By Jay Bileti
AWS Director of Member Services
Those of us who judge in wine competitions have a nice little advantage – we get to find great wines and great value wines that would be a lot harder to find otherwise. Usually hundreds of wines are tasted blind by a couple of dozen experienced tasters. All judges get to taste those that rated highest. I make a lot of my personal wine purchases through finding wines at competitions. Why not share some of this primo info with my AWS family? I can’t think of a single reason why not!
The East Meets West Wine Competition in Santa Rosa, California is pretty interesting. The long-running International Eastern Wine Competition (in operation since 1975) has been combined with the West Coast Wine Competition. The judging separates the two but adds a taste-off at the end where the top wines from both divisions are pitted against each other for best of show. The last few years, the wines from the east have really held their own against their more famous competitors – their Best of Class and Best of Show scores are very similar.
Below is a link to all the medal winners, but here are the wines that I thought were particularly good wines and good values.
A big surprise was Prairie Creek Vineyards and Winery’s Edelweiss and La Crescent white wines. This Nebraska winery, making wines from hybrid grape varieties, is doing a great job. The 2019 Edelweiss earned a Best of Show award with a score of 98 points. The wine is semi-sweet (4% rs), aromatic, floral, full-bodied, balanced and delicious! A nice summer patio wine. The 2019 La Crescent, edged out for Best of Class by its sister, earned a double gold medal (all panel judges independently judged it gold) and 97 points. This wine is off-dry (1% rs), full of peach, apricot and pineapple flavors. Really yummy.
Only 200 cases are made of each of these wines, so they are very rare. They each sell for $16/bottle, which is a steal. Prairie Creek will ship out of state, but at these inventory levels, if you’d like some you should act quickly.
The Overall Best of Show (best wine in the entire competition) was the 2018 McIlroy Cellars Vines and Roses Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. A wonderful Pinot Noir from the Russian River should come as no surprise. But this single vineyard wine is a nearly perfect example with balanced cherry and spice flavors. Some Russian River Pinots today try to squeeze in extra flavor, and possibly a few non-Pinot grapes, making them nice red wines but atypical of Pinot noir. The McIlroy doesn’t. The wine is medium bodied, classic, and in no way overdone. A great dinner companion. The judges awarded this wine 99 points and at $40 is a good value for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir of this quality.
This link will take you to the competition website, where you can review all the medal winners: https://www.winecompetitions.com/eastmeetswest.
See results from the AWS’s own annual Commercial Wine Competition.