Jim McMahon

I left my heart in San Francisco … or was that my palate? Recently I judged for the ninth time at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, America’s largest wine show. This was its 35th year, with a global array of winners. There were 26 countries entered and 29 states of America, a total of 4902 entries.

I was one of four international judges (out of 50) the other three were from New Zealand and Germany. We each imbibed our way through 430-plus wines including the “Sweeps Taste-Off” — the best wines in various categories.

While cabernet sauvignon was the largest category with 544 entries it was pinot noir that won 32 double golds (more than any other category), 20 of which were from the 2013 vintage. It was also the fourth year in a row that a riesling won Best in Show White.

The medal count for 2015 included 254 double golds, a distinction given when a wine unanimously wins a gold medal by all the judges evaluating it. There were 538 gold medals awarded, 1742 silver and 1568 bronze.

Australia did very well in this competition as it always appears to do, winning 17 double gold, 59 gold, 125 silver and 114 bronze medals. Wolf Blass Wines in South Australia was awarded Tasting Panel Magazine Winery of the Year.

All the wines offered in the line-up below come from the wine regions of Cowra, Orange and the Riverina of NSW.

First up is the 2014 Windowrie The Mill Chardonnay — The O’Dea family established its vineyards and winery in Canowindra, 30km north of Cowra in 1988. Chardonnay is the kingpin for the O’Deas. The colour is pale straw with a green tinge around the rim. The nose offers apricots, lemon and limes. The palate is awash with an array of fruit salad flavours with minimal oak evident. The pristine fruit flavours are backed up by refreshingly crisp acidity with a generous mouth-feel. A dry wine with all components coming together (rrp $18).

Orange-based winemaker Gerald Naef packs a punch with all of his wines regardless of grape variety. He also likes to show older vintages and see how they evolve over the years. His 2011 Patina Little Wood Chardonnay is one of those wines. Straw yellow in colour, the banana, cucumber and green apple flavours come to the fore. The palate is showing nectarine and mango together with hints of honey and nutty vanilla flavours. The wine has individual character, depth of fruit and balanced acidity, allowing the fruit to shine (rrp $25).

The 2010 Nugan Estate Frasca’s Lane Sangiovese comes from the Riverina District of NSW and is an older vintage that demonstrates the hallmarks of how a few years of ageing shows different flavours and complexities in wines. The colour is deep crimson with a fading pink hue. The nose is rich and complex with chocolatey and sour cherry notes. The palate is as smooth as silk with intense sour cherry, blackberries, prune and spicy notes. The oak, like the tannins, are nicely interwoven into the wine and the finish is long and voluptuous (rrp $23).

Steve and Rhonda Doyle are industry stalwarts in the NSW wine industry and pioneers of the industry in Orange, establishing their property in 1983. Here I offer you their 2014 Bloodwood Estate Cabernet Franc — deep purple with a youthful pink rim, the nose offers a myriad of dark fruit flavours and vanillin flavours from the French oak.

The palate shows depth, richness and complexity with red and black fruits coming to the fore. The palate has weight and structure, firm tannins and displays a long, dry finish with lingering fruit (rrp $30).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.