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2023 Sunset International Wine Competition Winners Announced

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2023 Sunset International Wine Competition Winners Announced 

Best of Show Awarded to Brecon Estate Albariño 

 

June 6, 2023 (Santa Rosa, Calif.) — Winners have been announced for the 2023 Sunset International Wine Competition, which took place in May in Santa Rosa, Calif. Taking the top spot this year is Brecon Estate 2022 Albariño, which judges described as “fresh and bright,” “honeysuckle,” with a “lingering finish.” Ultimately, they concluded, “a very well-made wine.” 

Brecon Estate is a boutique estate winery located in the westside hills outside of Paso Robles, Calif. “This particular varietal has been hugely successful for us,” says winemaker Damian Grindley. “It fits so well with alfresco summers in Paso Robles and so many Southern states, as well as the seafood culture of the [San Luis Obispo] Coast. It’s helped put both Brecon Estate and Central Coast Albariño on the map.”

He continues, “Its fruit sourcing has always been from the San Luis Obispo Coast, however following the official approval of the appellation [in March 2022], this is the first time we have been able to put its true fruit source on the label rather than the somewhat more generic Central Coast AVA.” 

“At Sunset, celebrating great wine and the good people who make it is an essential part of our mission to help people live their best possible life in the West,” said Hugh Garvey, editor-in-chief at Sunset Publishing. “This year’s annual wine competition, yet again, saw a record number of entrants submitting their fine bottlings and reflects the ongoing diversity and vitality of the wine industry. It’s a pleasure to share the winners with our audience. Congratulations to one and all!”

This is the first time an Albariño — and the first time a wine labeled as San Luis Obispo Coast — has won the Sunset International Wine Competition. This year’s winner topped nearly 3,000 other entered wines to take the top spot. After two days of judging, the sweepstakes round featured 34 stellar contestants (listed below). 

“The number of wines submitted was higher than last year, and the quality of those wines [was exceptional],” said Honorary Head Judge Miro Tcholakov (Trentadue Winery and Miro Cellars). “The sweepstakes winner is Albariño, which is significant because it shows winemakers are not just playing with unconventional varieties, but they have advanced in making world-class wines from those varieties. Luckily, consumers are more engaged in seeking out and exploring [lesser known] varieties.” 

“We are so excited to have our characterful wines, as well as the up-and-coming crisp refreshing Albariño grape, exposed to such a wide audience of folks across the United States and beyond,” adds Grindley. “It will reach places we would never normally venture and to people who would never normally have a chance to drive past our door or stumble across our website.” 

Tcholakov was further encouraged by another result. “The fact that Merlot was the Best Red is also significant. It shows Merlot is back on top where it should be — and once was — as one of the best red varieties,” he said.

The Sunset International Wine Competition is judged by fellow winemakers, qualified members of the media, educators, researchers, sommeliers and retail buyers. This mix of experts gives the results professional weight and increases marketing opportunities for medal winners. A full list of medal-winning wines can be found at sunsetcompetitions.com/sunset-international-wine-competition/.  

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2023 Sunset International Wine Competition Sweepstakes Wines 

Best of the Best, Best White Wine 

Brecon Estate 2022 Albariño (BOC, GG, 98 pts.) 

Judges: “Fresh and bright,” “Honeysuckle,” “Lingering finish,” “A very well-made wine” 

 

Best Red Wine 

La Storia 2020 Merlot (GG, 98) 

Judges: “True to varietal,” “Good fruit,” “Made by a real pro!” 

 

Best Sparkling Wine 

Sojourn Cellars NV Brut (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Elegant cherry,” “Hints of earth,” “Golden delicious apple,” “Traditional sparkling,” “Tiny beads” 

 

Best Rosé Wine 

Seaglass 2021 Rosé of Pinot Noir (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Light, delicate,” “Pale blush,” “Complex and lively” 

 

Best Dessert/Late Harvest Wine 

Husch Vineyards 2022 Muscat Canelli (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Sugar and tartness in harmony,” “Well made, balanced, very clean,” “Elegant” 

 

Best Brandy 

Jaxon Keys NV Brandy Cornerstone (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Rich,” “Vanilla cream soda,” “Good texture,” “Honey” 

 

Additional Sweepstakes Wines 

Bricoleur Vineyards (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Nose is tantalizing,” “Red cherry, tangerine, with notes of spice box,” “Vibrancy” 

 

Blue Farm 2020 Laceroni Vineyard Chardonnay (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Tropical fruit,” “Creamy,” “Tart vanilla oak,” “Very well put together” 

