El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition

El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition
Sponsored in part by

Friday May 19, 2017

El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition is open to all Commercial Wineries

El Dorado County Fair invites commercial wineries from all areas to compete in the El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition. Thirty prestigious experts within the media, trade, hospitality, winemaking and education industries from around the country come together to judge these wines each year. We look forward to announcing the competition results at our Awards Presentation with light appetizers and wine tasting at 6:00 pm following judging. (See Wine Tasting link for tickets.)

Entry forms and wine received at Fair Office thru May 12, 2017 | Monday thru Friday 9am to 4pm

Mail forms and wine to:
El Dorado County Fair & Event Center
100 Placerville Drive
Placerville, CA 95667

Judging: Friday, May 19 at 10am (Closed to the public)

ENTRY FEE: $35 per wine by fax or mail
EARLY BIRD FEE: $30 per wine thru April 14

  • Entries become the property of the El Dorado County Fair and will not be returned.
  • Judges will award Double Gold, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Earth Friendly awards, as well as Best of Class and Special Awards.
  • Best of Class will be awarded to classes with 10 or more entries that also include a Gold award or higher.
  • All wines received will be stored in a temperature-controlled room prior to judging.
  • Wine must be bottled under bond by commercial winery.
  • Entries must be commercially labeled. Barrel samples are NOT allowed.
  • Each entry consists of four (4) bottles of wine (750 ml) or five (5) bottles of wine (500 ml) or (375 ml).

Special Awards

Best of Show
Golden Johnny Trophies for best red, best white and best sweet

Sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association

Best of Class
Sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association

Best Rhone Awards
Best red Rhone and best white Rhone,
Sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association

Best Barbera Award
Sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association

Earth Friendly (Biodynamic and/or Organic)
Best red wine and best white wine,
sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association

Frank Herbert Memorial Award
A perpetual award, sponsored by the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association, is offered for the best Zinfandel wine made from El Dorado or Fairplay appellation Grapes.

El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Award
A special award, sponsored by the El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association, is offered for the best wine produced from El Dorado or Fairplay Appellation grapes. This award will be presented to both the winery and the vineyard.

Best of Lodi: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in the Lodi area.

Best of Amador: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in Amador County.

Best of El Dorado: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in El Dorado County.

Back Room Gold Awards
Best red wine, best Zinfandel and best white wine.

Back Room Staff Pick, a true "People's Choice" award, sponsored by the El Dorado County Fair Association.

Wine Label Competition
See Entry Guide page for rules and entry form

Dan Berger

Dan Berger
Wine Writer, Columnist
In addition to his weekly wine commentary, Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences, Dan writes a nationally syndicated wine column for Creators Syndicate as well as articles for Decanter, Robb Report, Cheers, Beverage Dynamics, and numerous other publications. He is a judge at many wine competitions, including shows in Australia, Slovenia, Belgium and across the United States, judging in at least a dozen competitions each year. He also coordinates two wine competitions in California. He is a speaker at wine symposiums and universities on topics such as wine marketing, trends in the industry, regional character of wines, and the healthful benefits of moderate consumption. He also speaks to assorted large groups interested in learning about wine.

Zoran Ljepovic

Zoran Ljepovic
Manager QC/QA - Robert Mondavi Winery
Zoran Ljepovic, QC/QA winemaker for Constellation Brands International, started his winemaking career at Badel 1862 in Croatia. He completed his MS degree in Enology at Fresno State under Professor Barry Gump. There he developed a passion for wine judging during weekly tastings organized by Fresno State Enology Society. Zoran also teaches a Napa college wine analysis class and VESTA on-line classes in enology. He consults winegrowers in winemaking in California, Michigan and Croatia and judges at various wine judging competitions such as Finger Lakes (FLIWC), Watkins Glenn (EIWC), Indiana (IIWC) and California State Home Winemakers Competition in Lodi.

Mike Dunne

Michael Dunne
Writer and Business Owner/Sacramento Bee and WineGigs.com
Former food editor, restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Sacramento Bee who continues to contribute a weekly wine column and other features to The Bee and its online platforms, including sacbee.com and sacwineregion.com. He is a frequent judge on the competition circuit, tracking results and observations from his wine travels on his blog, A Year in Wine. Mike contributed the Inland California and Mexico chapters to the recently published book “Opus Vino,” and is at work on a spinoff about outstanding everyday value wines.

