40th Annual Sierra Foothills Wine Competition, Honoring Steve Collum is Set to Take Place June 25th

Updated: May 6

May 5, 2021 Angels Camp, CA - The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance (CWA) in partnership with the Calaveras County Fairgrounds will be hosting the 40th annual wine judging on June 25th from 9:00-1:00 at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds. This year’s competition will be dedicated to the late Steve Collum, recognized vineyard manager and friend of the Calaveras Wine Region who passed last August. Steve was the owner of Vineyard Concepts, a Calaveras Winegrape Alliance Board Member among other organizations, and was passionate about introducing innovative practices. He personally set up the Vineyard Exploration Exhibits at the Fair Wine Pavilion each year and enjoyed his many contributions.

Laurie Giannini, Calaveras County Fair Manager shares, “The Calaveras County Fair of Directors is pleased to announce that the 2021 Sierra Foothill Wine Competition is dedicated to the memory of Steve Collum. Steve was an amazing volunteer who was so knowledgeable about the winegrape industry. He would put together the most amazing displays for the Wine Pavilion that would include snakes, owls, or other critters. Someday I hope we can build a demonstration vineyard as that was one of Steve's goals"


Every year, a team of about 20 esteemed wine experts throughout California gathers at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds to judge a blind tasting of wines submitted by winemakers from Calaveras and neighboring counties including Amador and El Dorado. These professional wine judges will taste through close to 300 wines across 48 categories using the “Danish System,” sometimes called the “Group Method”. Each wine is measured against standards and not ranked against competitors. Some of the returning judges to this year’s competition include Michael Dunn, freelance wine writer, former wine columnist, and restaurant critic for the Sacramento Bee. Mark Chandler, chief judge for the California State Fair returns this year to provide his expert review.

Tom Bender has served as the Sierra Foothills Wine Competition organizer for 40 years and is a contributor on food and wine to several foothill and valley publications along with writing a weekly wine column for several newspapers. Tom also serves as a judge at the California State Fair Wine Competition. A team of 8 volunteers assists Tom and the judges with the refreshment of dump buckets, waters, and bread baskets all while keeping a low profile and quiet atmosphere so the judges have their full concentration on the wines. “Once again we have assembled a number of the state’s most highly qualified judges including leaders in wine media, education, sales, and winemaking. Unlike other regional competitions, this program is only open to wineries located in the six Sierra Foothill counties and is a great opportunity to showcase the growing appellation,” remarks Bender.

The Calaveras County best-in-show, double-gold, and gold-medal-winning wines will be enjoyed by guests attending the 28th Annual Calaveras Grape Stomp & Auction on October 2nd at Murphys Community Park.


“The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance is excited to partner with the Calaveras County Fairgrounds once again to showcase the best wines being produced in the Sierra Foothills region of Northern California. The Calaveras Winegrape Alliance was established in 1989 and is dedicated to increasing the awareness of all wines produced in Calaveras County and from Calaveras grapes. Calaveras County is home to 40 tasting rooms and is a perfect growing region for Spanish and Italian varietals like Barbera, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Graciano, Toringa, Albarino, Marsanne, Verdelho, and Symphony as well as old vine Zinfandels, hearty Cabernet, and Petite Sirah,” shares Sandra Hess, Executive Director of the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance.

Those with questions about the Sierra Foothills Wine Competition may contact Sandra Hess at sandra@calaveraswines.org or (209) 728-9467.