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Judges Select Top Wines for SA Wine Festival in Feb.

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Old hands and new recruits swirled wine glasses and huddled over judging sheets as they scored more than 400 wines at KLRN Public Television’s 2012 San Antonio Wine Competition Saturday.

Wine judge Barbara Jackson evaluates wines in a flight.

By late afternoon it was over, and the television station’s annual fundraiser, which will happen in mid-February, had its slate of bronze, silver and gold-medal-winning wines. These, as well as the overall best red wine and white will be poured at the events.

KLRN event organizer John Costello gave teams their orders, and judges were at their seats in curtained-off areas by 9 a.m. at the La Quinta Horizon Hills. Carts full of tinkling wine glasses were trundled into the room, and breakfast time or not, we set to the task of tasting wine.

If anyone gives you the old “it’s hard work but somebody has to do it” line about wine judging, take it literally. It’s not the picking up and putting down of the glass that’s hard, or even settling with several other people on a judging team upon scores. It’s the noses and palates that take the beating. Attention spans begin to flag after the fifth or sixth flight of wines, each from 6 glasses to a full tray of 12

The alcohol most of us try to not swallow (honest) still manages to seep into the bloodstream and by 2 p.m., more than one person has quietly mentioned the word “nap.”

To say judges don’t drink on the job is not entirely true.  On my team, judges Debbie Penny and David Mollenauer and I set aside a glass or two of a favorite red wine from one of our trays to have with lunch.  One of these ended up being not only our favorite red wine but the wine chosen as top red wine by the final judges.

Wine judge Carol Wong examines the color and clarity of a red wine during the KLRN Wine Competition Saturday.

Another wine, this a white dessert wine, also went to the finals, though it didn’t take the top prize. This was an unusual dessert wine made in Canada called Niege, an ice wine. The flavors were butter, caramelized sugar and apple; the color was a rich gold and the texture was heavy and satiny on the tongue. As it turned out, Niege is made from apples – and was one of best, non-grape wines we’ve  tasted at the competition.

These winning wines, and more, will be poured during the festival events next month.

The San Antonio Wine Festival will be Feb. 12 with the 35th Annual Fine Wine & Cuisine Tasting beginning at 6 p.m. in the Alamodome. The Wine Opener is Feb. 17, at 7:30 p.m. and the Champagne Brunch is February 19, beginning at 11 a.m. These events both are at the St. Anthony Riverwalk Wyndham Hotel. For more information and tickets, go to

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