San Francisco International Wine Competition 2012 Page 1
It's not every year that the U.S. Open Golf Championship
rolls into town, but coinciding with this year's San Francisco International
Wine Competition, golfing fans were out at San Francisco's Olympic Club for a
look at Tiger Woods and other stars of the links.
The U.S. Open has been played in San Francisco only 5 times over the past 100+
years. Anthony Dias Blue has led a field of skilled wine-tasters for many
years in tasting and evaluating thousands of wines over the course of the third
weekend in June.
This is a grand event, with something like 4,500 hundred wines entered in the
There were 49 judges from around the world (with one or two likely being from
even more far away outposts!) at this year's event.
And there's a small army of staff members and volunteers who work to actually
make this event run as smoothly as possible (kudos to one and all of those
hard-working folks!). Head Honcho Chandler Moore has one well oiled
machine, with dozens of staffers caddying bottles and glasses from the staging
area to the various panels at the Hotel Nikko not far from the Olympic Club.
The group of judges is like a large family and it's
"old home week" as the gang assembles for the first round of tastings.
After parking the car Friday morning, I hoofed it to the tasting venue and was a
bit floored to see a little billboard promoting an upcoming stage performance at
the RRazz Room.
really should not surprise anyone that George Skorka is a man of many
talents. I had no idea....
I chaired Panel H, being lucky to spend the weekend with two immensely
professional wine judges, Jim Harre of New Zealand and Kevin Vogt of Las Vegas.
Kevin is a Master Sommelier who handles the cellar at the Delmonico
Steakhouse for Chef Emeril Lagasse.
Jim recently revealed, in a tell-all article posted by the New Zealand
Herald, details of "What I Pack." It turns out Jim likes to
travel in business class on the airplane, but is more often than not, in the
back of the bus. Ironically, Jim spent several decades working for Air New
If you want to know how your taste perceptions of wine is affected by flying in
an airplane, simply ask Mr. Harre.
He recently, we learned, spent a few days at Schloss Vollrads, raiding their
cellar and drinking copious quantities of old, well-aged Rieslings.
Mr. & Mrs. Harre run The Gates Country Lodge in New Zealand, by the way.
Panel A was headed by San Diego's Nick Ponomareff of The California
Nick is working harder than ever with his publication now being published on a
more frequent basis...
seems there are so damned many California wines, Nick has to go to press every
Deborah Parker Wong is the Northern California Editor of The Tasting Panel
Deborah's son Devon is a big-time Swashbuckler, so we imagine she's capable of
sabering open bottles of Champagne...and we know she's always en garde
when tasting a flight of wines.
Also on Panel A is Gary Blackwell, proprietor of the Geary Boulevard libations
emporium called Blackwell's.
Panel B as in Blue...
The inimitable Anthony (Buenos) Dias Blue.
The facial hair is, as we understand it, referred to as Andy's "James
He's the publisher of The Tasting Panel Magazine as well as being a star of
stage, radio and TV.
We found he's even got an interesting autobiography posted on line.
It turns out Mr. Blue is of Irish heritage, apparently, don't ya' know?
CLICK ON THE Mick O'Pedia logo above to see, fer crissakes, Mr. Blue's
biography, Irish style.
Also on Mr. Blue's Panel is the multi-talented Rebecca Chapa.
owns a little enterprise called Tannin Management and she knows it takes a lot
of singing and dancing to sell a bottle of wine.
an eye on Andy and Rebecca was The Great Kate Radburnd.
Kate's got an impressive resume and is a partner in New Zealand's CJ Pask winery
where she produces a wine with her own name on the label.
Copeland of the New Zealand branch of Treasury Wine Estates.
Terry speaks knowledgeably about wine service
while Jim Harre and Kate Radburnd hang out in the background...
McDonald wears many hats in his line of work, but wears only one at a time.
His panel members mentioned Tim DOES KNOW Spit from Shinola!
Mister Sacramento, Mike Dunne.
Mike worked for the Sacramento Bee as the wine guy, food editor and restaurant
Mister Sacto splits his time, these days, between Baja California and Alta
California, so he's also known as Senor Los Cabos.
During the weekend of wine judging he was known as Senor Los Cabernets.
Also on Panel C, Debbie Z.
Ferry God-Mother Debbie Zachareas tips her chapeau to the handful of Gold Medal
wines her panel unearthed.
And she probably needed the sunglasses because she was seated next to bright
light Ron Siragusa.
Ron hails from New York State and is the wine director at San Francisco's Kuleto's
restaurant near Union Square. He learned about wine from his nonno. Ron is a big fan of Italian wines and appreciates, especially, wines from
D was comprised of the law firm of Charles, Charles and McCarthy.
Goodfella Charles Mara was the captain of this group.
Kimberly has adopted the philosophy of "better living through
dessert" and she's not been burnt by this notion.
She's the Capa dei Tutti Capi of Charles
"Sir Francis" Drake McCarthy is a fixture in Bay Area wine
He's a fan of drive-in movies, Sherry, Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines...
Brian is active in the California Travel Association...
"He's always telling us where to go..." said one of his travel
Tim Teichgraeber is a Doctor, a Mister and an Esquire, all rolled into one...
...and he tastes wines masterfully!
Tim commutes to the office these days, as we understand it, driving a chank
Guy, Scott Greenberg, insures good taste by balancing two West Coast
palates with one from the East Coast.
Scott writes for The Examiner as well as for his own blog.
Panel D said they thought some of the wines they tasted "were a gas!"
And Brian, Tim and Scott were right!
Yes, Panel F did have Wilfred Wong as its Chairman!
Who better than a guy with a Mousy Tongue?
The volunteer corps was curious to see what Wilfred was doing, typing tasting
notes onto a computer...
Wilfred, it seems, was posting more Facebook messages (checking in for a dry
Cappuccino at the gym and a workout at a nearby Starbucks!). He sent his
chauffeur to buy gas at Costco in Concord ("It's 5 cents a gallon cheaper
out there than it is in The City and you know what a nickel can buy!")
Chairman Wilfred burned 150 calories tasting that flight of wines as well as 2
wineries with "no award" notations.
A leading light in the Wilfred's Gang of Four is (soon to be) Famous Actress
Another Mover and Shaker is Famous Sommelier, Jane Rate.
Jane moved back to Northern California and is currently shaking in Napa so she
can be closer to good Cabernet.
Jeff Anderson is the wine director at San Francisco's Gary
The list is voluminous and he's curated a marvelous collection of wines from the
world's top wine regions.
Jeff would tip his cap, shouting "chapeau!" when he'd come across a
gold medal-worthy wine.