And the Winner is…


As part of my ongoing wine journey and in preparation for delving into winemaking, I recently joined Cellarmasters of Los Angeles, a home winemaker’s club.

Perfect timing! The 40th Annual Home Winemaker’s competition was just around the corner. Judges were needed, and voilà, a new opportunity to taste wine! This time, with pencil and scoresheet in hand!

Just how does one go about judging wines? Actually, very much like dogs are judged in a dog show…against others of its type. Just as, say, Wire Fox Terriers, like my Winston, are judged against each other to choose the one that best represents the breed, the wines are judged to be the best representatives of the grapes from which they are made.


I was a judge on the 100% Syrah panel and had the task of tasting and analyzing 25 efforts from different people from all over the US. Twenty-one (21) states were represented, from coast to coast.

Some of the wines were produced from grapes grown on someone’s property (“estate grown”). Some came from actual winemaking kits. But most were sourced from various growers.IMG_2102

The initial visual and sniff tests checked for faults such as oxidation, cork taint (TSA), Sulfur Dioxide (rotten egg smell), effervescence, absence of acid compounds, excessive sediment or cloudiness, etc.  Then onto clarity and color…does it look appropriate for the specified varietal and vintage?

Does the aroma reflect the varietal and is the bouquet of the wine simple and undeveloped or pronounced and complex? Is the wine balanced, or is it overly acidic or tannic? Is the body firm and smooth, or is it thin and uneven? Does it have a pleasant, simple taste, or is it multi-layered and luscious? Does it have a short, undeveloped finish, or does it linger and entice? And, overall, is it a noble effort, elegant and well-crafted, or is it just drinkable and unexceptional?


Each of these categories has a specific value range. The judges in each group score every wine individually. Then, once each judge has reached his or her total, they confer and agree on a consensus for each wine. Based on a 20 point scale, 11-13 points represent Honorable Mention, 13-16 represent Bronze, 16-18 represent Silver and 18-20 represent Gold. Unless a wine had a fault, each received, at minimum, Honorable Mention.

And, just like a dog show, there is a Best of Show. In this competition, one for the Reds, one for the Whites and one for the “Others”.  And here they are…


Photo courtesy of Michael Werckle

In the White category…Congratulations to Dennis Haff of New Jersey for a fine Piesporter wine, made from a kit. This is not a common wine. Its origin is in the Mosel wine region of Germany. The wine can be made from Riesling, Müller-Thurgau or Elbling grapes.

In the Red category…Congratulations to our own Cellarmasters Los Angeles member Chet Schreiber of Westlake Village, for his outstanding estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

In the “Others” category…Congratulations to Carl Hill of Port Hueneme, CA for a very nicely balanced raspberry wine.

And, where better to taste the Bronze, Silver and Gold winners than at the after party!


Until next time…


À votre santé!

©2013 by Christine Humphrey


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