In Lake County the people will have an unmitigated say on Oct. 3rd with “The People’s Choice Wine Awards.” This is a blind tasting of Lake County wines and it’s open to the public so curious palates are welcome.

The contest began with a panel of professional judges sipping through a pool 168 wines in August, with the 38 finalists now set for this blind tasting of the common man. The tasting will be at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tickets are $25 per person and you can purchase them by calling 707-994-4068 or visiting

What follows is a Q & A with Susan Mesick of Sigma Ranch.

Q: Your tasting gives consumers the final word. Tell us about this strategic move?

A: The members of the Lake County Winery Association have great respect for the expertise of our professional judges.  However, the voice of the consumer is equally important. After all, we want to make wines they enjoy drinking.  Channels of communication are changing. Today we are technology driven.  Consumers no longer accept the status quo. They follow what the critics say, and then hit the Internet to do their own research.

Five years ago there was one wine blog (Vinography). Today there are over 700. Consumers are dictating/driving choices. We wanted to reflect this trend in our competition, so we are letting the consumers have the final say and actively involving them in the process with a blind tasting of the judges’ top picks – a total of 38 wines.  It is a serious blind tasting, but no prior experience is necessary.  We want attendees to come and have fun tasting the wines. In addition to the 38 finalists, 17 wines receiving “Awards of Distinction” from the panel of judges also will be available for tasting.

 Think American Idol – where the consumer gets the final vote!


Q: No doubt the goal of the competition is to shine a light on Lake County. What don’t wine consumers know about your region?

A: Lake County has received critical acclaim for its sauvignon blanc and we’ve seen increased interest in our warmer climate red varietals, such as tempranillo.  During the People’s Choice Wine Awards, the panel of judges was particularly taken by Lake County’s syrah and petite sirah.   In truth, Lake County has the climate, volcanic soils, and elevations to make a lot of great wines, and it has attracted many curious, creative and bright young winemakers to make this happen.