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2023 Harvest Challenge Wine Competition Announces Winners Lula Cellars 2020 Rescue Block Pinot Noir Takes Top Honors 

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November 17, 2023 — Winners have been announced in the 2023 Harvest Challenge Wine Competition. After two spirited days of judging, Lula Cellars 2020 Rescue Block Pinot Noir took the top prize. It was also awarded Best Red Wine and Best of Anderson Valley AVA (Mendocino County, Calif.). Coming in at 98 points, judges praised the wine as “rich, ripe” and for its “Bing cherry,” and “hint of orange peel.” 

Lula Cellars is a boutique winery located in California’s Anderson Valley. Its focus is on world-class Pinot Noirs both from its estate and across Anderson Valley, as well as other single-vineyard offerings from the greater Mendocino County. When preparing to plant their own vines, Lula owners discovered some-1,000 old vines “literally lying down, as if waiting to be rescued.” Lots of TLC later, these mystery Pinot Noir grapes have thrived. There’s no information to be had about the clone, age or rootstock, but clearly, the [Rescue Block] produces a very special wine. 

With hundreds of entries from across the globe, the Harvest Challenge bases judging on a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions and grapes that combine to give personality to the wine. 

In other competitions, terroir is ignored. At the Harvest Challenge, judges taste wines with other wines of the same appellation. With cross-regional competition removed, the inherent quality of wines can be seen without the influences that sometimes eclipse even a wine of very high quality. 

“This year‘s harvest challenge was incredibly difficult in a good way,” reflected judge Jennifer “JB” Kelly, founder and president of Luxury Wine Partners, a sales, marketing and public relations agency located in Sonoma County, Calif. “All of the wineries that participated should feel incredibly accomplished, as it was tough to narrow down wine choices for the sweepstakes process. The wines were amazingly well crafted and the appellations from each region shined!” 

Below is a list of Best medals awarded at this year’s competition. Visit www.winecompetitions.com for more information.

2023 Harvest Challenge Wine Competition 

Best of Class and Above Medal Winners 

Best of the Best 

Best Red Wine; Best of Anderson Valley AVA 

Lula Cellars 2020 Rescue Block Pinot Noir (GG, 98 pts.) 

Best White Wine; Best of Russian River Valley AVA; Best of Class Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2022 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (GG, 98) Judges: Gorgeous minerality, lively & layered, perfumed. 

Best White Wine; Best of South Coast AVA; Best of Class 

Fallbrook Winery 2022 33 °N Albariño (GG, 98) 

Judges: Citrus peel, nice long full mouth feel, great nose, fresh and bright. 

Best Rosé Wine; Best of Sonoma County AVA; Best of Class 

Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards 2022 Rosé of Pinot Noir (GG, 95) 

Judges: Berry, cherry, floral, ripe and clean

Best Sparkling Wine; Best of Class 

Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards 2019 Brut Rose Sparkling Wine (GG, 98) Judges: Sweetheart cherries, gorgeous balance, beautiful aromatics 

Best Fortified Wine; Best of Class 

San Sebastian Winery Cream Sherry NV (G, 92) 

Judges: Warm and nutty. Notes of caramel and vanilla 

Best Dessert/Late Harvest; Best of Class 

Husch Vineyards 2022 Late Harvest Gewurztraminer (GG, 98) Judges: Honeycomb. True to variety. Angelic. Poised. 

Best Regionals 

Best of Alexander Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Dutcher Crossing 2018 Cooney Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (G, 92) Judges: Big fruit, nice bright acidity 

Best of Australia; Best of Class (Tie) 

Taylors Wines 2023 Estate Riesling (GG, 97) 

Judges: Perfect nose with hints of citrus and stone fruit. Long finish 

Best of Australia; Best of Class (Tie) 

Rookanga 2023 Chardonnay (GG, 97) 

Judges: Lemon curd, soft, citrusy, buttery and restrained 

Best of California AVA; Best of Class 

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection 2021 Claret (GG, 97) Judges: Dynamic, bright, juicy, fruity, complex, great finish. 

