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I’m with Debra Del Fiorentino, President/Founder of the IWWC, holding one of our winning wines…

Welcome back, my friends! As promised, today’s the day when all will be revealed.

At the end of today’s Sweepstakes Round – which *all* of our judges participate in – we’ll find out the winners in all the categories of 2017’s International Women’s Wine Competition.

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Join me now in the “inner sanctum” – the closed-off “judges’ chambers” of our spacious tasting room – and I’ll explain how the Sweepstakes Round works:

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Yesterday (Click for Info), each panel of three judges tasted its own assigned wines (around 150 per panel, in “flights” of various types of wine), and awarded Bronze, Silver or Gold medals to wines that merited them.

Yesterday, when we were still in panels of 3 (see 3 more tables in background), each group judged different wines. Each panel sent only its top wines of each category to today’s Sweepstakes.

• For any given wine, if all three judges agreed that it deserved a Gold medal, they awarded it “Double Gold” status. (And if any category had more than one Double Gold wine, a taste-off determined the “Best of Class” wine for the Sweepstakes.)

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• In today’s Sweepstakes Round, *every* judge got to taste the very top wines from *every* panel. I always look forward to Sweeps Day, first because *all* the wines have the very highest ratings to start with – and equally important, that *every* judge will have a voice in deciding the Best of the Best.

Today for Sweepstakes, all our judges sit at a huge U-shaped table. Each judge has an identical layout, with an array of many types of wine. (Here at my setup, a volunteer pours a sparkling wine at the last minute so it will be as fresh as possible.)

• While we judges are fortifying ourselves with breakfast, the volunteer team is busy in the back room, laying out glassware and pouring wine. We can’t even peek until they’re done.

• Each wine glass is identified only by a letter and code number, with a score sheet at each place setting that shows what type of wine (e.g. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Red Bordeaux Blend) is in each glass. (There’s no further information, though, as to vintage, appellation, etc.)

• Each judge tastes and evaluates each wine. At this point, I personally prefer writing down a numerical score (generally in the 80-100 range) for each wine, which makes the next stage easier.

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A closeup of some of my whites, reds, and 2 sparklers. We taste and score each one, then vote.

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• Now comes the outside-the-box part (with an admittedly weird comparison) that leads us to our top winning wine. Have you ever watched a dog show, live or on TV? It uses a process of elimination that’s similar to ours, in which the judges narrow the field down step by step until they arrive at the Best in (of) Show.

When we evaluate our wines, we have to know what aromas and flavors are “correct” (and less so) for each type, just as the dog-show judges have to know the detailed standards for each breed.

And since wines have “personalities,” just as dogs (and judges!) do, there’s always some subjective, shall we say, “wiggle room.”

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In the Sweepstakes round, we raise our hands for all the wines we like, then our votes are counted.

Just as the various breeds of, for example, Terrier (e.g. Cairn, Jack Russell, Airedale, etc.) compete against each other in the Terrier Group, we compare Best Chardonnay against Best Sauvignon Blanc, Best Riesling (etc.) to determine Best White Wine. Same for Best Sparkling Wine, Best Red Wine, Best Dessert Wine etc.

And in the dog show’s final showdown, it’s Best Terrier against Best Hound against the best of the Herding Group, Sporting Group and several other Group winners. The top dog gets the top prize – Best In Show.

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Two “Best Of Class” winners. By a *huge* coincidence, I had tasted the Priam Riesling – from Connecticut (!) – at my college reunion, in New York, a couple of weeks earlier.

For us, it’s Best Sparkling Wine versus Best White Wine, Best Rosé Wine, Best Red Wine, Best Fruit Wine and Best Dessert/Late Harvest Wine. (Six categories versus seven for dogs.)

Like the dog show, our wine competition compares the best examples of each category – using a very similar process of elimination – to arrive at our overall Best Of Show. (No “dogs” on THIS table!)

