San Diego International Wine Competition marks its 30th anniversary
In March, more than 30 individuals in wine-related professions — including winemakers, sommeliers, restaurateurs and retailers — gathered at a San Diego hotel for two full days and tasted their way through about 1,700 wines. On June 9, more than 800 individuals are expected to gather at Liberty Station for three and a half hours (3 to 6:30 p.m.) to taste the medal-winning wines in the San Diego International Wine Competition.
According to Robert Whitley, director of the competition for the past 10 years, consumers benefit from the consensus reached by wine industry experts “because the average person doesn’t have time to research wines,” and wineries that enter the competition consequently benefit “because consumers follow the winners and buy their wines.”
And everyone benefits from the annual Wine & Roses tasting that runs in conjunction with the competition. The event raises funds to send children to summer camp who otherwise would not have the opportunity to enjoy one of life’s essential childhood experiences. The Social Service Auxiliary of San Diego owns the rights to Wine & Roses, and a portion of ticket sales goes toward the Camp Oliver program supported by the Sisters of Social Service.
In addition to offering a charitable component (unlike most commercial, marketing-oriented wine festivals), Wine & Roses distinguishes itself by acquiring a one-day license to sell the medal-winning wines on site, which saves attendees from having to seek out wines later in retail outlets or ordering bottles from winery websites to be shipped to them.
Wineries that win medals are asked to donate cases for sale in the pop-up shop, which stays open 30 to 60 minutes after the tasting ends. But those who know what they want after viewing the list of winners online (sdiwc.com) usually do their buying before the tasting begins. The shop opens at 1:30 p.m., and sales begin at 2 p.m.
“People line up, and there are discounts. They like to go for the gold-medal wines,” Robert says. “We typically sell 400 to 500 cases. If we have wines that are left over from the sale, we put them in storage and bring them out next year at a super discount.”
In blind-tasting flights ranging from two to 11 wines, competi-tion judges select best of class (best of specific varieties), best of show (in the categories of red, white, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines) and wine of the year (the wine with the most votes from all categories combined). Robert selects the Winery of the Year.
“I look at the results and decide who had the strongest performance overall,” he says, explaining that it’s not based on the percentage of medals. “It’s the quality of the medals,” he says. “I look at the results and say, ‘These guys really nailed it this time. They had a great competition.’”
Entries came from places most wine lovers would least expect, including New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia, Missouri, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Michigan and Wisconsin. In fact, the 2013 Wine of the Year is a Dry Riesling from Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wis. (albeit the grapes came from Washington state). The Best of Show Rosé award went to Canyon Wind Cellars of Grand Valley, Colo. Robert honored Beaulieu Vineyard in Napa Valley with the Director’s Award 2013 Winery of the Year.
Notable to locals, Milagro Farm Vineyards & Winery in Ramona garnered silver medals for its 2012 Rosé of Sangiovese and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and a platinum medal for its 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.
In addition to wine and food, the June 9 event includes musical entertainment and a silent auction.