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San Francisco International Wine Competition 2014

Notes and Silliness By
GERALD WEISL,
Mister of Wine

 

Here's an eye chart for you to look at, since this year the judges were keeping their eyes wide open in looking for gold medal wines.

 

This year's event was pushed back a week so we did not collide with Father's Day for a change.

Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue had appointed Mr. Tim McDonald as "Director of Judging" and we had a an increase in the number of judges at this year's event.

As the judges assembled Friday morning, we were reminded about the task at hand:
GO FOR THE GOLD.


Tim McDonald explained to the judges that to qualify for a Gold Medal, a wine has to be "Out of this World," or so, but it doesn't have to be "the best wine you've ever tasted in your entire life."

Andy and Tim gave an orientation speech to explain the protocol for judging.
We were encouraged to find wines we liked well enough to give them a gold medal because the wine shows well in competition.

Then Tim asked everyone to stand up, pick up the glass of wine that had been presented to each and everyone and "let's play a little game."

"Who thinks this wine is an Old World Wine?" he asked.
When people raised their hands, Tim asked them to take a seat.

"Who thinks this is a California wine?"
When people raised their hands, Tim told them to sit down.

A few more questions eliminated more people.
I stood there, just as befuddled as most of my fellow judges.

Tim pointed at someone and asked them to take a stab at identifying the varietal and the country of origin.  At this stage, I was too immersed in the wine and can't recall the judge's response.


Most judges are now seated...


Next I see Mr. McDonald waving his hand in my direction and bellowing something like, "Okay, you...what do you think this is?"

I stammered something about an earlier guess as South American being a potentially valid identification, "so I'm gonna say this is maybe an Uruguayan Albariño."
And with that...aside from the laughter in the room at my having made such an obscure pick...

...Tim's eyes popped out of his head and he said "Yes!  That's exactly right!"

 

And with that out of the way, we could get about the job of digging for gold.

 

 




Jim Trezise chaired our panel and he's "Mister Riesling" and "Mister New York."
Fortunately he showed us only the tattoo on his arm.
Jim is the President of the International Riesling Foundation as well as the New York Wine & Grape Foundation.

Our panel tasted a broad spectrum of wines and, as you might expect with Mr. Trezise aboard, we were privileged to judge several flights of Riesling.

 


Dr. Rowald Hepp joined us.
He's the winemaker and managing director of a little German winery called SCHLOSS VOLLRADS in the Rheingau region.
We found he had a good sense of the quality of the wines we were tasting and an eye on balance and finesse.
Naturlich!
The fellow makes Riesling.
And one of his favorite sayings is:

 




New Zealander Jim Harré, when he's not running THE GATES COUNTRY LODGE, he's globe-trotting and judging wines.
He's involved in judging at numerous New Zealand competitions, but also in China, Japan and London.
The Gates Country Lodge
He periodically suffers from Vinum Degustio Judicium, which occurs after too many wine judgings over a short time period.


And then the balancing factor to offset the intelligence, grace, charm and refinement of those three fellows was...

...yes!  Me.








Anthony Dias Blue
Our Fearless Leader...
...publishes The TASTING PANEL trade magazine.  He's now the publisher of the SOMM JOURNAL.
And he's a radio personality, too, being heard in New York on WCBS Radio as well as in Los Angeles on KNX.
BLUELIFESTYLE.COM

You'll notice he's often dressed in Blue.

 

Also on Panel B this year was The Great Kate.

Kate Radburnd runs the
CJ Pask Winery in New Zealand as well as being the deputy chair-person for the Wine Institute of New Zealand.

Kate is famous for her Bud Burst Sauvignon, Liquid Gold Chardonnay and Sun Kissed Pinot Gris.  Her red wines are Rich, Royal and Velvet (she's pretty smooth herself!)...


Heidi Peterson Barrett joined the festivities this year.

Like many California winemakers, she graduated from the University of California at Davis with a "BS" degree.
Her father is a Napa Valley legend (Richard Peterson, protégé of Andre Tchelistcheff at BV)  and her husband's family owns the legendary Chateau Montelena in Calistoga.
In addition to her own winery, LA SIRENA, Heidi has consulted for numerous Napa Valley wineries and produced "100 Point Wine" for a couple of them.