Time now for the Big Reveal. The winners of the 2017 International Women’s Wine Competition are (the envelope please)…

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BEST OF SHOW – WHITE: 2016 Clif Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, Oak Knoll District, $38.00)

BEST OF SHOW – SPARKLING: 2009 Gloria Ferrer, “Royal Cuvee” (Carneros, $39.00)

BEST OF SHOW – ROSE’: 2016 Nichelini Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (Napa Valley, $27.00)

BEST OF SHOW – RED: 2014 Benziger Family Winery “Tribute” (Estate, Sonoma Valley, $85.00)

BEST OF SHOW – FRUIT WINE: 2015 Coyote Moon Vineyards “Razzle Dazzle” (New York State, $15.80)

BEST OF SHOW – DESSERT/LATE HARVEST: NV Cana Sweet Vermouth (Virginia, $32.00)

After the final vote – to select the overall Best of Show (the Best of the Best) – the 2014 Benziger Family Winery “Tribute” (a Bordeaux-style blend; our Best of Show Red) – came out on top. Congratulations to a truly wonderful wine!

After the Sweepstakes votes are counted, we finally get to see – and taste – our winning wines.

As always, it was a wonderful competition. Hope you had as much fun as we did!

And as always, I’m already looking forward to next year. See you soon!

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Until next time, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

I’m with my wonderful “cousins” and fellow judges, mother-daughter winemakers Diane and Victoria Wilson of Wilson Artisan Wineries. Their boutique winery properties in Sonoma and Mendocino include Wilson Winery, Matrix Winery and Greenwood Ridge. (No, we’re not actually related, but…)

Hi again, my friends – and welcome back to the International Women’s Wine Competition 2017!

It’s almost time for our Sweepstakes Round, when all of our judges (unlike the Day 1 tasting, when we were divided into panels of 3) convene to taste the same wines – all of which have already earned top medals from the various panels – and then, by group vote, we’ll seek out and award the Best of the Best.

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First, though, how about that promised sneak peek at last night’s al fresco Judges’ Dinner at DeLoach Vineyards in Santa Rosa?

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Always elegant herself, Certified Sommelier Ellen Landis enjoys a flute of the elegant JCB sparkling wine.

Winemaker Sherrie Holzer (Castoro Cellars) and wine writer Laura Ness arrive at DeLoach Vineyards. First order of “business”: Bubbly reception on the patio.

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Winemaker Meredith Sarboraria (Crooked Vine, Stony Ridge), holding her glass of JCB bubbles, plays “dueling camera phones” with me.

The JCB sparkling wine that we sipped during our welcome on the patio is named for French-born Jean-Charles Boisset, who acquired DeLoach in 2003, and whose family is prominent in Burgundy and Champagne.

(During our Harvest Challenge wine competition last November, Jean-Charles also generously hosted our wild and wonderful Judges’ Dinner at Buena Vista Winery, another of the Boisset properties.)

When we moved on to dinner under the grape arbor, the DeLoach Chardonnay and Pinot Noir started to flow – just right for the grilled beef tri-tip and chicken.

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Here’s that caprese salad, along with peppery arugula and roasted veggies.

My table overlooked the vegetable beds and the vineyard beyond. How wonderful, and how typical of Wine Country fare, that the tomatoes and herbs in our caprese salad had just been plucked, minutes earlier, from the garden!

Well, my friends – it looks like we won’t get to the Sweepstakes judging in this post after all.

But no worries. The party has been great – and we judges will be ready for action when the Sweepstakes flights are unveiled.

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Ellen and Ken Landis, Shauna Rosenblum, Cory Lester toast to a great party and a job well done!

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Hope you’ve had fun partying at our Judges’ Dinner at DeLoach Vineyards, with “Cousins” Diane and Victoria Wilson, and me, and all our other judges. See you at Sweepstakes!

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Up next: Tomorrow’s Sweepstakes, when I’ll reveal the winning wines (including some *big* surprises!) of the 2017 Women’s International Wine Competition.

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Until then, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

My panelmates (Laura Ness and Kerry Cook) and I, halfway through Day 1 of judging. Good thing this isn’t a close-up – my teeth are already purple!

