The column, all 1456 words of it (that's like 2 columns for the price of one!), is philosophical hand-wringing about the meaning of medals. I didn't have space to address the most interesting trend in wines I tasted:
California Chardonnay is completely different now: it's all about citrus fruit
Remember when California Chardonnay meant oaky, buttery wines that tasted of tropical fruit? There has been a backlash against that style for a few years, but it seemed like a stream of artisanal wines against a tidal wave of highly rated goo.
Well, the tide has turned. Mainstream California Chardonnay now is lean, with citrus fruit flavors, not butter and toast.
I know this because I tasted dozens of California Chardonnays, many of them submitted by California's largest wine companies: Constellation, Gallo, The Wine Group.
These companies are not trying to change minds -- they're trying to move cases. They're making Chardonnay in the way they expect it to sell.
In 2007, when Charles Shaw embarrassed the competition by taking best of class Chardonnay, judge Michael Williams told ABC News: "The characteristics that we look for in our gold medal winner … a nice creamy butter, fruity."
In 2013, "nice creamy butter" was out, and not only with judges. This year's Chardonnays were lean. Light. Citrusy. And not just those companies' wines: almost every Chardonnay we tasted fit this new profile. Overt oak flavors were rare; butter even rarer.
Now, I'm not saying these Chardonnays were great. Read the Palate Press piece: I was not generous to them, though they were significantly better than our 31 Zinfandels. Whereas five years ago a group of Chardonnays at this competition might have been overbearing, this month they were mostly inoffensive.
This doesn't mean the "cougar juice" style, heavy on the butter, vanilla and pineapple, is going away. Nor does it mean that Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate won't continue to give that style the highest ratings. There's so much California Chardonnay sold -- 20% of all wines in the state -- that more than one style can be successful.
I'm also not saying this is the end of evolution, or that this is the way Chardonnay should be. I'm not editorializing today about this development in California Chardonnay: I'm merely documenting it.