Results of the 2013 California State Fair Wine Competition were released and, as usual, there were a few surprises. With more than 2,600 wines entered and 1,847 medals awarded, I like to sift through the winners and find good deals. I usually focus on the wines that win Best of Class, double gold or gold medals. What caught my attention this year was that the Best of Class barbera came from Mendota, in Fresno County. The 2010 District 13 Fattoria Cardella L’aquedotto Vineyard, California, won a gold medal (94 points) and was selected best barbera in the state. Cheers to San Joaquin Valley grapes!
Carlo Cardella immigrated from Marlia, Italy, in 1902 and settled in Firebaugh. He started with a small market that evolved into the Cardella Ranch, growing tomatoes, onions, almonds and wine grapes. Fourth-generation Nathan Cardella, after graduating from Fresno State in enology, founded the winery in 2004 along with his dad, Rod. Using stones from the nearby coastal hills, they have built an amazing Tuscan farmhouse or “fattoria,” beautifully landscaped grounds and a small but efficient winery.
Cardella Winery farms about 500 acres of wine grapes and is able to “cherry pick” the best grapes for their wines. The production is small, about 2,500 cases, but they produce six red, three white and a rosato (rose) wine. In addition to the Best of Class barbera, themoscato (90 points), the ruby cabernet (89 points) and the merlot (89 points) all garnered silver medals. Bronze medals went to the syrah, sangiovese and un-oaked chardonnay. Not too bad for a small winery on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The wines are an excellent value, most priced in the $15 to $17 range. They are available at Costco, and at the Merced and Los Banos Save Marts. Tasting is by appointment only. For more information and for beautiful pictures of the Fattoria Cardella, go to www.cardellawinery.com.
The Best of Show White Wine was the Double Gold (98 points) Korbel Blanc de Noirs MethodeChampenoise, a sparkling wine you can find for under $12. The Best Value Wine was the Double Gold Barefoot NV Moscato, a wine readily available for under $7. If you’re a Riesling fan, the Best of Class award went to the Double Gold (98 points) 2012 California Wine Cube, a box wine sold by Target for $16.99 (equal to four bottles). Another good value is the Gold 2011 Coppola Rosso (94 points), the best red generic blend. It lists for $11 but normally is sale priced under $9. If you are interested in finding more good deals go to www.sacbee.com for the complete data bank. Looking for a reasonably priced pinot noir, I requested the site send me the Double Gold pinot noir winners’ list. The Best of Class went to the 2011 Rodney Strong Sonoma County (98 points, $25). For me, that’s a bit steep for a daily pinot but the judges also awarded Double Gold to the 2011 California Masked Rider (96 points, $9.99), the NV California Naked Grape (95 points, $7.99) and the NV California Barefoot (96 points, $6.99). I’ll definitely put those on my list to try. Cheers!