SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION 2013
Photos and Silliness By
In June when the wind kicks up, allergy season opens and a
bunch of Noses return to San Francisco like swallows to Capistrano.
It's the annual SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION and 2013 marked the
33rd edition of this hallowed event.
This year some 51 wine judges followed their noses and
gathered on a weekend in San Francisco to judge approximately 4500 different
And in the parlance of Wine-Speak, we critique the appearance, color,
"nose" and flavor of the wines presented at the tastings.
So, basically, with respect to the wines, picking a good nose is ideal.
Leading the troops through the weekend is Anthony Dias Blue, Bon Vivant,
columnist, critic, author and radio personality (WCBS in New York, KABC in LA)
and publisher of The Tasting Panel magazine.
The Opening Ceremonies commence Friday morning as the
judges don their tasting smocks, procure their name tags and limber up for
numerous flights of fancy (and sometimes not-so-fancy).
Andy gives a motivational speech, enumerating various statistics and Chandler
Moore (seen standing behind our fearless leader, corrects him.
Fifty one judges were in attendance and a couple of more were there but in
spirit (arriving Sunday for the Sweepstakes, Best of Show Judging, as you will
see if you continue reading this) as we had 16
panels sniffing, sipping and spitting well north of 4000 wines from around the
Andy then says, "Ladies & Gentlemen, Tim, Gerald and The Hosemaster,
Start Your Engines!"
And with that, the panel members and their noses head on over to their tasting
We look to award medals to the wines.
There are numerous bottles worthy of a Bronze Medal.
Some 'more special' wines are recognized with a Silver Medal.
Top wines are given a Gold Medal.
If all the judges award a particular wine a Gold Medal, that wine is designated
as a "Double Gold Medal" winner and it may be tasted again Sunday in
the Best of Show runoffs for the Sweepstakes awards.
But some bottles may have "an off day" or simply be a "bad
bottle" and Goodfella Charles "The Nostril" Mara is periodically
heard saying "D-N-P-I-M" in assessing a particular wine.
This translates to "Do Not Put In Mouth."
Charles is one smooth operator.
We typically have a dozen, or so, glasses before us and we
make notes and assessments quietly and independently before sharing our findings
with the other panel members.
I was tabbed to chair Panel "P" and had two brilliant partners...
Patrick Comiskey is a Senior Editor (I suppose he gets a cheaper train fare or
movie ticket than us youngsters!) of Wine & Spirits Magazine. He is a
bit of a specialist, evaluating wines from Oregon, Washington, New York and
other non-California locales. Patrick's name has appeared in the San Francisco
Chronicle, the LA Times, Bon Appetit magazine, The Robb Report and more...
Jim Harre is a globe-trotting wine judge, hailing from New Zealand.
He and his wife Wendy run a little "bed & breakfast" called The
Gates Country Lodge in Waiau, about an hour and a half north of Christchurch.
Jim, who spends a fair bit of time up in the air, has studied the effects of
one's sensory perception of wine in-flight.
He has found many California wines do require one to fasten one's seatbelt.
You know Jim is passionate about wine when he is willing to admit to enjoying
Loire Valley Chenin Blancs and well-aged German Rieslings.
We were able to find some Gold Medal-worthy wines and even a handful of
Here's what we tasted on Friday and Saturday:
Kimberly Charles chaired Panel A...
Kimberly has been known to hang out in interesting places...
...such as museums.
We don't know if they're looking at her or if Kimberly is looking at them.
One of Kimberly's Partners in Wine was the Great Janet
Janet is one of the few serious Thespians amongst the crowd of judges.
She's not only a star in the Bay Area wine scene, she recently starred in a
stage production in The City and she's cultivating her film career, too!
That's Mister New Orleans, Tim McNally.
Tim knows which wines are the picayune bottlings and which ones over-achieve
(the lagniappe-sort of wines)...
He introduced his panel colleagues to a bit of New Orleans-Speak:
"You gonna give dat a silva' medal, or whut?"
"Where y'at on dat wine, ladies?"
I'm pretty sure I heard Kimberly say "Awrite, I's givin' dis one a gold,
so dere ya go. F'sure."
With that kind of banter, I'm thinking of ersters, hush puppies and
Meanwhile, a couple of judges, in between sessions, were playing cards and
one had a hand of all "Jokers"!!!
Anthony Dias Blue chaired Panel B, as well as coordinating the whole show.
Speaking of shows, his radio show is popular, we're told, in a remarkably
diverse range of cities...