In addition to piloting the production of wine, she's had the keys to the Box Office and can talk your ear off regarding feathering angles and gyroscopic precession.
Andy was especially charmed to know she'd named one of her white wines "Moscato Azul" (Blue Muscat) after him.




Rounding out Panel B was 1 Wine Dude.

Andy said his panel would not have to fret if Joe Roberts made up 25% of the quartet.
Mr. Roberts writes a prominent wine blog called 1WineDude.com.

Not many people know Joe Roberts is an accomplished musician, but it turns out he's in a band back home in Philadelphia and plays a mean guitar with the Steve Liberace Band.

One of their claims to fame is a tune called Wine Kissing Days (which is different from the song sung daily by those who sell wine which is called "Wine Kissing Ass").

Give this a listen and watch our WineDude show off his chops.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HebM8Ruo6H4

He's a member of a bunch of Wine Associations.  One interesting one is The Wine Century Club which means he's able to consumer a hundred years' worth of wine over the course of 12 months.

 

 


Chairman Michael Feil.
Mr. Feil tries his "pull my finger" trick on me, but this time I didn't fall for it.
You may have heard something about Men Are from Mars and Women are From Venus...
Well, Michael is from Jupiter!
Jupiter Island, that is.


That little enclave is Florida is rather exclusive, so he's said to rub elbows with the likes of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Celine Dion.
We're delighted he's able to come west to rub elbows with the likes of us!


Bill Ward is famous for bringing "Semi-Fresh Air" to the world of wine.
He's from Minnesota and yet he spoke English with remarkable clarity.  Bill explains he was edified and entertained by the weekend's proceedings.
In addition to writing for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bill pens the wine column for his blog called 
"DECANT THIS!
"
"Tim McDonald axed if I wanna'd to come with to San Francisco and taste da wines.  I said 'yer dern-tootin' I'll comes out dare.  Dun-chya-no, far as dat goes, fer sure I'd like to visit San Francisco and taste wines wid all yerzguyzis!"
And:
"Oh fer geez, we tasted us some pretnear gold medal wines. Ispoze we sent in some double golds to da Sweeps.  Dis is tru.  Michael and Traci fer sure know hows to test da wines."


The famous eno-spy, Traci Dutton.
Andy mentioned something about her being a "secret agent," since "she works for the CIA!"
Yes, well, she does work for the CIA, the Culinary Institute of America and she's the sommelier at the Greystone in the Napa Valley.
I noticed she had a couple of interesting tattoos...

A couple of her fellow judges kept referring to her as "Traci Dutton-Ranch."
Who knew?

 

 

Deborah Parker Wong captained Panel D through choppy waters.

Deborah writes for Andy's Tasting Panel Magazine as the Northern California editor as Mr. Blue apparently thought she was another "Parker."
She reports on the global wine & spirits industry through the prism of domestic trends.  You'll also see her work in the San Francisco Examiner, as well as Vineyard & Winery Management magazine.

She's the proud Mom of two high school kids, one of whom is an accomplished swashbuckler while the other is in the early stages of the world of baked goods.

Lady Deborah adds an element of refinement and good taste to the judging.


 


Mike Tadich joined us this year from the great state of Nevada.
He's of Serbian heritage and he manages the Italian wine portfolio for
Wirtz Beverage in Nevada, as he'd been a sommelier in a Las Vegas dining establishment for a few years when he was a youngster.
He's a big hockey fan and especially likes the Chicago Blackhawks and the I suspect the Hokejaški klub Partizan, as well.


In Vino Veritas

 


Carl Grubbs recently entered the Witness Protection Program ("You can call me Carl, you can call me Francis, you can call me Joseph..." as he goes under many aliases), what with the closing of San Francisco's Incanto restaurant.

He's a big fan of well-cellared wine, including (and not limited to) Hunter Valley Semillon.

He's currently affiliated with Rich Table restaurant in San Francisco, where he's a "Utility Infielder" (if he remembers to bring his glove) and sometimes they let him pitch.

