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Best of the best from the San Francisco International Wine Competition

Saturday - 7/16/2011, 10:10am  ET

Scott Greenberg, special to

Lucky me! For the second straight year, I participated as a judge in the 30th annual San Francisco International Wine Competition in San Francisco, considered by many in the industry to be the largest, most influential international wine competition in America.

The contest is judged by multiple panels of judges and is done on a blind, consensual procedure, meaning that the three-judge panel tasting a particular set of varietals has to come to a consensus on each wine tasted. For a wine to be awarded a Double Gold, it had to receive a Gold score from all three judges.

This year, winemakers from 29 countries and 20 states submitted a total of 4,184 wines from 1,200 wineries.

There were a total of 158 Double Gold awards handed out, with many of the top wines available for less than $35. These medal recipients represent some of the best values available in their class. Here are a few of the top winners

Best In Show- These wines were the best of the best in their overall category

Best in Show Red Wine is the 2009 Lynmar Estate Winery Pinot Noir, Quail Hill Vineyard from the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma, California. This is the second year in a row that a pinot noir has taken top honors in the red wine category. It possesses aromas of black plum and boysenberry on the sweet nose. The flavors on the palate are fruit driven with notes of blackberry, blueberry and earthy spices. Hints of baked cherries provide a memorable note on the medium-bodied finish. ($60)

The Best in Show Dry White Wine this year belongs to the 2009 Türk Grüner Veltliner from Kremstal, Austria. With just a touch of sweetness, it is still considered a dry wine, featuring a concentrated palate of nectarine, melon and green apple. The wonderfully refreshing finish hits high notes with enough acidity to play off of the ripe tropical fruit flavors. ($20)

Double Gold Winners

Best Chardonnay: 2009 Fritz Winery Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California. The bouquet features buttered toast, nectarines and white peach aromas. Flavors of green apple, ripe peach and nectarine are kept in balance by the wonderful acidity. Hints of roasted almonds and toasty oak glide in on the lengthy finish. ($25)

Best Viognier: 2009 Robert Hall Winery Viognier, Paso Robles, California. Scents of honeysuckle, acacia and orange blossom dominate the bouquet and buttery flavors of citrus fruits, green apple and apricot explode on the creamy, rich textured palate. Nice touch of mineral notes on the finish provides depth and balance. ($20)

Best Zinfandel: 2008 Sobon Estate Fiddletown Zinfandel, Lubenko Vineyard, Plymouth, California. Notes of sweet plums and pepper dominate the nose while flavors of blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon and black pepper glide across the palate. The silky smooth tannins deliver a soft, fruit driven finish. ($22)

Best Shiraz: 2009 Zonte's Footstep Shiraz, Lake Doctor Vineyard, Langhorne Creek, Australia. This was definitely one of the best values of the competition, with classic aromas of black plums, cassis and licorice on the nose and flavors of black cherries, briery fruits and black pepper on the medium body palate. The wine finishes remarkably soft with smooth tannins that sustain the prolonged finish. ($16)

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