Wine Buzz: State Fair again cancels home wine competition

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 12:32 am | Page 3D
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 - 12:14 pm

The news comes as buzzkill for the state's hobbyist winemakers: The California State Fair Home Wine Competition has been canceled for the second consecutive year, purportedly due to budget constraints and other factors.

This information comes amid other recent changes to the State Fair's wine competitions.

G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, who served as head judge for the fair's commercial wine competition, has been replaced by two co-chief judges: Mike Dunne and Rick Kushman.

Longtime readers will recognize Dunne as the Bee's former food and wine editor (he still contributes wine coverage for the Bee), while Kushman is the paper's former TV and "Good Life" columnist who doubles as a certified wine educator.

The State Fair's home winemaking competition had operated for three decades, first by the Sacramento Home Winemakers Club and overseen by Pucilowski for its last six years. At its height, the competition judged nearly 1,200 wines from amateur vintners around the state. The competition became a proving ground for winemakers before they jumped into the commercial world, including Tim Holdener of Macchia and Dave Dart of d'Art Wines.

"There must be more than 10 in Lodi alone," said Pucilowski, about the home winemaker winners who later became successful pros. "When I first started there were about 500 entrants. Slowly it was growing into a big and respected competition."

In an email to prospective competitors, Pucilowski said management changes at Cal Expo, along with budget constraints and venue conflicts, were to blame for the cancellation.

We'll see if this valued competition ever gets resurrected. In the meantime, Pucilowski continues to work as a sales representative for numerous wineries.

Bring out the barbera

Mark your calendars for June 8, which marks the date for the third annual Barbera Festival in Amador County. We're giving you the extra heads-up since this event has become so popular in previous years. The first two Barbera Festivals were sellouts.

More than 80 wineries from around the state will converge on Cooper Ranch in Amador County, the home of Cooper Vineyards, to pour this popular Cal-Ital variety. Tickets go on sale March 1 and cost $40 in advance, and $20 in advance for designated drivers.

For more information: (209) 256-4141,

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Read more articles by Chris Macias

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