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Home winemakers compete at fair

Rod Byers judging the wine making competition at the fair.
Submitted photo by Akim Aginsky |

The home winemaker competition takes place at noon Thursday at the Nevada County Fair.

Rod Byers, a state-certified wine judge, wine educator and The Union’s wine columnist, has been coordinating the event for 30 years and is at the helm again this year.

“I’ve had time to try a lot of different ideas over the years,” he said.



“To see what worked and what didn’t.”

The process for judging this competition is streamlined to “best of” for each category.




“The voting continues until the majority of judges say ‘this one,’” said Byers.

One thing that never changes is striving to ensure local winemakers feel confident about the judging.

“I really want them to have a place where they can take their wine and get an honest appraisal of its quality,” he said.

Working at the Nevada City Winery since 1982, Byers has had access to people who would happily judge the competition.

“I always select people who are (or have been) in the wine business,” he said.

Also, Byers uses different judges at each competition.

This year’s judges are:

• David Elliott, Best of Show winner, 2012 competition

• Pete Enochs, restaurateur

• Mark Machado, Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association

• John Dickinson, wine student, American Wine Society wine judge certification program; Wine & Spirit Education Trust diploma program

• Mark Foster, winemaker, Nevada City Winery

• Lynn Wilson, Pilot Peak Winery

The taste of success

“Over the years we had several wineries that won at our little event,” said Byers.

“They have gone on to have successful commercial operations.”

These wineries include Double Oak and Avanguardia, as well as wineries from other regions.

Byers’ affiliation with the Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association contributes to the event’s success.

“They’re our local home winemaker and grape-grower club,” he said.

“I like them as a partner.”

Donated gift certificates and cash awards by local businesses and wineries are also part of this year’s competition.

“And partnering with the fair makes it a really cool event,” Byers said.

Byers also teaches Sierra College Kaleidoscope wine classes.

For more information, go to http://www.pinehillwineworks.com or call him at 530-273-2856.


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