HOW WE CHOSE
To uncover the best wines, most influential winemakers, important evolving regions, and widely appealing places to taste this year, we asked a panel of the West's most respected wine writers, teachers, and other wine professionals ― many of them Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine ( see our list of judges below) ― to nominate candidates they thought were potential winners in each award category.
For all categories except the wines themselves, we compiled the nominations on an official ballot and asked the judges to rank their first three choices. Surprisingly, there were no ties; first place for each award was close but clear.
For the wine categories, we invited the wineries to submit the bottles nominated (almost 220!) for a blind tasting here at our headquarters in Menlo Park. Most were happy to participate (many thanks to the wineries), making our lineup a virtual Western wine hall of fame.
The judges who could make it here for the tasting divided into teams, spread out across the categories (the wines were organized by price range), and rated the wines on a 20-point scale.
The only thing they knew about each wine was the varietal and price range.
Our Good Value ($15 to $30), Special Occasion ($30 to $50), Deep Pocket (over $50), and overall Wine of the Year (highest-scoring red and white regardless of price) winners are based on their composite scores. For our Steals of the Year ($15 and under), the professional judges narrowed the field to three whites and three reds. We poured those six for all the participants in the Sunset Wine Club tasting seminars at our Celebration Weekend in May, and they rated the wines. Their top-scoring white and red are our People's Choice Awards.
Bob Bath, MS: Co-owner, Robert Bath Imports and the RLB Wine Group, St. Helena, CA
Joel Butler, MW: Director of wine education, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Woodinville, WA
Marion Cassin: Owner, Cassin Consulting, Santa Rosa, CA
Rebecca Chapa: Wine educator for Tannin Management, San Francisco
Evan Goldstein, MS: VP of Global Brand Education, Beam Wine Estates, Healdsburg, CA
Peter Granoff, MS: Partner, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco
Paul Gregutt: Wine columnist, Seattle Times; contributing editor, Wine Enthusiast Magazine; author, Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide, Seattle
Reuben Katz: Senior director, Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, St. Helena, CA
Karen MacNeil: Chairman of the Wine Studies Program at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone, St. Helena, CA; author, The Wine Bible; television host of the Emmy Award-winning Wine, Food and Friends, St. Helena, CA
Peter Marks, MW: Senior director of wine and food, Copia, Napa, CA
Elaine Marshall, CWP (Certified Wine Professional): Wine-selection panel member, Sunset Wine Club, Diablo, CA
Linda Murphy: West Coast correspondent, Decanter magazine; U.S. correspondent, www.jancisrobinson.com, Healdsburg, CA
Ben Narasin: Wine and food writer, Atherton, CA
Burke Owens: Director of marketing and communications, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz, CA
Andrea Robinson, MS: Wine writer and television host, Napa, CA
Lisa Rongren: Sommelier, The Herbfarm, Woodinville, WA
Leslie Sbrocco: Author, Wine for Women and The Simple & Savvy Wine Guide; wine columnist, San Francisco Chronicle, Epicurious.com, and Wine Review Online; host, Check, Please!, Petaluma, CA
Sara Schneider: Wine editor, Sunset, Menlo Park, CA
Debbie Zachareas: Partner and owner, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco