Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Home winemakers score many awards at this year's festival

LAKEPORT – Amateur winemakers entering their wines in Saturday's eighth annual Lake County Home Winemakers Festival took home a total of 35 ribbons for their entries in seven different wine classes, representing some two dozen varietals and blends.

A panel of six judges made their decisions based on standards developed by wine experts at the University of California, Davis.

The judges were Stephen Dilley, Tulip Hill Winery; Jeff Smith, Kelseyville Wine Co.; Pietro Buttitta, Rosa D'Oro Vineyards; Rodney Duncan, Duncan Vineyard; Jack Vos, Twin Pine Casino; and Jeanette Bartley.

Many of Lake County's leading commercial wineries also were on hand, pouring samples of an impressive number of Lake County wines, although they were not eligible for awards which were restricted to amateurs only.

Participating wineries were Rosa D'Oro, Robledo Family Winery, Shannon Ridge, Tulip Hill, Cougar's Leap, Steele Wines, Dusinberre Winery, Kelseyville Wine Company, Shed Horn Cellars, McDermaid Family Vineyard and Villa La Brenta winery.

In addition two dozen commercial vendors , including four food servers, lined Park Street, selling a wide range of arts, crafts and specialty items.

The winefest – as it's come to be called – is the major fundraiser for nonprofit Clear Lake Performing Arts (CLPA), and all proceeds go to support the group's music activities in Lake County including scholarships and other youth music programs, and the Lake County Symphony.

CLPA is the sole underwriter of the orchestra, whose director and conductor, John Parkinson, and wife Diane made an appearance.

This was the first year the event has been held in Lakeport's Library Park and participants agreed that the lakeside setting, the shade trees and lawns provided a first-class venue.

The women of the CLPA Auxiliary – the fundraising arm of the parent organization – had mounted a major raffle and silent auction, with contributions from dozens of Lake County's businesses.

According to CLPA president Paul Brewer, an estimated 600 people attended the winefest, not counting the 60 home and commercial winemakers and 50 vendor representatives. All of them were able to follow the awards presentations announced by event emcee Ed Patrick, punctuated by music from the David Neft Duo, made up of drummer Steve Dubois and popular keyboardist David Neft.

Home brewers, too, played a key role, with 14 home brewers pouring samples of a wide variety of beers and ales.

The beer competition was a sanctioned event with judging by five experts including one member of the Beer Judge Certification program of the of the American Home Brewers Association. They were Jerry Worswick from Chico, the certified judge; Stephen Brennan, owner of Molly Brennan's Irish Pub in Lakeport; Zack Simkover of San Diego; and Wayne Kurtz and Ron Chips, both of Kelseyville.

Attendees also were able to vote for their favorite beers and wines in the popular People's Choice balloting.

Winners in this category in wines were: best dry red, David Pretari, Foster City; best dry white, Conn Murray, Kelseyville; best fruit wine, Bruce Lightfoot, Cobb; best sparkling wine, Jack Morris, Lakeport; best aperitif/dessert wine, Greg and Jeff Conley, Middletown; best label design, the team of Jeff Buege, Rolf Kriken, and Pam and Rod Duncan, all of Kelseyville.

Best beer award went to Two Dudes Brew by Dan Wieman of Lower Lake and Joe Parker of Kelseyville.

Voting for best decorated booth resulted in a tie between Sheila Honeycutt of Kelseyville, and Dennis and Marisa Koenig of San Mateo.

The two top awards – best in show – went to Scott and Sue Simkover of Kelseyville's Smiling Dogs Ranch for their 2009 Merlot and to Greg Conley of Conley Wines in Middletown for his 2002 Port.

There were numerous multiple winners. The Simkovers and Conley also won golds for their wines. Other golds went to Buege and Kriken for their Glory Hole red blend and to John McCarthy of Red Hills Vineyard for his 2008 Petite Syrah.

Phil and Jean Owenby and Cheryl Lucido of Wild Diamond Vineyard scored a gold for their 2007 Mouevdre, while Neil Peaty took gold for his Chef Neil Creations 2009 Guava.

Conn Murray and the late June Murray took three silvers for their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Merlot and 08 Mouevedre, while Wild Diamond took silver for a 2007 Petite Syrah, and Buege and Kriken captured one for their 2008 Pinot Noir.

Danny Morrow's Eastside Winery won silver for a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon and the Ownbey-Lucido team won it for an 2007 Sangiovese. Lucido also won silver with her husband David for their Laujor Estates 2007 Petite Syrah.

Other silver winners were Luciano Meconi of the Toffoli Remembrance Wine Group of Finley for a 2009 Syrah and Bruce Lightfoot for an 2009 peach wine under his Bruceskis label.

Bronze medals were awarded to the Murrays for a 2009 Semillon, Paul Spillane and Troy Shankles for their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wild Diamond Vineyard for a 2007 Barbera, and Eastside Winery for a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Koenigs won again for the Gangster-Koenig Family Cellars for their 2009 Merlot while David Pretari won for a 2009 Zinfandel.

Amanda Esteban of the Remembrance Group also won bronze for her 2008 Syrah which she entitled Syrah Sonata.

The Laujor Estate winery picked up a second medal for a 2007 Malbec while Neil Peaty's Chef Neil Creations won another for an unusual 2010 Blueberry Vinaccia. The Remembrance Vineyard Group won a final bronze for Michelle Schultz's 2007 Port.

Best of show in the beer category went to Dwight Mulcahy for his Weizenbock. He also took a gold for wheat beer and another for specialty fruit and spiced beers.

Gold also went to Greg Nylen and Dave Chapman for Belgian and strong ales, to Rick White for American and English Ales, to Matt Ridge for stouts and porters, Two Dudes Brew for India pale ales and to Aaron Callahan for the lager and hybrids class.

Silver medals were won by Paul Lew, Two Dudes Brew, Nylen and Chapman, Rick White, Tony Buffa and Frank Rone.

Bronze medals went to Two Dudes, Frank Rone, Tony Buffa, Rick White and Sean O'Brien.

Lake County Home Brewers, under the direction of Paul Lew and Ron Chips, also offered demonstrations of home brewing techniques and equipment.

Next year's winefest is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 25, again at Library Park in Lakeport.

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