 

 

 


Valery Uhl spends her days "doctoring," while in her "spare time" she judges wines at every major US wine competition.
In addition to the San Francisco International Wine Competition, she's been seen at the Riverside International Wine Competition, the Monterey International Wine Competition, The Central Coast Wine Competition, The California State Fair wine judging, The Mid-American Wine Competition, The Wisconsin State Fair Wine Competition, the Amador County Fair Wine Competition, The El Dorado County Fair Wine Competition, The West Coast Wine Competition,  The Sonoma Harvest Fair wine judging, The Southern California Wine Country Wine Competition, The National Women's Wine Competition and, since she's got a black belt in wine tasting, The Japanese Wine Challenge.
On top of that, she's the director of a little judging called NORTH OF THE GATE!

She had her hands full with this cast of characters...

 


Jim comes from Australia and is one of those globe-trotting wine judges.  His list of wine judgings is as long as your arm (maybe longer) and he's spilled wine on numerous continents.
As you may notice, he's got a napkin tucked in his smock to cover up the Rorschach Test-of-a-Wine-Stain from this weekend's festivities.
If you want to attempt to keep up with this fellow,
CLICK HERE and good luck!

Here's another Jim McMahon "Rorschach Test":

Jim's colleagues addressed him as "Pasha," by the way...

 

 


Michael Franz resides on the East Coast.
He's a wine writer and editor for the Wine Review Online.  He's been all over the planet visiting wineries and penning wine articles.
You can read some of them by
CLICKING HERE.

He's been a wine judge in Washington, D.C., San Diego, New Zealand and China.  At one point in time (or two), he wrote wine articles for The Washington Post.
And since that doesn't keep him fully occupied, he's the Chairman (and a Professor) of the Political Science Department at Loyola University in Maryland.


Dan Kosta is a co-founder of a little Sonoma enterprise called "
Kosta Browne Winery."
He grew up in Sonoma wine country and his Pop was a wine merchant in Santa Rosa.  After hanging around the shop, he got a job with the famous Sonoma chef, John Ash.
Kosta was a utility player, working in every job in the restaurant, short of being the executive chef.  He and his pal Michael Browne (another graduate of the John Ash School for Wine Geeks) pooled their resources, bought some grapes and built a brand which won them the lottery.

He's a member of the Sonoma County Vintners Association and is invited to judge wines at numerous competitions around California.

And of course, today he and his partner are highly esteemed for their Kost-Alot Pinot Noirs.

 

 

 

 


Nick Ponomareff can tell you "Wine tasting...it's not rocket science!"
That's because Nick moonlights (when he's not writing his marvelous wine letter,
The California Grapevine) as a program manager at BAE Systems (a defense, aerospace, security systems) in the San Diego area.
This explains his marvelous coverage of the California wine scene.

Nick was the chairman of The F Troop this year.

 


Fred Swan is a wine evangelist and has a web site covering the
Norcal Wine Scene.

He's also affiliated with a company called Affairs of the Vine where he's the director of education.  He's probably the sole judge who's a member of L'Échansonnerie des Papes, a cult-like organization whose members get together in the south of France and drink magnums of Châteauneuf du Pape.

The Sebastiani family dedicated a wine to Fred many years ago.  It was, apparently, to honor his visual acuity.


Providing a different perspective was Monsieur George Skorka.

George is a Sommelier Extraordinaire, these days being affiliated with
Larsen's Steakhouse and Church & State.
George speaks fluent "Angelino" and he recognizes a soulful bottle of wine when he encounters one.
Mr. Skorka is a living legend and a fixture in the Southern California wine world.

We are always delighted to engage George in conversation.  
George, it turns out, is a member of the Hungarian Solidarity Union (whose motto is "every man for himself")!

 


Ronald Brown was born in Scotland and used to hang out at the Two Red Shoes Dance Hall in Elgin (or so we're told).
Ron runs the
Maverick Winery in Australia's Barossa Valley where he's producing a number of magnificent, biodynamically-farmed wines.

Hearing that Ron was a bit of a maverick, the local surfing competition called "Mavericks Invitational" extended an invite Ron's way.

And, lo and behold, in addition to mastering Shiraz and Grenache...

...he's even able to keep the wine glass upright.
"Yes, well, you know, I detected a bit of a salty quality in the Syrah with just a soupçon of white pepper spiciness."
His fellow surfers refer to Ron as "Bucko," by the way.

