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Winners announced for the 10th North Coast Wine Challenge

Now in its 10th year, the North Coast Wine Challenge returned to its roots Wednesday when judges gave the top award to a bold, Bordeaux-style red blend sourced from some of the warmer regions of Sonoma County.

The Best of the Best award, announced during the final day of judging at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, went to the Roth Estate 2019 Heritage Red Wine, Sonoma County, which is part of the Foley Family Wines portfolio.

Winemaker Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars, who served as a judge at the contest, said he created the Bordeaux-style Heritage Red blend in 2012 when he was working for Roth Estate of Healdsburg. Roth Estate has built its reputation on producing Bordeaux-style varietals.

“The idea is to show what Sonoma County can do with some of the great blenders,” Katz said, referring to reds such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, syrah and petit verdot. “It pays homage to the historic winemakers of France and Sonoma County while giving a new take on it.”

During its inaugural year in 2013, the contest named a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford as its top wine. But since then, the Best of the Best award has gone to three pinot noirs, one zinfandel, two chardonnays, one rosé of pinot noir and one sparkling wine.

The judging panel who tasted the Roth Estate Heritage Red during the first round of blind tasting April 5 called the wine “ruggedly handsome, polished and fruit-forward, like a movie star with a chiseled chin.”

“It shows some of the richness and decadence you can get from Sonoma County,” said Katz, who voted for the wine. “I love showing what Sonoma County can do. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.”

Chief Wine Judge Daryl Groom, who organizes the contest every year, noted the Heritage Red narrowly beat out a Napa Valley cabernet for the Best of Show Red during the sweepstakes round Wednesday. As the top winner, the Roth Estate Heritage Red also won the Best of Sonoma County award.

“It was a really great, seamless wine that blended four different Bordeaux-style grape varieties,” Groom said.

In the final round of voting, the Roth Estate Heritage Red went up against the Portalupi 2021 Vermentino, Mahoney Vineyard, Carneros. That lesser-known varietal, used mostly in Sardinia and Tuscany, ended up winning Best of Show White.

“It’s the first time that a vermentino won,” Groom said. “It’s a refreshing and a delicious wine.”

Here are the top winners for the 2022 North Coast Wine Challenge:

Best of the Best: Roth Estate 2019 Heritage Red Wine, Sonoma County

Best of Show Sparkling: Gloria Ferrer 2012 Carneros Cuvée, Late Disgorged Sparkling Wine, Carneros Brut

Best of Show White: Portalupi 2021 Vermentino, Mahoney Vineyard, Carneros

Best of Show Rosé: Navarro Vineyards 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino

Best of Show Red: Roth Estate 2019 Heritage Red Wine, Sonoma County

Best of Show Dessert Wine: Sonoma-Cutrer 2018 Late Harvest Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

Best of Sonoma County: Roth Estate 2019 Heritage Red Wine, Sonoma County

Best of Napa County: Raymond Vineyards 2019 Generations Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Best of Mendocino County: Navarro Vineyards 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino

Best of Lake County: Brassfield Estate Winery 2021 Sauvignon Blanc

Best of Solano County: Vezér 2019 John John Zinfandel, Suisun Valley

The North Coast Wine Challenge is open to wines produced and bottled in the North Coast American Viticultural Area, which includes Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Marin and Lake counties and and parts of Solano County.

After a two-year hiatus, the North Coast Wine & Food Festival will return this year, from 1 to 4 p.m. June 18 at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. It will feature the gold medal-winning wines from the North Coast Wine Challenge, food by local chefs such as Mark Stark of Stark Reality Restaurants and music.

Tickets are $90 general admission ($50 for designated drivers). The VIP tickets, which provide early admission at noon, cost $135 ($70 for designated drivers). To reserve, go to northcoastwineandfood.com.

In a dinner Tuesday after the first day of judging, Press Democrat Publisher Steve Falk recognized Groom and wine columnist and industry champion Dan Berger with awards.

Berger has written about wine since 1976 and worked in newsrooms in Los Angeles, San Diego and Marin County. He was a wine columnist and business editor in the mid-1980s at The Press Democrat and is one of the judges for the North Coast Wine Challenge.

Falk gave Berger the first-ever Distinguished Service Award for his 10 years of involvement with the competition and his 46 years of covering the wine industry.

Groom received the Chief Judge and Visionary Award. He has been involved in the U.S. and Australian wine industries for more than 30 years and is owner and chief winemaker for Groom Wines in Australia. He also is active in wine-related projects in Sonoma County and across California.

Falk called Groom “the chief architect” of the North Coast Wine Challenge, recognizing him for spearheading the competition and expanding it over the past decade.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56. Executive Editor and Chief Content Officer Richard Green contributed to this story.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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