The Gold Country has another reason to be called such.
The annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition announced its medal winners for 2019. Wineries in Murphys and Mokelumne Hill are taking home multiple medals of the gold, silver and bronze varieties.
“I think that it’s a great way to get recognition for the county and the quality of the wines that we’re producing up here. Black Sheep has been making Zinfandel in Murphys since 1984,” said Liz Millier, owner of Black Sheep and Milliaire Vineyard Selection Wineries. She has participated in the competition for five years. Milliaire Winery sells wine made from the same winemaker as Black Sheep, and boasts the same dedication to quality, but is in a different location, according to Millier.
“Mark (Rueger) is very excited because this is the first time that he’s ever won double gold, best of class for red wine. In the past, he’s won it for Port, but not for red wine,” said Sue Rueger, co-owner of Renegade Winery with Mark Rueger. “Being the largest competition in the nation, it isn’t an easy thing to do.”
Rueger said she jokingly tells her husband, “As long as he’s making good wine, our marriage is secure.”
The best of class is designated for wines that win double gold awards. The wines are then judged again, and if they succeed, they take best of class.
The competition was originally founded in 1983, its roots being the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition. In 2000, the competition joined with the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper as a “naming sponsor.” The competition went national in 2006, accepting entries from wineries all over. It continued to grow, with 900 U.S. wineries entering the contest in 2016, submitting 3,318 wines. In 2019, the contest’s 64 expert judges voted on 6,800 wines submitted from more than 1,132 wineries nationwide.
In Calaveras County, wineries garnered 45 wins from the Chronicle competition.
Rueger is humble about her award this year.
“A lot of the awards mean a lot of things – some people go specifically for awards. It’s nice when we are able to achieve those,” Rueger said.
Renegade Winery has experienced several years of successes, winning the State Competition for Best Micro Winery for Northern California (2016), Entrepreneur of the Year from the Calaveras County Chamber of Commerce (2017), Best Winery of Calaveras County from the Chamber of Commerce (2018), and it is in the running for Best Small Business of the Year from the chamber in 2019. In the SF Chronicle Wine Competition, they took home four different awards.
“We’re trying to put Moke Hill on the map,” Rueger said. “Word is just now getting out; we typically do get a good response.”
Others are seeing multiple wins as well.
“(We) submitted 11 wines, blessed with 10 medals. We are grateful and blessed as always,” Ghee Hagedorn, co-owner of Villa Vallecito Vineyards, said in regard to the awards, including nine silver and one gold.
“With the San Francisco Chronicle being such a large and prestigious competition, we are especially honored to receive high accolades. Each year, we appreciate the opportunity to introduce wine lovers to our wines, and the Sierra foothills wine region, at the public tasting at Fort Mason,” said Dre Vader, owner and manager of Murphys-based Vina Moda Winery. “It has also offered us many friendships with other winemakers and vintners, as well as continuous support from the public.”
The winemaker for Vina Moda also makes the wine for Villa Vallecito Vineyards.
Additionally, the foothill region has taken many more awards, with approximately 42 Amador County wineries winning 141 medals in the competition. The full list of winners is available at: winejudging.com/medal-winners.
The public tasting of the award-winning varietals will take place on Feb. 16 in San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased at winejudging.com/public-tasting. The last pour is at 3:30 p.m.
Local medal winners:
Black Sheep Winery, Murphys
2015 Cabernet Franc, $18, Bronze
2014 Dusty Lane Cinsaut, $24, Bronze
2016 Zinfandel, $22, Gold
2015 Zinfandel, $22, Silver
Frog’s Tooth Winery, Murphys
2015 Petite Sirah, $36, Bronze
2016 Pinot Noir, $48, Silver
2015 Pinot Noir, $58, Silver
2016 Sangiovese, $42, Silver
2016 Barbera, $34, Silver
2016 Syrah, $36, Silver
2016 Serendipity, $42, Silver
Ironstone Vineyards, Murphys
2017 Chardonnay, $11.99, Bronze
2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, $13.99, Bronze
2017 Chenin Blanc, $13.99, Silver
2017 Zinfandel, $13.99, Silver
2016 Petite Syrah, $11.99, Silver
Jazz Cellars, Murphys
2015 Pinot Noir, $55, Bronze
2016 Barbera, $32, Bronze
2015 Syrah, $39, Bronze
2017 Rhapsody, $33, Silver
Milliaire Vineyard Selection, Murphys
2017 Gewurtztraminer, $20, Bronze
2015 Zinfandel, $26, Bronze
2016 Pinot Noir, $28, Silver
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, $30, Silver
Renegade, Mokelumne Hill
2017 Syrah/Shiraz, $28, Best of Class
2016 Malbec, $24, Bronze
2016 Zinfandel, $25.99, Silver
2016 Pinotage, $28, Silver
Villa Vallecito Vineyards, Murphys
2016 Sagrantino, $75, Gold
2016 Chardonnay, $26, Silver
2016 Barbera, $38, Silver
2015 Barbera, $38, Silver
2014 Barbera, $38, Silver
2016 Syrah, $32, Silver
2016 Grenache, $38, Silver
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, $38, Silver
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, $35, Silver
2016 Payaso, $35, Silver
Vina Moda Winery, Murphys
2016 Barbera,$36, Gold
2016 Syrah, $34, Gold
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, $40, Gold
2016 Pinot Noir, $42, Silver
2016 Grenache, $38, Silver
2016 Phoenix, $40, Silver
2016 Euphoria, $28, Silver