Thursday, March 20, 2008

Monterey '08: Spotting the Emerging Stars by Robert Whitley

I've collected a few final, and hopefully useful, thoughts on the 2008 Monterey Wine Competition. This was the first of the three major wine competitions that I will seriously scrutinize this year. The other two are the San Diego International in April and the Critics Challenge in May. I am the Director of all three, and frequently draw upon the results for insights into emerging wineries and industry trends.

At Monterey this year I was focused on the outstanding performances of wineries that are either new or have been flying underneath my radar, therefore making them new to me.

For example, I first noticed Edward Sellers of Paso Robles, a relatively new winery, when it emerged with a number of medals from the 2007 Monterey competition. After it repeated that feat with strong performances in the San Diego and Critics Challenge competitions of the same year, I duly took note that this was a winery to watch.

And Edward Sellers didn't disappoint this time around, taking six medals in the '08 Monterey competition, including a couple of golds for its 2005 Selectionne Syrah ($32) and its 2006 Blanc du Rhone ($29). But Edwards Sellers wasn't the only Paso Robles winery that was impressive this year. Bianchi Winery swept to eight medals, including a gold for its 2005 Gary Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. At $25 this is a fabulous value for a top-flight Pinot. And Ronan Cellars, another newbie from Paso, won gold medals for its reserve 2005 Cabernet Franc and a Lakeview Vineyard (Monterey County) Syrah. Both wines are modestly priced at $15.

Paso Robles - located in California's Central Coast halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco - has quadrupled its number of bonded wineries over the past ten years, and with that explosive growth comes a steep learning curve. Not all of the new wineries produce swell swill, but obviously Edward Sellers, Bianchi and Ronan are on a successful path.

No comments: