Every January the results of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition are announced. This is the largest national competition with over 6,000 wines entered. Judges award wines Double Gold, Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals based on quality. The Double Gold go on to another round where Best of Class and Sweepstake winners are awarded.

It is well established that individual awards can be highly variable, and that there is little difference in quality between golds and silvers with respect to individual wines (http://bit.ly/2DeBgyS). But, when the results are taken in aggregate, it is possible to infer the regional quality of wines of a given class – like Chardonnay.

This year I analyzed the awards given for Chardonnay priced $20 and above. In particular, I compareLivermore Valley to two California appellations noted for producing stellar Chardonnay – Carneros and Russian River. I graphed these in a bar chart. From the chart, it is clear that Livermore Valley was awarded a disproportionate number of Double Gold and Gold medals for Chardonnay when compared to either Carneros or Russian River.

Why the focus on Chardonnay? For years I have argued that Livermore Valley can produce wonderful Chardonnay. Yet the naysayers continue to downplay our climate as being too warm for this cultivar. This is despite studies that have shown that many of our vineyards are situated in climate zones similar to Carneros. When grown in these vineyards and carefully produced, Livermore Chardonnay can be among the finest in the state. The results of this year’s Chronicle Competition bear this out.

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