Larry Van Aalst

Larry Van Aalst
Radio Talk Show Host, What's Cookin' on Wine: Sonoma Wine Report
Did you know that Larry Van Aalst served as a mentor to Kosta Browne Winery founder and winemaker Michael Browne? The man behind the award-winning wines said that as an 18-year-old, he began working at Equus Restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA and sommelier Larry served as his mentor. “Larry taught me what to look for in wine from the perspective of a sommelier,” Browne said. “He said to focus on pinots because the right pinots are the best in all the world.”

Larry broadcasts the popular What's Cookin' on Wine: Sonoma Wine Report every Wednesday on CRN Digital Talk Radio and is a professional wine judge for over ten competitions annually including West Coast Wine Competition, Grand Harvest Wine Competition, North of the Gate Wine Competition, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Indy International Wine Competition and Mendocino County Wine Competition.

Prudy Foxx

Prudy Foxx
Foxx Viticulture, vineyard consultant, grape broker
She's called the Queen of Pinot noir, the guru of grapes and, occasionally, the vine whisperer. But there's a certain element of the maternal in viticulturist Prudy Foxx. Grapes can grow almost anywhere, but that doesn't mean they should, says Prudy, who works primarily with high-end vineyards. Growing grapes can be an expensive endeavor and it can lead to heartbreak. "The challenge is to plant the grapes on a site with the highest potential to produce premium fruit with minimal intervention," she says. "You want the grapes to express the terroir they grow on, and they will do that beautifully when the vineyard is in balance."

Craig Handley, owner and winemaker of Pleasant Valley Vineyards relies on her expertise. "She's by far the best viticulturist I've ever come across," he said. "She's a walking databank on vineyards. Prudy does this out of the love for the vines."

Debra Del Fiorentino

Debra Del Fiorentino
Director of Wine Competitions, Vineyard & Winery Management and Partner at Russian River Vineyards: Restaurant - Farm - Tasting Lounge
International Wine Judge, Sommelier, Certified Wine Professional and Certified Specialist of Wine, Debra Del Fiorentino is a consummate wine professional who brings a dynamic energy and expertise to every endeavor she undertakes. Debra is a familiar face at numerous prestigious wine competitions. She currently holds the esteemed position of Director of Wine Competitions for Vineyard & Winery Management, a producer of wine competitions for nearly 40 years with eight unique wine judgings. Debra also serves as an independent wine educator and partner in Russian River Vineyards.

Michael Wreyford
Radio Talk Show Host, Wine/Food Blog Writer, Wine Tasting Promotions
Mike Wreyford, aka Mike the "Wine Guy" is a food, wine, travel and lifestyle expert. This writer, blogger, foodie, wine enthusiast and spontaneous traveler is the host and producer for "The Good Life," a popular weekly radio talk show. Mike combines his lifetime of travel, 30+ years in the restaurant/bar business, an ongoing appreciation of wine, along with his marketing and entrepreneurial expertise, to share his passion for food, wine and travel with fans and businesses.

Ernie Weir

Ernie Weir
Owner, Hagafen Cellars, Napa, CA
Since 1980 our wines have been served on numerous occasions at the White House to visiting foreign dignitaries and are distributed throughout North America and overseas. Ernie's daily involvement in the two sides of wine production, grape growing and winemaking, ensures the superb quality of our wines. "Fine wine starts in the vineyard with careful vineyard management," says Weir. "I interfere as little as possible with the soil using modern farming techniques while maintaining the age-old wisdom of balance and the traditional values of conservation and land stewardship. Once harvest is completed, I undertake the second part of my job, winemaking. This presents an interesting challenge since each year the growing season and harvest are different. I never seek to change what Nature has provided. My goal is to showcase the best that our land has produced."