Paducah, Kentucky...Great Falls, Montana...Traverse City, Michigan...Anchorage,
HERE TO GIVE A LISTEN TO ANDY...
Panel B goes from A to Z...
Ziggy Eschliman, The Wine Gal, is another radio star.
She can be heard in Sonoma on your FM Radio at 95.9 or 96.7.
Lisa Weeks managed to find time to participate this year, as she's routinely
busy eating & drinking and then posting photos on the internet of her bowl
of breakfast cereal & glass of Metamucil or her Lobster dinner accompanied
by a bottle of Le Montrachet.
Her current mantra is:
and Lisa is working in The Big Apple as an account executive for Hall Company.
Tim MacDonald is an M-S.
Some people believe the initials MS stand for "Master Sommelier," but
Tim is actually
a Master Spitter.
We've heard some folks describe Tim as another kind of Master and it rhymes with
Debbie Zachareas, who's been described as "Bonkers from Yonkers," is
the reigning Ferry God-Mother. Her Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants shop on the
Embarcadero is a San Francisco landmark.
In her spare time, she masquerades as a Wilfred Wong Impersonator.
Debbie spends a bit of time at some of The City's famed Tattoo Parlors,
Kevin Vogt adds a note of decorum to Panel C and he IS a Master Sommelier, a
title he earned last century...
...So the man knows the difference between Spit & Shinola.
Kevin is the wine director at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steak House in Las
Vegas, as well as owning a brand of Napa Valley wine called Mastery.
Mister New York/Mister Riesling chaired Panel D...
"D" as in Dynamite!
Jim Trezise heads up the New York Wine And Grape Foundation as well as being
active in the "IRF" (Homeland Security is keeping an eye on him, we're
told), the International Riesling Foundation.
Mister Director even brings his own chair to the judging!
Ann Littlefield spends a lot of time judging wines at various US wine
competitions, tallying more than a dozen of these events annually. Her
Mother tries to keep tabs on Ann, who is now on a first name basis with
screeners at various airport security stations around the country.
Ms. Littlefield is so famous she was even mentioned on the web site of the Irondequoit Post!
Also on this august panel was Dan Berger.
He's been a syndicated columnist for decades and has a lot of Vintage
Dan coordinates the Riverside International Wine Competition as well as
provoking thought with his enological insights.
We had heard someone describe Dan as a "Space Cadet" (better, we
suppose, than being a Mouton Cadet) and then we found evidence of his Star
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and
Michael Feil is from Jupiter!
Michael is now the General Manager of The Jupiter Island Club, a remarkable,
secluded little community about 90 miles north of Miami.
The Secret(ive) Feil couldn't tell us much about his new gig, as the place is ultra private
and its members prefer it that way.
Ron Siragusa is able to speak about his work and he's the Wine Director as San
Francisco's Kuleto's restaurant, a place that's now regarded as a San Francisco
We had heard Ron "marches to the beat of his own drum" and, lo &
Also on the panel is the Reverend Dr. Bill McNabb of the Piedmont Community
Church across the Bay.
Dr. Bill preaches the Gold Medal Gospel and he made believers out of Michael and
And, Hallelujah, they found some medal-winning wines!
Apparently the organizers have a good sense of humor
and so they assembled a remarkable panel of true "characters."
Chairing the panel is Rosina Tinari Wilson...
Rosina is an absolute wine & food aficionado.
Check out her cool little website...CLICK
She's an absolute gem, but
she must have done something wrong to be punished by having such a rogue's
gallery of panel members.
First, there's Ron Washam, noted Hosemaster of Wine™.
little wine blog, if you want to call it that, is a scream!
Ron is the Class Clown and he's a brilliant Punster, as well as being a fair and
critical wine judge.
Apparently it's been a Goodyear for Mr. Washbag, as he attended the judging by
flying south from Healdsburg in his very own blimp!
"When you're full of hot air, you're full of hot air." Ron explained.
Then there's the lovely Manager of Tannin, Rebecca Chapa.
Rebecca, who's a bottle shy of a full case, sentenced herself earlier in the
year to a stay on Alcatraz, as she thought that would be a nice venue for wine,
food and to showcase her musical talents.
Familiar with the world of wine, Rebecca is often on the Road to Know Where (she
She is livin' large and won The Lottery (she says)...
Her advice to her panel colleagues: "Keep track of your drinks, And always
trust your instincts."
The 4th Member of Panel F is the inimitable Jeffery K. Stivers.
Stivers-san is the wine and sake guru at a famed Los Angeles dining
and he has a Black Belt in wine-tasting.
