Sponsored in part by
Friday June 11, 2021
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 6:30 pm following judging. (Open to Wine Industry only, no longer open to the public)
Entry forms and wine received at Fair Office thru May 26, 2021 | 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, June 11 at 9am (Closed to the public)
ENTRY FEE: $45 per wine by fax or mail by May 26, 2021
EARLY BIRD FEE: $35 per wine thru April 27
- 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.
Best of Nevada County: Winemaking
A special award offered for the best wine produced and bottled by a winery in Nevada 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
Winemaker at Lange Twins Winery & Vineyards and Akiyoshi Wines– Naked Wines
David was Director of Winemaking for Robert Mondavi's Woodbridge for 24 years. He has been making wine for Lange Twins for 14 years and wine with Naked Wines for over five years. He is a fastidious and dedicated winemaker–a leader of Lodi wines.
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.
Jay J. Bileti
Director of Member Services, American Wine Society
Jay J Bileti is the Regional VP of the American Wine Society and is responsible for five chapters in Arizona. He provides educational programs through these chapters and his background in wine education is impressive. He passed a grueling two-day final exam at the International Wine Academy after attending in the 1990s, in 2015, he completed the Wine Improvement Seminar program through Penn State’s Enology Department, Jay completed the American Wine Society Wine Judge Certification Program in 2016, the Advanced Wine Evaluation program at UC Davis in 2019 and WSET2 and WSET3 in 2020. Jay has over 10 years of judging experience and 25 years as a wine journalist. Jay currently writes a blog for the American Wine Society on the results of wine competitions he judges.
Host/Producer of The Good Life radio program
Food, Wine & Fun for your ears...Join Good Life Guy for cutting edge food and wine information without snobbery. Guy is a retired Air Force fighter pilot. Throughout his career in the military, which involved many years living and traveling in Europe, he has been a dedicated food and wine enthusiast and home chef. Associated with the radio program, Guy regularly attends major national wine events, seminars and tastings as enthusiast, participant and judge. As a freelance writer, he has written articles for The Wichita Eagle, The Kansas Times, Wichita Magazine, Splurge, Lifestyle & Living, Wichita Old Town Gazette and Travel Host magazine. “Good Life Guy” truly lives the Good Life and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm through his radio program and wine education classes!
Owner and Winemaker of Jessie’s Grove Winery, Lodi, CA
Greg Burns of Lodi, California is a fifth generation descendent of Jessie’s Grove Vineyards & Winery. Greg is the director of, and Head Winemaker for Jessie’s Grove Winery. His family has been in Lodi since the 1850s and has been growing grapes since the 1880s. Greg is a fifth-generation grape grower and first-generation winemaker making wine commercially for the last 20 years. “With Lodi’s heritage as an AVA and its rich history of producing high quality grapes, making wine from your own heritage is the perfect balance.” Professional wine judging has been a passion of his for the last 15 years. From judging Cal State Fair to LA International, he thoroughly enjoys his time with his wine judging peers and feels the passion for being the eternal student of
Research Chemist at Constellation Brands
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.
Ziggy The Wine Gal
Ziggy Eschliman is among America’s most enthusiastic, authoritative and entertaining libation experts. For 25 years, Ziggy, known worldwide as “The Wine Gal” has set and reported trends in wine, spirits and all things to imbibe. Her wine country lifestyle brand, ZigStyle, embraces her art of life, entertaining, wine, cocktails and gardening. Ziggy’s award winning, wine focused radio shows, have a long time loyal following and are broadcast on FM stations and stream worldwide. Her writings are featured in lifestyle and libation based publications. As a wine and spirits expert, Ziggy is a lead judge in both international spirits and wine competitions. Ziggy is a dynamic guest speaker, educator and presenter. ZigStyle is embraced in all she does and is a welcome, catching, organic approach to our busy lives.
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."
Winemaker at F. Korbel & Bros
Les is a Bay Area native whose initial interest in all things wine started while he worked in hospitality at Meadowood Resort during college. Since then, he has enjoyed working in wine production for both Napa and Sonoma wineries including over ten as a winemaker at F. Korbel & Bros. When he’s not making and drinking wine, you can find Les cycling and running throughout Northern CA.
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.
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.
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.
Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Wine Retailer, Wine Event Organizer
Brian Miller has been exploring wine for over 30 years and is currently the owner of wine retail shop Amador360 in Plymouth, California. In addition to promoting wines of the Sierra Foothills, Brian has been a champion of the lesser known (until recently) Barbera, creating the annual Barbera Festival, which draws over 2,000 people and more than 70 wineries from all over California. Recently he helped launch the Amador Four Fires Festival, a unique, immersive food and wine event. In addition, over the years Brian has run several other public tasting events and continues to judge at numerous wine competitions.
Wine Director, Esoteric Wine Bar
Michelle caught the wine bug several years ago after happening upon a local wine tasting. She was invited back to work the weekly tasting which resulted in the continual study the world of wine. Michelle is now a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Specialist of Spirits, Italian Wine Professional, California Wine Appellation Specialist and Wine Beverage Management Director. She judges the annual El Dorado County Wine festival and Sierra Foothills Wine Competition in California, has written for the quarterly publication, Bliss Life Magazine and is studying for the Spanish Wine Scholar through the Wine Scholar Guild.