 







CHARLES MARA
Charles will tell you he's "nationally recognized" and this should be no surprise to those who have seen his picture on the wall in their local post office.
The Guinness Book of World Records notes Charles was voted "Most Likely to Over-Pay For a Bottle of Wine" not just once, but twice!
He dropped a small fortune for a bottle of 1806 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild (he's waiting to open it, telling us that it "needs a few more months of bottle aging").  And, not learning his lesson on that one, he popped for two grand a bottle for a wine retailing at the time for maybe $50.
His panel this year, known as "La Famiglia," all were missing a finger or two.
This should be a cautionary note to those whom Charles offers "to lend a hand."

 

 



Drake McCarthy runs The Golden State Wine Company and is affiliated with Europvin USA.

What a trooper!  Drake was in Italy's Abruzzo region just a couple of days prior to the judging and he spent more than 24 hours en route to San Francisco to participate.



Drake, who's a trumpet player in his spare time, knows very well the dynamic of "spit happens," both with respect to wine tasting and trumpeteering.

 


Andy and Tim invite The Vine Guy, Scott Greenberg, for insurance in judging the wines.
Scott can be heard on WTOP Radio in Washington D.C. where he shares his latest picks with listeners.

And "In Real Life," Scott's company is called Greenberg, Wexler & Eig and it's located in Bethesda, MD.

Tim and Andy figured if Scott can handle such a heavy work load, handling Mr. Mara and Mr. McCarthy would be a piece of cake.




 

 

 


Mike Dunne chaired Panel H this year.
Mike has written wine articles for many years for the Sacramento Bee and was recently the Chief Judge at the California State Fair Wine Competition.

Mike splits his time between No Cal and Baja California as he claims to be retired.

 




Tonya Pitts is "The" Sommelier at San Francisco's "
One Market" restaurant.
This lady's smile lights up a room and she's got good taste in wine.

Ms. Pitts is not only aging well, she's getting younger!  This dynamic is attributable, according to Tonya, to her consumption of Champagne.  She's got a soft spot for Penfolds Grange (who doesn't?) and fancy Bordeaux (who doesn't??).





Journalist, Eno-Scribe, Wine Writer, Wine Critic, Sommelier...that's Sonoma's
Chris Sawyer.

He's spilled wine on numerous luminaries over the course of his sommelier career, including members of the Getty family and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Chris puts the "Som" in Somnambulant.

 


Another famous Sommelier is Kevin Vogt who's the head wine guru at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas.
Kevin is a Master Sommelier, though I heard his colleagues addressing him as "Mister Sommelier."
Vogt, like so many somms, dreams of being a winemaker and so he's dabbling in Napa Cabernet with his "Mastery Wines" project.

 

 

 


Leading Panel I was Mark Bowery, who began his wine-tasting career at the age of 14.
He's been diagnosed with "Vino Enthusia Rapturosis," which can be contagious.  Luckily his colleagues also are 'carriers' and so nobody was harmed.

Having studied psychology at Sonoma State University, Mark took a job (ages ago) as a cellar rat at the Simi winery.  A degree in Journalism put another notch in his career belt before working in the wine biz in San Francisco.  He has been judging at the San Francisco International Wine Competition for decades (since there were but two dozen, or so, judges!).

 


Mister Northwest Wine, Andy Perdue.
Despite his name, he was not lost tasting wines from other parts of the wine world.

He's responsible for a news web site covering the Great Northwest... and he writes wine articles for The Seattle Times, too.

 




Ziggy Eschliman is "The Wine Gal" and she's a fixture on The Krush, a Sonoma radio station.

She's on the air Wednesday mornings at 7:30 and the first Wednesday of each month she holds court at Tony's of North Beach in Rohnert Park (5pm to 7pm).

 

And since this panel Zigged, they had this fellow whom they dubbed "Zag":


Journalist Michael Cervin (I heard him addressed as Sir-Vino) writes about wine and water, so he can tell them apart.  He's also the restaurant critic for The Santa Barbara News-Press.
His by-line has appeared in numerous wine and travel publications, including Decanter, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast as well as on his own blogs, which are numerous.
CERVINS CENTRAL COAST

And Here, too

HIS WATER WEB SITE

HIS TRAVEL WEB SITE

HIS WINE & SPIRITS WEB SITE

And His Lunatic Fringe Web Site, With Blunt Opinion

 

 


Panel "J" as in "Jerry."
Swirl on the Castro proprietor Jerry Cooper asks "What's a guy gotta do around here to get a gold medal?"

