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By Donn Rutkoff

Man About Wine

July 28, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--At the just-concluded San Diego County Fair, the homemade wine competition as usual was crowded with entries.  East County and North County entrants scored 44 gold medal wines, while those from zip codes inside the city scored about 15 more.  From the East and North County, here are the golds, with some familiar names to those of you who have been in the wine world or are now licensed wineries  Stay tuned for an interview soon with quadruple-gold winner Luis Mayor, he placed 11 medal winners.

David Didier 2 golds; Erick Lundy 2 golds; the hard charging Luis Mayor 4 golds (11 wines placing gold, silver, or bronze); Ric Bonnoront 1 gold, a Best of Division Syrah; James Ney a gold; Gary Dorrance a gold; Tracey Ferguson a gold; Pete Anderson of Carlsbad and well known to many winemakers anywhere in the county 3 golds; Denis Hansen a gold; Marget Lane a gold; John and Bonnie Manion of Encinitas 2 golds; Lance Gillet a gold; Brian Riley a gold and the coveted Lum Eisenman award; Erik Zedelmayer a gold; Tom Haase 2 golds; Paul Varesio a gold; Karen Grangetto a gold; Ronald Bas a gold; Bret Bookhamer 2 golds; Marylee Kopesky a gold; Saana Aldridge a gold; Becky Johnson a gold; Martin Todd a gold; Inna Saccoman a gold; David Penic 2 golds; Doug Hopkins a gold; Sam & Larry Montini a gold and Best of Division for Bordeaux reds; William Guevara a gold.

And the winner overall for the whole category of home winemaking, with 5 golds, and winemaker of the year, Eric Brooking of Vista with 5 dessert wines all winning gold medals.

WineMaker magazine also just concluded its annual international amateur wine tasting.  They tasted over 3,100 wines, from all 50 states, 6 Canadian provinces, and 5 other countries.  The Grand Champion was an orange blossom honey wine from Battle Creek Michigan.  But only 1 Best of Show went to a California entry, the Sacramento Home Winemakers club.  I didn't see any local or SOCAL golds.  If you entered and won a silver or bronze let me know.

Entering these competitions is a good way to evaluate your efforts.  And if you are skeptical about the large percentage of wines that win awards, it means there are a lot of good wines.  This is a great time to be a wine consumer. Quality is high across the board and you don't have to worry about buying a poorly made wine.

Stay tuned for more wine news from your new man on the wine beat, Donn Rutkoff. Contact me via East County Magazine, directly at, or tag me on Facebook.

Donn Rutkoff  has been a wine steward at Vons since 2008 and attended wine school four years at Napa Valley College after earning an MBA at San Francisco State University.  He is also an instructor at Cuyamaca College.


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Gold Medal

Well.... I scored a WineMaker gold this year with my 2013 Viognier. Grapes that I picked at a vineyard in the area of Warner Springs. I live out West in University City and commute to El Cajon to work every day. Have been making wine seriously for a couple years and this year was a good one. Third place at the SD Fair in the Syrah and Viognier categories. The Syrah grapes were from a vineyard in Jamul (2012). The two Syrahs that I entered were gold medal, the Viognier was silver. Hope that the recent vintages do as well!! Cheers- Fred B.