Jeffery is also a "mixologist" at
Maxwell DeMille's Cicada Club and is that joint jumpin'!
A local crew was attempting to hang a billboard near the tasting venue.
One of the crew members, surprised by the smiling visage of Mr. Stivers, fell
off the scaffolding (apparently) at a building over on Post Street.
The worker landed, happily, in a dumpster and suffered only minor bruises (to his
John Cunin traded his Patina for something called CityEats,
an on-line restaurant reservation system affiliated with The Food Network.
John said he had no reservations, however, about awarding a number of gold medals to some
of the wines his panel judged over the weekend.
And being a Major League Foodie,
Mr. Cunin Knows culinary arts from Soup to Nuts.
JC chaired Panel G.
Gary Blackwell is always on the prowl for fun wines for his wine &
spirits emporium out on Geary Boulevard in The City.
His shop features lots of off-the-beaten path wines, spirits and beers....
Debra Del Fiorentino coordinates 7 wine competition judgings for Vineyard
& Winery Management and in her spare time she's a partner in Russian River
Vineyards winery and their restaurant, "Corks."
She gained a measure of fame recently on a TV Game Show...
Greg Walter is passionate about Pinot Noir and the San Francisco Giants.
He writes The Pinot
with a focus on West Coast Pinot Noirs.
Greg will tell you Pinot Noir hasn't jumped
Who knew Greg was so well-versed in Ichthyology?
"Of Pinot We Know" and "Go Giants"???
Hmmm...wonder who might have tagged that wall in Sonoma???
Chairing Panel H, Il Nostro Comitato, was the
inimitable "Don" Charles Mara.
Charles is a famed "BS-er" (Big Spender) having had his name in the
Guinness Book of World Records for paying $28,000 for a bottle of 1806 Chateau
We asked Charles how the wine tasted and he said "I gave it a Silver
Medal...needed another few months of bottle aging and I'da probably given it a
Meanwhile, throngs of people showed up at a local theater where Don Charles was
Tim Teichgraeber is an attorney in real life and he moonlights writing wine
articles for various publications (and books)...
Timmy Skyscraper found lots to like in judging 2009 vintage Cabernets, amongst
Drake McCarthy is one of the "old timers" at the San Francisco
International Wine Competition.
He's a musician in his spare time and had no trouble trumpeting the virtues of
his various picks for gold medal wines over the course of the SF International
For being in the wine-selling industry as long as he has, it's remarkable Drake
still has hair.
Drake is "old school" and he and his musical pals recently recorded
Deborah Parker Wong hails from the Grape Belt of America and so it's no
wonder she's a two-fisted wine judge!
Deborah writes for The Tasting Panel magazine and speaks fluent Pennsylvanian as
well as French.
"Some of these wines should receive a Medaille D'Or and others should
She spends a lot of time with her computer, so this should not be a surprise:
Scott Clemens is an Epicurean
Traveler and his travels take him around the globe.
In fact, immediately following the weekend of wine judging, Scott boarded an
airplane bound for Borneo in search of the world's largest flower.
Steve Bell is a wine marketing guru and spent many years plying his trade for
the Napa Valley winery of Charles Krug.
These days he's a free agent, affiliated with a wine company called Aerovin.
Mike Dunne made time for the weekend's activities
between his escapades on his home turf in Sacramento and his getaway spot in
on Wine is a popular feature in the Sacramento Bee as it makes far
more sense than reading about California's latest legislative boondoogles.
He also writes a blog
which you can peruse here...
Meanwhile, a State Highway Sign near San Diego:
Carl Grubbs is now affiliated with the charming San Francisco restaurant called Incanto.
The restaurant features delightful Italian-themed cooking with famous Chef Chris
Cosentino in the kitchen.
Incanto is one of the most wine-friendly hot-spots in The City.
And news of Carl's new gig was seen on City Cabs...
Scott Greenberg is Washington DC's Vine Guy. He is heard on WTOP, where
he's got lots of capital ideas about wine.
Scott also has his
own blog and is now affiliated with The Tasting Panel magazine.
San Francisco's Rusty Albert...
He's co-owner of a tony little shop in the Laurel Heights/Presidio Heights area
of San Francisco called Wine Impressions.
Rusty is big on Pinot Renoir which he says "...can cost some Monet."
There was a famous 49ers Quarterback named Frankie Albert from 1946 until
1952...The grounds crew at Candlestick was so thrilled to know Rusty was related
(he's not) and is a fan...
Famous Los Angeles funny man Robert Silverstein fastened his seatbelt, chairing
Panel K with two prominent San Francisco sommeliers.
