Food & Drink

The Grapevine: County wines lead the way at competition

Although the Central Coast Wine Competition is open to wines from several counties, the entries are always dominated by San Luis Obispo County wines. This year, SLO County wines dominated the winners, too.

Judges at the competition, held last month in Paso Robles, named the 2010 Alapay Cellars Jamieson’s Vineyard Pinot Noir ($48) as the best wine of the competition. The wine, made from grapes grown in Edna Valley, is rich and spicy, with cherry and raspberry flavors, a peppery note and supple texture. Best white was another Edna Valley wine, the 2009 Zocker Riesling ($20), a racy little number scented with lime and lime oil.

Other outstanding whites included the 2011 Zocker Gruner Veltliner ($20), with its spicy lime and apple flavors; the 2011 Claiborne & Churchill Dry Gewurztraminer ($20), a gewurz with the typical rose petal, lychee and spice notes; the 2011 LaZarre Albarino ($22), which is lively and fresh, with white fruit and citrus; and the 2010 Trenza White ($20), a blend of grenache blanc and albarino that’s quite racy and aromatic. And I loved the 2011 Kenneth Volk Malvasia Bianca ($24). (The grapes were from Monterey County, and Volk’s winery is in Santa Maria, but he still keeps one foot in San Luis Obispo County, with a tasting room on Highway 46 West.) Malvasia is an intensely fragrant grape, and the wines can sometimes be a little overbearing and heavy. But this one is spot-on, with a lot of floral character and fresh white peach flavors.

Among the reds, the 2009 Bon Niche “L’entree” Malbec ($45), a best-of-class winner, is a real mouthful, with ripe, dense boysenberry fruit and spice. Two other bestof-class winners were the 2009 Pear Valley Charbono ($28), which is aromatic and lively, with bright berry and medium tannins, and the 2009 Bella Collina Tannat ($40), which is extremely spicy (think cinnamon and clove), with ripe blackberry fruit. Other excellent reds included the 2010 Eberle Barbera ($28), a fresh, lively wine packed with blueberry fruit; the bargain-priced 2010 Quadrant ($16), a red Rhone blend from Broken Earth Winery with ample, juicy berry fruit; and the 2009 Kenneth Volk Aglianico ($28), a bright, structured wine made from an Italian grape variety grown in Paso Robles.

The best pink wine was the crisp, fruity 2011 Halter Ranch Rosé ($16), while the floral, perfumey 2011 Robert Hall Orange Muscat ($15) was named best dessert wine. Top hon ors for fortified wine went to the 2008 Cinquain Cellars Touriga & Tinta Cao Dessert Wine ($41/ 500ml), which is smooth and sweet with prune and dried fig flavors accented by a hint of tobacco.

Some of the wines are available only from the wineries, and a few haven’t been released yet. To be eligible for the competition, a wine must be made from grapes harvested in the Central Coast American Viticultural Area — which stretches from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara County — or in Ventura County. Chief judge Bob Foster says that participation from wineries outside San Luis Obispo County has been increasing.

Reach Laurie Daniel at