The award season is upon us and once again infant wineries in California continue to dazzle festival judges. Lawernce, entering the competition for the first time and fresh from a harvest of 21 medals in the international competition held in Yugoslavia, collected eight awards including two gold and three silver at this year's Los Angeles County Fair. They should be home free in any "rookie-winery-of-the-year" competition.
The chardonnay gold winners included one name well known in Washington, Dry Creek (1978), and three relative newcomers from the Central Coast, Ahlgren (1977), Ventana (1979) and Zaca Mesa (1978). A fifth gold went to Napa's Flora Springs (1979), which made only 515 gallons. Don't look for it at the supermarket. Cabernet sauvignon awards went to Lawrence (1979), Conn Creek (1976), Page Mill (1978), Pope Valley (1977) and Hoffman Mountian Ranch (1976). Zinfandel gold medal winners were Edmeades (1978), Parducci (1978) and Giumarra (nonvintage).
If Lawrence is rookie-of-the-year, Giumarra stands forth as the most improved of California's veteran wineries. It collected 14-citations this year, some in very competitive categories such as the zinfandel, mountain chablis and French columbard. Giumarra and several other wineries located in the Central Valley offer further evidence for the case made by the young Central Coast wineries that fine wine can be made anywhere in the state.
A look through the long list of entries (over 1,300 wines were sampled) and medal winners reveals several wineries I would suggest you become acquainted or reacquainted with. In addition to those listed above, they include Buena Vista (9 awards), Estrella River (6), Fetzer (7), Franciscan (7), Grand Cru (3 gold and 1 silver), Hacienda (6) and Inglenook (12).
A different type of competition was sponsored earlier in the summer by the San Jose Mercury News. Two separate panels met separatelly to taste the same wines. One was made up of 48 wine professionals. The other consisted of 150 consumers. The results were startling. Among 300 wines, the pros awarded one gold medal (the 1979 Monterey johannisberg riesling from Monterey Peninsula), 40 silver and 63 bronze. The consumers also awarded but one gold (a spumante by Guasti), then gave only 5 silver and 17 bronze. Neither panel gave an award to the other's gold medal winner.
Other wines receiving awards from "the people" but not the pros were Hoffman Mountain Ranch 1977 zinfandel, Paul Masson rose, The Christian Bros. 1975 cream sherry, Charles Lefrance (almanden) 1977 late harvest johannisberg riesling, YVERDON 1978 JOHANNISBERG RIESLIING, chateau St. Jean 1979 gewurztraminer, Fetzer 1979 chenin blanc.
After a recent visit to several wineries in Oregon, I came away impressed with the pioneer spirit and intelligence of the winemakers. One of them, Bill Fuller of Tualatin Vineyard, is coming here next Tuesday to conduct a tasting of his wines. A transplant from the Napa Valley to Oregon, is well qualified to discuss West Coast wines in general. But what should prove most interesting to local wine fanciers will be his exposition of unusual vineyard conditions and climate that have helped Oregon's winemakers produce some impressive pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling wines.
For further details and reservations for the Tualatin tasting, contact John Gunderson at Schneider's of Capital Hill, 300 Massachusetts Ave. NE (543-9300). Admission will be $5 per person.
At Mount Vernon College, 2100 Foxhall Rd. NW, Dr. Hamilton Mowbray will teach a six-session course in The Lesser Known Wines of France. The wines will come from Provence, Jura, Alsace and other regions. The class will meet on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 beginning next week. The cost is $55. For registration and further information, call the office of continuing education at the college (331-0400).
The Wine Academy, directed by Bill Banford of Harry's Liquors, will again offer a nine-session course in wine tasting. Tastings are conducted at the Capitol Hill Club, 300 First St. SE, at 7 p.m. Mondays on the following schedule: Sept. 15 (california whites), Sept. 29 (California reds), Oct. 20 (Italy), Oct. 27 (Germany), Nov. 10 (Bordeaux), Dec. 15 (Champagne), Jan. 12 (ports and sherrys), Jan. 26 (red burgundy and Rhone), Feb. 9 (French whites and review). Tuition for the full course is $12. To attend a single class the fee is $15, but classes are limited to 30 persons. To register, select classes, make a check payable to Ronald K. Zeller, Treasurer, and mail it to Connie Banford, 9209 Curtis Court, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20870. For further information call Harry's (783-4200).
Members of the food and beverage industry are invited by the Sommerlier Society of America to apply for a 13-week professional Wine Captain's Seminar. Subjects include an introduction to wine and wine service, the wines of France, Italy, California and Germany, spirits and dessert and fortified wines. Ther will be lectures and films as well as tasting.
Classes are scheduled to meet at Coleman's Restaurant, 2011 K St. NW, on Tuesdays from Sept. 16 through Dec. 9 from 3 to 5 p.m. Only 40 persons will be enrolled. The fee is $80 for members of the Sommelier Society or $100 for nonmembers. For futher information or registration, call Jim Hutton at Coleman's (331-9430) or, before 10 a.m., Toby Lackner (528-0046). h