Jerry has often participated in the San Francisco International Wine Competition and he has the receding hair-line to prove it.

But he showed up this year and, as you can see, rolled up his sleeves and got busy tasting.

 




"Since We're Neighbors, Let's Be Friends
" said judge Phil Markert, who's a Safeway grocery store executive.  He's in charge of "non-perishable products" and yet he had a pretty good idea of the shelf life of many of the wines he evaluated during the tasting.
"This wine here seems to have all the ingredients for life." he told his colleagues.
He's also a straight shooter...




Kimberly Charles was also on this panel and she was addressed as "Ms. C-Brulee."
Kimberly's PR Agency, Charles Communications Associates, is one of the top wine industry public relations enterprises.
Kimberly has long been a fan of the grand cru Burgundy from the Bonnes Mares appellation, but lately she's been sniffing around Italy's Barolo area and finding some wines which tickle her fancy.
Kay-Cee is known to have a freezer full of ice cream and, if you look hard enough, you'll find her illicit collection of foie gras.
As she possess a dry wit, her taste in Champagne runs to something equally austere, hence her preference for Ayala Champagnes.
"Where there's life, there's Ayala!" we heard her saying.

 





Randy Caporoso is a long-time wine industry veteran.
He spent many years as a sommelier and is identified with the famous chef Roy Yamaguchi.  These days he writes wine articles for publications such as Sante, Practical Vineyard & Winery and The Somm Journal.
As a restaurant wine director, he was one of the early proponents of sommelier-crafted wine and had his own label for several vintages.
These days he leads the bandwagon for the wines from California's Lodi region.
There are several other Caporoso Blogs:
Randy Caporoso Blog

Culinary Wine & Food Matching

Wine List Consulting

 

 

 


Ron Washam, whose alter-ego is The Hosemaster, was in charge of Panel K.


The Hosemaster is routinely threatening readers to stop posting articles on his marvelous blog, much as Sheriff Bart bullies the towns-people,  claiming he'll pull the trigger in the classic American film "Blazing Saddles."
We're delighted Ron hasn't retired from the wine judging circuit, as he's one of the few real comedians who can accurately assess the "funny-tasting" wines over the course of the weekend.



Tasting alongside The Hosemaster was eagle-eyed Steve Izzo of San Francisco's Waterbar.
When encountering gold medal-worthy wines, Steve would vote saying "Wunderbar!"
And his wine list at the restaurant is remarkable, which you'd expect from a Joie-de-vivre-Meister such as Monsieur Izzo!

 


The Third Muscateer on this august panel was Tim Teichgraeber, an attorney by day, wine-taster and eno-scribe the rest of the time.
Tim's legal practice specializes in helping recording artists and entertainment industry folks.
He recently wrote an article on water-witching, so for him, "dowsing" for gold medal wines is easy.
"We had more bronze medals than you could shake a stick at," Tim said, "but we found some golds and silvers as well."



This was fortunate, as some judges found themselves in a bit of a bind if they were allergic to finding medal-worthy wines.

Teichgraeber is now known as Samurai Tim-San in the kitchen, as Mrs. Tim recently replaced the steak knives with Samurai Swords.

Now you know why his colleagues describe him as "sharp."

 




 

 


You've probably heard of the Horse Whisperer and the Dog Whisperer...Bob Silverstein is the Wine Whisperer!

He can actually "hear" the wine.

Bob travels the world and people have seen photos similar to the one above...luckily, they have only asked for his autograph or to shake his hand.

Bob is affiliated with Venice Beach Wines.

 

 

 




"The Rabbi," Mendel Kohn, joined Bob on Panel L, sniffing, sipping and listening to the wines.
And he's quite accomplished at picking out the top wines.
"I can spot the chosen few."


He can also separate the wines from the water...

 

 




Sommelier Marcus Garcia has clearly been learning the Silverstein Technique in evaluating wines.
"I can taste stereophonically." Marcus explains.
He's been the Somm at San Francisco's famous Fleur de Lys restaurant (closing shortly after a 28 year run!) and will soon be working at The French Club in The City.
He's also an aspiring wine writer and dreams of owning his own restaurant.

 

 


Christine Trice added a bit of dignity and decorum to this panel.
She's the author of the web site:  OMG, I So Need a Glass of Wine (or I'm gonna sell my kids™).