Welcome back, my friends! I hope my last post got your taste buds primed for this year’s International Women’s Wine Competition.

As a quick recap, all of our judges are female wine professionals – educators, sommeliers, writers, winemakers and more – and although the wines we taste can be made by women or men, there is a special, highly coveted award given for the Best Woman Winemaker.

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This flight of Native American red varietals that I’m about to judge includes Noble, Norton and Concord. Earlier, we’d tasted Bordeaux-style red blends.

This year, we were divided into 8 panels of 3, with a coordinator (Hi Joe!) at each table to tabulate our scores.

On Day 1 of our 2-day competition (Day 2 is devoted to the final Sweepstakes Round – more tomorrow!), each panel tastes through a series of pre-assigned “flights” of wines in various categories.

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IWWC President and Founder Debra Del Fiorentino, who also directs several other competitions

We never know exactly what we’re going to get – but thanks to Debra Del Fiorentino, the IWWC’s founder and president, and her savvy team, it’s always an interesting mix of varietals and styles.

For example, not only did my panel get to judge several native American red varietals of the Vitis labrusca species (see photo); we also tasted a number of hybrids of V. labrusca and V. vinifera (traditional European grapes). The labrusca varietals and hybrids, by the way, thrive in the East and Midwest, where cold winters can damage or kill vinifera vines. My fave among them was an unlikely sounding, but deliciously Bordeaux-like blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Marechal Foch and Chancellor.

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Our 8 panels of 3. What a great group (see pic at bottom.) When I first started judging wine, I was one of only a handful (or less) of women in any given competition. Now we have one of our own!

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Winemakers Sherrie Holzer (Castoro Cellars) and Shauna Rosenblum (Rock Wall Wine Company) judge a flight of reds. Notice their spit cups at the ready…

Meanwhile, each of the panels is tasting through its own list of wines – about 150 per panel for our 6-hour day.

Yes, this sounds like a lot to handle (and it it is!), but we have plenty of ways – some obvious, others not so much – of keeping brain fog and palate fatigue at bay.

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Certified Sommelier Cory Lester sniffs a Chardonnay, getting to know its aromas (and getting a smart head start on judging it) before actually tasting the wine.

With that much alcohol slipping past our lips and sloshing around in our mouths, our most essential tool, I would argue, is the all-important SPIT CUP! (Check out the innocuous white paper cups in front of Sherrie and Shauna, and in Cory’s left hand.)

If we didn’t use our trusty spit cups faithfully after swishing all those sips around, we’d be horizontal before lunch! Another obvious line of defense is good ol’ H2O. Every competition provides buckets of bottled water for us – sometimes both plain and sparkling.

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Drinking lots of water while judging helps dilute the alcohol that gets into the bloodstream naturally through the membranes of our mouths. And the plates of “snacks” on our judging tables aren’t just for random noshing. The bread cubes help sop up any small amounts of alcohol that we swallow, and the slices of cheese and rare roast beef, with their high doses of protein and fat, help counter the gritty tannins in big reds such as Cabernet and Syrah.

2017 Women’s International Wine Competition – The Judges!

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Come on back tomorrow for the Sweepstakes Round, when I’ll reveal the big winners of this year’s Women’s International Wine Competition. We’ll also swing by tonight’s big party at DeLoach Vineyards for some sips and nibbles, at the alfresco Judge’s Dinner in the vineyards.

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Until then, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

This three-member panel – Monique Soltani, Ellen Landis, Thrace Bromberger – tastes and judges a “flight” of rosés, awarding medals to the worthiest.

Welcome back, my friends – I hope life is treating you well on this summer’s eve!

I’ve just finished packing my overnight bag, and early tomorrow I’ll head up to Sonoma for one of my favorite events of the year: the International Women’s Wine Competition.

 

During the Sweepstakes Round, on Day 2, all of us taste the top-scoring wines from every panel. We raise our hands for each wine that we like to determine “Best Of Class” and “Best of Show.”

