All’s Fair

By G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski

As chief judge of the California State Fair Wine Competition, I supervise the judging and announce the winning wines. Then, after the dust settles, I like to taste the winners for myself. Here are my tasting notes on some of this year’s top wines:

Fresno State Winery 2001 Muscat Canelli (John Diener Vineyard). The fragrant peach/apricot/flower aroma of this $6.95 wine is guaranteed to tantalize your senses. The wine has a soft touch of sweetness that will make you feel like you’re eating grapes right off the vine.

Jewel Collection 2003 Viognier ( California). This wine has an unmistakable aroma of ripe peaches—it’s dry, soft and, at $10, an extremely good buy.

V. Sattui Winery 2001 Sattui Family Red ( California). This “Generic Red” (a designation that allows the winemaker to use any grape varietals on hand) consists mostly of Zinfandel, with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and a dollop of Merlot. It’s medium-bodied, with a slight spiciness and a raspberry nose. With a suggested retail price of $13.95, it easily could become one of your everyday favorites.

Gold Hill Vineyard 2001 Merlot ( El Dorado). Aged for two years in French oak barrels, this $24 Merlot is medium-bodied and has a light vanilla nose with hints of cassis and cherry. It’s a great example of what the foothills can do with a classic grape.

Milliaire Winery 2001 Syrah (Sierra Foothills). A big wine from a little winery, this fruitful $20 Syrah tied with the Gold Hill Merlot as the best wine from the Sierra foothills.

Korbel Champagne Cellars 2001 Natural ( Russian River Valley). One of the driest sparklers that Korbel makes, this delicate wine has a dry, crisp taste that emphasizes the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruits used to make it. You can’t go wrong with a sparkling wine at this price: $13.