Christine, whose family resides in Sacramento, enjoys visiting the Napa Valley.
And not only for wine tasting!
Click Here.

 

 

 

 

 



Tim McDonald is the Director of Judging (Head of "La Famiglia Nuova" as it were) and he has a black belt in spitting.
His business cards note his credentials as a "CSW" (Can't Stand Water) and he's the President of Wine Spoken Here.

Tim speaks Albariño fluently, amongst other languages.

 


Tim McNally makes the trek from N'Awlins.
He's the Resident Wine Guru on WGSO Radio (Friday Afternoons at 5pm).
We asked him "Where y'at?" and he responded with
"We found boo-coo medals this year!  An' we're fixin' to give some more!"

 




Virginie Boone has been a contributing editor to The Wine Enthusiast and her byline appears regularly in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Of course, the Boone name is highly-regarded in the world of wine.

Yes...Boone's Farm!

 

 

 


Despite her apparent youth, Kristina Spencer is the "Senior" wine buyer at Cost Plus World Markets.
She had convinced a few judges that if it's true that you can hear the ocean by holding a conch shell to your ear, then you can hear the vineyard by doing the same with a glass of wine...

"I hear loamy clay with small but fruity pebbles..."

 

 

 


 


Wilfred starts each day with a Cappuccino of some sort...


Famous Eno-Celebrity, Wilfred Wong.
After many years at BevMo, Wilfred "retired" to take a job with Wine.Com where his job is described as "Chief Story-teller."  Given Wilfred's storied career in the wine world, he's looking forward to this new challenge.

 

 


He had two other celebrities on his panel this year.


Shelly Lindgren is an owner of the popular A-16 restaurants (San Francisco and Oakland) and The City's SPQR.

Shelly studied at the University of Hubert Keller before launching her own restaurant empire.  She's a champion of esoteric Italian wines and the wine list at A-16 features many off-the-beaten path producers and wines, most from Central and Southern Italy, while SPQR has wines from all over Italy.

Meanwhile, illustrating her fame and notoriety, here's a snapshot of a recent TV game show question:



Also on the panel was another hugely famous wine personality, Jeffery Stivers.
Jeffery was asked if he'd found any medal-worthy wines in this flight and he picked up a bunch of glasses, saying all four were worthy of a gold.


Perhaps you've seen stories on the internet (or the TV news) where someone opened a bag of potato chips and found an image seemingly similar to Jesus on a chip or the Virgin Mary's likeness as a tomato...

A few of the judges had gathered for breakfast over at Sears Fine Foods near Union Square prior to the judging.
The place is famous for its pancakes.

Shocking.
Truly shocking.

Rumor has it that United Airlines was serving breakfasts this week which featured Stivers-Cakes.
More than a few flights had to be canceled because these things weigh a ton and the planes could not get airborne!

 

 


John Cunin is a consultant to the restaurant industry, his company being called JMC Consulting.
Here's one of his affiliates...CLICK HERE.

He's also a big fan of actor/dancer Christopher Walken.

 

Cunin has been a Walken fan ever since the actor came into one of his restaurants and busted some moves on his way to the table while being escorted by a hostess.

 

Also on this panel is Mister Pinot Noir, Greg "Go Giants!" Walter.

Greg writes a newsletter devoted exclusively to Pinot Noir from the West Coast.
Happily, he's quite able to taste and evaluate wines in the "Other Than Pinot Noir" Categories.

Greg was overheard telling another judge, "A day without Pinot Noir is like the San Francisco Giants without Angel Pagan..."

 


Ron Siragusa is the Wine Director at Kuleto's restaurant in San Francisco as well as the neighboring drinking establishment, Bar Norcini.

Ron noted towards the end of the day that it was, indeed, Wine o'clock.

 

The new kid on this panel was The Great Dame.

Fred Dame is another luminary in the wine world, being the first American to gain entry to the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.
Fred's parents were grape growers, cultivating fruit for raisin production.  Comedian Steven Wright had advised Fred's folks, apparently, that if you made wine out of raisins, you don't have to wait for the wine to 'age.'

Fred works for Southern Wine & Spirits, being a Vice President (he gets a parking space closer to the front door at headquarters) of "Prestige Accounts in San Mateo County."  This means, we're led to understand, that he has plenty of time to polish his wine-tasting skills, golf game and enter those competitive dog grooming contests.

