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Wine competitions, at what cost?

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NorCal

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When I did my first wine from grapes in 2014, I set a goal of winning a gold medal at the state level; CA State Fair. They have 3,000+ wines entered and winning a gold is the top 10-15% of the wines. I entered my first year and received Silvers. It cost me $8, a bottle of wine and around an hours worth of driving. The entry fee has now gone up to $20 per bottle :ft

I make the wine first for my wife, then me, then family and friends, then fellow winemakers. Their feedback is more important than wine judges, but I'm not sure it is always honest, nor is it trained to evaluate fine wine making or detect faults in wine.

There are three wines I wanted to enter. I have plenty of wine, don't mind the drive, but the thought of spending $60 and 3 bottles of wine for a ribbon is making me think about abondoning my goal.

Actual clusters from the vineyard I source grapes from:

 
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Brickhouse

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I haven't entered anything like you mention, just because I'm brand new at this. However, although price has increased, I can see the fun in at least entering.

I'm not saying you need to have the "acceptance" of judges to appreciate your wine. But I can see how it adds some value to the process you go through making your wine.

Like you said, sometimes a completely outside opinion is nice to have, actual critical feedback rather than family and friends that soften the blow if it's less than desirable, and maybe hype it too much if it's good.

My 2 cents.
 

Boatboy24

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Their feedback is more important than wine judges, but I'm not sure it is always honest, nor is it trained to evaluate fine wine making or detect faults in wine.

I'm interested in feedback from non family and friends for the very same reasons you are. But the entry fees for many contests are simply unreasonable to me. Winmaker magazine's fees last year were $25/bottle. You can take that and stuff it in your bung hole! :)
 

kevinlfifer

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IMHO, all of us who enjoy, make and drink wine, know a decent wine when we taste it. I for one enjoy sharing the process with others. I really enjoy the competitions on the forum, (although I still think my Chardonnay in the "great white" comp deserved a silver, just sayin). I considered entry into the Lucas Co Ohio fair, but I don't think the judges know nearly as much as I do ( I know one from last year, he likes Yellow Tail). Again, $20 for a Fair membership (admission included) and $7 per btl entry.

I'm happy with the feed back from friends.

I often pour a glass from my homemade bottle at the country club without telling that it's my wine. When they ask the waitress if they can buy a bottle of what I poured, and the server says that they can't, I'm deviously satisfied.
 

ibglowin

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Unfortunately $10-20 is the going rate these days. This is one case where you don't necessarily get what you pay for. I entered 4 wines into the Winemaker Magazine competition last year ($25 a pop) and while all four medaled, I did not get any better notes than what I got from a much smaller competition that I paid $10 for. IOW, your lucky to get one or two sentences max that are mostly illegible leaving your wondering what really was wrong with the wine and why didn't it score higher.
 
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JohnT

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You could always limit to that single wine that you like best. This way it only costs $20.
 

jburtner

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@norcal Those clusters are beautiful ! And I can just imagine each one ending up in a bottle and then in my belly!

Maybe trading bottles between members or coordinating a winemakingtalk assessment with part of the thing would be some detailed notes.

I do enjoy opening several bottles of a particular varietal at once and making notes and comparing on the diff's - usually gravitate towards one in particular.

Cheers!
-johann
 

wineforfun

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For me, I have no desire to get some "judges" thoughts. I and those I give my wine too like it, so that is all that matters to me.

However, with that said, it would seem to me that you have achieved your goal, somewhat. Achieving silvers out of that many contestants is quite an achievement. It appears you obviously know how to make quality wine. I am sure by now you have learned what tweaks to make to enhance it even further. Other than "needing a medal" I am not sure I would be entering, if I was you. Now, if in the future you try a new varietal, "recipe", etc. that you want feedback on, then maybe enter.

And I agree with the others, those are some awesome looking grapes. (I think I got in trouble saying that to someone back in my youth).
 

BernardSmith

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Getting good and helpful feedback seems to me to far outweigh winning medals. Perhaps the solution is for members of this forum to help organize wine tasting events of our wines at which we would receive feedback - and perhaps accolades or virtual cabbages - on a regular basis.
 

salcoco

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I would suggest finding an amateur wine club in your area that runs competitions. We had to raise our prices fro $8 to $10 last year to cover all costs. There is still the risk that you may know as much as the judge. but at least it is a separate opinion.

