Do you recall the first ultra-premium bottle of wine you purchased? My recollection is crystal clear—a 1989 Opus One. The woman ahead of me at the retail shop paid $25 for a case of value-priced wine. When my single bottle rang up at nearly $84, she asked, ”Where’s the rest of your case?” It’s fitting I bumped into another woman in line. Reportedly, women purchase 80 percent of wines consumed in America, which is what makes the Women’s International Wine Competition so relevant: it’s judged by women wine professionals for women wine buyers.

Each year, the competition bestows Woman Winemaker of the Year honors on a deserving entrant. This year there was a tie between Aimée Sunseri from New Clairvaux Vineyards (Vina, Calif.) and Nichelini Family Vineyards (Napa Valley, Calif.), and Melanie Natoli from Cana Vineyards and Winery (Middleburg, Va.); Diane Wilson of Wilson Winery in Healdsburg, Calif., claimed the runner-up spot. Congratulations to these talented female winemakers!

Among the 1,067 entries in this year’s competition, 58 excelled with Best of Class awards, 39 earned an impressive Double Gold medal, and 137 shined brightly with a Gold medal. For further details about all the 2017 award winners, visit Here are some of the wines receiving top medals at this year’s competition:



Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2009 Royal Cuvee Brut; Carneros, Calif.: This classic sparkling wine is simply gorgeous! Up front, its yeasty, minerally fragrance is commanding. A frothy mousse and striking trail of tiny bubbles transports multilayers of crisp apples, warm-from-the-oven baked bread, strawberries, honeysuckle, hazelnuts, and a drop of honey. Chalky and well-defined with a creamy mouthfeel, and long-lasting finish; complex and ageworthy. Double Gold (GG)/Best of Class (BOC)/Best of Show Sparkling Wine


White Wines

Clif Family Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc; Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, Calif.: Brightly hued, exquisitely perfumed, and fresh as an ocean breeze, you’ll want to dive right in and savor this extraordinary Sauv Blanc. Layers of pineapple gelato, delicate grassiness, traces of guava, and lemon meringue pie entwine with riveting acidity. Time spent in 75 percent neutral French oak barrels and 25 percent stainless steel barrels gives it a pretty roundness while remaining remarkably vibrant. GG/BOC/Best of Show White

Beauregard Vineyards 2015 Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay; Ben Lomond Mountain, Calif.: Enchanting tree fruit aromas will start your happy hour with a smile. Gliding smoothly across the palate of this complex wine are focused tiers of crisp pear, sea salt, lemon zest, green apple, minerality, and baking spice that harmonize with precisely managed oak. This Burgundian style Chard is superbly balanced and silky in texture with a long, zesty finish. GG/BOC

Priam Vineyards 2016 Cellar Select Riesling; Connecticut: Orchard fruit aromas stimulate the appetite and make way for a broad profile of flavors on the bright, mouthwatering palate. Succulent white peaches, sweet oranges, subtle minerality, hints of apple cider, and spice-scented berry tisane are transported by racy acidity and leave you reaching for more. GG/BOC

Chehalem Winery 2014 Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Ore.: From vineyards achieving LIVE certification for sustainable farming practices comes this fragrant and spirited Chardonnay. Old world earthiness and minerality blend harmoniously with new world bright fruit characteristics, and the balance is spot on. River rock nuances join notes of dry earth, Granny Smith apples, spiced pears, lemon zest, and melt-in-your-mouth butter cookies—yum! Gold

Miner Family Vineyards 2016 Viognier; California: Wow, an exuberant Viognier with aromas of sweet-smelling tropical fruit and honeysuckle lifting from the glass. Layered, nicely weighted, and smoothly textured, with flavors of juicy peaches, warm apricot pie, vanilla bean, and a dollop of citrus-scented whipped cream unfolding vibrantly across the palate. The graceful aftertaste is bright and satisfying. Gold/BOC

Airlie Winery 2016 Pinot Blanc; Willamette Valley, Ore.: Citrus blossom and sweet apples on the nose put you in a happy-go-lucky mood with this energetic Pinot Blanc. Flavors of cinnamon-dotted homemade applesauce, creamy pears, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice enliven the palate, and the wine remains full of life through its juicy finish. Gold/BOC

