Oakley-grown Cline Cellars' red wines tasted like gold last week to six wine judges, who swirled, nosed, gargled and spit about 50 different wines during the second annual Contra Costa Commercial Wine Competition.
"The judges deliberated long and extensively before coming up with the medal winners," said John Viano, event organizer and Contra Costa Winegrowers Association chairman. "They've been sharing information with each other. It's been a real educational day for everybody."
One of the judges, Artisan Growers & Producer owner Ananda Neil agreed.
"There was a lot more debate than I would have expected. Quite honestly, I was proud to see this process happen for an emerging region like Contra Costa County."
Winners of the day included Cline Cellars, which earned Best of Show -- Red and a double gold for its 2011 Ancient Vines Zinfandel, and received two more gold medals for its 2011 Cashmere and 2011 Mourvedre.
Moraga-based Parkmon Vineyards earned golds for its 2009 cabernet sauvignon and 2012 sauvignon blanc, which also took home the Best of Show -- White. Hannah Nicole Vineyards 2010 Petite Sirah also made gold.
The blind tasting took place at Hannah Nicole Vineyards in Brentwood and consisted of a variety of judges, including a wine educator, Napa winemaker, as well as a diverse selection of wine industry members and press.
"Basically, the competition itself is more trying to expose what wines are available in Contra Costa County, what wines come from Contra Costa County," Viano said.
Viano noted there are about 18 bonded wineries in the county, with 10 of them being considered major wineries. He estimated that another 40 to 50 wineries from outside the area produce wine from Contra Costa-grown grapes.
"Well, what we hope it (the competition) does is it brings awareness that somebody says the wine is worthy of drinking," Viano said. "And if you give it an award, usually it means that it should be at least tried." Jim Telford, one for the judges and owner of Residual Sugar Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, was quite surprised with the cast of wines.
"You know there is something brewing, you sort of see from an indigenous fruit standpoint as far as what the region's going to offer; certain varietals seem better suited to be grown here than others, especially with the Rhône category of varietals, like your syrahs, your petite sirahs and your zinfandels -- some exceptional outstanding performances," Telford said.
"But some surprises (were) in areas such as sauvignon blanc, which you would think would be a cool climate varietal," said Telford, adding, "pinot noir was an exceptional example that we had here today ... just across the board great effort."
Neil said the viognier and zinfandel varietals surprised him.
"I don't think we have too many appellations singularly that really produce those two varietals as well as Contra Costa is producing them," Neil said. "I also thought their Rhône varietal blend was pretty intriguing."
The public tasting of these wines will take place from 2-6 p.m. on June 8 at the Blackhawk Plaza in Danville. The cost is $15, which includes the glass and a tasting of all the wines.
Reach Karen Rarey at firstname.lastname@example.org.