A Look at the Winners of the North Coast Wine Challenge: Part One

The North Coast Wine Challenge assembles wines from across the North Coast AVA, which includes not only Sonoma and Lake counties, but also Napa Valley and its sub-regions. Challenge winners showcase what these winemakers have accomplished from grapes grown in this world-class wine region, with its many expressions of local terroir. This includes red, white, rose, and sparkling wines.

Bottle Barn has a number of the winning wines ready to buy online, including shipping across the USA. A diverse collection of esteemed wine professionals evaluated all entries. The superb wine entries draw the best professional wine judges year after year. They consisted of seasoned retailers,  distributors, restaurateurs, and influential wine writers and critics.

Eligible wines had to be made from fruit sourced in the North Coast  AVAs of Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, Marin and parts of Solano counties. This includes any  bottled wine labeled with these AVAs as their main source of grapes and whose winery is in California. Let’s take a look at some of the best and most diverse of the winners!

Which Wines Won Big at the North Coast Challenge?

A Vermentino won both Best of Show White and Best of Class, garnering 99 points. Vermentino is light-bodied white, but complex wine that is commonly found on the island of Sardinia. In many ways it resembles Sauvignon Blanc. “A glass of classic Sardinia Vermentino will offer up lively aromas of pear, white peach, lime and pink grapefruit with subtle notes of crushed rocks and citrus zest,” says Wine Folly. The 2021 Portalupi Mahoney Vineyard Vermentino was made from Carneros fruit. The Mahoney family is renowned as a dedicated grower and champion of this little-known variety in California. As crisp, refreshing wine, Portalupi’s winemaker refers to its “hints of pear and white peach and grapefruit” with “flavors of soft citrus, key lime pie and gentle floral notes.” Adding to its complexity is a pronounced minerality owing to its origins in one of California’s most esteemed, cool vineyard regions.

The J Vineyards Cuvee 20 Brut Sparkling won a Gold Medal at the competition. Made from 54% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir, 3% Pinot Meunier, this showcases a classic Champagne-like blend from Russian River Valley fruit. This is another cool growing region located entirely in Sonoma County. Wine Spectator described this sparkling wine as possessing “steely and vibrant” character with “expressive lemon, lime and mint flavors that pick up speed toward a snappy finish.”

Nothing could be more iconic of North Coast California winemaking than old vine Zinfandel. The 2019 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel is a perfect expression of that from the Dry Creek Valley AVA in Sonoma County. It also won a Gold Medal. This family winery has been caring for grapes there for five decades, encouraging healthy soil and flourishing vines, so there is a philosophy of minimal intervention in the winery. But the grapes used to make this wine average over 100 years in age! All 185 acres of estate vineyards are 100% certified sustainable. This wine blends in Petite Sirah and a little Carignan, expressing a “wealth of baked fruit, brick, oak and leather characteristics” according to Wine Enthusiast. An elegant wine you will taste supple tannins and touches of black tea and baking spice.

There were 1,089 entries in this year’s competition, so the winners truly represent extreme quality wines to order online and in many cases stunning values. This includes Gold Medal winner 2021 Blue Quail Pinot Gris, which costs $13.99. This wine from Potter Valley in Mendocino County features a medium body with notes of pear and spiced apple complimenting remarkable natural acidity.

Written By: - Charlie Leary

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