Wine Talk

Snooth User: bryantkrk

The Livermore Valley did great at the 2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

Posted by bryantkrk, Jan 12, 2011.

The results are in for the 2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and there are a lot of medals coming back to the Livermore Valley.  With over 5000 entries this year the competition was tuff.  Here is a list of the medal winning Livermore wineries.

 Bent Creek Winery, Charles R Vineyards, Chouinard Vineyards, Concannon Vineyard, Crooked Vine Winery, Cuda Ridge Wines, Darcie Kent Vineyards, Fenestra Winery, Harris Tesla Vineyard, John Christopher Cellars, Mitchell Katz Winery, Murrieta’s Well, Nottingham Cellars, Page Mill Winery, Picazo Vineyards, Red Feather Winery, Retzlaff Winery, Rodrigue Molyneaux Winery, Ruby Hill Winery, Stony Ridge Winery, Tamás Estates Winery, Thomas Coyne Winery, and Wente Vineyards

Here are a couple of my favorites winning wines from the group above:

Cuda Ridge 2008 Livermore Valley Cabernet Franc $28.00 (Gold)

Fenestra 2007 Livermore Valley Ghielemetti Vineyard Petite Sirah $25.00 (Double Gold)

Harris Tesla 2006 Livermore Valley Harris Tesla Cabernet Sauvignon $23.99 (Silver)

Nottingham Cellars 2008 Livermore Valley 60% Cab 40% Merlot Ralphi’s Red Blend $29.00 (Bronze)

Wente 2009 Livermore Valley Morning Fog Chardonnay $14.99 (Double Gold)

You can find the full listing of the medals won by Livermore wineries at


Reply by napagirl68, Jan 22, 2011.

I taste livermore very, very frequently (local).  While I find some of the wines mentioned "ok", they absolutely do not fit the "top" wine rating IMO.  On the flip side, two of the best winemakers in Livermore were left out:  Occasio and Thomas Coyne.  Occasio for their Fume Blanc, and Thomas Coyne for his Mourvedre, Grenache, and/or Viognier. 

As I have said in the past, the chronicle list is one of my least favorites. 

Look elsewhere for recommendations.  Anyone who rates "Mourning Fog" as gold... Yeccchhh!!!  Blehh... Blehhh!!

Reply by bryantkrk, Jan 22, 2011.

Thanks for your response napagirl68.  It's the comments like yours that remind me of why we started the Bryersantis Wine Consortium.  Somewhere along the line people forgot how to just enjoy something that tastes good.  Branding and price became the major factor leaving taste to follow third.  How the wine snob has been allowed to take over I don't know, but we have made it our goal to go out and find wines that we enjoy drinking whether they come from a boutique winery or one that produces large quantities of wine.  We tell people about those wines and encourage them to tell us about the ones they love.  Price and name don't influence our perception.  It is all about the taste.  

As far as Occasio and Thomas Coyne go, I have tasted at both wineries multiple times.  Occasio was not mentioned in this post because they were not listed for winning any medals in this years competition.  If I somehow missed them, please let me know as it is my goal not to leave any of our Livermore wineries out.  Thomas Coyne we can agree upon.  They do have phenomenal wines and are yet another one of my favorites.  Unfortunately if I listed all of my favorites in a post, the post would be 5 times longer than this response.  

Due to the time of year it is held, the Chronicle Wine Competition is a tough competition for wineries to enter, especially for the small boutique wineries, because they are forced to enter young wines that have not had the opportunity to mature.  As the largest wine competition in America the Chronicle competition is a huge boost for the small winery that doesn't have the marketing dollars or the inventory to put their wines on the shelves at all of our grocery stores.  The intent of the post was to honor the wineries for a special achievement and give them a little exposure on a forum that promotes the tourist stops of Napa and Sonoma while only making casual mentions of the Livermore Valley wine region.

I think it's wonderful that you are local and I encourage you during your very frequent visits to Livermore to expand your tasting beyond the two wineries you hold in such high regard.  

