Sponsored in part by
Friday May 18, 2018
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 11, 2018 | 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 18 at 10am (Closed to the public)
ENTRY FEE: $35 per wine by fax or mail
EARLY BIRD FEE: $30 per wine thru April 13
- 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).
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 El Dorado: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in El Dorado County.
Best of Placer: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in Placer County.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
International Wine Judge, Sommelier, Certified Wine Professional and Certified Specialist of Wine
Debra is a consummate wine professional who brings a dynamic energy and expertise to every endeavor she undertakes. Debra, a prominent wine educator, has organized, reorganized, and directed prestigious wine competitions throughout the country for nearly 20 years and currently founded winecompetitions.com.
Graham is a partner in a small Sonoma County winery—involved in all aspects of the operation except picking the grapes. He says, “I have done that and leave it to people who do it at great speed.” He judges a few wine competitions and runs a couple as well. He currently consults with wineries in Europe and writes wine articles for several magazines. Graham is past director of the West Coast Wine Competition and past coordinator of the Grand Harvest Awards Competition. Graham was managing editor of Vineyard & Winery Management from1995 thru 2008.
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.
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."
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
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.
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 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.
Wine Club Manager, Trentadue Winery
Sue Straight, a wine DTC professional, freelance writer and wine judge, leads a wine-drenched life. She is enjoying a career that spans over 30 years in sales, marketing and management with wineries that include Windsor, Foppiano, Fieldstone, White Oak, Alderbrook, Lambert Bridge, Limerick Lane, Hop Kiln, Clos Pegase, J. Rickards, Martin Ray, Signorello Estate and Keller Estate. Sue recently joined Trentadue Winery as their Wine Club Manager (and loves it!). Sue also writes for Wine Country This Week and Wine Country Lifestyle Magazines, does freelance writing projects and writes her own wine blog, The Wine Wench. Throughout her career, Sue has judged numerous wine competitions, including the San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition, The International Women’s Wine Competition, The Pacific Rim Wine Competition, The Grand Harvest Awards, the Lake County Wine Competition and El Dorado County Fair Wine Competition.
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
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.
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.
Winemaker at Roadhouse Winery
Michael was a passionate entrepreneur and business owner with a spirit for adventure when he sold everything in 2006 and moved to the small town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, CA. He attended Santa Rosa Junior College and was encouraged to pursue his dream. Michael had a passion for good food and a fine glass of wine so he learned the art of growing grapes in the vineyard and pursued the dream of turning those grapes into a beautiful experience. Michael raised his four children, as a single father to see them jump into life, so he jumped back into completing a B.S. in Viticulture and Wine with a concentration in Enology at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. Michael has judged with San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition since 2010 and judges in his hometown at El Dorado County Open Wine Competition.
Stacey is a writer and editor based in Northern California, splitting her time between her adopted Santa Cruz County and her native El Dorado County. She writes weekly wine reviews and has a monthly column, Wine Press, in the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Monterey Herald. She also writes for Santa Cruz Style Magazine. Since her retirement from the newspaper world, she has expanded writing to cover a variety of interests beyond win including food, travel, art, automobiles, music and more.
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.
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.
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.
Winemaker at Winery Exchange
Weibel’s family has a winemaking legacy that extends back to the 1930s, when his grandfather and great-grandfather began making sparkling wine in the basement of San Francisco's William Tell Hotel after the family emigrated from Switzerland. Along with fellow pioneers Paul Masson, Wente, and Almaden, Weibel Vineyards helped revitalize the American wine industry after prohibition. Today, the family continues to make sparkling and still wines under the Weibel Family label. Prior to joining Winery Exchange, Justin served as a winemaking consultant for Iowa State University and Çeme Bacilik winery in Turkey. He served as head winemaker for Weibel Vineyards from 2003-2010 and prior to that, as winemaker for Joseph Filippi Winery in Southern California. Weibel holds a bachelor of science degree in Fermentation Science from University of California, Davis.
Director of Member Services, American Wine Society
Jay has been involved with wine since he was a child (helping both his Italian grandfathers make wine). He is one of four International Wine Masters in the world. His writing has appeared in publications of the American Institute of Wine and Food, American Wine on the Web, Wine and Cuisine magazine and several other publications. He is active on the wine competition circuit, judging competitions all around the world.
Tim cut his teeth in retail wine sales and has been writing about wine for two decades. He has contributed hundreds of articles to publications like the San Francisco Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Decanter, The Wine News and Craftsmanship Quarterly. He is also the author of the Napa Valley chapter of the encyclopedia Opus Vino. He is also a wine judge at many prestigious competitions, including the James Beard Awards, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Sunset Magazine Wine Competition and California State Fair Wine Competition. Tim lives in Oakland, California, where he also works as an entertainment lawyer.
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
With 22 years in the wine industry, Von's career has taken her from wine sales and wine educator, to working harvest and making wine. She is a published photojournalist, wine columnist, holds an Advanced WSET certificate and has hosted a web-radio wine show. Now on to her greatest challenge: producing her own wines as co-founder and co-owner of Valiance Wines, with profits going to assist America's wounded Veterans and their families.
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.
Grower Relations, Constellation Brands
Steve Ponzo's experience in the wine industry is varied and comprehensive. He is a fourth-generation winegrower in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. He is an aspiring winemaker who has worked at various wineries including Davis Bynum, Ridge Vineyards, Preston of Dry Creek and Arista Vineyards. He has a degree in Viticulture and Enology.
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.
Owner of Wine Smarts, a series of educational and entertaining programs offering audiences the opportunity to learn about various wine trivia and facts. Brian has also been a certified wine judge for California State Fair for nearly 30 years.
Assistant Winemaker at F. Korbel & Bros
American Wine Society wine judge certification program; Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma program
Winery Coordinator and co-founder Amador Four Fires Festival, Wine and food festival to ignite your senses.
Wine Industry Consultant
Awards Presentation and Wine Tasting
Open to the Public
Friday, May 18 at 6:30 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 14th.
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 14)
Buy tickets online 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
2017 Special Awards
2017 Wine Results by Award
2017 Wine Results by Winery
One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and—one talks about it.