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Agate Ridge, Abacela claim Best of Show

Agate Ridge and Abacela wineries took top honors at this year's World of Wine, a multiday competition attracting more than 200 wines made exclusively from grapes grown in Southern Oregon.

Best of Show medals went to Agate Ridge Vineyard’s 2011 Malbec, made by Brian Denner in Eagle Point, and Abacela’s 2013 Albariño and 2013 Grenache Rosé, both made by Andrew Wenzl in Roseburg.

Double Gold Medals — wines receiving unanimous gold medal scores from all three judges — were awarded to Abacela's 2013 Albariño and Agate Ridge's 2011 Malbec.

Three nationally recognized judges, Dilek Caner, Amy Christine and Mike Dunne, awarded the medals at the festival’s Friday dinner at Bigham Knoll in Jacksonville.

Caner and Christine hold the prestigious Master of Wine certification granted after a rigorous three-year program of study, mentoring and testing by the Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. The title is held by only 312 people worldwide, with 34 of those from the United States.

Dunne is a wine columnist with the Sacramento Bee newspaper. He has been a wine judge for at least 15 regional and national competitions, including the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The World of Wine competition is a blind tasting. The judges knew only the type of wine at each tasting — varietals or blends — but not the winery, winemaker, vintage or price of the entry.

Nine wines received a Gold Medal, with three wineries earning two Gold Medals each. Brandborg Vineyard & Winery, in Elkton, and owner/winemaker Terry Brandborg won Gold for their 2012 Ferris Wheel Estate Pinot Noir and their 2013 Gewürztraminer. Foris, in Cave Junction, and winemaker Bryan Wilson won for their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and their 2012 Maple Ranch Pinot Noir. Pebblestone Cellars, in Phoenix, where Wilson also makes the wine, took Gold for its 2013 Pinot Gris and 2010 Cabernet Franc.

Cliff Creek Cellars' 2008 Claret, made by Joe Dobbes in Gold Hill, Season Cellars' 2013 Viognier, made by Scott Henry IV in Winston, and Weisinger Family Winery’s 2011 Tempranillo, made by Eric Weisinger in Ashland, were the other Gold Medal winners.

Silver Medals went to 40 other wines from 27 wineries.

Until this competition, the judges were unfamiliar with Southern Oregon wines. The three judges felt that, overall, this competition presented better wines than most of the other competitions they had judged.

“The wines here fall onto a bell curve,” said Caner. “There are only a few at the low end and a few at the high end, but most of the wines we’ve tasted are very good and some are outstanding.”

“All are approachable, drinkable wines,” added Christine.

Dunne pointed out that since the judges did not know the prices of the wines they tasted, quality-versus-value did not influence their opinion.

“We might have been more impressed with a wine if we knew it sold at a lower price point,” said Dunne.

The judges agreed that, in general, they found Southern Oregon wines exhibited a lack of acidity. They thought the reds were too heavy on the oak and the whites had too much residual sugar. Caner and Christine specifically marked down some of the local pinot noirs for too much oak, lack of acidity and high alcohol.

Caner, who lives in Dallas, Texas, is originally from Istanbul, Turkey. After working as a sommelier in two notable New York restaurants —Restaurant Bruno Jamais and Restaurant Alain Ducasse — she was Tastings Director and Associate Editor at Wine & Spirits Magazine and taught at the American Sommelier Association and the Institute of Culinary Education. She is the only Master of Wine holder in Texas.

Christine, who received her Master of Wine certification in 2013, works for Kermit Lynch Wine Broker, a well-known San Francisco Bay Area Burgundy and Bordeaux importer. She also owns the artisanal Black Sheep Finds Winery and founded the Wine Ring, an online site that determines a wine lover’s preferences to make label recommendations.

Dunne, from Sacramento, grew up in the Willamette Valley “in the days before it was known for pinot noir.” In addition to his Sacramento Bee column, he has a blog, “A Year in Wine,” at www.sacbee.com.

To see the complete list of World of Wine winners, visit http://worldofwinefestival.com.

Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.