Charlie Tsegeletos

Charlie Tsegeletos
Winemaker Cline Cellars
Charlie Tsegeletos was born to be a winemaker. His Italian mom and Greek dad always had wine on the table, and Charlie’s great-grandfather made wine in Guerneville in the 1930s. After graduating from UC Davis, Charlie became an apprentice at Pendleton Winery. From there he honed his craft at Hacienda Wine Cellars, D’Agostini Winery and Glen Ellen Winery. Charlie joined Cline Cellars in 2002, and has created legendary Zinfandels, distinctive Rhône-style wines and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay. He also makes the wines for Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and Oakley 82. Charlie is a professional wine judge, past president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Association, an avid snow skier, motorcyclist and pilot. He lives on an old chicken ranch in the hills of Sonoma with his wife and daughter and an assortment of animals

 Jackson Starr

Jackson Starr
Vineyard Manager and Assistant Winemaker
Sierra Starr Vineyard and Winery is a small vineyard and winery in the Sierra Foothills AVA. Owned and operated by the Starr Family, Phil and Anne since 1995 and their son Jackson since 2005. Jackson judges at a variety of competitions including Calaveras County Fair, California State Fair, Mendocino County Wine Competition and Nevada County Homemade Winemakers.

Michael Cervin

Michael Cervin
Wine Writer, Wine Buyer
Michael Cervin is the author of the book California Wine Country and he covers wines and spirits for The Hollywood Reporter, Forbes, The Tasting Panel, Fine Wine & Liquor Magazine, Decanter, Palate Press, Draft and many others. As a professional judge he has served at competitions in Portugal, Puerto Rico and throughout California including The Critics Challenge, the San Francisco International Wine Competition and the California State Fair. He is the wine buyer for Pierre Lafond Montecito Market and writes a wine and spirits blog, Boozehoundz. Additionally, he is the Geneva, Switzerland Correspondent for Forbes Travel Guides and is the restaurant reviewer for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties for Gayot.com

Jil Child

Jil E. Child
Wine Tours of the World, Wine Competition Coordinator Vineyard & Winery Management
Jil E. Child is a certified Sommelier and a partner of Wine Tours of the World, a full service, wine tour company specializing in custom wine vacations. For nine years, she was employed by Kendall Jackson Wine Estates, performing different positions such as sales, distribution, education and private wine tasting tours and events. Her 20-year winery and hospitality experience has given her the opportunity to teach Introduction to Tasting Room Management at Sonoma State University. Jil also enjoys consulting within the wine industry and is both a panel coordinator and professional wine judge with various wine competitions throughout California. During the day, she is Wine Competition Coordinator at the multi-media magazine, Vineyard & Winery Management.

Chandra Richter

Chandra Richter
E&J Gallo
Chandra Richter began her scientific career at UC Santa Cruz where she earned her BS degree. She continued her studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. After completing her doctorate work, she joined the scientific team at E&J Gallo Winery where she manages a research group.

 Laura Ness

Laura Ness
Wine Writer
Laura Ness, otherwise known as “Her VineNess,” is an accomplished wine journalist and wine critic whose passion for wine was ignited by a visit to France when she became intimately familiar with the concept of terroir. This appreciation for wines of place drives her quest to explore and appreciate the wines of California’s fascinating wine regions, from coast to foothills and everywhere in between. She regularly judges a variety of wine competitions and is the founder of the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Taster’s Guild, a professional tasting panel that reviews and rates wines. She writes regularly for publications including the Mercury News, Edible, Wine Business Monthly and the popular online website, wineoh.tv

 Steve Miller

Steve Miller
John Ash & Co Restaurant John Ash & Co. has one of the most extensive wine lists in Sonoma County. We have been honored with the Wine Spectator “Best of Award of Excellence” for our extensive wine list and cellar of distinguished breadth and depth, and the Wine Enthusiast Magazine “Award of Ultimate Distinction.”

Karen Birmingham

Karen Birmingham
Winemaker at Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards
Karen Birmingham proved her incredible talent working for years at sustainable winery LangeTwins with David Akiyoshi. In addition, Angel funding is helping her start her own project that features breath-taking grape varieties that many Lodi wineries are afraid of playing with. Karen's delicate touch always brings out the best in the fruit and really makes these grapes shine in the warm, sandy soils she calls home. A graduate of Washington State University with a Bachelor of Science and MS in Food Science, Karen takes a technical approach to winemaking, similar to how a chef works in a kitchen, to create wines with a balanced acidity and varietal complexity.

 Barry Lawrence

Barry C. Lawrence
Barry has been involved in every aspect of wine all his life—home and commercial winemaker, vineyardist, winery owner, wine educator and wine sales including wholesaler, retailer and importer. He was a CA and national board member of Society of Wine Educators, is currently a Tastevin (DTM) member of the Dionysian International Wine Society. He has been a judge for the State Fair and El Dorado County Fair since 1988 and is proud to be the only person to have judged the El Dorado County Fair every year since its inception.

