Saturday, June 20, 2009

San Diego International Wine Competition: Pouring for Gold Medal Winners

Last Sunday was a beautiful day in downtown San Diego, with a concordance of beautiful sunlight, back lit wispy clouds, and shiny bright black, bronze, and all glass buildings surrounding the annual SDWIC gold medal pouring, located on the roof of the 5 star Westgate Hotel. The food offered at the event was of my favorites was the escargot risotto prepared by the Farmhouse Cafe from nearby University Heights. There were braised ribs with gravy on mashed potatoes that literally melted in one's mouth. Someone else prepared a pheasant, sausage, and fried sweet potato on a toothpick. Outstanding! Just hands down, outstanding. It was in the true sense a gourmet's delight, and the effort put forth by the food vendors was Herculean. Congratulations to all, and my hat is off to all those wonderful food folks.

As for the wines, there were hundreds poured, and I can honestly say we were told by dozens upon dozens of people that we had the best wine there...our Paso Bordo. In actuality, the pouring was for the Gold Medal winning wineries, but if you won, you were entitled to pour any of your wines. Altho our 2006 Cerro Prieto Merlot Reserve took a gold medal in this event plus another gold in the Critics Challenge International wine competition, it was our 2006 Paso Bordo that turned heads. We started off by offering our Paso Bordo to several of the food vendors nearby, which resulted in their seeing the terrific enhancement that our wine created for their truly spectacular dishes. Conversely, their foods returned the favor for our Cab/Syrah (as well as our Merlot). Some of the pairings were like marriages made in heaven. I wasn't counting, but of approximately 1000 attendees, literally dozens upon dozens who came by our booth to sample our wines, then returned later, and said flat out, our Paso Bordo was the best wine they had tasted at the pouring.

I cannot personally say one way or the other if that were true, in that all my time was taken up pouring...unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try other wineries. I will say that Gloria Ferrer put on quite a show just across from us, and I loved their Blanc d' Blanc, their champagne made from Pinot Noir, and half a dozen others. To me, they stole the show, but folks who were truly tasting

(and not swilling) wine, insisted that our Paso Bordo was the show stopper. There was no voting, so this is a very subjective thing, but there was no doubt, Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars comported itself well. We could not have asked for a better venue, a better wine educated crowd, nor could we have asked for a more gracious and grateful group of wine aficionados. If every event were like this, pouring wines would be a dream job. As it was, there was a lot of work and preparation that went into this, but my boss, Ms Teresa, and I had a terrific time with our best audience ever.

As an aside, weather makes a huge difference at an affair such as this. The monster Paso Robles Wine Festival held in late May was 116 degrees under our canopy, and I can assure you that is not conducive to pouring nor tasting red wines. This event was a balmy 72 degrees, and was a perfect showcase for our extraordinary blend, Paso Bordo (85% Cab/ 15% Syrah). I believe that we learned a valuable lesson here in San Diego: "If it's too hot, pour not; if it's a balmy day, pour away" least for reds, that is. Truly, we will never pour at another event if it is even remotely hot. Red wines hold up poorly in the extreme heat, and some even cook and taste burnt (it happened to us at Paso Wine Fest).

Lastly, the temperament of the attendees was a whole lot more cordial when it wasn't 115 degrees outside. Also, our hosts, Robert Whitley and the Westgate Hotel (plus a zillion volunteers) made the day a special one which Teresa and I will both remember a long time. Anyone who has not attended the SDWIC gold medal pour in mid June each year, has really missed a superb function if you love great wine and outstanding food. My hat is off to all involved, and I thank you for your incredible hospitality.

Another thing both Teresa and I noted was that this pouring, unlike others we had done, was actually attended by wine tasters, not swillers. Oh sure, a couple folks got lit up, but that was really uncommon. More importantly, spit buckets overflowed, because these folks actually tasted, rather than drank most wines....unhhh, not many tossed our wines, I noticed. Nonetheless, it is real privilege and thrill to pour for people who are ardently searching out new wines, but overall, are judiciously trying to find spectacular wines instead of going to just try wines they are already familiar with. The Paso fest is a huge venue, but the vast majority of folks there overwhelmingly went to the wineries they were already familiar with. Not so in San Diego. We encountered literally hundreds of wine aficionados who were interested in one thing: finding new wines they hadn't had before, for the sole purpose of increasing their wine experience. It was nice to be appreciated, as opposed to being ignored by folks only attending a function to socialize with already known wineries. Someone said that the Paso fest was just a popularity contest, and I wouldn't dispute that at all. When I go to a wine tasting, it is solely for the purpose of finding new wines, and increasing my knowledge of wines I like (and those I don't). SDIWC was attended by those of similar persuasion, and hence we will make this an annual trip for Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars.

At the end of the day, it was great to be a part of a superbly run, incredibly yummy, and great tasting event. If you have never done this event, I strongly recommend you put it on your calendar. Cerro Prieto had a truly great day and so did all the attendees. If you like food...and you like wine...this is one event you need to try out. There aren't many events I would highly recommend, but this one is a sure fire winner.

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