El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition

El Dorado County Fair Open Wine Competition

Friday, March 22, 2024

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

Early Bird Entries are due January 29 - February 19.
Last Call Entries are due February 20 - March 11.

Entry Form coming soon.

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.

Entry forms and wine received at Fair Office January 29 thru March 11, 2024 | 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, March 22, 2024 at 9am (Closed to the public)

ENTRY FEE: $55 per wine by fax or mail by March 11, 2024
EARLY BIRD FEE: $45 per wine January 29 thru February 19, 2024

  • 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

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.

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

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

David Akiyoshi

David Akiyoshi
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 17 years and wine with Naked Wines for over eight years. He is a fastidious and dedicated winemaker–a leader of Lodi wines.

 Jay Bileti

Jay J. Bileti
Director of Wine Education for Deep Sky Vineyards
Jay Bileti is the Director of Wine Education for Deep Sky Vineyards in Elgin, AZ, teaching wine classes on a variety of subjects. He is also a Certified Wine Judge from the American Wine Society and has judged in wine competitions all over the world during the last 30 years. Jay holds International Wine Master and WSET3 credentials.

 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.

 Ken Blair

Ken Blair
Sales Director Preston Farm and Winery

John Compisi

John Compisi
Wine, Food and Travel Writer
John has been a freelance wine, food and travel writer for over 10 years. His website BitesFlightsandSights.com has been the focus of his writing for the past two years but previously Examiner.com and other print and digital media have featured his wine writing. His travels have allowed him to enjoy the wines of New York, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, the Okanagan in British Columbia, most of Italy, Burgundy, Alsace, the Rhône region of France, Germany and Croatia. A longtime resident of Sonoma County, he and his photographer wife, Linda, relocated to Reno, NV in 2021.

Prudy Foxx

Prudy Foxx
Foxx Viticulture, Santa Cruz, CA
Prudy is a Viticulturist, Agricultural biologist licensed PCA, and experienced wine judge. Her winegrower consulting firm is dedicated to growing quality vines that lead to ultra-premium wines using best practices that respect and support the natural surroundings. She knows that “wine starts in the vineyard” and that wine flavors and quality are derived from best management practices applied when caring for the soil and the vines.. Prudy has worked with and studied vineyards in California, the Pacific Northwest, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. www.foxxviticulture.com

Les Giang

Les Giang
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.

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.

Ellen Landis

Ellen Landis
Wine Writer, Certified Sommelier, Certified Wine Specialist, Wine Educator and Professional Wine Judge
Ellen is the author of the blog EllenOnWine.com and writes for the AWS Wine Journal magazine (AmericanWineSociety.org), Great Northwest Wine, (www.greatnorthwestwine.com), Michigan Uncorked, and The Slow Wine Guide (www.slowwineusa.com), among other publications. Ellen is a moderator for the highly acclaimed Vintners’ Holidays annual event at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, the American Wine Society annual conferences, and participates as a key speaker, moderator and panelist at various other wine events. For eighteen years, she and husband Ken built and co-owned award-winning Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn (Half Moon Bay, CA) where Ellen served as Wine Director and Sommelier. They sold their Inn to devote more time to the world of wine. Ellen was also a Ritz Carlton Sommelier for several years.

 Zoran Ljepovic

Zoran Ljepović
Winemaking and Quality Consultant
Zoran consults winegrowers in winemaking in California, Michigan and Croatia and teaches VESTA online enology classes. He worked previously at Badel 1862, Franciscan, R. Mondavi, Clos du bois and Wente. He very much enjoys judging and company at various wine competitions such as El Dorado, Ohio, Finger Lakes (FLIWC), Indiana (IIWC) and California State Home Winemakers Competition in Lodi. He presented various winemaking and quality topics at ASEV, UWGS and brewers and vintners symposium. Zoran is from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe, An engineer of Agronomy in Enology, Viticulture and Pomology - University of Zagreb, with a MSc in Enology from California State University – Fresno, CA.

