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North Coast Wine Challenge winners

Best of the Best: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Show Red: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Sonoma County: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Show White: J. Rickards Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard Alexander Valley

Best of Show Rose: Rodney Strong Vineyards 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Best of Show Sparkling: Domaine Carneros 2013 Brut

Best of Show Dessert Wine: Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards 2015 Late Harvest Chardonnay

Best of Lake County: Cache Creek Vineyards 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County

Best of Marin County: DeLoach Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir Marin County

Best of Mendocino: Soda Rock 2016 Chardonnay Mendocino

Best of Napa County: Mudita 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Circle S Ranch Atlas Peak Napa

Best of Sonoma County: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Kokomo Wines of the Dry Creek Valley, a grower-winemaker partnership, took home the top prize in the 2018 North Coast Wine Challenge for its Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast, scoring the highest points ever awarded in this contest: 100 out of 100.

Already showing well as Best Pinot, the vibrant wine entered the final round Thursday, April 12, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds with 17 other red wines and easily captured Best Red Wine. It then received 70 percent of the judges’ votes to win Best of the Best award over four other wines: the Best of Show White, Sparkling, Rosé and Dessert wines.

“The wine was seamless and achieved our first 100-point score,” said Chief Judge Daryl Groom, who coordinated the contest presented by The Press Democrat. “It was clearly a delicious, well-made, high-quality wine.”

The pinot noir grapes were planted in 1982 by Kokomo owner and grape grower Randy Peters, who only had access to two clones at the time, the Pommard and the Waldenswil. Kokomo owner and winemaker Erik Miller, who only makes wine from grapes grown by Peters, said the two-man team works together to pick the single-vineyard grapes multiple times, in order to blend different ripeness levels.

“We want the complex levels of flavors so that when we put them together, we can play music with them,” Miller said. “Our main objective is to show that purity of place that no one else gets ... that will not be duplicated. That’s where we have to hang our hat.”

All of the winners of the five Best of Show awards scored 95 points and above. During the final day of judging, the judges tasted the 31 wines with the highest scores and voted to determine the Best of County, Best of Show and the Best of the Best awards.

Pinot noir was the largest category entered in the contest, which is now in its sixth year. A pinot noir wine also won the competition in 2014 and 2016. Wines must be grown on the North Coast to be eligible to enter.

This year, the Best of Show White went to J. Rickards Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard Alexander Valley. Located on the southern end of the Alexander Valley AVA near the Russian River AVA, the vineyard enjoys morning fog from the coast, which helps develop the aromatics of melon and exotic flavors. The judges awarded it 98 points and described it as “delicate, aromatic, floral ... sauvignon blanc at its best.” The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley won Best of Show Rosé. The vibrant wine offers the classic aromas of strawberry and white peach, with bright acidity and a lasting finish. It was awarded 98 points by the judges, who praised its “fresh outdoor quality” and “beautiful acidity.”

The Domaine Carneros 2013 Brut won Best of Show Sparkling for its bouquet of aromas, from pear and honeycomb to brioche. It offers a creamy texture, elegant structure and a long finish. The judges complimented its flavors of “yellow apple and Bartlett pear.”

The Sonoma Cutrer 2015 Late Harvest Chardonnay, grown in the Russian River, won Best of Late Harvest/Dessert wine, showing fruity flavors of peach, apricot and pear. The wine has a sweet richness and creamy mouthfeel balanced by crisp acidity. The judges described it as “luscious” with “delicious notes of honey.”

Auction Napa Valley Totals by Year

The annual auction raises money to benefit local nonprofits focusing on community health and children’s education.

2018 $13.4 million (projected)

2017: $15.7 million

2016: $14.3 million

2015: $15.8 million

2014: $18.7 million

2013: $16.9 million

Best of Lake County went to the Cache Creek Vineyards 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County. The classic cabernet, grown in vineyards located along Cache Creek in the eastern foothills of Clearlake, earned 94 points. The judges enjoyed the wine’s flavors of “Chambord, red fruit, butterscotch and caramelized wood tones.”

Best of Marin County went to the DeLoach Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir Marin County. The winery, which is part of the Boisset Collection, sources grapes from two vineyards bordering the Petaluma Gap. The wine earned 91 points, and the judges praised its “good varietal character” and “Christmas-type spice notes.”

Best of Mendocino went to the Soda Rock 2016 Chardonnay Mendocino, which was grown along the Russian River north of Hopland. The judges gave it 98 points and quipped, “I’d swipe right for this wine,” in a reference to Tinder, the dating site.

Best of Napa County went to the Mudita 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Circle S Ranch Atlas Peak Napa. The small wine company sourced its grapes from a vineyard on the Atlas Peak Beach, and winemaker Zack Robinson made the wine in a Sebastopol facility. The cabernet earned 95 points from the judges, who enjoyed the flavors of “cassis” and “layers of decadent chocolate.”

Best of Sonoma County went to the Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast.

A full list of all gold medal winning wines will be published in Wednesday’s Feast section.

Members of the public will have a chance to taste the winning wines at the 2018 North Coast Wine & Food Festival, featuring gold and silver medal-winning wines from the North Coast Wine Challenge competition. This year’s festivities, presented by The Press Democrat, will take place on Saturday, June 9, from 1-4 p.m. at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park. In addition, the event will host Wine Country chefs, entertainment and a hands-on experience with celebrity chef John Ash.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com, or 707-521-5287.

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