Winners Announced in USA Wine Ratings Competition

07/09/2018 Reserve Merlot from St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in California wins “Wine of the Year”

At the first-ever USA Wine Ratings competition, which took place in San Francisco in late July, 29 wines from all over the world – including sixteen from the United States – were awarded the prestigious Gold medal. The top scoring wine, Reserve Merlot from St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma, was named the “Wine of the Year.” In addition, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards was named “Winery of the Year” on the strength of its four Gold medal winners.

Reserve Merlot with medals

In addition to the 30 Gold medal winners, another 101 wines were awarded Silver medals and 117 wines were awarded Bronze medals. Wines were judged on the basis of three primary criteria – quality, value and package – and then scored on a 100-point scale. Wines that scored 90+ points were awarded Gold medals, wines that scored 80 to 89 points were awarded Silver medals, and wines that scored 70 to 79 points received Bronze medals.

The primary reason for using three criteria rather than just one was to focus on the overall drinkability of each wine. As a result, the judging panel ranked wines not just by how they taste, but also their overall presentation and appearance in the bottle. In addition, judges assessed wines on their relative value in relation to their peers. While wines from California were among the big winners in the competition, there were a number of notable surprises – including a Gold medal winner from Colombia and a Gold medal winner from Romania.

USA Wine Ratings Medals

The star of the event was Reserve Merlot from St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, which has a long tradition of making luscious, elegant and fruit-forward wines that bring out the true expression of the local Sonoma County terroir. The winemaker for Reserve Merlot is Chris Louton, who joined the winemaking team at St. Francis in 2013 with extensive expertise in Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals.

The USA Wine Ratings was launched in late 2017 by Beverage Trade Network, which organizes wine industry events all over the world. The goal of this event was to judge wines the way consumers judge them. In contrast to other wine competitions, where winemaking ability and technical expertise sometimes receive primary consideration at the expense of drinkability, the goal of the USA Wine Ratings was to award and celebrate the wines that wine drinkers actually want to buy, whether at a retail wine store or ordering off the menu at a restaurant.

Chief executive of Beverage Trade Network Sid Patel said, “At all the major competitions, wines are judged solely on the quality of what’s in the bottle. We wanted to take a different approach, by asking our judges to look at wines the way wine drinkers do, adding appearance and value for money into the mix.”

USA Wine Ratings Judges

“The best-tasting wines in the world won’t attract the attention of consumers unless the packaging design and price point appeal to wine drinkers,” says Patel. “People buy wines with their eyes first, and that puts a real premium on wines that are able to offer an attractive presentation, everything from the label to the brand perception.”

“Including all three factors into the judging process produces results that are closer to the reality of the way consumers purchase wines and gives winemakers better feedback on how their wines are perceived by wine drinkers,” Patel notes.

At the judging session, judges tasted and scored wines on a blind basis before seeing bottles and marking them for on-shelf appeal as well as value for money. This enabled them to come up with an overall score that reflects their overall drinkability.

USA Wine Ratings Judge

Patel said, “Launching a new competition is exciting but also daunting, especially when it fundamentally changes the way wines are judged. We’re delighted with the first-ever USA Wine Ratings, which attracted entries from award-winning wineries in South America, South Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.”

Based on the initial success of this year’s USA Wine Ratings, Beverage Trade Network plans to run the competition again in 2019 and will be opening up entries towards the end of 2018.

For more information on the USA Wine Ratings competition, please see:

For more information on Beverage Trade Network, please see:


Wine of the Year

2015 Reserve Merlot, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Winery of the Year

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Best in Show by Country

United States - Windrun Pinot Noir Vintage Selection No. 12, Windrun Wine

France - Winemakers Selection Cabernet Franc, UnDouble

Argentina - El Capitan Malbec, Finca Adelma

Italy - Luna Nuda Rose, Castelfeder Winery

Australia - Idlewright, Penrose Hill, Limited

Spain - Tomillar Crianza, Virgen de las Vinas

New Zealand - Tiki Estate Marilborough Sauvignon Blanc, Tiki Wine + Vineyards

South Africa - Classic Sauvignon Blanc, KWV

Chile - Seven Cities, Penrose Hill, Limited

Germany - Werner Wermut RG White, CUPF Gmbh

Best Wine of the Year by Quality

2015 Reserve Merlot, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

Best Wine of the Year by Value

Winemakers Selection Cabernet Franc, UnDouble

Best Wine of the Year by Package

Oak Farm Vineyards

Gold Medal Winners

2015 Reserve Merlot, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

2015 Alamos, E & J Gallo

2017 Winemakers Selection Cabernet Franc, UnDouble 

View Full List Here

Silver Medal Winners

2016 Tiki Estate Marilborough Sauvignon Blanc, Tiki Wine + Vineyards

2014 Vinoski Zinfandel, Vinoski Winery

2017 Lignum, Enoitalia S.P.A

View Full List Here

Bronze Medal Winners

2017 Intercoastal Vineyards, Intercoastal Wine Company

Barefoot Bubbly, E & J Gallo

2016 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, Delicato Family Vineyards

View Full List Here

For a full list of Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners, please see: 2018 USA Wine Ratings Winners