Best of Carneros AVA; Best of Class 

Mahoney Family Vineyards 2021 Estate Pinot Noir (GG, 97) Judges: Purity, cherries, cocoa powder, black tea. 

Best of Delaware AVA; Best of Class 

Nassau Valley Vineyards Meadow’s Edge White NV (G, 92) Judges: Complete and balanced. Not overly sweet. Solid. Quite expressive 

Best of Dry Creek Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Amphora 2019 Cabernet Franc (GG, 98) 

Judges: Good varietal character and tannin. True to the varietal

Best of France; Best of Class 

Chanmé Méchant 2022 Grenache Blanc (G, 94) 

Judges: Lovely fruit, touch of honey, lemon. Well made wine for all seasons 

Best of France – Buzet AOC AVA; Best of Class 

Chateau Tournelles 2019 Malbec-Cabernet Franc (G, 91) 

Judges: Bright fruit and huckleberry, soft mellow red fruit. Red licorice. Approachable 

Best of Horse Heaven Hills AVA; Best of Class 

Coyote Canyon 2022 Estate Sauvignon Blanc (G, 93) 

Judges: Jasmine nose with flavors of lichee and very herbaceous. 

Best of Italy; Best of Class 

Villa Victoria 2021 Primitivo (GG, 97) 

Judges: Textbook Primitivo, carefully crafted, juicy, jammy, a little bit of savory herbaceous note, dried cranberry, white sage, lingering finish, “the finish does not finish” 

Best of Lake County AVA; Best of Class (Tie) 

Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery 2020 Bugle Call Red Blend (GG, 99) Judges: Multi dimensional, juicy, cherry and boysenberry 

Best of Lake County AVA; Best of Class (Tie) 

Chacewater 23022 Windrem Organic Sauvignon Blanc (GG, 99) 

Judges: Wow factor. Citrus infused, complex melon 

Best of Lake Erie AVA; Best of Class 

Franklin Hill Vineyards 2022 Sir Walters Bubbly (GG, 97) 

Judges: True to its varietal, amazing long finish 

Best of Lake Michigan Shore AVA; Best of Class 

Karma Vista Vineyards 2021 Estate Reserve Syrah (GG, 98) 

Judges: Peppery, lavender. Classic Syrah, vibrant and exciting 

Best of Livermore Valley AVA; Best of Class 

McGrail Vineyards 2021 Sláinte Red Blend (G, 93) 

Judges: Earthy, ripe, complex, nice nose.

Best of Lodi AVA; Best of Class 

Mettler Family Vineyards 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (GG, 95) Judges: Cedar, cloves, cola, layered pepper, sweet cherry cola. 

Best of Mendocino County AVA; Best of Class 

Girasole Vineyards 2022 Pinot Blanc (GG, 99) 

Judges: Fresh, intriguing, silky, wild thyme, chamomile, orange peel. 

Best of Monterey County AVA; Best of Class 

Tondre Grapefield 2021 Chardonnay (GG, 97) 

Judges: Iconic new world style, soft and approachable, great varietal character. 

Best of Monterey-Carmel Valley; Best of Class 

Galante Vineyards 2021 Legacy Red Blend (G, 92) 

Judges: Varietal character, lots of plush fruit that lingers through finish. 

Best of Moon Mountain District; Best of Class 

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards 2020 Moon Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (G, 92) Judges: Drinkable, pairs well with a meal or drink by itself. Well made 

Best of Napa; Best of Class 

Sea Bird 2019 Aphrodite Merlot (G, 91) 

Judges: Bold, lots of leather and tobacco, Black Cherry 

Best of Napa – Atlas Peak; Best of Class 

Sea Bird 2020 Broken Rock Vineyard Merlot (GG, 97) 

Judges: Restrained yet classic. Balanced. 

