Category Archives: Judging

AMAZING EVENING AT THE LEDSON CASTLE

Please welcome guest writer Steve Ledson in this wonderful recounting of the Judges Dinner for East Meets West Wine Challenge, which was graciously and deliciously hosted at the Ledson Castle.

Hosting Chris Sawyer and 35 amazing wine judges and wine writers from all over the United States.

As I approached the Castle from the south, the sun was just setting against Hood Mountain creating this amazing back drop for the Castle. The driveway lanterns were lit and the Castle just glowed with all its lights setting it off against the twilight of this majestic backdrop. What an amazing site.

Walking up the steps and into the entrance I could hear the chatter of everyone’s excitement of what this evening had to share for all of us. To my right was our Dining Room that Stacey and her staff including her incredible husband Sean had set up with black table cloths and napkins and a beautiful flower arrangement of red, white and blue in the center of each table. Every glass and piece of china was in perfect order. I stood and just stared for a moment. It was so rich and inviting. Probably one of the best dining room settings I’ve seen over the last 20 years.

Stacey shuttled me along into Winslow’s Bar where everyone was mingling, Jerry and Brendon were pouring behind the bar with their amazing smiles and incredible hospitality. It was easy to see how everyone was soaking up the attention and kindness of these two handsome gentlemen. I was extremely proud of them as I watched everyone’s enthusiasm as the night unfolded. Scott Eddinger and his lovely wife Audrey were seamlessly moving through our guests passing hors d’oeuvres while mingling and chatting as the guests arrived. Both perfectly dressed for the occasion. Chef Kendyl Bilenkij stole the night starting with her amazing pairing of pickled Shrimp in a Meyer Lemon sauce and Chicken Pate paired so perfectly with our Russian River Pinot Noir Reserve and our Mountain Terraces Viognier. It was quite impressive to watch these two as they offered up Chef Kendyl’s amazing appetizers’ with a very warm and nourishing smile making guests feel so welcome.

With a tap of the glass Chris Sawyer froze the crowd as he introduced me in a way that made me feel like a King. This man has a way of making every person feel important. Chris shared stories of some of the great times he and I have shared over the last 30 years bringing back very special moments during my life here in Sonoma County. There is nothing better than reminiscing great moments of your life.

As I spoke to our Guests it was important to me to recognize all of you here at Ledson. I explained we are just one big family and each and every one of us plays a very important role in the success and most importantly the image we have in the wine world today.

I was very proud to speak and represent all of us in front of some of the greatest wine judges and wine writers in the United States today. Thank all of you for your continued efforts and hard work that has lifted us to an image anyone should be very proud of.

Stacey announced that dinner was served so we slowing flowed into the Dining Room. Stacey and Sean along with Scott and Audrey, as well as Brendon seamlessly served us an incredible meal. The first course, a citrus salad paired with our Zina Hyde Russian River Sauvignon Blanc. The phenomenal entrees of Salmon and Filet Mignon were shared with our Mes Trois Amours, Bellisimo and the Sonoma Valley Estate Reserve Merlot. To finish the evening, Chef Kendyl prepared decadent chocolate cake served with fresh raspberries which we paired with our award winning Stagecoach Reserve and the Mountain Terraces Lex’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

With each course and each pairing, Chris and I introduced the wines as our Guests anxiously listened and graciously commended the entire setting and event. Hours passed by like swift moments in time. Each and every attendee was provided with the most impeccable wines, food and service. At the close of the evening every single person there made a point to come to me personally and thank me.

It just shows what can happen when you have a team of passionate people working together.

To sum it all up for the evening in short.  Incredible food, incredible service in and incredible atmosphere with and Amazing group of very talent People.

 I’m very proud to be a part of this amazing event, not only should all of you me proud for the incredible job you all did last night, each and every one of you who works here at Ledson should be proud of the image that was present last night to some very talent wine writers and wine judges traveling here from all over the United states.

A very special thanks to my Dear Friend Chris Sawyer for making this all happen.

Enter Your Wines NOW in East Meets West next week!

Happy New Year,  just getting back after a family loss and a slew of travel, including Miami, the Capital city and the lovely Sierra Foothills!

But next week I will be local and working my palate at the EAST MEETS WEST Wine Challenge: Two competitions in one and open to all domestic and internationally produced wines according to regional designations.

Follow this LINK to enter your wines ONLINE
( & to save $5 per wine)!
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Experience the North Coast Wine Challenge 2018!

Last week I spent a few days in the midst of Northern California’s best wines.  Results have been posted and this article in the Press Democrat talks about the selection.  I have shared some pictures and the list below, however there is a much more thorough list of Gold Medal Winners in the D-section of Wednesday’s PD print version.  Peruse, pontificate and plan to attend the North Coast Wine & Food Festival on June 9, to try out these fabulous wines!

North Coast Wine Challenge Winners

Best of the Best: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Show Red: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Sonoma County: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hills Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Best of Show White: J. Rickards Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard Alexander Valley

Best of Show Rose: Rodney Strong Vineyards 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Best of Show Sparkling: Domaine Carneros 2013 Brut

Best of Show Dessert Wine: Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards 2015 Late Harvest Chardonnay

Best of Lake County: Cache Creek Vineyards 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County

Best of Marin County: DeLoach Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir Marin County

Best of Mendocino: Soda Rock 2016 Chardonnay Mendocino

Best of Napa County: Mudita 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Circle S Ranch Atlas Peak Napa

Best of Sonoma County: Kokomo 2016 Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

SAVE THE DATE! June 9th

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CA State Fair: Wine Competition Winners Announced

Just a little trek to the State Capital over spring break and guess what we did?  While the fam was out exploring Old Town Sacramento and William Land Park, I participated in this amazing competition! Here are some highlights, with links to more winners at the bottom as well as your chance to taste them for yourself. CHEERS!

