A pinot noir, a chardonnay and a sparkling wine won the coveted sweepstakes awards Sunday night at the Sonoma County Harvest Awards Gala, with two of the three from the Russian River Valley appellation.
Top honors in the red wine category went to Balletto Vineyards 2014 Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir, which retails for around $30, and, in the white, to Davis Family Vineyards 2016 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, at $35 and up.
Gloria Ferrer won in the specialty wines division for its 2010 Carneros Anniversary Cuvée, contributing to an anniversary theme among the sweepstakes winners.
John Balletto, president and founder of the Occidental Road vineyards and winery that bear his name, noted after his prize was announced that his family marks 40 years in farming this year.
Guy Davis, winemaker and owner at Davis Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, earlier took the stage and said his family is producing its 20th vintage.
“What a fun way to celebrate,” Davis said from the stage, as his family cheered from a back row they filled completely at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts.
The sweepstakes winners represent the very best wines, culled from 42 best-of-class winners that emerged from three days of judging that included 1,016 entries last month.
Their release concludes an annual gala and awards reception honoring Sonoma County wines, beers and ciders, as well as specialty foods from olive oil to baked goods selected over several months for recognition during the grape harvest. The Harvest Fair board also paid tribute to longtime figures and up-and-comers in the industry, as well as those who farm and produce grapes sustainably.
Former Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini, founder and general manager of Taft Street winery, hosted the awards ceremony with Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers.
He said the event celebrates the county’s ability to maintain a strong and viable agricultural sector when so many counties have been unable to, and honors heritage dating back several generations and continuing through the children and grandchildren of those who came before.
Among the plaques distributed Sunday were two lifetime contribution awards to local wine pioneers, including Audrey Sterling, founder of Iron Horse Ranch and Vineyards in Sebastopol, and Joe Rochioli of Rochioli Vineyard and Winery, who planted wine grapes on his father’s crop farm and is, it’s been said, patriarch of Russian River pinot noirs.
The annual Professional Wine Competition is the largest regional wine contest in the United States, and is open only to wines made from Sonoma County grapes.
A sweepstakes award enhances recognition and sales, contributing to prestige both in the industry and the consumer market.
Members of the public will be able to taste the top winners at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Oct. 6-8, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249.