Best of Napa – Calistoga; Best of Class 

Wandering Cellars 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (G, 91) 

Judges: Classy, pleasing blend of fruit & spice, racy cherry fruit. 

Best of Napa – Oak Knoll District; Best of Class 

Fortunati Vineyards 2021 Chardonnay (G, 92) 

Judges: Citrus and crisp apple. 

Best of Napa – Stags Leap; Best of Class 

Rios 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (G, 92) 

Judges: Nice finish, well balanced, earth, chocolate, mushroom, Unami, smooth tannins.

Best of New Zealand; Best of Class 

Whitehaven AVA 2022 Sauvignon Blanc (GG, 98) 

Judges: Grassy and sassy, grapefruity, zesty, ready to party. 

Best of North Carolina; Best of Class 

Jolo Vineyards 2021 Pilot Shadow Red Blend (GG, 97) 

Judges: Good wine crafting, cranberry; integrated, complete and seamless. 

Best of Ohio; Best of Class 

The Vineyards at Pine Lake 2022 Vignoles (GG, 96) 

Judges: Pineapple juice, quince. Smooth finish. 

Best of Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Peak AVA; Best of Class 

Spicy Vines 2018 Pine Mountain Vineyard Patio Block Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc (GG, 95) 

Judges: Plum skin, subtle tobacco, long finish, nice round mouth feel. 

Best of Rockpile AVA; Best of Class 

St. Anne’s Crossing 2021 Reserve Rockpile Zinfandel (G, 94) 

Judges: Ripe, wild berry, lush, balanced, good acidity, spicy 

Best of Rogue Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Belle Fiore 2020 Reserve Numinos (G,. 94) 

Judges: Complex, balanced, plum, food friendly 

Best of Santa Cruz Mountains AVA; Best of Class 

Kings Mountain Vineyards 2019 Clone 13 Pinot Noir (GG, 97) 

Judges: Bold nose, silky palate. Baked peppery finish. Currants 

Best of Santa Ynez Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Brick Barn Wine Estate 2021 Estate Albariño (GG, 96) 

Judges: Full bodied, nice fruit. with a long finish, tart, floral nose. 

Best of Sierra Foothills AVA; Best of Class 

Chacewater 2021 Highlander Red Blend (G, 92) 

Judges: Black tea, chewy texture, ripe, briary, nice structure

Best of Sonoma Coast AVA; Best of Class 

Cazadero Winery 2021 Pinot Noir (G, 92) 

Judges: Earthy, balanced, intense. Earthy, balanced, intense. 

Best of Sonoma Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Imagery Estate Winery 2021 Primitivo (G, 93) 

Judges: Well integrated, good mouth feel. 

Best of South Africa AVA; Best of Class 

Wild Gnu 2022 Chenin Blanc (G, 94) 

Judges: Passion fruit, tropical 

Best of Sta. Rita Hills; Best of Class 

Fortunati Vineyards 2021 Pinot Noir (G, 94) 

Judges: Big new world style, cherry, earth, well balanced, fruit bomb. 

Best of Virginia; Best of Class Tie 

Pearmund 2021 Silver Creek Vineyard Viognier (GG, 95) 

Judges: Layered peach. Hints of lemon bars. Very well balanced. Soft texture. 

Best of Virginia; Best of Class Tie 

Effingham 2020 Reserve Tannat (GG, 95) 

Judges: Very savory. Deep and intense flavors. Leather, tar. Ends balanced. A very well made wine. 

Best of Chile; Best of Class 

Casa De La Luna 2022 Red Blend (G, 92) 

Judges: Herbaceous, lovely black and blue fruits, spices. 

Best of Florida; Best of Class 

San Sebastian Winery Vintners White NV (G, 92) 

Judges: Good varietal finish. Gardenia, tropical, dried apple, cotton candy. 

Best of Ramona Valley AVA; Best of Class 

Ramona Ranch Winery 2022 Symphony (G, 90) 

Judges: Bright, cheery, fresh, zesty, citrus.

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