Top wines from the Central Coast Wine Competition

I’ve been neglecting this space for the past several weeks because I’ve been traveling. It’s time to remedy that.

One of my destinations was Paso Robles, where I was a judge at the annual Central Coast Wine Competition. The competition — which was much larger than in previous years, with more than 700 entries — is open to wines made from grapes grown in the Central Coast AVA as well as in Ventura County. In years past, wines from San Luis Obispo County, especially from Paso Robles, dominated, along with some Monterey and Santa Barbara entries from big companies. That changed somewhat this year, with more entries from small wineries outside Paso Robles.

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Nevertheless, the top wines in the competition were all from SLO County. The 2014 San Marcos Creek “Fling’s First Crush,” a grenache-based blend that’s dark and ripe with bright, sweet berry fruit, was named the best wine, as well as the best red. Top white honors went to the 2015 Eberle Winery Viognier, a fleshy but restrained wine; Eberle also took top dessert wine for its 2015 Muscat Canelli, which is fragrant, floral and lightly sweet with a crème brulée note. Best sparkling was the finely textured Laetitia Brut Cuvée, and best rosé was the 2015 Sextant Rosé, with its pretty berry fruit.

While those were the consensus choices, there were a number of other wines that grabbed my interest. Here, briefly, are a few of them.

One of my favorite whites was the 2015 Saucelito Canyon Grenache Blanc, a bright, lively white with stone fruit and dry honey notes. I also liked the 2015 Pomar Junction Cotes de Pomar Blanc, a blend of roussanne, grenache blanc and viognier that offers racy white fruit, some minerality and a persistent finish.


My judging panel evaluated a handful of rieslings. In the “off-dry” category, a standout was the 2013 Zocker Riesling, with its racy lime fruit and note of petrol; it actually tasted a little drier than the top wine in the “dry” category, which was the 2015 Coquelicot Riesling, an aromatic wine that displays candied lime flavors and some floral notes.

As for the reds, there were some interesting Rhone-style blends (in addition to the San Marcos Creek wine), such as the 2014 Robert Hall Cuvée de Robles, a grenache-based blend that’s bright and easy to drink, with ample fruit and a floral note; the 2014 Brophy Clark GSM, which is quite spicy, with raspberry and strawberry fruit, accented by white pepper; and the 2014 On Your Left “Trackstand,” a blend of syrah, grenache and counoise that’s full-bodied, with juicy black fruit, baking spices and a drying finish.

The 2012 Tantara Cabernet Franc is structured and savory, with red fruit and good varietal character. The 2013 Harmony Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was the standout in a group of three dozen 2013 cabs: ripe yet lively, with spicy black fruit, some savory notes and firm tannins. And the 2013 Victor Hugo Petite Sirah is dark and ripe but not over the top, with spicy black fruit and a roasted coffee note.



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