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.”
Brian Moore began his hobby of wine appreciation in 1978. Educated as a civil engineer, he had no formal training in enology or viticulture. At the urging of a friend, he attended a meeting of the Sacramento Home Winemakers Association. The club’s focus was to educate it members in not only making good wine but developing a knowledge of the various types of wine grapes and how to care for them. He became an active member participating in the club wine tastings and learning to recognize desirable qualities in wines as well as the faults. In four years, he became President of the club and served numerous years assisting at wine competitions throughout Northern California. In 1987, he was invited to sit for an exam to become a State certified wine judge. As a certified wine judge, Brian has been invited to serve as a judge for numerous wine competitions. He is one of the longest serving wine judges for the California State Commercial Wine Competition. Brian is now retired from engineering to pursue his interest in wine, so in 2016, he created “Wine Smarts”. He travels and performs wine education programs and seminars before groups where the audience participates in the process. He has adapted all his presentations to the virtual format to continue entertaining and educating people on the subject of ‘all things’ wine.
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
The founder of NP wine company www.NP.wine where she serves as a professional wine consultant and wine educator working with private and corporate clients, non-profits, and restaurants to create wine events, virtual wine experiences educational seminars and Restaurant wine programs. Nadia is a Certified Sommelier (CS) with the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) with the American Society of Wine Educators. In addition, she is a French Wine Scholar (FWS) with the French Wine Society and an Italian Wine Specialist (IWS) with the North American Sommelier Association, N.A.S.A. Nadia also attended the Washington School of Protocol to become a Certified International Etiquette and Business Protocol Consultant.
Grower Relations field representative for Mumm Napa and Kenwood Vineyards
Steve is a 4th generation grape grower and a Grower Relations field representative for Mumm Napa and Kenwood Vineyards. Over the course of his career, he has worked in various positions in the wine industry. From winemaking to vineyard work to hospitality and grape buying, Steve has seen a broad swath of the industry. He holds a level 2 certificate from WSET and enjoys keeping his palette trained by participating in various tasting groups. His favorite tasting by far is wine judging for the El Dorado County Fair.
Wine Steward/Liquor Manager, Safeway
Currently wine steward at Safeway Stores, Greg has a broad background in the wine and spirits marketplace. His experience includes management in hospitality, marketing, production and business modeling. Greg is WSET certified and has been an accredited judge for the past nine years.
David M. Rogers
Senior Wine Consultant at Vintage Wine Estates, Santa Rosa, California Product Training Instructor, Outbound Wine Educator, Wine Judge Besides growing Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, he also lives among the Redwoods in Forestville. Professional Wine Judge for many competitions including San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and enjoys judging all wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.
Christopher Sawyer is an internationally renowned sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic and public speaker: He travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a judge in the world’s top wine competitions and has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Redbook, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, CNN and Esquire. Sawyer is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. Most recently he was voted Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by readers in The Bohemian’s Best of the North Bay issue 2014 through 2020.
Robert (Bob) 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. He was awarded a DSc (honoris causa) from Colorado College in 2014.
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 Educator and Consultant
A retired financial services executive, Julie continues to use her sales and marketing expertise in the wine arena. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and appreciation of wine with consumers and tasting room staff at various wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Lucia Highlands. She has participated in professional tasting panels, seminars and judged numerous wine competitions over the past 10 years. She completed wine certificates in both World Wines and Wine Sales/ Service at Cabrillo College as well as viticultural course work at UC Davis and SRJC. Julie loves wine travel, especially exploring wineries and regions that are off the beaten path.
Claire (Sudsy) Torbeck
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.
A registered professional chemical engineer consultant and food and wine enthusiast, Jim started wine judging in 2007 after qualifying as a judge for the California State Fair through the UC Davis program. Jim is a regular wine judge at the California State Fair and county fairs in Northern California, judging both commercial and home winemaking competitions. Jim also serves as a wine educator at the California State Fair and provides private educational presentations and wine tastings.
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.
Dr. Valery Uhl
Wine Educator; Viticulture Manager; Competition Director, North of the Gate Wine Competition
Dr. Uhl is the Chief Judge and Director of the “North of the Gate” Wine Competition for the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California as well as the California Zinfandel Championships in Pittsburg, California. She judges Wines and Spirits at numerous competitions throughout the world. Valery has a degree in Viticulture Management and graduated Cum Laude from U.C. Davis where she was a Taster for the U.C. Davis Enology and Food Science Departments. Her family owns Gold medal awarded Pinot Noir vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA. She has written papers and given lectures across the nation on the health benefits of wine, including at the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference in Missouri. She also educates the public on wine and food pairings and has been a guest speaker for the Wine Enthusiast’s “Wine & Film” series.
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, 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."
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, 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.
One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and—talks about it.