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Tolerant, sensitive or hyper-sensitive?

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 10:00 pm

Judges in Lodi this year evaluated more than 500 wines from around the nation using a new method based not on the traditional standards of wine but on tastebuds alone.

The Lodi-Tokay Rotary club presented the Lodi International Wine Awards in March. Organizers had hoped to have no less than 200 wine entries, but the total number came to 526, which were judged in Kirst Hall in Hutchins Street Square. The success of the event's debut has prompted the club to make it an annual event.

Wines came from Canada, Virginia, South Dakota, New York and Lodi.

The judging concept is based on a system of determining the number of tastebuds a person has. Based on buds, a person will fall into one of three categories: Hyper-sensitive, sensitive and tolerant.

The system was developed by Master of Wine Tim Hanni, along with Dr. Michael Mahoney, professor and sensory scientist at University of California, Davis, and Rie Ishii, a sensory research associate at UC Davis.

Hanni was on hand to test judges' level of taste sensitivity by painting their tongues blue with food color. With the help of the blue tint, he was able to look at the number of tastebuds each judge had.

"One person could have as few as 11 tastebuds per square centimeter of their tongue, while another can have as many as 1,100 per square centimeter," Hanni said. The more tastebuds, the more sensitive a person's taste. The fewer, the more tolerant of bitter tastes, such as black coffee and Zinfandel wine. Hence the three categories of judging.

People curious to find out their level of taste sensitivity can visit">, answer a simple questionnaire, and determine what wines they would most enjoy.

Thirty wine experts ranging from wine writers, such as Stacy Finz of the San Francisco Chronicle, to local vintners, such as Betsy Kane, a winemaker with Turner Road Vintners.

"It's a great approach to wine competitions and judging," Kane said. "There's less note-taking and more focus on wine tasting."

Contact Business Editor Marc Lutz at

2008 Lodi International Wine Awards results
Winery Class Description Name of Wine Vintage Appellation Hypersensitive Senstive Tolerant
Vino Farms Trophy - Best of Sustainable Growing
Ventana Vineyards Rhone-style blends Rubystone 2006 Monterey Arroyo Seco Gold Gold Gold
Platinum Awards (gold in all three taste categories)
Ventana Vineyards Rhone-style blends Rubystone 2006 Monterey Arroyo Seco Gold Gold Gold
Ficklin Vineyards Ruby Port, Tawny Port, White Port and non-vintage varietals Chocolate Passport NV Madera Gold Gold Gold
Mumm Napa Estates Brut Brut Prestige NV Napa Valley Gold Gold Gold
Palmer Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2006 North Fork of Long Island Gold Gold Gold
Best of Class Awards (crossing all three taste categories)
Eberle Winery Barbera 2006 Paso Robles Gold Gold Bronze
337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Lodi Gold Gold Silver
Pindar Vineyards Chardonnay (oaked) 2006 North Fork of Long Island Gold Bronze Silver
Westbrook Wine Farm Meritage (Bordeaux blends) Fait Accompli 2005 Madera County Gold Gold Bronze
Windsor Vineyards Merlot 2005 Sonoma County Gold Silver Gold
Mount Aukum Winery Petite Sirah 2005 Fair Play Gold Silver Gold
Barefoot Cellars Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio NV California Silver Gold Silver
Biltmore Estate Wine Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio NV American Gold Silver Silver
Ventana Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 Monterey Arroyo Seco Gold Silver Bronze
Scheid Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006 Monerery Silver Bronze Gold
Irish Family Winery Red varietals not otherwise listed Blarney Red NV Calaveras County Gold Gold Silver
Conti Estate/Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards Sangiovese Bella Rossa 2005 El Dorado Gold Bronze Silver
Black Sheep Vintners Sauvignon Blanc, Dry 2007 Californa Gold Silver Bronze
Ventana Vineyards Syrah/Shiraz 2005 Monterey Arroyo Seco Bronze Gold Gold
Clay Station Viognier, dry and off-dry 2006 Lodi Silver Gold Gold
Renwood Winery Zinfandel Grandmere 2005 Amador County Silver Gold Gold
Van Ruiten Family Winery Zinfandel Old Vine 2006 Lodi Gold Silver Gold
You can find a complete list of winners onthe Lodi International Wine Awards Web site.
Source: 2008 Lodi International Wine Awards



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