On Judging a Wine Competition & the Results of the 2020 American Fine Wine Competition

For those of you who only see my Vino column or other articles I write about wine that end up online, you may not know that I’m also a wine judge for a couple of competitions–both take place locally in South Florida, but one has national reach. The American Fine Wine Competition just wrapped up its 13th year of judging fine wine from across the U.S. The 2020 competition, which was judged over a long weekend in January, marked my second year as a judge with this prestigious invitational.

What is the American Fine Wine Competition?

American Fine Wine Competition
“Flight of Pinot Noir” by Jacqueline Coleman

According to the website, “The AFWC, which began in 2007, has become the most influential wine invitational in the country. The competition takes place each January and is followed by a series of SIP Social events that feature the award-winning wines and help to raise money for a variety of non-profits and continues to promote the wines throughout the year. Since its inception, AFWC has raised more than $1,000,000 for local charities.”

Essentially, the American Fine Wine Competition is an invitation-only event where wineries from California to New York state and everywhere in between can be invited to enter their wines to win medals and “best of” designations. All wines must be vetted ahead of time and considered of high quality to be entered. Once they are submitted into the competition, they are judged on a medal and number scale by a panel of over 30 judges who are professionals in the wine industry (like myself) without direct ties to wineries or distributors (as to remove any biases).  Writers, sommeliers, beverage directors, and restaurateurs are all some of the accomplished professionals that you will find as judges of this event.

For three days, judges sit in panels of four and go through flights and flights of wine in order to properly rate and award the winning wines. The results? They might surprise you.

I will say that I was delighted to see the overall winners of the competition this year, as one of the top wines is one I sold years ago when I worked on the distribution side of the industry. A big Congratulations to Papapietro Perry and their award-winning Pinot Noir, which took home “Best of Show” for red wines.

The rest of the top winners are listed below. For a complete list of all the wines that earned medals at this year’s American Fine Wine Competition, please visit the AFWC website.

If you believe that an American winery should be entered into the competition, but has never participated before, please let me know. As judges, we are always encouraged to submit potential new wineries for consideration.


Score Winery Proprietary/Special Designation AVA Vintage Sugg Retail
Sparkling 95 Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Extended Tirage Napa Valley NV $34
White 95 Castello di Amorosa Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley 2018 $28
Red 95 Papapietro Perry Winery Pinot Noir, Pommard Clones Russian River Valley 2016 $76
Sweet 98 Ferrante Winery Vidal Blanc, Ice Wine Grand River Valley, OH 2017 $30



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