Here in Sonoma County, you know that fall is near when the foliage starts to change colors, the days start to get shorter, there is a slight chill in the air, and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition takes place! The public will get a chance to taste this year’s sweepstakes winners and all the top-scoring wines at the Harvest Fair Grand Tasting Oct. 14. Tickets for the tasting at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds are available at harvestfair.org and range from $75 to $200 per person.
The Harvest Fair awards Sweepstakes, Best of Class, Double Gold, Gold and more. We have a list of our favorite Best of Class and Sweepstakes winners being featured this week below.
The type of award/medal a wine can win is a lengthy one. Have you ever wondered what each of those classifications means? Wine competitions may seem a little convoluted to the layperson, but with a little background knowledge, you will understand what makes a wine truly award worthy. How does a wine competition work? How does the 100 point wine rating scale work?
Our Featured 2023 Harvest Fair Winners
• Wilson Reserve Zinfandel, 2021 Dry Creek Valley, $37.99 – Red Sweepstakes Winner
• Fritz Chardonnay, 2021 Russian River Valley, $31.99 – White Sweepstakes Winner
• De la Montanya Blanc de Blanc, 2020 Russian River Valley, $44.99 – Specialty Sweepstakes Winner
• Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot, 2020 Alexander Valley, $17.99 – Best of Class
• Balletto Syrah, 2018, Russian River Valley, $29.99 – Best of Class
• Rodney Strong Red Blend, 2021 Sonoma County, $19.99 – Best of Class
• St. Francis Sauvignon Blanc, 2022 Sonoma County, $9.99 – Best of Class
• St. Francis Chardonnay, 2021 Sonoma County, $10.99 – Best of Class
• Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel, 2021 Dry Creek Valley, $19.99 – Best of Class
• Bennett Valley Cellars Bin 6410 Pinot Noir, 2021 Sonoma County, $17.99 – Best of Class
• Trentadue La Storia, 2021 Alexander Valley, $24.99 – Best of Class
Sonoma County Harvest Fair Professional Wine Competition
The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is the largest regional wine competition in the United States. For a wine to be eligible for this competition, the grapes must be grown in Sonoma County and the label must carry a Sonoma County AVA (American Viticulture Area) as the only region listed on the bottle.
The wines are judged blind, meaning that the judges only know the varietal and price category that the wine falls into (under $25, $25-$40, $40 and over, etc.). They are not able to see the bottle at all, just the wine glasses with the wine placed in front of them. The judges come from different areas of the wine industry such as media, restaurants, retail wine buyers, and the winemakers themselves.
Awards are given on a merit basis. The judges are instructed to grant no awards when, in their opinion, wines are unworthy, and they are empowered to grant duplicate awards if the quality of the wines so merit. According to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair judging guidelines, Gold Medal awards must be wines which define the varietal character in a manner only rarely encountered. Silver awards must show superior varietal character. Bronze awards must show significant, above average definition. Double Gold indicates a unanimous decision by the panel of judges. Best of Class will be selected by the judges from all Gold Medal and Double Gold Medal winners in every class—choosing their favorite wines among those medals in each category of wine. All Best of Class winners advance to the Sweepstakes round. A Sweepstakes is awarded to one white wine, one red wine and one specialty wine. That means that all Best of Class white wines (be it Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, etc) are judged against each other to determine the Sweepstakes winner. The same goes for red and specialty wines.
100 Point Wine Rating Scale
When thumbing through your favorite wine publication, or even looking at promotional materials in a tasting room or on a retail store shelf, you’re bound to notice a review stating that a wine was rated 92 points by a certain publication, wine reviewer, etc. Here, we take a closer look at the 100 point scale and how it works.
The 100 point rating scale was introduced by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in 1978. It is based on the 100 point scale used in US high school grading. Generally speaking, it means that a wine rated 60 or above is acceptable, however a rating under 80 can make a wine unsellable. It is important to keep in mind that there is no single accepted system to rank wines, however the three prominent wine publications (Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast) all use the 100 point scale. Here is how to better interpret what the numbers mean:
- 50-59 points: A wine deemed to be unacceptable
- 60-69 points: A below average wine containing noticeable deficiencies.
- 70-79 points: An average wine with little distinction.
- 80-89 points: A barely above average to very good wine.
- 90-95 points: An outstanding wine.
- 96-100 points: An extraordinary wine.
It is also important to remember that each person/publication has a slightly different way that they review wines than the others, which is why the exact same wine can get a 92 point rating in the Wine Enthusiast and a 90 point rating in the Wine Advocate. Reviewing is, after all, subjective.
The most important rating scale, however, is your own! Try different wines, come up with your own rating system, and most importantly, drink what you like! As always, the Oliver’s wine staff is ready to help you explore some new wines or share their favorite picks with you.
We invite you to check out our featured Best of Class, Sweepstakes and Double Gold winners below from the 2022 Harvest Fair winning wines featured this week at very special prices, and judge for yourself which ones are most deserving!