San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – nation’s biggest – starts today

By on January 6, 2015
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition draws more than 5,500 wines from throughout the United States. It is held in Cloverdale, California.

Rick Fraga and Miro Tcholakov evaluate Petite Sirah last year at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

CLOVERDALE, Calif. – North America’s largest wine competition begins this morning in northern Sonoma County – and it continues to grow at a remarkable rate.

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition marks its 30th year in existence and has drawn a record 6,417 wines. That’s up nearly 600 wines from last year’s record numbers.

“Last year, we hit 5,850, which we thought was an anomaly,” said Bob Fraser, chairman of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. “Two years ago, it was 5,500 entries.”

Fraser, who runs the judging with his son Scott, has been involved with the judging long before the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate.com came on as the naming sponsor. He joined the Cloverdale Citrus Fair Wine Competition 27 years ago. The judging, which is held in this town near the Mendocino County line, became the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition some 15 years ago.

Because of the large increase in entries, the organizers have about 60 judges working together on 19 panels. Each panel will taste about 400 wines over the course of four days. The judging concludes Friday morning with a tasting of the top wines that will determine the best red, white, pink, sparkling and dessert wines.

Last year, Barnard Griffin in Richland, Wash., won best pink for its 2013 Rosé of Sangiovese. In fact, owner/winemaker Rob Griffin has earned a gold medal or better for his rosé nearly every year here for the past decade.

The judging, which began as a competition of wines in Northern California, now includes wines from across the country. This year, wineries from 28 states are participating. While California has the most entries by far, Fraser told Great Northwest Wine that he has seen a strong increase in entries from Washington, Oregon and New York.

As a result of the competition’s reach, Fraser now brings in wine professionals from many areas of the country, including Washington, New York, Illinois, Florida, Missouri, Louisiana, Minnesota and Virginia. He also attracts top judges from throughout California.

San Francisco Chronicle public tasting

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2014 results are in.

More than 6,400 wines were entered in the 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, held this week in the Sonoma County town of Cloverdale, Calif.

Each year, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition stages a public tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. This year, the public tasting is from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Feb. 14. Tickets are $65 in advance. They almost always sell out, so don’t count on buying a ticket at the door for $80.

In addition to the San Francisco Chronicle, other major sponsors of the competition include BevMo, Stella Artois and Whole Foods.

Full results of the competition will be posted on winejudging.com and SFGate.com on Friday afternoon. Results from the Pacific Northwest will be posted on Great Northwest Wine.

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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