 Martin Maxwell

Martin Maxwell
Consultant A State of California certified wine judge, Martin has judged at the California State Fair since 1992, as well as the Amador, Calaveras and El Dorado County commercial wine competitions. Providing research and consulting services to the wine community, Martin has worked in both winemaking and marketing and been published in Practical Winery & Vineyard. His wine filterability analyses clients include many of the largest wineries in the U.S. and New Zealand. Martin earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Communications at California State University, Sacramento, which included a year’s study in Dublin, Ireland. He currently lives in the Lodi appellation with his wife and four dogs.

Robert Schock

Robert Schock
Began wine career after moving to California and then making wine with friends who then went commercial. He began judging home wines at the Alameda County Fair in 1980, then encouraged to take the exam for the CA State Fair in 1984 and has been judging commercial wines ever since. Due to his science career, he has spent considerable time with wine in Germany, France, Australia, Georgia, Argentina, New Zealand, Croatia, Chile, South Africa, Austria and Italy. He has written over 150 publications, served as a Director of the World Energy Council, led a chapter of the 4th report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-authored and chaired a chapters of the 2012 Global Energy Assessment, is a co-chair of the Energy Monitoring Panel of the World Federation of Scientists, is President and Director of the N. California Fulbright Alumni Association and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Security Research. Robert races sailboats for relaxation.

Peter Murphy

Peter F. Murphy
Expert in vineyard farming and wine quality, Peter is a manager, grower and winemaker with 30+ years of experience producing grapes and wines at all levels of the wine industry. He has a BS in Fermentation from UC Davis and is an experienced as grape grower, grape seller and grape buyer, has directed in-house crews and contracted crews to develop and manage vineyards across northern California. Peter currently manages 12 vineyards in Napa, Placer, Nevada and Yuba counties and since 1987 has been CEO of ATS Ag Tech Services, Inc. He also judges at Calaveras Professional Wine Competition and California State Fair.

Evan Williams

Evan Williams
Owner, Evan's Restaurant
Evan has lived in beautiful South Lake Tahoe California for 40 years. When his two restaurants aren’t keeping him busy, he enjoys skiing, sailing and golf, cooking, reading and sampling wines. He also loves to travel and always tries to include golf on the itinerary, and of course wine tasting, too! He and his wife Candice have owned Evan's American Gourmet Cafe for twenty-eight years and the Cantina Bar and Grill for eighteen.

 Greg Burns

Greg Burns
Owner and Winemaker of Jessie’s Grove Winery, Lodi, CA
Greg Burns is a fifth generation descendent of Jessie’s Grove Vineyards & Winery. His family has been in Lodi since the 1850s and has been growing grapes since the 1880s. He continues that legacy today managing his family vineyards since 1994. He is fifth generation grape grower yet a first generation winemaker and has been making wine commercially for the 20 years. Professional wine judging has been a passion for the last 15 years. From judging Cal State Fair to LA International and many others, he enjoys his time with his wine judging peers and feels a passion for being an eternal student of wine. This is Greg’s first year judging our competition.

Bill Knox

Bill Knox
Wine Educator
An accomplished wine judge, Bill began judging homemade wines at Napa County Fair. He moved to commercial competitions including Jerry D. Mead New World International, San Francisco Chronicle, El Dorado County Fair, Amador County Fair, North of the Gate and Fiddletown. He began his career with Beringer Vineyards where he conducted tastings and wine presentations, including Robert Lawrence Balzer Discovering Premium Wines of California classes. After retiring, he opted to work for small family-run wineries, continuing his love of presenting good wines but to intimate audiences, choosing Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma. When he and his wife Carole moved to El Dorado Hills, he continued that quest with Lava Cap Winery. He is now retired from Lava Cap, yet maintains his love of, and interest in, fine wines—particularly local wines—actively promoting interest in local wineries whenever possible.