Here are a couple of places that you should try if you haven't already:

Longevity, Cuda Ridge, BoaVentura, Crooked Vine, Nottingham Cellars, Fenestra, Charles R, John Christopher Cellars

These are just a couple of the wineries I have found to have some fantastic wine.  I look forward to your reviews.

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 22, 2011.


My point in my response was not that you missed listing some winning wineries, but that I am suprised that some of the wines you listed garnered such top honors.  I suppose if it was a "Livermore only" contest, I might agree with some of the winners.  But the Chronicle competition includes wines from all over (namely California, but other areas as well). 

I am positive that many smaller wineries that produce small lots did not even try to enter this competition.  As per my conversation with one local winemaker, several cases of wine are usually required, and that is cost prohibitive to many of these wineries.  I much rather them save their small lots for their wine club members.

I have had the 2008 Cuda Ridge Cab Franc.  I actually was looking very much forward to its bottling, since I had barrel tasted it, and felt it had potential.  But alas, I was very disappointed in the final result.  There are much better cab francs coming out of Napa than this one, and I am surpised it won Gold.

And Wente Morning Fog, Double Gold??  Really???  That just floors me.

The only one I can come close to agreeing with is the Fenestra Ghielemetti Petite syrah.  Fenestra is an interesting case because they can make some outstanding wines one year, and then the next few years, miss the mark entirely.  I have tasted them for over 15yrs and have a love/hate relationship with their wines. 

I have pretty much tasted at all but one or two of the wineries you have listed.  While Livermore does have a few gifted and experienced winemakers, many of these wineries are in their infancy, and it, unfortunately, shows in their wines. Hopefully time and experience will only improve the product coming out of this area.  I do not specifically blame the grapes:  Livermore is a great area for certain grapes... namely the rhone-type varietals, IMO.  I think what is really needed is improved winemaking.


Reply by dmcker, Jan 22, 2011.

Frankly the best wine from Livermore I've had has been Kalin's, even if their winery is in Novato. They've proven that beyond the GSM-type grapes NG refers to, good whites can come out of that valley, too. As long as the winemaker knows what he/she's doing, as NG says. Never been a fan of Wente, especially in the last two or more decades....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 23, 2011.

If the timing of the competition hurts the small wineries, then it needs to be changed.  Or they need to allow the wineries to enter wines from different vintages.  The fact that this is an issue suggests that the competition is not as well thought-out as it should be.  That alone seems reason to give it little weight. 

The wine competition "business" is even less meaningful and helpful than scores by RP or anyone else, because the panels can change year to year and are not always known to the end-consumer.  At least if I see a rating by RP or Eric Asimov or Tanzer or a long rant by Rimmerman at garagiste, I have some idea of the source.  If I can even find out who the judges were at a competition, chances are, at best, that I know only a little about one or two of them.  And there are so many competitions with opaque standards and medals in a million categories, I just disregard them all.  Better to check in here, where I know a bit about what NG, dmcker, SH, JonDerry, GdP, outthere, hhotdog, HondaJohn, et al have had before and what they like.  Hey, there's an idea: the Snooth-posters wine competition (tm). We are already doing virtual tastings, why not?

Reply by outthere, Jan 23, 2011.

If I can even find out who the judges were at a competition, chances are, at best, that I know only a little about one or two of them.

Chron Comp Judges



Restaurant and Hospitality Industry Wine Buyers

  • William Bloxsom-Carter, Dir. of Food and Bev/ Exec Chef, Playboy Mansion, West Los Angeles, CA
  • Ellen Landis, Sommelier/Wine Writer, Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, Half Moon Bay, CA
  • Ken Landis, Chef/Owner, Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn, Half Moon Bay, CA
  • Dan McCoog, Manager, McMahon's Prime Steakhouse, Tucson, AZ
  • Richard Mercer, Owner / President, Experience Italy, Sacramento, CA
  • Michael Overholt, Tasting Room, Manager Stryker Sonoma, Geyserville. CA
  • Christopher Sawyer, Sommelier, Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, Petaluma, CA
  • Diane Teitelbaum, Diane Teitelbaum & Associates, Wine Solutions Education, Dallas, TX
  • Larry Van Aalst, Host (The Sonoma Report), CRN Digital Talk Radio, Santa Rosa, CA
  • Ron Washam, Sommelier, Le Mars Hotel, Healdsburg, CA

