When I was a kid I avoided competitive sports of all kinds. Mostly because I was the scrawny nerd that never got picked for kickball. Emotionally scarred for years, I took up fly-fishing and rock climbing. The most competitive I ever got was a pick-up game of table tennis or ultimate Frisbee.
I finally got coordinated and put on a little weight in college, but by that time it was too late. I’d completely lost the desire to compete in any sort of sport, though I was building a gradual instinct for intellectual and business competition.
These days, however, I’m tickled with the idea of stepping into the ring, so to speak, and competing just for the fun of it. My sport of choice? Wine tasting.
I have to admit, up until two or three years ago, I had no idea that you could do this competitively. But imagine my surprise when I learned that for more than 20 years, California had been holding a wine tasting competition.
Started in 1982 by a guy named Alan Greene as a way to encourage folks to visit Anderson valley, the California Wine Tasting Championship is in its 25th year, and going strong. Individuals and teams of doubles compete by blind tasting eight wines at a time over several rounds, starting out with multiple choice options for identifying the varietal, and then moving on to much tougher requirements to guess the varietal, vintage, region, or even producer, completely unaided.
I have no illusions about my abilities to compete in this sport. I’m not sure if I’d even make it past the first round. But it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun, to me.
Sadly, I’m not going to be able to compete or observe this year, but I definitely am planning on going next year, and if you have the time (and a tolerance for heat), you should head up to the Anderson Valley in a couple of weeks to check it out. Especially because it’s free to watch, and only $35 to compete as an individual.
25th Annual California Wine Tasting Championships
July 28th (Singles) and July 29th (Doubles) – 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Greenwood Ridge Vineyards
24555 Philo-Greenwood Road
Philo, CA 95466
Attendance for spectators is free of charge. Entry fees are $35 for individuals and $60 for a doubles team. Entry forms are available online. Each day kicks off at 11:00 AM.
Those interested in attending both days would do well to book lodging immediately.
If you are headed up, remember that it can get extremely hot up there in Anderson Valley during the summer, so dress accordingly and drink lots of water.