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Healdsburg wines win big

  • Wines featured at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair Awards dinner are sampled before the show in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Wineries based in Healdsburg, the hub of three wine appellations, snagged two of the three top awards Saturday in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition, securing spots at the tops of many wine lovers' shopping lists.

Rodney Strong Vineyards won the sweepstakes white for its 2011 Russian River Valley Reserve Chardonnay at $35, while Estate 1856 won the sweepstakes red for its 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Bordeaux Blend at $36.

As for the sweepstakes for specialty wine, the winner was Santa Rosa's Breathless Wines for its NV Sonoma County Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine at $30.

2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Awards

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The winners were announced Saturday night at a dinner dedicated to recognizing the Sonoma County wine industry and its best wines.

About 600 people attended the awards dinner at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds' Grace Pavilion. The pavilion never looked so sleek, taking on the look and feel of a highbrow restaurant with music and candles.

"They've got this thing all decked out," said Dr. Richard Ringrose of Rohnert Park. "It looks fantastic," he said, adding he particularly enjoyed the crab legs poached in butter with an avocado mousse.

The celebration was the culmination of several days of a wine competition. A panel of 20 judges sampled 974 competing wines from Wednesday to Friday and handed out a total of 877 medals.

Saturday's top performers can expect a significant sales bump, if history is any guide.

"This competition has enormous clout in the region," said Ron Washam, a panelist and former sommelier in Los Angeles. "The contest is focused on one particular region, the quality of the judges is very high and the quality of the wine is very high, so it ends up being very valuable for consumers."

The three sweepstakes winners were included among the 39 Best of Class awards. Additionally, there were 51 double gold, 174 gold, 418 silver and 234 bronze awards.

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