The Berryessa Gap Winery took home the gold for its 2007 Tempranillo two weeks ago in the largest American wine competition in the country.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, formerly known as the Cloverdale Wine Competition, takes place annually at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair and attracts wineries from around the country. There were 4,913 wine entries this year from 26 states, and about 10 percent were deemed worthy of a gold medal.
Chief winemaker for Berryessa Gap, Mike Anderson said the winery has won too many awards to count.
“We are well pleased,” Anderson said. “Our first job is to produce a bottle of wine that we are proud of and our customers enjoy. This is recognition of a job well done and we are very proud.”
Located in Winters, Berryessa Gap formally opened in 2002 and began selling wine in 2004. Their wines run from $14 to $18 per bottle. The winery earned a gold medal from the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago for its 2006 Petite Sirah.
Anderson said the fruit and the winemaking method make Berryessa special.
“No doubt about it, the grapes we grow are exceptional,” Anderson said. “Our winemaking style is very hands off and I think that lets the true flavor of the fruit come through.”
Executive Director of the SFC Wine Competition, Bob Fraser, has been organizing the event since 1985.
“The winners have to be both outstanding wines and true to the characteristics of their categories,” Fraser said.
There are 65 judges, and all wines are judged blindly by groups of five. The winning entries were showcased in a public tasting on Feb. 20 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, with about 6,000 attendees. The winners also receive a plaque for display in their tasting rooms, publicity in major newspapers and wine media.
Corinne Martinez, who manages Berryessa Gap’s marketing, sales, finance and compliance operations, said the winery was proud of the win.
“This is our second or third time entering the competition and we have consistently done well,” Martinez said. “We are happy about the recognition we’ve brought to the area from making excellent wine.”
Assistant Director for the SFC Wine Competition, Anne Vercelli grew up in an Italian wine family and has been working on the competition for over twenty years.
“I’ve been tasting wine all my life,” Vercelli said. “Wine is food; it’s part of culture. I believe that wine brings people together.”
Fraser said the competition is a way of showcasing outstanding work.
“Traditionally farmers would exhibit their products at the county fair,” Fraser said. “This is just an extension of that tradition to include winemakers.”
Fraser estimated the competition costs $250,000 to put on and requires 200 staff members and judges from all over the country.
“Probably the most enjoyable part for me is the judging because a lot of the same judges will return every year,” Fraser said. “Professional judges are almost like a fraternity.”
JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at email@example.com.