowboy boots. The only common thread was enthusiasm for the winners.
Mike Martini, the master of ceremonies, joked “We wait until we are the busiest we can be and then we pause to celebrate what it is we do and all the people who do it.”
Accepting the award for the top red, Giovanni Balistreri, the co-vintner/winemaker of Russian River Vineyards, said, “This is humbling and amazing. We worked so hard for eight years to get to this point and I’m here.”
Balistreri has been a co-owner of the winery venture since 2008 and now it has a restaurant and farm on the property. He said the owners take pride in their organic and sustainably-farmed practices.
After Jim Rickards, co-vintner of J. Rickards, accepted the award for the top white, he said, “Wow. I’m overwhelmed. We’ve had wonderful support from the grape growers and we do our best to have the grapes express themselves.”
Rickards planted his vineyards over the past four decades, supplementing the original old vine zinfandel block that dates back to 1908.
Gloria Ferrer, the winner of the specialty wine category, was the first sparkling wine house in Sonoma Carneros. The winery, which opened in 1986, was inspired by a Catalan farmhouse. Today it has 335 acres under vine.