You be the (wine) judge at the 2011
Consumer Wine Awards

March 21st, 2011 12:45 pm PT

Denise Gage Elk Grove Wine Examiner

Saturday March 19 was a grey blustery day in Lodi, California. A swarm of volunteers arrived at
Hutchins Street Square around seven a.m. and began the set-up for a full day of un-corking and
pouring and recording and glass washing. Around 8:30, the evaluators began to stream in, ready
to face the daunting task of sipping, spitting , and evaluating about seven hundred different wines.
Welcome to the 2011 Consumer Wine Awards! With the guidance of G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowksi and
Tim "The Swami of Umami" Hanni, two shifts of sixty consumer evaluators sat down at their
'work station' and tasted thirty-five to forty-five wines each, and rated them on a scale of 0
(Total Suckocity!) to 7 (I'm leaving right now to go find this wine!).

Who were these evaluators? They are a cross section of American wine consumers. Their wine
knowledge spans the range of wine rookies to wine geeks, but they all enjoy the end result of
fermented grape juice (and, occasionally, other fruits, too). They came from all over California,
and one even traveled all the way from Indiana to participate! They were chosen by taking the
Wine Preference Survey and agreeing to be considered as an evaluator for the wine awards.
The survey consists of a series of questions about taste preferences and categorizes you as
one of four "tasters" - sweet, sensitve, hyper-sensitive, or tolerant. From here, evaluators were
chosen, their preferences noted, and assigned to taste and rate a sereis of wines.

How do they taste so many wines? No swallowing! There's no trick to evalauting a multitude of
wines in a short period. It is possible to accurately gauge the aromas, flavors, and finish without
swallowing. In between each glass, after sipping, swishing and spitting, the evaluators were
encouraged to take a sip and swish of 'bug juice,' a mixture of water, salt, ascorbic acid and
glycol, followed by a swig of water, to cleanse the palate. A period of three to four minutes
passed between each sample, also, to allow the palate ample recovery time.

Where did the wines come from? All over! A large percentage were from California, some were
new labels, some were in cans (yes! In cans!), some were in boxes, some came from South America
and Australia, and nothing went un-opened! The usual varietals were there - chardonnay, pinot grigio,
zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The lesser kown grapes were well represented -
tempranillo, malbec, petite sirah, primitivo. Blends were tasted, some listing the varietals used and
others listed merely as generic blends. Interestingly enough, price ranges for these evaluated wines
were listed, as an experiment to see if wines were evaluated based on taste, price, or a combination
of the two. Nobody knew whose wines they were sampling, only the varietal and price range.

So who won? That question gets answered at the awards ceremony, taking place in May at Hutchins
Street Square. Two dates, the sixth and the fourteenth have been mentioned. Keep an eye here to
find out exactly when, as well as ticket details. The event will feature the award winning wines, many
of which will be poured by the wineries themselves, and tickets are $25.00 each.