Last Sunday marked the start of the 26th Annual Dallas Morning News Wine Competition–my 3rd as a judge– with an evening social event at Stephan Pyles’ Samar restaurant for all the judges and competition participants. The following morning, we all met in the main hall of the Dallas Convention Center, downtown, to judge the wines.
Day One began the same way as previous years. Rebecca Murphy, the event’s coordinator, greeted everyone. Judges included Diane Teitelbaum, Drew Hendricks MS, James Tidwell MS, Barbara Werley MS, Guy Stout MS, Nick Goldschmit, Sally Mohr MS, Bob Paulinksi MW, Darryl Groom, Paul Pinnell, Amy Albert and a long list of other wine notables. The DMN Wine Competition is a major production. We all introduced ourselves and were given our panel assignments. After a light breakfast, we moved on to something bold–we started the morning tasting red wines. This is the way it’s done in French competitions. It’s also the way the UK’s Decanter Magazine tasting panel does it. Can’t argue with success.
My panel was tasked with judging 53 cabernets. The wines are all served blind–poured into clear glasses in flights of 12 at a time. The glasses are individually numbered to correspond to the bottles from which they were poured. Those bottles are kept under a tight lock and key in a massive room FAR, FAR AWAY. It is our job to award Gold, Silver, Bronze medals, and no medal at all if a wine does not deserve one. Believe me, a lot of wines will not earn a medal.
As different as the wines are from each other, so are the personalities of the judges. While one judge may think a wine deserves Bronze and another may say Silver, yet another may say No Medal. In the end, though, we all come to a consensus and then move on to the next wine. Let’s just say, as a group, we awarded plenty of medals to the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons.
We then moved on to taste Primitivos, Monastrells, Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Blanc de blanc Sparklers and late harvest wines. Again, some wines were great and some were not so great, but they all had unique personalities and charms. Not surprisingly, some just didn’t show as well against their competition and were not awarded a medal.
The event concluded with a Monday Night Gala, at which we were served glasses of last year’s Gold Medal winners and food from top chefs, including Kent Rathbun, Stephan Pyles,and my former colleagues Shawn Horn and Sara Johannes. As the evening ended, a few of us–Nick Goldshmidt, Darryl Groom, Sally Mohr MS, Traci Dutton, Dawnine Dyer, and Diane Teitelbaum–all jetted over to Charlie Palmer for a night-cap.
Day Two of judging began with 56 Zinfandels, Wine expert Woody deLuna predicted the day before that Day Two would be polarizing, primarily because zins embody so many different styles and climates. We pressed on, bantering back and forth about which of these 56 wines merited an award, until we finished the day with crimson red teeth and exhausted palates.
Somehow, we’re all looking forward to Annual Competition Number 27, next year.
DLynn Proctor is the sommelier and Cellar Educator for Graileys Fine Wines & Wine Cellar in Dallas. He is a member of the Chaines des Rotisseurs and an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers). Mr. Proctor has been invited to take the Master Sommelier Exam this summer. He is featured in this month’s Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine.
Ed: Results of the Wine Competition will be revealed on February 12 in the Dallas Morning News. And from Rebecca Murphy: “Many of gold medal winners will be served at Taste of the World on Sunday, April 25 at Union Station 5:30 to 8 pm, which is final event of the Dallas Wine and Food Festival April 21-25. More information can be found at http://dallaswinefest.com“