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Claire Torbeck
Certified Sommelier
Claire is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. She also holds the following certifications: Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators (CSW), French Wine Scholar through the French Wine Society (FWS), WSET Intermediate and Advanced (through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust), is a current candidate in the Diploma in Wine Studies through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (DWS); completed the Tuscan Wine Masters Academy and was inducted into the society in 2012. She has worked at several wineries educating the tasting room staff and hosting clients, barrel tasting and food and wine pairing events as well as worked in the lab. Claire continues to make wine each year as an educational experiment to hone her understanding of wine profiles, styles and flaws. She also hosts an educational workshop/tasting group to share her love and knowledge of all things wine.

Donal Smith

Donal SmithWine Consultant
Corti Bros., Sacramento - Wine & Spirits Mgr., wine merchant and buyer, 27 years
Learning Exchange wine educator, Wine Appreciation classes, 12 years
Judge: Cal St. Fair, home winemakers 2013 to present
Donals Wines, Inc., Sacramento metro - Wine education classes, wine dinners, Restaurant wine menu consultant and staff education
California State College, Chico - Sensory Perception, Wine Appreciation Classes, 2007 to Present

Martha Dunne

Martha Dunne
Martha is a piggyback wine enthusiast who practices wine evaluation nighty with her husband, Mike Dunne. In addition to her wine interests, she is an autism advocate and author of “Wait, What Do You Mean?” Aspergers Tell and Show. She has judged at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Amador County, Lake County and the Sonoma Harvest Fair.

Susan Reiner-Lyon

Susan Reiner-Lyon
Proprietor/Lead Therapist, Team Walk/Team Fit
In 1985, Susan's position at Wine Distributors/Wine Imports Inc. required her to pass the wine-judge tests provided by the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition at UC Davis. She then became the western and southern regional rep for Torres Wines International. After that she put Stolichnaya back on the top shelf in the western states for Monsieur Henri Wines (PepsiCo Wines). Susan founded an educational organization called Women in Wines and Spirits in 1981 and was the first female wine judge for the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Since 1994, she has judged multiple prestigious wine competitions. Susan is an avid skier, world adventure traveler and enjoys tasting wine for fun.

Ken Blair

Ken Blair
Sales Director, Preston Farm and Winery
Ken is a 15 year wine industry veteran who has worked in wine production and sales. He has been the Sales Director at Preston Farm and Winery in Dry Creek Valley for many years and has judged at the California State Fair, local Sonoma County events and the El Dorado Wine Competition. The latter is his favorite.

Marla Carroll

Marla Carroll
Winemaker, Franciscan Estate Napa
With a strong understanding of nature and the science behind winemaking, Marla respects and appreciates the biological intricacies that go into each bottle. However, it is her passion for food and flavors that shape her approach to crafting wine at Franciscan Estate, paying close attention to the character and expression of each lot to create wines with complexity and nuance. Marla received a degree in Biotechnology from the University of California at Davis with a concentration in Microbiology and Fermentation Science. While a few key courses introduced her to the world of wine, it wasn’t until she took a position during harvest at the historic Charles Krug Winery that she truly understood her interest in winemaking.

Les Giang

Les Giang
Assistant Winemaker at F. Korbel & Bros

Michael Overholt

Michael Overholt
Wine Ambassador, C. Donatello Winery

Chris Cunningham

Chris Cunningham
Research Chemist at Constellation Brands

Stacey Vreeken

Stacey Vreeken
Wine Columnist, Wine Press and Santa Cruz Sentinel

Awards Presentation and Wine Tasting
Open to the Public

Friday, May 19 at 6:00 pm following judging.

Bring your friends to mingle with wine judges and participating wineries while you taste the competition wines—and once the winners are announced—try some of the Sweepstakes and Special Award Winners too.

$30 includes appetizers and unlimited wine tastes.
Limited Tickets available—pre-purchase required by May 15th.

Our Awards Reception with limited public attendance has reserved tables for each winery located near the awards stage (please RSVP).

Awards Presentation Tickets:
$30 per person for the public • $10 per person for participating wineries
$20 for Industry not entered in competition
21 years old or older • Be prepared to show ID (must purchase by May 15)

BUY TICKETS HERE or call the Fair Office at 530.621.5860.
Wineries, please purchase on entry form or call Fair Office to purchase additional tickets.
Other Industry, please call Fair Office.

$30.00 per person

Flyer and Application Form
Entry Form with Form Fields (Please download file to save entries)
Credit Card Authorization Form
Mailing Labels
2016 Special Awards
2016 Wine Results by Award
2016 Wine Results by Winery

One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and—one talks about it.

King Edward VII