Want to become your own wine judge? For the answers we recently attended the 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition held at the Sheraton Fairplex hotel and Conference center in Pomona. Gathered together for the competition were eighty wine judges, from many regions, to select the best wines from all over the globe.
The judges are divided into panels each with a distinct category of wines, either by country or varietal. The panel we joined was for Italian wines with Marvin Zeidler of Santa Monica's Capo as Chairperson. Panelists were Luao Gomiero of Societa Agricola Vignalta, Rebecca Murphy, founder and chairperson of the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and Andrea Torelli-Lesky of Casa Torelli Imports.
They graciously allowed This Writer to join them for what was almost a full day of judging both white and red Italian varietals. Each wine is judged blind by varietal or type. Medal awards are judged as either bronze, silver or gold with points for gold between 90 and 100 points. We also judged each wine following their scoring system. Most of the time our scores were close or the same as that of the regular panelists.
We asked each of the judges at our table to list five qualities for judging each wine. First and foremost is to recognize the true qualities of the varietal to be judged. Lusio listed color, smell, texture, being true to the varietal and possible flaws. Marvin listed nose, taste, fruit, acid and balance.
Rebecca went into more detail in explaining her criteria. First is color, is it appropriate to the varietal? Next aroma, pleasant with no flaws. And this holds especially true to the taste. Balance is very important, fruit, acidity and alcohol should all be present in proportion for proper balance. And lastly finish, is it of short duration or do flavors linger.
Andrea listed the five as nasal impact, impact on the palate, soft, mellow, fruity, again balance is much desired. Also the importance of fruit in the finish and lastly the 'yummy' factor, how well the wine pleases you personally.
The judges at this competition covered the whole spectrum of the wine industry and were directed by Michael Jordan, master sommelier and general manager of the five star Ranch Restaurant in Anaheim. They included vintners, winemakers, importers, sales representatives, buyers from restaurants, hotels and caterers as well as retailers, restaurateurs, master chefs. and sommeliers.. We were there as one of eight members of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers who were invited to report on this, the 74th annual wine competition at the Fairplex.
At our table the judging was remarkably in agreement. Sometimes two would mark for a high silver while the other two for a gold. Generally a consensus was quickly agreed upon by Marvin , our chairperson. The organization for this competition was remarkable to behold. The pouring of each wine, then labeled by number and dispatched to each of the seventeen panels was remarkable in its efficiency We should add that just at our table we judged eighty six Italian white and red wines that day. The judges repeated this a second day. That day the Italian panel would judge another seventy eighty wines.
It was not all work. We recessed at noon for an outdoor buffet created by Executive Chef David Teig that included roast beef, a superb salmon, ahi tuna and an assortment of salads.
That evening dinner was at the Parkview Farms at Fairplex. We boarded the trolly at hotel entrance for the mile drive to the farm. This proved to be an unusual and thoroughly enjoyable event. The farm produces a large range of fresh vegetables and our dinner was arranged in a traditional rural outdoor setting. There was lots of time and space for socializing with the judges over glasses of superior wines while the culinary staff prepared our dinner over open fires and ovens.
The long tables glistened with china and glasses and each adorned with artichoke rushes as the centerpiece. Once seated the food was served family style. First to arrive were fresh sliced tomatoes of several varieties with blue cheese puffs. Then squid rings that had been grilled and presented with open roasted assorted peppers. Entrees included portions of well season salmon, then baked ostrich filets as well as chicken breasts. All of this while the conversation and wine flowed on what was a perfect late spring evening.
The only down side for us was that we had so little time to spend in our luxurious Sheraton suite with living room complete with sofa, club chair and a huge desk plus separate bedroom. The Fairplex Sheraton is an all suite hotel with each room including micro wave, refrigerator and wet bar. We concluded there was really was something to this wine judging.
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