Retail Wine Buyers

Wine Education

  • Carl Brandhorst, President, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association, Fairfax, VA
  • Rick Fraga, Wine Consultant, Santa Rosa, CA
  • John Giannini, Winemaker, Fresno State Winery, CSU, Fresno, CA
  • Dr. Barry Gump, Professor of Beverage Management, Florida International University, Miami, FL
  • Ralph Kunkee, Emeritus Professor of Enology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
  • Ann Littlefield, Wine Education,, Napa, CA
  • Catherine Rabb, Associate Instructor, Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, NC
  • Gerry Ritchie, Professor, Enology, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Derrick Schneider, Freelance Wine Writer and Wine Educator.
  • Richard Thomas, Old and Retired, RLT Vineyard Consulting, Healdsburg, CA

Winemaker and Industry Representatives

  • Jim Caudill, Director, Public Relations, The Hess Collection, Napa, CA
  • Mark Chandler, Executive Director, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Lodi, CA
  • Les Ferguson, Wine Consultant, Santa Rosa, CA
  • Denise Gill, Director of Sales & Marketing, Hop Kiln Winery, Healdsburg, CA
  • Daryl Groom, Owner/ Winemaker for Groom Wines in Australia
  • Tim Hardin, Winemaker, Stryker Sonoma, Geyserville, CA
  • Pat Henderson, Senior Winemaker, Kenwood Vineyards, Winemaking Instructor at SRJC, Author, Kenwood, CA
  • Dan Kosta, Proprietor, Kosta Browne Winery, Sebastopol, CA
  • Robert Larson, Public Relations Director, Rodney Strong Wine Estates, Healdsburg, CA
  • Robert Merletti, President & Publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine, Santa Rosa, CA
  • Charles Mara, President, The Mara Wine Group, Pound Ridge, NY
  • Tim McDonald, Owner, Wine Spoken Here PR, Napa, CA
  • Christopher O'Gorman, Dir of Communications, Merryvale Vineyards, St. Helena, CA
  • Ron Rawlinson, National Sales Manager, Ortman Wines, Arroyo Grande, CA
  • David Rogers, Senior Wine Consultant, Vintage Wine Estates, Windsor, CA
  • Kent Rosenblum, Winemaker/CEO, Rock Wall Wine Company, Alameda, CA
  • Bill Smart, Director of Communications, Dry Creek Vineyard, Healdsburg, CA
  • Miro Tcholakov, Winemaker, Trentadue Winery, Geyserville, C
  • Dick Youngs, Wine/ Vineyard Industry Consultant, Windsor, CA

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 23, 2011.

outthere:  Thanks for posting that. Give them credit:  the Chron does publish its list.  (Which I knew because I used to read the article, up until last year or so.) And I know a little bit about Kent Rosenblum (okay, a fair bit about him), Wilfred Wong (whose opinion I couldn't care less about), Jessica Yadegaran and Laurie Daniels (both of them appear in my paper and are pretty easy to understand).  So, 3 votes that I would give any attention to out of that whole list.  How useful can those results be to me?  I guess if I worked in the industry, I would know more of them, but as a consumer, I have more than the usual ties, corresponding and socializing with directors of operations, winemakers, and publicists for some pretty amazing and well known wineries, and I have no idea what most of these folks on the panel are looking for in wine.  Plus I have buyers at wine shops, whose opinions I can guage against what I buy from them week in and week out.  So why pay any attention to these competitions? It's sillier than the WS 100 or buying stuff because WineEnthusiast gives it 90 points.  With so many votes, I have no idea what any individual judge thought, unless I read a column they wrote about the wine. In which case, why not just go on the column?

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jan 23, 2011.

Now, if you want to know what will get your date in the mood, that guy from the Playboy Mansion probably is the one you want to ask.

Seriously, that's a credential?  Hef drinks Pepsi and most of the other occupants of the Mansion don't really seem like they were chosen for their vinous sensibilities. 

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