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Lodi International Wine Awards brings tasting to new level

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Posted: Friday, May 15, 2009 10:00 pm

It's official. Now you can drink the kind of wine you like and not feel guilty about it - and it's a phenomenon that started right here in Lodi.

For two years in a row, the Lodi-Tokay Rotary Club has held the Lodi International Wine Awards, a new kind of competition based on a person's taste preferences rather than what experts say you should like.

The event is slowly turning into a template for the wine-buying public. Along with professional wine judges, a panel of consumer judges was brought into 2009's competition to see how their palates compared to the professionals.

"We really want you to reward deliciousness," said Tim Hanni, a wine master and co-coordinator for LIWA as he instructed judges at the most recent contest. Hanni also developed the judging method based on a person's taste preferences.

"Taste like a consumer, and act like a normal human being," Hanni said.

According to Hanni's method, a person's taste sensitivity falls into one of three categories: Tolerant, sensitive or hyper-sensitive. The more tastebuds you have, the more sensitive you are to tastes such as acidity or sweetness. Tolerant tasters generally prefer wines like Merlot, while hyper-sensitive drinkers prefer Chardonnay.

Three years ago, current club president David Akin started considering the idea, but it didn't really begin to take shape until he connected with Hanni and another wine expert, G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski. The scope of LIWA was expanded to include Hanni's method and to invite vintners from all over the world to enter.

"It was a bit of a risk for us," Akin said. "Frankly, it's been a huge success. We're happy with it as a club." Akin said that the event has raised money each year from entry fees, and he foresees it getting bigger. In fact, he sees a time when LIWA outgrows the accommodations at Hutchins Street Square.

This year's winners included 23 "Best of Class" wines and 66 gold medal winners. J. Mark Hamilton, one of the main coordinators for the event said that the award recipients could learn a lot about their own wines by what people preferred to drink. "For the winery, it's good information," Hamilton said.

An award ceremony is held to honor the winners the May following the judging.

Contact Business Editor Marc Lutz at marcl@lodinews.com.



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