For the next day and a half, I’ll be joining two dozen or so colleagues – all female wine professionals – to judge 1,000+ wines from around the world.

Why women only? Because, in the U.S. at least, women buy at least 80% of wine. (Makes sense, considering who brings home most of the groceries!)

 

In the Sweepstakes Round, we’ll taste 30+ “Best of the Best” wines from every panel. Check out all the glasses in front of me (I’ve already worked through the whites!

My fellow judges represent many segments of the wine profession – including winemakers, educators, retailers, writers and more.

During the main event tomorrow, our panels award gold, silver and bronze medals to the most deserving entries. The next day, in the Sweepstakes round, we all taste every panel’s top-scoring wines to choose “Best In Class” and “Best In Show.”

We also honor the top wine made by a female winemaker with a special award. Here’s star winemaker Shauna Rosenblum, in a series of Sweepstakes pix from the archives, when she learns she’s won for one of her marvelous Zinfandels –

 

 

 

 
I’ll be back after the Competition to fill you in on the fun details – to bring you into the “inner sanctum” of the judges’ chambers – and to reveal our winning whites, reds, rosés and sparklers!

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Until then, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina

Dale Chihuly’s “Red Reeds on Logs,” at the New York Botanical Gardens through October 29th.

Welcome back, my friends – I hope you enjoyed Saturday’s “Eating Italian in New York, Part I” post!

I’ll keep bringing you lots more, with plenty of pix, of course, from my tasty adventures in New York.

Even though I grew up quite close by, and have visited New York dozens of times since then, I hadn’t been to the New York Botanical Gardens since my high school Field Biology field trips.

 

This piece, “Sapphire Star,” when illuminated during nighttime light shows, appears to float in mid-air.

But in my recent week in New York, I managed to get there twice!

The first time was with my wonderful daughter Siri and childhood friend Maria. Other than the gorgeous gardens themselves, the big draw was a major exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s sculpture, with his otherworldly glass pieces prominently displayed throughout the Gardens.

The big ones – some as tall as a two-story building – are installed outdoors, where they somehow both blend into and radiate out from their environment.

 

In the Haupt Conservatory – What’s sculptural glass, what’s a real plant? Gorgeous arrangement!

Chihuly’s smaller pieces interweave with exotic plants, harmonizing elegantly with the colors and shapes of the foliage, especially in the Haupt Conservatory.

The next day, I returned to the Gardens as part of Reunion Weekend, where I reconnected, quite happily, with a few dozen of my Sarah Lawrence College classmates.

 

My classmate Mary and I gravitated to this grouping of giant glass “flowers.”

More on the reunion in my next post – including a special wine tasting, hosted by a fellow SLC alum who owns a winery in Connecticut (!)

And of course, we’ll be back with “Eating Italian in New York, Part II,” plus the promised look at Siri and her thriving boutique, Treehouse Brooklyn.

For now, here are a few more photos of the amazing Chihuly sculptures. The exhibit continues at the NYBG through October 29th –

 

This immense piece, assembled on site, bit by bit, changed colors as the clouds came and went.

 

If it were Christmastime, I might think peppermint candies…

 

A view from below of these incredible Chihuly “flowers” in the Haupt Conservatory.

 

The Conservatory building itself is majestic enough, but…

 

Another Chihuly sphere? Nope – a giant blossom, complete with butterfly. Thanks, Mom Nature!

I hope these pix speak for themselves – and if at all possible, I hope you’re able to enjoy the Chihuly exhibit in person!

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Until next time, my friends,
Cheers and happy tastings,
Rosina

PS ~ Want to nab a *free* membership in the fun, interactive Drink Wine With Dinner Club, and get tasty content delivered straight to your Inbox? Just *Click Here* to join instantly!

And as always, please be sure to grab your *free download* of “Rosina’s 5 Non-Rules for Wine and Food Pairing.” It’s the best way I know to help you make the foods *you* love taste even better!

You can also email me at Rosina@DrinkWineWithDinner.com with comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers once again,
Rosina