For the first time in its five-year history, the 2017 North Coast Wine Challenge yielded a rosé as its top winner: the Taft Street 2016 Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir, which received 98 out of 100 points and took home Best of the Best as well as Best of Show Rosé and Best of Sonoma County awards.
The result suggests that rosé is no longer regarded as a sweet “gateway” wine, but rather as a year-round quaffer with nuance and acidity that can pair comfortably with a broad range of foods, according to the competition’s chief judge, Daryl Groom.
Other winemakers are taking the once-humble pink wine more seriously and making it in a dedicated manner, as a rosé first, rather than as an afterthought to producing a red wine.
In another coup for the blush wines, the rosé category in this year’s competition showed the largest increase in number of entries.
“I think that parallels the modern-day popularity of this wine style, and that is awesome,” Groom said. “The quality has risen recently with fresh fruit character and crisp acidity ... All the judges loved the clean, fresh, vibrant varietal fruit of this wine.”
All the winners of five Best of Show awards and five Best of County awards scored 98 out of 100 points. During the final day of judging, the judges tasted the top-scoring wines and voted to determine the final Best of County, Best of Show and Best of the Best awards.
Four of the Best of Show wines were grown in Sonoma County.
The Folie à Deux Sonoma 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir won Best of Show Red. Made by a family winery with deep roots in the region — Trinchero Family Estates of Napa Valley — the wine impressed the judges as a “wonderful example of pinot noir.” Gently pressed and fermented, then aged in French oak barrels, the wine’s flavor was described by the judges as “a shake of spice on top of vibrant cherry fruit.”
Best of Show White went to the Anaba 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, described by the judges as a “fantastic chardonnay that shines.” The Sonoma winery sourced the grapes from distinct areas within the Sonoma Coast AVA, from the wind-swept southern end to the foggier regions in the north, yielding bright fruit and crisp acidity. “Everything is in balance and just delicious to drink,” the judges said.
The J Brut Rosé, a non-vintage pink sparkler made by J Vineyards of Healdsburg, won the Best of Show Sparkling award. Made with pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from Sonoma County, the wine has a strawberry fruit aroma and finishes with a crisp acidity. The judges praised it for being “seamless from start to finish.”
The Navarro Vineyards 2016 Anderson Valley, Mendocino, Cluster Select Late Harvest Muscat Blanc won Best Dessert/Late Harvest Wine as well as Best of Mendocino County. The aromatic, citrusy late harvest wine was described by the judges as “Perfect! Pure liquid diamonds.”
Best of Lake County went to the Brassfield Estate Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, which was estate grown by the Clearlake Oaks winery in the Volcano Ridge Vineyard. The vineyard is located more than 2,000 feet above sea level, in the pure, volcanic soils of Round Mountain Volcano. The judges described the cab as a “meaty food wine ... savory, rich and complex.”
Art at the Source Open Studios
When: June 3-4, 10-11
Where: 160 participating artist studios. For a listing of all artists and studio addresses visit Artatthesource.org