Magazine article Sunset

Superior Judgments: When the Best Wine Tasters in the West Evaluate Nearly 3,000 Bottles, Fascinating Trends Emerge-To Say Nothing of an Extraordinary Shopping List

Magazine article Sunset

Superior Judgments: When the Best Wine Tasters in the West Evaluate Nearly 3,000 Bottles, Fascinating Trends Emerge-To Say Nothing of an Extraordinary Shopping List

Article excerpt

THERE'S SOMETHING you should know about the sea of medals in the marketplace from wine competitions: They're only as good as the judges who award them. The reliability of results varies widely among competitions, hinging entirely on the tasting experience of the judges.

I knew all that when we floated the idea of launching a Sunset wine competition, and I was ready to quash the plan unless we could sign the best judges in the West. We made a wish list--who would our ideal panel include? Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine, seasoned wine journalists, experienced winemakers and retailers--in short, professionals who've tasted and evaluated wine on a constant basis for a very long time. When I invited my dream team, the overwhelming response was, "Absolutely, I'd love to be part of that!" And I knew our medals would mean something.

In this fourth year of the Sunset International Wine Competition (judged at Sunset's headquarters in April), the expertise of the team was more impressive than ever. The judges--in panels of three--tasted each wine blind, discussed its merits or flaws, then scored it. It's hard work (honestly), with judges evaluating nearly 100 bottles a day. (Little wonder they broke loose after hours in our dinnertime photo booth.) We awarded medals based on the average of panelists' scores. Finally, the highest-scoring wine in each category earned Best in Class status (a truly remarkable collection--see page 97).

When I studied the overall results, I discovered cool trends--types of wine that scored higher than ever before, bottles that are screaming deals, unknown labels that performed right up there with the biggies in their categories. I've highlighted the groups I'm especially excited about on pages 96-97. Following that is a list of all our 201S Gold and Silver Medal winners (at sunset. com/2015medals we've added the Bronze too). It makes a highly trustworthy shopping guide, with deserving bottles for your dinner table or gift list.

BEST BUYS

THE REAL DEAL

Who doesn't like tips from the pros on inexpensive wines that don't taste that way? From stylish Chardonnay to solid Cabernet, these bottles--priced at $15 or less--scored admirably alongside their more expensive counterparts.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild 2014 "Anderra" Sauvignon Blanc (Valle Central, Chile; $11)

Cosentino Winery 2013 "The Zin" Zinfandel (Lodi; $15)

Dobbes 201 3 "Wine by Joe" Pinot Gris (Willamette Valley; $14)

Estancia 2013 Pinot Noir (Monterey County; $14)

J. …

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