There is always a benefit to have someone else judge your wine, continual tasting it yourself can lead down the path of "cellar mouth" where the wine is slowly deteriorating but you cannot detect the reduction. other people palates are good occasionally.
that is where a wine club helps, we have a happy hour before our meetings where we discuss wine problems and taste each others wines. Problems can be easily resolved in this forum.
 
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There may be a couple ways to look at it depending on your goals. If you ever have any interest of going professional, it may be nice to have the accolades from a marketing perspective. We kind of have a ten (maybe 15 year plan) to look at going commercial as we get towards retirement. I think if someone sees a gold medal label on a bottle of Marquette or Petite Pearl, they might be inclined to buy and pay a premium price for it.

I've run one of my labs a couple times in the BDC competition (Bird Dog Challenge). You have to spend quite a bit of money to be one of the top dogs just in entry fees, travel, etc. I quit because of that but saw that my dog could keep up with the big dogs. Much like you know your wine can compete with the professionals. There wasn't a lot of money to win in the competitions but where I can get up to $500 for a pup, those guys are getting $5000+. That piece of paper that says BDC Champ, AKC Master, or Gold Medal Award Winning Wine, can generate quite a bit of revenue on that vintage or just in name recognition. However, if you aren't looking to go professional, you know your wine is good and I know my dog can hunt, we don't need a piece of paper to tell us.
 

Tnuscan

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I really don't think it could get any better than being a wine judge. To be able to do this on a daily basis "would be a dream come true".
 

wineforfun

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I really don't think it could get any better than being a wine judge. To be able to do this on a daily basis "would be a dream come true".
I agree and if you want a Super Duper Gold Gold medal, have me try your wine toward the end of competition. I can guarantee it will taste great at that point. :)
 

NorCal

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Thanks for all the replies. One of the benefits of entering the CA State Fair is that they do send you all the scoring sheets from all the judges. With UCD nearby and with a lot of top notch wineries around here, I value the feedback....$24 yes, $60 worth is making me pause.

I do know a number of local commercial winemakers and have solicited their feedback. Most are pretty critical, which is good, (although, one in particular I would like to re-bottle one of his bottles and see what he has to say).
 

BernardSmith

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I would suggest finding an amateur wine club in your area that runs competitions. We had to raise our prices fro $8 to $10 last year to cover all costs. There is still the risk that you may know as much as the judge. but at least it is a separate opinion.

There is always a benefit to have someone else judge your wine, continual tasting it yourself can lead down the path of "cellar mouth" where the wine is slowly deteriorating but you cannot detect the reduction. other people palates are good occasionally.
that is where a wine club helps, we have a happy hour before our meetings where we discuss wine problems and taste each others wines. Problems can be easily resolved in this forum.
The problem is, though, there is not always wine clubs in the area. Near me there are at least two , perhaps three beer groups and while I am more than happy to share my wines and meads with them the members tend to be less interested in wines and and far more interested in beers. Trying to get a wine group started was something that even my LHBS said was a real challenge
 

Tnuscan

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The problem is, though, there is not always wine clubs in the area. Near me there are at least two , perhaps three beer groups and while I am more than happy to share my wines and meads with them the members tend to be less interested in wines and and far more interested in beers. Trying to get a wine group started was something that even my LHBS said was a real challenge
Same here!
 

Mismost

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I do know a number of local commercial winemakers and have solicited their feedback. Most are pretty critical, which is good, (although, one in particular I would like to re-bottle one of his bottles and see what he has to say).
Do it! THAT would be a real interesting experience....for the both of you. I would try to do a simple video to prove to him that he just judged his own wine.

I used to spend a lot of time in competitive shooting. While I love the pure competition...it is not subjective in anyway...you score what you hit....the costs just keep going up and up. Travel, meals, hotels, time...it is getting to where it just doesn't make sense. I can shoot 3 times as many non-competition targets for the same money and often have more fun doing it.

I confess....sometimes my hobbies wind up playing me instead of me playing with my hobbies....just saying.
 

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