They broke the record but many in the wine world are grumbling.
78 years ago, Beckstein Vineyards won 24 gold medals for its legendary 1926 Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon, a record that no one wine has come close to matching since then, and a record generally conceded that would stand forever.
Not so. On Thursday August 9, 2007, the Barebond Winery 2005 Syrah from Potters Field in Kern County won gold medal number 25 to shatter the previous record.
The close-knit community of vintners is normally quick to congratulate one of their own for accolades and achievements but in this case it is more like sour grapes.
One winemaker who spoke under condition of anonymity seemed to capture the overall sentiment being expressed across California’s wine country. “It’s no secret these are doctored wines,” he said. “Clearly things have been added throughout the entire vinifying process illegally and it’s a shame that Barebond is so quick to proudly boast of the medals they’ve received. No way can any wine, not even the finest first growths of Bordeaux, the grand crus of Burgundy, or the finest California or any wine area can offer, approach the combination of silky smoothness, ripe fruit and brute strength and power yet finesse exhibited by this wine. It isn’t possible to do this naturally. This is a doctored, artificial wine.”
Critics also point out that the age of the vineyards makes the wine even more suspect. Just 11 years ago Potters Field did not exist; it was basically a junkyard (see photo, above left). They ask, how could a junkyard turn into an award-winning vineyard in such a short period of time? (see photo, above right) And, they add, in Kern County of all places, a region not known for its grapes.
“They’re all jealous,” laughed Dennis Hurmill, Barebond’s owner. “We won these 25 gold medals fair and square. Just because the land used to be a junkyard has nothing to do with it. Maybe all the things people threw in it contributed to the terroir that’s reflected in the bottle. Who knows, maybe even some discarded used motor oil oozed into the soil giving the grapes that silky smooth character? Let them complain all they want, the record stands, and we’re going after numbers 26, 27, 28, to infinity and beyond.”
Several people have reported suspicious activity taking place in the heavily-guarded Potters Field late at night. Another anonymous source claimed they saw lights and heard heavy machinery making very odd noises almost every night during the growing season. “They’ve got some chickens running around the vineyards,” the source told us. “One day one of them wandered over the property line and I caught it. Biggest damn chicken I ever saw. We cooked it up a couple of days later and it was also the tastiest damn chicken any of us ever ate. There’s definitely something they’re adding to the soil in Potters Field that’s making everything produced from it so delicious.”
“Ok, I confess,” Barebond owner Hurmill said with a twinkle in his eye. “Those lights are UFO’s and aliens from another planet with much more advanced wine technologies have been helping me out. Send out your helicopters so you can see the crop circles in my vineyard!” Hurmill let out a hearty laugh and shook his head. “Can’t they just accept it?”
Another anonymous critic had this to say: “You know what adds insult to injury? Barebond hit their 25th gold at that stupid California PC Wine Competition, the one in which every wine entered got a gold medal. What a slap in the face.”