By Vidur Malik
The Battle for the Purple Boot wine competition is only in its first year, but its allure has already captivated some of the Livermore Valley and Santa Cruz Mountains' better-known wineries.
The competition, 6-9 p.m. Saturday at ClubSport in Pleasanton, will pit four Livermore Valley wineries against four from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Each winery will pour a white wine and a red for a blind tasting that is open to the public. The region with the most overall votes gets the boot, literally speaking.
"I'm just really curious to see the boot, the purple boot," said Tim Slater of Sarah's Vineyard, founded in 1978 in southwestern Santa Clara Valley, one of the wineries that will be representing the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. "I wonder is it a big boot? Is it a small boot?"
The trophy, designed by glass artist Treg Silkwood, sits on a section of medium-toasted wine barrel made of American oak, and represents the early days of area wine-making, when vintners would crush grapes on their own, turning their boots purple.
The Livermore appellation, one of the oldest in the state, will be represented by McGrail Vineyards, Fenestra Winery, Darcie Kent Vineyards and Nottingham Cellars.
"One of my main motivations was to showcase the California wine regions outside of Napa that make great wine and to showcase California as premier winery tourist destination," said Michael Kowitz, founder
Kowitz is undecided if different wineries will compete year to year, but stressed that the Livermore vs. Santa Cruz Mountains faceoff is at the core of the contest and will always remain. The location of the contest will alternate yearly between the two appellations.
In addition to Sarah's Vineyard, the Santa Cruz Mountains, known for its pinot noirs, will be represented by Corralitos Wine Company, Roudon-Smith Winery in Watsonville and San Carlos-based Domenico Winery, which sources its Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Slater said he's happy to get aboard early: "I like the idea of an inaugural event, because for all we know, it's still going to be going on 20 to 30 years from now."
Participants, who will enjoy appetizers along with the wines and will be able to purchase bottles at the event, will have two votes each that they can use in a variety of ways. They can either cast one vote for their favorite white and red or use both votes for one category or one individual wine.
The winery with the most popular white and red gets a trophy of a cluster of grapes. The boot trophy will go to the winning appellation's wine-making association for one year.
Though the Livermore and Santa Cruz Mountains appellations be butting heads at the Purple Boot, there's no sour grapes between the regions. In fact, both areas frequently use fruit from each other's regions for their wines.
Jerry Starr, director of sales and marketing for Corralitos Wine Company, said the event's potential to boost the profile of both appellations would be like "the tide raising all the boats.
"I don't think anybody's ever staged anything like this between Santa Cruz and Livermore, so it's definitely a groundbreaking activity," Starr said.