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The San Diego Challenge


The 2017 San Diego Challenge

International Wine & Spirits Competition

will take place April 1 and 2. 

This site will be updated soon with the 2017 Judges and additional information. 

2017 entry forms are available now on Entry Form page.


Texas Winery Shines at San Diego Challenge

Creators Syndicate

A number of eye-popping performances were put on at the 2016 San Diego Wine Challenge.

Italy's Castello Banfi served an impressive Super Tuscan and a sensational Brunello from a so-so vintage.

Australia's Mr. Riggs did what Aussie wineries often do: It dominated with delicious wines at price points typically reserved for second-tier wines.

V. Sattui Winery of Napa Valley soared as usual, and neighboring Imagery Estate — just over the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County — was the life of the platinum-award party.

But the greatest performance of all was given by a winery from Texas Hill Country, due west of Austin, Texas. Grape Creek Vineyards of Fredericksburg, Texas, entered 18 wines and bagged 14 medals, including one platinum (the top award) and four gold.

What made the Grape Creek performance especially noteworthy was the relative obscurity of a wine from the Texas wine industry appearing outside of Texas. It is somewhat rare to see a Texas wine entered in a major international wine competition, and most unusual to see so many entries from one Texas winery.

Grape Creek's platinum award went to a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah that retails for $37. This wine was released with the generic "American" appellation, suggesting it is composed of a blend of grapes — some from Texas and some from another part of the country — which seems to be the Grape Creek model.

That being said, Grape Creek's list of medals is a reflection of some serious know-how in the winery cellar.

Speaking of know-how, Jen Wall, winemaker of the value brand Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, did her usual number, winning 10 medals for Barefoot Bubbly and 10 medals for Barefoot Cellars. The most expensive Barefoot wine retails for $9.99, but the modest price hardly suggests mediocrity. There were nine gold medals and one platinum in Barefoot's 20-medal haul.

Banfi Wines took home four medals — two platinum, two gold — for its Montalcino estate, including the 2011 ExcelsuS ($90), which was one of the three best wines I, as director and overseer of the Best of Class and Best of Show awards, tasted over the course of the competition. Banfi's other division, which includes the Chianti and Piedmont regions, bagged five medals, including one platinum and two gold.

Trinchero 2012 Forte Red Wine
Steals the Show in San Diego


Creators Syndicate

When the Trinchero family moved from New York to the Napa Valley of California in 1947, there were probably as many prune orchards in the valley as vineyards. The modern era of California wine hadn't yet begun.

Brothers John and Mario Trinchero purchased the Sutter Home winery and crushed their first harvest in 1948. Their small, family-run winery became part of the great California wine boom. Today, Trinchero Family Estates stands as one of the largest wine companies in the United States, with many popular value brands, such as Menage a Trois, Napa Cellars and Sutter Home.

With its vast resources, including more than 200 acres of vineyards in many of Napa's finest sub-appellations, it was only a matter of time before TFE took on its neighbors in the rarefied air of ultra-premium Napa Valley red wine.

The company purchased the Folie a Deaux Winery in 2004, built a state-of-the-art winery in 2007 and created a new project it calls Trinchero Napa Valley. This year, Trinchero Napa Valley released its benchmark red wine, the 2012 Forte, a $70 Bordeaux-style blend of malbec, cabernet franc and petit verdot. This is the first vintage, and only 53 barrels (approximately 1,300 cases) were produced.

Forte was just named Wine of the Year at the San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, staged over the Memorial Day weekend in downtown San Diego, California. More than 1,500 wines were entered. Forte was judged by a panel of three wine professionals, and it emerged with a platinum award. (Worthy wines are awarded silver, gold or platinum medals.)

As a platinum winner, Forte was reviewed by the Director's panel, which included yours truly, Chief Judge Michael Franz, editor of Wine Review Online, and Assistant Director Rich Cook, member of the tasting panel at California Grapevine and reviewer for Wine Review Online.

Among the wines that were awarded platinum, Forte emerged from the Director's panel evaluation with the highest score, 97 points, and thus became the consensus pick as Wine of the Year. The final vote was unanimous.

If the goal was to make a statement that Trinchero can now play on equal footing with anyone in Napa Valley, I would say mission accomplished. Preliminary results from the competition can be found at Best of Show, Best of Class and spirits winners will be identified later this week.






Sommelier Challenge
Wine & Spirits Competition

17 & 18, 2016

International Wine Competition
January 28 & 29, 2017


Critics Challenge
International Wine
& Spirits Comp
May 27 & 28, 2017




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