Top right photo, at the Sugar Mill in Clarskburg: El Dorado winery owners Greg and Susan Boeger were honored for their family’s achievements in the California wine industry.  In the background is our Chief Judge, Mark Chandler.  www.boegerwinery.com; Other photos showing professional wine judges at work & play!

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Best of Show Red: Double Gold 99
St. Amant Winery
2016 Touriga, The Old Soldier
Amador County

Best of Show White: Double Gold 99
Picchetti Winery
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
Cedar Lane Vineyard
Arroyo Seco

Best of Show Sparkling: Double Gold 99
Gwinllan Estate
2016, Pinot Noir Rose, Brut Sparkling Wine
El Dorado

Best of Show Pink: Double Gold 99
Malene
2017 Rosé
Santa Barbara County

Best of Show Dessert: Double Gold 98
Stephen & Walker
2012 Botrytis Chardonnay, Late Harvest
Mendocino Ridge

Golden State Winery of the Year
Imagery Estate Winery

Golden State Vineyard of the Year Award
Paraiso Springs Vineyard

Wine Lifetime Achievement Awards
Greg Boeger
The Bogle Family

California All Stars Awards
Ken Fugelsang
Dennis Martin

Here is a  searchable list of the 2018 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition winners Several opportunities to try these wines upcoming include the Best of California Tasting Event on June 21, or through Taste of California Experience Classes from July 13-29.

Listen Here! The KGO Interview from February 8th.

Here is a quick and easy way to listen to my short discussion on KGO 810AM at 5:30pm with Chip Franklin from February 8th!  Just kick back with cup of something warm and your device now to hear about the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Competition results.

Cheers! Christopher

February 8th: Sawyer Radio-rama on KGO & KXSF!

I will be making the rounds via airwaves to discuss the results of the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Competition.  So on Thursday February 8th, set your tuner for the following:

  • KGO 810AM at 5:30pm with Chip Franklin
  • KXSF (SFCR) 102.5 FM at 7pm with Steve King
  • Or follow the links to listen online

To followup, the list of big winners will be posted in the Sunday issue of the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb 11 and the Grand Tasting of the winners will happen on Sunday, Feb 18.  It is a great Valentine Day Weekend gift idea! Info is available at www.winejudging.com.

Results! 11th annual American Fine Wine Competition

As some of you may know already, I spent the middle of January in the balmy climes of Miami.  It is a ritual these past few years to participate in judging at the American Fine Wine Competition.  Lucky for you as well that I have some splendid results for your perusal.  This is a partial list, but you can check the  AFWC website for final results in the next few days.

The 2018 Top Awards
CONGRATULATIONS TO THESE TOP WINNERS

BEST OF SHOW

Selfie with Carol Shelton, who won the best Red Wine at the AFWC!

Sparkling Wine
Domaine Carneros 2011 Le Reve, Carneros ($110)

White Wine
Fox Run Vineyards 2015 Riesling, Finger Lakes ($18)

Red Wine
Carol Shelton Wines 2013 Petite Sirah “Florence”, Dry Creek ($40)

Sweet/Dessert Wine
Ferrante Winery Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Ohio 2016 ($30)

BEST OF CLASS

Sauvignon Blanc: TIE!
Hoopes Family Vineyard 2016 $35
and Kelleher Family Vineyard 2016 $34

Chardonnay: Eleven Eleven Wines 2015 $95

Dry Rosé: Shadowbox Cellars 2016 $35

Pinot Noir: Mi Sueno Winery 2013 $55

Zinfandel: Brown Estate Chiles Valley 2015 $55

Cabernet Franc: Detert Family Vineyards 2015 $95

Merlot: Muscardini Cellars 2015 $60

Syrah: Klinker Brick “Farrah” 2014 $65

Red Bordeaux-style Blend: Ahnfeldt Wines “Quid Pro Quo” 2015 $59

Cabernet Sauvignon: Frank Family Vineyards Rutherford Reserve 2015 $95

Other Red Single Varietal: VIE Winery “L’Intruse” Mourvedre 2014 $45

Grenache VIE Winery “L’Imaginaire” 2014 $45

Other White Single Varietal: Reustle-Prayer Rock Vyds, Gruner Veltliner “Smaragd” 2015 $25

Other Red Blend: Buena Vista “The Sheriff” 2016 $40

Hanging with my judging crew!

Harvest Fair: The Judgement in Santa Rosa!

Fresh off the Harvest Fair judging this week, an amazing day of twenty different varieties in multiple forms that showcase the diversity of what Sonoma County has to offer; White wines from Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Muscat; Red wines from Old Vine Zinfandel, Tannat, Syrah, Grenache and individual bottles of Alicante Bousche. An amazing experience and team effort by the 21 judges present!

Check for our results in today’s Press Democrat (September 24th) and get your Harvest Fair tickets to try all the winning wine and food on October 6-8 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

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Catch the California State Fair: July 14-30

Earlier this year I participated in a judging of over two thousand wines for the California State Fair! Here is the entire California Commercial Wine Competition Results for you to peruse. You also might make those plans to hit the big event starting this Friday July 14th in Sacramento. If not there are other more local fair opportunities to hit all summer long!

North Coast Wine & Food Festival on June 10th

I participated as a judge back in April, now here is your opportunity to taste the best wines from the North Coast American Viticulture Areas (AVA).  These are wines that achieve both a Gold Medal status and 90+ points in The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Competition.  The North Coast AVA consists of wines made from grapes grown in Napa, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Solano and Sonoma counties. The winning wines are selected by prestigious judges in a blind taste test.  Mark your calendar for June 10th and get your North Coast Wine & Food Festival tickets soon!