The first annual California PC Wine Competition got off to a rocky start last Saturday, marred by criticism from many of its participants.
For those unfamiliar with the competition, the results of the three-day long judging culminated in every single wine entry receiving a gold medal. Gordon Brisbane, the event’s founder and chairman, explained it thusly: “California produces some of the world’s greatest wines, and maintains a uniformly high standard across the board, higher probably than anywhere else in the world. We wanted to promote the idea that in California, everyone’s a winner. That’s why every wine entered won a gold medal, one that can be proudly displayed on the retail shelf or website.”
Reporters pointed out that in reality, it’s a fact of life that some wines are better than others and asked Brisbane how he could justify giving every wine the same award. “Maybe some wines taste better than others but it’s all subjective,” he declared. “Otherwise, every wine critic would give the same rating to the same wine. Meanwhile, a lot of effort went into crafting these wines – the blood, sweat and tears from everyone connected to the final product in the bottle ought to be rewarded. That’s why I’d like to think that when the vintners receive the medal, they can say, ‘You’ve made me so very happy.’ Everyone should be rewarded for their efforts – everyone’s a winner. We're so glad they came into our lives.”
Not so, say a lot of wineries. Nick Wheaton, winemaker for the award-winning Smoke and Mirrors Winery famous for its pinot noirs, complained. “Our wines have met with high acclaim in the press and among consumers. They’re acknowledged as among the best pinot noirs in the state, even the world. How can you put us in the same category as some generic-labeled ‘burgundy’ plonk selling by the jug for $2.99 at the corner liquor store?”
“You’ve got to consider a wine’s self-esteem,” insists Brisbane. “Take merlots, for example, and how they have suffered through no fault of their own because of the movie Sideways. Most of them are collecting dust on the shelves, unwanted, and just think what that’s doing to their development. I say give them a gold and watch the wine bloom. You’ve got to make the wines feel good about themselves and in turn they’re going to taste good to the consumers.”
Wheaton had no response to this except to say, “that man is nuts.”
Along with the vintner’s fury over the uniform awards came even more anger when it was disclosed that all wines entered from any source, not just California, were awarded a gold medal.
“This is supposed to be a California wine competition, and I use the word ‘competition’ very lightly,” muttered Phil Lamont, CEO of Kosta Lotta Vineyards, another highly respected and decorated producer. “Yet, all these wines from all over the place somehow got in and were also given gold medals. Yes, some of them were good wines but some of them were nothing but juice from undocumented grapes. Wines from outside California, even outside our nation’s borders, in a California competition and made with undocumented grapes, no less. Revolting.”
“Let’s not forget the wines made inside the state from undocumented grapes, too,” added Wheaton who was finally able to regain his voice. “Should wines made from undocumented grapes be allowed to win anything at all?”
Brisbane laughs at Lamont, Wheaton, and others who share their views. “I say let’s open our borders. Life’s too short to be running around being so nitpicky. The wine industry is a tough one and I say let’s build up the esteem of everyone. Golds all around – everyone’s a winner.”
After hearing this, both Wheaton and Lamont could only respond, “that man is totally nuts.”
And the controversy continues. For a complete list of winners in this competition, look in the worldwide registry of wineries.