"Do you know how to tell certified sommeliers?" Bob asked...
"Don't worry, they'll tell you!"
And the telling thing was they found a few medal-worthy wines.
Being from near Hollywood, this should not be a surprising sight...
Marcus Garcia, when he's not playing the saxophone, is the wine director at
Hubert Keller's stellar Fleur de Lys restaurant in San Francisco.
Tonya Pitts is the wine director at San Francisco's One Market restaurant.
She's a veritable YouTube star, having a video
posted where she describes some of the special bottlings she's
curated for the restaurant.
Tonya appreciates a wide range of wines and she likes an eclectic range of hip,
And she's famous!
Panel L featured a lady who is invited to at least a dozen of these wine
Yet, her wine judging is merely a moonlighting gig...she's a medical doctor in
"real life" and also has a degree in viticulture.
Dr. Valery Uhl is also a Bay Area foodie as well as a globe-trotter (her bags
are packed in preparation for a little get-away to Austria...and, oh by the way,
she sprechens pretty damned good Deutsch, auch!).
Michael Schaefer is a Certified Wine Educator and attending his first SF
International weekend this year.
He's been affiliated with the Society of Wine Educators and instrumental in
working with a company producing a "Wine App" for tablets and
Bohemian Michael Hantman is the President of "Wine Phone" and a
fixture at this annual event.
He's a prominent musician, too, serenading folks in Sonoma when he's not working
on his telephonic adventure.
Mendel Kohn is now known as "The Rabbi" after the official event
kept addressing him as "Rabbi."
Oy gevalt, he's the chairman of Panel M.
Alongside The Rabbi is "Decanter Steve Izzo."
Steve Iz the Wine Director at Waterbar along San Francisco's Embarcadero.
You know about news reports claiming to have found an image of Jesus on a
piece of toast or something?
Well, some judges claimed to have seen Steve in a glass of Champagne
during the weekend.
We know he has a bubbly personality...but this was remarkable!
Dana Farner is a big hockey fan, as we understand it.
She even works for a guy named Puck!
Dana has been described as the "Indie Rock Goddess Sommelier," a title
she wears well.
Her opinions were helpful to The Rabbi and DeCanter in finding wines which made
Dana lives in La-La-Land and is seen all over town, from Beverly Hills to
Hollywood and beyond!
Brian Baker, a big-wig at the famed Chateau Montelena winery in Napa's
Calistoga, penciled in a number of medal-winning wines.
Some people commented that Brian "isn't the sharpest writing implement in
the box," but we've found that not to be true...
He brilliantly chaired Panel N.
I can't recall if someone had said Brian was a "piece of work" or a
"work of art."
Apparently the latter, though, as he and his wife Linda were seen hanging out in a local
Ellen Landis is always looking for gems in her glass and she and her panel
William Bloxsom Carter works for Hugh Hefner at LA's Playboy Mansion where he's
the executive chef, food & beverage manager and wine guru.
He's a busy fellow, what with preparing food for The Boss and thousands of
guests at the Mansion...
Ace Ventura is a Bloxsom-Carter Fan!
"Yeah, that Cat can taste wine and weed out the dogs!"
Australia's Jim McMahon is not related to the wrestling promoting McMahon
family, though he grappled with the wines this weekend and pinned down some
judges to pick some Double Golds.
Jim selects wines for various enterprises Down Under, including Virgin
Australian airline and a couple of hotel chains.
Many judges had Jim on their "speed dial" in case they had a question
regarding a wine...
Mister California Grapevine headed Panel
Nick Ponomareff has been publishing the California
Grapevine for about 40 years now!
Nick's San Diego tasting group tastes about a thousand wines annually, so
tasting through 250-300 on this weekend is a snap!
Nick helped engineer his panel through a broad range of wines over the weekend.
One of the greatest characters judging wines is The Mad Hungarian (or is he The
Green Hungarian?), George Skorka.
a szivárvány borok
találkozunk a hétvégén, és
a báj, szellemes
és a kegyelem sokkal nagyra
értékelik a bor megítélésében
Everyone knows George is a "people person," but he's
also a "Dog Person," too.
Also on the panel is The Great Kate Radburnd, a veritable
"Legend of New Zealand Wine" (you can look it up...Kate won this honor
in 2010, being recognized for award winning wines as well as her wine judging
We learned this year that Kate is an Olympic Gold Medalist in Shopping!
THE JUDGES DINNER AND SATURDAY FRIVOLITY
IS THIS CRAP? GET ME OUTTA HERE!