Food & Wine

Placer County wineries represent region well at 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Wise Villa, Viña Castellano take home ‘Best of Class’
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Wise Villa Winery
Best of Class: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Gold: 2012 Touriga Nacional, 2011 Zinfandel, 2012 Wisdom of Wise
Silver: 2013 Pinot Noir Rose, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Syrah, 2012 Zinfandel, 2012 Sangiovese, 2012 Pinot Noir, 2012 Chardonnay, 2012 Petite Sirah
Bronze: 2013 Torrontes, 2012 Tempranillo
Viña Castellano
Best of Class: 2008 Tempranillo
Silver: 2008 Grenache
Bronze: 2009 Abuelito
Mt. Vernon Winery
Gold: 2011 Expression, 2012 Pinot Noir
Silver: 2011 Cabernet Franc, 2011 Merlot, 2006 Reserve Port
Bronze: 2011 Barbera, 2010 White Port, Cabernet/Shiraz, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon
Ciotti Cellars
Gold: 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel
Silver: 2011 Syrah
Bronze: 2011 Malbec, 2011 Stowaway
Fawnridge Winery
Gold: 2011 Chardonnay
Silver: Confluence White
Bronze: Confluence Red
Popie Wines
Silver: 2013 Barbera Rosato
Bronze: 2013 Bianca di Barbera, 2010 Barbera, 2010 Dolce di Barbera, 2010 Zinfandel
Lone Buffalo Vineyards
Silver: 2011 Where the Buffalo Roam
Bronze: 2011 Grenache, 2011 Noble Beast Cabernet Sauvignon
Secret Ravine Vineyard & Winery
Silver: 2010 Cabernet Franc
Bronze: 2010 Miner’s Red
Pescatore Vineyard & Winery
Silver: 2012 Malbec
Davis Dean Cellars
Silver: 2011 Zinfandel
Dono dal Cielo Vineyard and Winery
Silver: 2012 Zinfandel
Le Casque
Bronze: 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Calotte Blanc, 2012 Roussanne
Bear River Winery
Bronze: 2010 Barbera Rosé, 2010 Late Harvest Barbera
Bonitata Boutique Wines
Bronze: 2009 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon


Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Placer County wineries clean up at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
If it sounds familiar, it’s only because the local winemakers had a great showing last year, with nine wineries taking home a total of 45 medals. But this year’s haul eclipsed that mark. Fourteen wineries totaled 52 awards, including two Best of Class: Viña Castellano’s 2008 Tempranillo and Wise Villa Winery’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Viña Castellano also took home silver and bronze, while Wise Villa led the pack with 14 (three more gold, eight silver and two bronze).
“It was insane,” said Wise Villa winemaker Kevin Luther. “There were some really nice medals too.”
He was especially proud of the Best of Class win and the work put into it.
“The classic Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s the king of wines,” he said. “It’s all about expressing the true character of the wine and ours expresses true varietal character. The judges value that very highly.”
He said that creating pure and unique flavors while making each wine stylistically different and expressive is important to them.
“One of our hallmark wines is the “Wisdom of Wise” that wins every year,” he said. “It’s a blend so it’s unique to us. What’s also unique is that it’s widely distributed. You can find it at Whole Foods and Costco.”
And beyond. The Journal reported in November that the winery’s owner, Grover Lee, was set to travel to China to test the market there. Apparently they liked what he brought, as Wise Villa just won five medals at the Chinese Wine Spirits Association Awards, including gold for the “Wisdom” blend.
So as Placer County wines head west across the Pacific, their inspiration remains firmly rooted in the grape-growing regions of the Mediterranean, which boasts a similar climate to the foothills, hence the success of the European varietals such as Tempranillo, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec and Barbera.
“We are a new winery,” said Jeff Evans, co-owner/winemaker at Bear River Winery in Meadow Vista. “This is the first competition we’ve ever entered. We were flabbergasted with the wins.”
Bear River’s two bronze medal winners were both made from the Italian variety Barbera, a 2010 Rosé and 2010 Late Harvest. The grapes were sourced in Pilot Hill.
“This has really become a blossoming region for wines,” Evans said.
And with all of the hardware the wineries have been bringing home, they give new meaning to the term “Gold Country.”