 

Carol Shelton Wines 2022 Coquille Blanc (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Honey, peach, integrated oak,” “Clean finish,” “Layered fruit” 

 

Cline Cellars 2022 Viognier (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Fusel aromatics,” “Coastal,” “Lemon tart candies,” “A lovely wine” 

 

King Estate 2022 Pinot Gris (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Floral,” “Pear, spice, white pepper, lemon peel,” “Perfect balance” 

 

Paradise Ridge 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Bright, racy, lemon,” “Minerality,” “Blossoms on the nose,” “Delicacy” 

 

Pennyroyal Farm 2022 PinoTrio (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Taste of place,” “Really nice wine,” “Good fruit, clean,” “Apple” 

 

Rivino 2022 Pinot Blanc (GG, 95) 

Judges: “Stone fruits,” “White peach, white flowers,” “Vanilla confections,” “Citrus pith” 

 

Wise Villa Winery 2022 Stainless steel Chardonnay (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Great texture from concrete,” “Harmony of sweet, sour, bitterness” 

 

Apsara Cellars 2021 Whole Cluster Syrah (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Bright, less weighty,” “Black fruit and good balance,” “Nimble” 

 

Blue Farm Gap’s Crown Vineyard 2021 Pinot Noir (GG, 99) 

Judges: “Wild strawberries,” “Mandarin peel,” “Fresh raspberry,” “Spice” 

 

Dancin 2021 Tribute Barbera (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Bold, sophisticated notes of red and black fruits,” “A finish that keeps on giving” 

 

Enkidu 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, “ANSAR” (GG, 99) 

Judges: “Nice touch of cassis,” “Classic Cab,” “Nice acidity,” “Food friendly” 

 

EFESTE 2020 Grenache (GG, 99) 

Judges: “High acid, bright, precise,” “Elegant aromatics,” “Southern Rhone,” “Electric” 

 

Grindstone 2019 Petit Verdot (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Earthy, sage aromas,” “Bing cherry, ripeness,” “Long finish, well balanced” 

 

Heaven’s Gate Vineyard 2019 Mourvedre (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Fresh strawberry jam,” “Boysenberry yogurt,” “Fruity, delicious,” “Spice box, sweet tobacco” 

 

Imagery Estate Winery 2020 Cabernet Franc (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Nice uniform structure,” “Bell pepper, jalapeño,” “An elegant wine” 

 

Jessie’s Grove Winery 2020 Alicante Bouschet (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Mouthwatering concentrated fruit,” “Old leather goods,” “Substantial in fruit expression and mouthfeel,” “Enjoyable without being overpowering” 

 

Ledson 2019 Tiamo Red Blend (GG, 99) 

Judges: “Well balanced,” “Elegant for linen table,” “Special wine” 

 

Left Of Ordinary 2021 Tannat (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Tame tannins, refined expression,” “Red current, strawberry rhubarb pie,” “Black Satsuma plum” 

 

Macchia 2021 Amorous Sangiovese (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Tobacco,” “Chewy,” “Nice oak, vanilla, lots of fruit,” “Great for aging,” “Nice tannins” 

 

Miro 2021 Petite Sirah (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Huge wine,” “Big and bold,” “Fennel and cassis,” “Molasses,” “Meaty” 

 

Monserate Vineyards and Winery 2021 Negroamaro (GG, 96) 

Judges: “Bursts of flavor,” “Food friendly,” “Well balanced,” “Wild berries, cherry, whisper of herbs,” “Fantastic finish” 

 

Papapietro Perry 2020 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (GG, 100) 

Judges: “Abundance of purple floral aromatics,” “Perfectly ripe raspberry,” “Savory green and cola balances sweet fruit” 

 

Pezzi King 2020 Serracino Zinfandel (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Classic Zin,” “Black tea, hints of black pepper,” “Ripe red fruit with herbs” 

 

PWR Wines 2021 Tempranillo (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Medium body,” “Gorgeous Bing cherry,” “Great nose,” “Elegant” 

 

Sequoia Grove Winery 2019 Napa Valley Malbec (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Mocha and black tea,” “Dark plums, blackberry,” “Very well balanced, long finish” 

 

Starfield Vineyards 2020 Bronson Bros. Red Blend (GG, 97) 

Judges: “Minty quality,” “Balanced black fruit,” “Robust varietal typicality,” “A crowd pleaser” 

 

Wilson of Dry Creek 2021 Primitivo / McClain (GG, 98) 

Judges: “Black sesame,” “Chocolate,” “Blackberry cobbler,” “Truffle” 

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