July 7, 2020
Over the 30 years I've been writing this column, I've easily sampled a couple hundred thousand wines — at least. At some point, you might think, the thrill of discovery would have worn off.
In reality, tasting great new wines never gets old. Neither does sharing those experiences, such as the two days of judging at the recent 17th annual Critics Challenge Wine & Spirits Competition in San Diego. My panel evaluated more than 250 young wines over two days, assigning a platinum, gold or silver award to wines of outstanding merit.
Platinum was the top award an individual judge could bestow. To earn platinum, a wine must achieve a score of 94 points on the infamous 100-point scale. Over the weekend at the Critics Challenge, I had the opportunity to taste dozens of truly exceptional wines, but only 15 of those rose to the level of platinum on my personal scorecard.
In sports terms, a platinum award to me is the equivalent of a grand slam in baseball. A platinum award should be rare or risk losing its meaning. Of course, during a competition judging, the wines are tasted "blind" to conceal the name of the producer, the vineyard and the price, factors that could produce bias. All we as Critics Challenge judges knew was the region of origin to provide context for stylistic differences.
Of course, after choosing a platinum winner blind, a judge is anxious to learn the wine's identity. For me, discovery is the great appeal of a wine competition. Over the course of my career, I've judged wine competitions the world over, from New Zealand to Italy to Belgium to Portugal to Slovakia to right here in the United States.
I am truly pleased this week to share my most recent wine competition discoveries with you, dear reader.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
...... (Balance of article not relating to Wallis omitted)
LIFESTYLE WINE WINE WINE COMPETITION CRITICS CHALLENGE BLIND TASTINGS
October 8, 2019
"When the Sommelier Challenge was conceived in San Diego more than a dozen years ago, the profession was undergoing a renaissance. The image of a snobby sommelier full of condescension (never really an accurate portrayal) was melting away as a generation of young, eager wine professionals embraced the quest for advanced and master sommelier status.
What struck me as founder and director of the challenge was the remarkable thirst for knowledge exhibited by the first participants. Several wrote afterward thanking me for organizing such a splendid blind tasting.
Tasting blind, or unaware of the producer or price of the wine, is a useful tool in the ongoing education of sommeliers. The challenge allowed them to do just that with a broad cross-section of wines from around the globe.
It also levels the playing field for entrants. Wines are judged solely on the basis of quality, as opposed to reputation. The end result (and all of the results are available at SommelierChallenge.com) demonstrates a number of truths that cut against conventional wisdom.
First, the idea that price is the final arbiter of quality is false. The Sommelier Challenge awards silver, gold and platinum medals, platinum being the highest rung on the ladder. At the 12th annual challenge, last month in San Diego, numerous platinum winners cost $100 or more retail. And there were a number of platinum wines below the $20 mark. Bottom line: It's what's in the glass that matters.
Second, there is no question superior terroir produces outstanding wines, but that doesn't mean Monterey and Temecula and France's less desirable regions, such as the Languedoc, can't produce wines on equal footing with those from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Napa Valley. This week's tasting notes include a petite sirah from Temecula Valley and a syrah from Monterey that are world-class. Each earned a platinum at the challenge.
Finally, there is a lesson in all of this for the rest of us. Preconceived notions about wine often prevent us from experimenting with less renowned wines, depriving us of untold tasting experiences that could deliver untold pleasure. Sometimes it's good to sit back and let a passionate sommelier be your guide.
Wallis Family Estate wines get a nice mention In the October 2017 issue of Town and Country Magazine about Thomas Rivers Brown.
We have been receiving positive press from Festivals and Competitions around the country.
First close to home we have the Winemaker Challenge which is an international wine competition held in San Diego on Jan 19th and 20th. This is the fourth annual competition where judges taste blind to see what wines in the new year have to offer. A gold medal is awarded to wines "that possess an added dimension or profound characteristics" by 2 out of 3 judges at a table. A silver is awarded to a wine "that exhibits above average character for the wine type and place of origin."
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon received a GOLD medal
2010 Little Sister received a SILVER medal
Next a little farther away in South Carolina we have the Hilton Head Food and Wine Festival which has been running for 28 years. This is a festival that benefits educational opportunities for students in the Hospitality program at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and supports a scholarship program through John T and Valerie Curry at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. This competition goes on the last week of January and Wallis Estate received some amazing positive comments from stranger and friends alike.
2010 Little Sister received a Gold medal
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon received a SILVER medal
We hope everyone that went to either of these events enjoyed themselves and if you ever want to share stories with us please feel free!
The Wallis Family
Exciting news! San Francisco Chronicle just put out their results for the 2013 competition.
In more exciting news the Wine Enthusiast magazine also gave the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon a 91 for their upcoming issue.
We are very proud of our wine maker, Thomas Rivers Brown, and his amazing staff and are excited to bring this great wine to your table. Please contact us to start your order today.
As I was stumbling around my emails today I found this very interesting article written by Tim Atkins giving a glimpse into the rich history of the Napa Valley winery world. He gives reference to how wine arrived in the valley and makes references to how it was sustained through the years as well as geological relations to France. Worth a read
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