 Brian Miller

Brian Miller
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 drew over 2,000 people and more than 70 wineries from all over California. In addition, over the years Brian has run several other public tasting events and continues to judge at numerous wine competitions.

 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.”

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

Michael Overholt

Michael Overholt
Oenologist/Winemaker at Healdsburg Custom Crush
Michael is a passionate individual who enjoys both the science and artisan aspects of winemaking. The drive to learn more called him to finish a Bachelor of Science degree in the Viticulture and Wine department, concentration in Oenology, at California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo after raising his four children as a single father. He’s continued his pursuit of learning by working alongside some of the best winemakers in Sonoma, Napa and San Luis Obispo Counties picking up the “why and why nots” of their hand-crafted art. He’s been judging wines for over ten years enjoying the authentic single varietal wines while discovering classic and tasty creative blends.
When Michael is not working, he is discovering the next great adventure or revisiting a familiar hiking trail, camping, on his bike through wine country or making dinners for family and friends while enjoying great conversation with a great glass of wine.

 Steve Ponzo

Steve Ponzo
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.

Leah Stafford

Leah Stafford
Certified American Wine Expert, Level One Sommelier, WSET 1-3 educated, Society of Wine, Wine educator, writer, judge, grower, and producer.
Leah Stafford is third generation Californian. Having had family that began one of California's wineries after World War II, she has studied California wines and history at length. Leah hosted wine tasting events at Cal Poly, SLO in the early 80s and began wine education in 1996. For over 30 years, Leah has worked in every aspect of the wine industry: Grower, harvest, crush, production, tasting room, hospitality, and judging.
What she enjoys the most is working with guests and consumers in educating them on the different wine varieties, and what dictates finesse in a wine via wine chemistry in the tasting rooms or at hotel sponsored event.
Currently Leah works for Lava Cap of El Dorado, Le Mulet Rouge of Amador County and Amador 360 in Plymouth.

 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.

Julie Thiebaut

Julie Thiebaut
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 Torbeck

Claire (Sudsy) Torbeck
DipWSET, Certified Sommelier, FWS and CSW
Claire is the Cellar Master for the International Wine & Food Society where she purchases wines and maintains the cellar inventory, designs food and wine pairings for events, and presents educational seminars to the members. She attended a two-year Enology program, interning in various cellars, labs, and vineyards of several wineries during crush, working alongside the winemaker. Claire has also provided education for tasting room staff, hosted private clients, lead barrel tastings, and food and wine pairing events as well as purchasing wine for private clients. She is a sought-after speaker on all things wine and provides seminars and events for other fraternal wine organizations and other organizations. Claire plans to apply to the Master of Wine program after completing Educator training for the WSET in London. She also blogs at: www.sudsyscellar.com

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.

 Dr. Valery Uhl

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 Vreeken

Stacey Vreeken
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.

Karesea Wilkins

Kareasa Wilkins, DipWSET
Wine Writer, Consultant & Educator
Kareasa’s interest in wine began her senior year at UC Santa Cruz, during which time she worked part-time in the tasting room for Bonny Doon Vineyard. Her passion for wine has taken her to wineries in France, Germany, Croatia, Argentina, South Africa and many other countries. An alumnus of Ponzi Vineyards and Ridge Vineyards, she is certified with the International Sommelier’s Guild, has completed the WSET Level 4 Diploma, and has worked as a wine consultant and wine educator. She is the editor-in-chief of The Purple Tongue Press and teaches wine appreciation classes with Sierra College Community Education.

Evan Williams

Evan Williams
Owner, Evan's Restaurant
Evan has lived in beautiful South Lake Tahoe California for 40 years. When his restaurant isn'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 thirty-five years, it is the top rated Haute Cuisine restaurant in the Sierras and the only DiRoNA Award recipient between the Bay Area and Reno. Evan started judging wine competitions professionally in 1988.

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.

2023 EDCF Open Wine Competition Awards
2023 EDCF Open Wine Competition Awards sorted by Winery
2023 EDCF Open Wine Competition Special Awards

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

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