 

 




Brian Baker is a long-time SF International wine judge and he's a marketing guru at Napa Valley's historic Chateau Montelena Winery.

Brian spent many years in the travel industry prior to working for Jackson Family Wines (as in Kendall Jackson, not Michael Jackson).  He still has several sets of keys of various vehicles from his days at Dollar Rent-a-Car.
And not many people know that Brian is fluent in speaking "Oklahoman"!!
"Y'all givin' this wine a gold medal, 'cause if all y'all give it a gold, it's a Double Gold, don'tcha know?"

 


At this stage, prominent wine critic, journalist Robert Whitley, broke out singing the chorus of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma," which pleased Brian immensely.


Mr. Whitley publishes the web site WINE REVIEW ONLINE and organizes a few wine competitions of his own, including the SAN DIEGO WINE COMPETITION and a trio of wine "challenges."
He's a grizzled veteran of the wine judging circuit and has had a colorful career as a print journalist.

 


Chef William BloxSomm-Carter (he's addressed as either "Chef" or "Somm," we're told) was a bit surprised by Mr. Whitley's melodic rendition of Oklahoma.

Yes...the poor fellow had a mouthful of wine when Mr. Whitley began singing, shocking The Chef!

Mr. Bloxsom-Carter is the executive chef at the Playboy Mansion West in Los Angeles, by the way, so he's always hanging out with celebrities and the like.

 

 

Once the panels have wrapped up their assigned flights for the day, some of us go have a beer at nearby Foley's Irish Pub.
Most judges walk in and remark "Say, is this placed 'corked'?"  as the building seems to have some musty smells!

And you never know who you might run into at Foley's!

************************

At 6:30 there's a marvelous gathering of the judges and other associates at the top of the Nikko Hotel and we have a special dinner honoring the Winemaker of the Year and Winery of the Year.

I try to take snapshots of everyone in attendance...


Traci Dutton prepared a 'take' on a Negroni, using Aperol, Dolin Vermouth, VOR Gin (from Iceland) and Gloria Ferrer bubbly...


There are some passed appetizers and a little buffet featuring all sorts of 'nibbles.'


George Skorka was able to match his jacket to the cocktail...he is ever so dapper!


Sir James McMahon and Lady Deborah


Timmy Skyscraper and Fred Swan.

 


The Bowery Boys:
Greg Walter, Mark Bowery, Jim Harré and Dan Kosta
And there's The Photo-Bomber standing on a soap box in the background, Mr. Charles Mara.


It was pointed out that Charles is rarely, if ever, seen wearing a tie.
"Don't you know his shoes have 'velcro' for laces?" Andy asked.


Two Angelinos, Dapper Dan and Bob Silverstein (this time imbibing instead of listening to the wine!)...


Kay-Vee and Dee Kay...


Virginie Boone and, OMG!, Christine Trice.


The Head Honcho, Tim McDonald (dressed in Anthony Dias Blue-colored duds) and La Sirena, Heidi Peterson Barrett.


Hier kann jeder spricht Deutsch!

Dr. Valery Uhl with Mister & Mrs. Schloss Vollrads.

 


"Sunny" Jim Harré and the "Shady" Ron Brown...

 


Bill Ward, Melissa O'Neil Perdue and Andy Perdue

 


Jeffery Stivers


The Ponomareffs


Brooks and Beth Painter with Karl Antink.
Mr. Painter was "Winemaker of the Year" at the Competition in 2013 and Mr. Antink's "J. Lohr" winery had the "Best of Show Red Wine" in 2013, their Cuvee POM.  Karl brought J. Lohr's Falcon's Perch Pinot for the dinner, while The Painters offered V. Sattui's Carsi Vineyard Chardonnay and a 2010 Preston Vineyard Cabernet.


Katherine Bloxsom-Carter, Jim McMahon and William Bloxsom-Carter


Mrs. and Mr. Mike Tadich.

 


Scott Greenberg and Phil Markert.


Chloe Turan and Nicolette Teo, with Old McDonald lurking in the background as he often does.

 


This couple usually dresses in Blue...but this year they're Anthony Dias Pink and Jim "Red" Trezise.


Jeanne Laber and Kimberly Charles


Carl Grubbs


Jeffery Stivers with, either Dusty Hill of ZZ Top or San Francisco's Famed Mendel Kohn.