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards NV Southern White; Florida: Enticing the nose are aromas of sun-ripened fruits and a fresh bouquet of Easter lilies. This well balanced, sweet (6.6 percent RS)  sipper, crafted of Carlos (a Muscadine cultivar), is chock full of ripe pineapple slices, creamy lemon custard, a suggestion of minerality, and a pinch of herbs. Finishes with a playful kick of candied orange peel. Gold



Nichelini Family Winery 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé; Chiles Valley District, Napa Valley, Calif.: The expressive aromas of wild berries and stone fruit are eye-opening. Vivid flavors of ripe nectarines, raspberries, strawberries and black cherries interlace with crushed mint leaves and wet stone minerality to electrify the palate. The memorable finish is persistent, and ever so bright. GG/BOC/Best of Show Rosé


Red Wines

Benziger Family Winery 2014 Tribute; Sonoma Valley, Calif.: Deep and rich, this luxurious Bordeaux blend, composed of 68 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Merlot, 8 percent Cab Franc, 6 percent Malbec, and 5 percent Petit Verdot, boasts a tempting aroma and plush mouthfeel. Blackberry, plum tart, and black currant flavors join savory spice, black licorice, and hints of lead pencil, interlacing with a bit of mocha and well-placed oak nuances. Approachable now, with generous fruit and bracing acidity wrapped around polished tannins. The long aftertaste is dreamy and unforgettable. Gold/BOC/Best of Show Red/Best of Show

Summerland Winery 2013 Theresa-Noelle Vineyard Pinot Noir; Sta. Rita Hills, Calif.: Beautifully aromatic, this sophisticated wine shows off fragrant flowers and berries. In the mouth, it’s focused and sleek, displaying a satin-like texture and complex flavors of raspberry, cranberry, sarsaparilla, wild cherry, dried herbs, and exotic tea spice framed by fine-grained tannins. Elegant, with a hint of toast providing a perfect finishing touch. GG/BOC

Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Zinfandel; Napa Valley, Calif.: Jammy, juicy, and luxurious with aromas and flavors of concentrated fruit and baking spices. Boysenberry, fresh cracked black pepper, red plum, cinnamon, and nutmeg accents coat the palate, while a zingy level of acidity keeps the rich fruit exactly balanced. Finishes with a smidgeon of creamy caramel. Gold/BOC

Triple Oak Vineyard 2015 Estate Grown Tempranillo; Umpqua Valley, Ore.: This deeply hued Tempranillo opens with plum jam and floral notes rising from the glass. Concentrated plums, dried currants, savory spice box, Mission figs, soft herbal notes, and understated oak (aged one year in French oak barrels) create a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate. Nicely balanced with a fresh finish. Gold

Berryessa Gap Vineyards 2015 Estate Grown Petite Sirah; Yolo County, Calif.: Powerful and feisty, this full-blooded Petite Sirah demands attention. A bold and dramatic nose leads to Black Beauty plums, fresh ground pepper, olallieberries, roasted coffee bean, and hints of dark chocolate engaging the palate. Balanced and intensely structured, with a solid backbone of tannins and an aftertaste that never ends. GG/BOC

deLorimier Winery 2014 River Lane Vineyard Primitivo; Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, Calif.: This classy, floral-scented Primitivo is juicy and dense with great depth of blackberry, blueberry, and black cherry fruit. The jammy character is complemented by appealing earthiness, cedar, and a healthy twist of fresh black peppercorns. Pure and focused, its acids, fruit, and tannins tip the scale in perfect balance on the way to its luscious finish. G/BOC

PeaceLand Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc; Fountaingrove District, Sonoma County, Calif.: Cab Franc lovers, don’t miss this beauty. A gem, broadcasting deliciousness from the initial compelling aroma of black fruits. Black cherries, loganberries, black raspberries, and savory spice take center stage, with understated capsicum, graphite, and carefully integrated oak in the background. Well balanced, with lovely spice carrying beyond the final sip. Gold/BOC



Cana Vineyards and Winery NV Sweet Vermouth; Virginia: Composed of Vidal Blanc with apple brandy, this sassy sweet and savory libation is a fragrant, delectable sipper on its own, and a terrific component for a lively cocktail. Layers of spiced apples, salted toffee, delightful herbs, and crème brûlée topping generate a potpourri of flavors that invigorate the palate. A kick of fresh mint peeks through on the extended finish. GG/BOC/Best of Show Dessert