Do you want to go there [Chicago], each individual of you, to get a medal? I have got one, but I don’t know what use it is to me. I have got it in my window, but it never raised the price of my wine…nor give me any advantage in its sale.

Charles A. Wetmore – May 18, 1892

Much has been made of the famous Paris Exposition of 1889 when Charles Wetmore of Cresta Blanca Winery won the grand prize for his Sauvignon Blanc. Yet no one has asked whether winning the prize brought him any fortune here in California.

It was through hard work that I came upon an address by M. H. de Young (founder of the San Francisco Chronicle) asking for the support of local business leaders to form a California delegation to the Chicago World’s Fair – Columbian Exposition of 1893. In the audience was Charles Wetmore, who was asked to comment afterward on Mr. de Young’s appeal. Wetmore agreed that California should be represented at the fair, but not if the intent was to win medals. For Wetmore, the only justification for participating would be to help bring California products to the attention of the national market.

Charles Wetmore’s comments were on my mind last month when, for the first time, we could not enter any of our wines into the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition has always come at a bad time for us. The wines have to be entered in November, and, because we bottle many of our wines in December, they simply aren’t available for entry. Also, entered wines must be available for sale to the general public in time for the award announcements in February. This eliminates our Heritage wines from the competition because they are never sold to the public. Finally, the Chronicle requires a production minimum, which eliminates our most limited production wines.

This being said, we have always done well when we have had wines to enter. Many, especially our Cabernet Sauvignons, have received best of class, double golds, and gold medals from the Chronicle Competition. And, like Wetmore, we display these medals in our winery. If there is some consolation from not entering this year, it is that winning medals hasn’t helped us sell a single case of wine. What sells our wine is our story, not the medals or the scores. The story of Livermore Valley, of craftsmanship, of attention to detail at every step – this is what is important to our customers.

I expect Livermore Valley to receive a disproportionate number of medals in the Chronicle Competition this year. I am proud of our Valley when I see the gold medals announced. But this year we will root for Livermore from the sidelines – especially for our neighbors – because if the Valley does well, we all do well.

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