 


Two Wine Dudes:  Joe Roberts and Michael Franz


Two Wine Gals: Traci D and Ziggy E


 

 

And then we found a chair, fastened our seatbelts and off we went!


We all raised a glass and toasted to good wine, good food and good friends.


Executive Director Anthony Dias Blue then held court, as he traditionally does, introducing new or returning judges.

After a shot glass of Tomato Bisque, we had

Striped Bass Crudo and our table enjoyed a Soalheiro Alvarinho from the 2013 vintage...a terrific partnership!


Ron Washam enjoying a taste of Waldgries Santa Magdalener 2012...


Robert Whitley pours a splash of the Waldgries...It's a hugely aromatic, fruity red made of Schiava with a little bit of Lagrein and resembles a fruit-basket Beaujolais.


Andy stopped by to see what we were drinking...

 

We opened a magnum of La Rioja Alta's Viña Ardanza.
"What vintage is this?" asked Mr. Washam.  "I can't see any indication of the year!"

The Hosemaster was having difficulty determining the vintage of this wine...


The vintage date, you see, is in a half-tone behind the text on the label, so for the Old Washbag, it was invisible.


The Professor and George Skorka.


Another cute couple...


Marinated Jumbo Prawn with Kobe-styled "Onglet" (a fancy term for Hangar Steak)...

The sun was setting in the west and we had a look out towards the Golden Gate and Marin...

Soon Maverick Ron Brown surfed by our table to pour some of his wine.


I gathered up the strength to overcome my fear of public speaking and stood before the assembled multitude to recount the little "shopping" spree I had in between judging and dinner.



I mentioned that tourism is Big Business in San Francisco and that I had a panel of "foreign" judges, so I'd picked up some little San Francisco key-chains for them.

I found a Riedel Crystal Souvenir Shop near Union Square...And damn, they're out of control.
I cannot tell the difference between a Chardonnay glass and a White Burgundy design, which both resemble the Viognier glass.
And now they're getting crazy...there's a Chardonnay glass for Mondays, a Chardonnay glass for Tuesdays, a Chardonnay glass for Wednesdays!

In perusing the shop, I found a German Riesling design and, frankly, I could not tell it apart from the New Zealand Sauvignon design.  And since I was tasting with Dr. Rowald Hepp from Germany and Jim Harré from New Zealand, well, I had to buy those for my panel-mates!

I then saw a design called The Dan Berger Tasting Vessel, but there was only the sign on that shelf and the damned thing was a bit expensive.
I asked the sales clerk if I could see the Dan Berger glass and she said "Oh no.  Sorry.  We're all out of those Sippee Cups!"

Perusing the shop a bit more, I found a New York Wine-Tasting Design with a San Francisco theme and since I'm on a panel with the esteemed Jim Trapeze, why not?


As I ambled around Union Square, I found a T-Shirt emporium.  Naturally they had shirts with Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge designs.  There were Cable Car t-shirts, too.
And then I saw a really remarkable design...a Tim McDonald T-Shirt.
It looked kind of big so I asked the lady if they had them in "Large."
"Nope, I'm sorry.  No Large.  Only Extra Large, you know, like the size of Tim McDonald's head!"

On a totally different topic, I recounted how one of the San Francisco Giants players commuted to the stadium on a scooter and how the scooter was stolen.
To try to recover the lost scooter, the player, Hunter Pence, offered a bobble-head doll in exchange for the scooter.
"So I returned the bleeping scooter," I said, "And they gave me a bobble-head doll."

"What a disappointment.  I have a Willie Mays and Willie McCovey bobble-head...But I never expected this!"

And then I handed the box to Andy, who carefully unwrapped the bobble-head inside.
Yes!  Can you imagine?

An Anthony Dias Blue Bobble-Head doll...complete with last year's facial hair and he's even holding a wine bottle!

A big thanks to Deborah Parker Wong for the snapshot!

Meanwhile, dessert was served.

A Chocolate Dome, Fruit Compote and a French-styled Macaron...

Mike Dunne was impressed by The Hosemaster's ability to catch a snooze during all of this.

Valery showed up and suddenly Ron was wide awake!

And with that, we kissed the night goodbye!



THE REST OF THE WEEKEND...CLICK HERE

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

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