Professor Picks: Harvest Fair Gold Medal Wines Less than $16

I love October in Sonoma County, because it means the Harvest Fair is here!  I’ve attended every year for the past 10 years to taste the top scoring wines.  In addition, I enjoy checking out the monster-size pumpkins, the decorated cakes, visiting all of the sheep, goats, cows, horses, and pig pens, listening to the music, and always catching the Grape Stomp before I leave.

Afterwards, I head to some of my favorite wine stores in Sonoma County, because they have great deals on the Harvest Fair medal winning wines.  The two stores I always hit are Bottle Barn and Olivers, because they have some of the best prices and great displays.  My strategy is to purchase a bottle of every Best of Class and Gold Medal wine under $16.  I then invite friends over for a BBQ and we try them out.  Each year I find a favorite wine and end up going back to buy a case or more.

This year’s best gold medal wine, in my humble opinion, for under $16 was the 2006 Leveroni Merlot from Sonoma Valley.  It is a plush mouthful of ripe blackberries and plums with velvety tannins, good acid, and a very long pleasing finish.  It tastes like a $60 merlot for only around $12 at our local stores.  I’d encourage you to give it a try.  As a former merlot drinker who succumbed to the seduction of pinot noir, this merlot has tempted me back to the roost.

Following is a table of the 14 wines below $16 that were either Best of Class or Gold medal winners.

Best of Class Kenwood Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris Sonoma County $14.00
Best of Class Leveroni Vineyards 2006 Merlot Sonoma Valley $16.00
Best of Class Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery 2008 Chardonnay Sonoma County $12.99
Best of Class Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery 2009 Unoaked Chardonnay Russian River Valley $14.99
Best of Class Trecini 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley $14.99
Gold Healdsburg Ranches Winery 2009 Chardonnay Russian River Valley $15.00
Gold Huntington 2008 Chardonnay Sonoma County $15.00
Gold Kenwood Vineyards 2007 Zinfandel Sonoma County $16.00
Gold Kenwood Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Sonoma County $14.00
Gold Long Gamma Cellars 2007 Red Wine Sonoma County $12.00
Gold Pedroncelli Winery 2007 Syrah Alexander Valley $14.00
Gold Pedroncelli Winery 2009 Chardonnay Dry Creek Valley $12.00
Gold River Road Vyds & Winery 2009 Pinot Meunier Russian River Valley $16.00
Gold Valley Of The Moon Winery 2009 Pinot Blanc Sonoma County $15.00
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