Winemakers: How Does Your Dirt Stack Up?


by Laura Ness

Want to know how your wines stack up against those in your particular AVA? Getting together and arranging a group tasting has always been a great idea, but the current pandemic, and the fact that it’s the craziest harvest ever, has made that even more difficult. There’s a really easy alternative, however. Winemakers are invited to enter their wines in the 2020 Harvest Terroir Challenge, the only competition to judge wines exclusively by American Viticultural Area. 

This particular competition has a storied legacy. It has been around for 32 years, and was originally started as “Grand Harvest” by Vineyard & Winery Management. Debra Del Fiorentino, owner and operator of Wine Competition Management & Productions, ran the competition for 12 years before purchasing it. Since assuming ownership, her goal has been to highlight the AVA focus of the competition. This year, she added “terroir” to the title. 

“A Gold medal in the Harvest Terroir Challenge not only gives your winery additional prestige and selling power, it boosts regional recognition and enhances the conversation around what makes your dirt special,” she says.

In what is now the “ultimate AVA faceoff,” wines from the same appellation are tasted side by side by leading wine industry professionals who have experience and depth in the AVAs assigned to them. Their job is to evaluate and rank wines based on terroir to determine which ones rise above. 

The Best of Region winners are then pitted against one another to determine Best White, Best Red, Best Rosé, Best Sparkling, Best Dessert and ultimately, Best of Show.

The judging for this year’s Harvest Terroir Challenge will take place on November 10 and 11, in Santa Rosa. Early Bird entries with reduced fees will be accepted until October 19.

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Dr. Bob Jankelson, Owner of Tsillan Cellars in Washington, was thrilled to be awarded Best of Columbia Valley in the 2019 Harvest Terroir Challenge. “The honor of receiving Best of Region from the Harvest Challenge is the validation that you have brought together a world class vineyard and a world class winemaker. The Tsillan Cellars 2017 Estate Malbec is a gift of geography, soil and sun playing a symphony in the vineyards.  Winemaker Ray Sandidge gratefully received this gift to create a wine masterpiece.”

At last year’s Harvest Challenge, Monterey County took top honors for Scheid Family Wines, whose 2018 Hive & Honey Gewurztraminer took Best of Monterey, Best of Show White and Best of Show overall. 

Heidi Scheid, Executive Vice President of Scheid Family Wines, who was recently nominated for Wine Enthusiast’s Person of the Year award for 2020, noted, “We were extremely honored to be awarded Best of Class, Best of Show and Best of Monterey County at last year’s Harvest Challenge for our Hive & Honey Gewurztraminer. With so many options in front of buyers and consumers alike, winning an award such as this gives Hive & Honey a chance to stand out amongst the crowd.  It provides validation of our grape growing and winemaking efforts and lets people know that, hey, this is a great wine at a great price! This really helps our sales effort and allows Hive & Honey to reach new customers.”

Del Fiorentino says she’s noticing a trend in entries to the Harvest Terroir Challenge. “Wines are coming from all over now, with more from Washington and Oregon, as well as from Lodi and the Sierra Foothills. We are constantly adding AVAs to our list. Last year, we got a number of entries from Livermore and the Santa Cruz Mountains. This year, we’re seeing wines from the Santa Clara Valley for the first time. If you don’t see your AVA listed, please let us know!” 

Especially in light of the fact that many wine regions were severely impacted by wildfires this year, it’s more important than ever to highlight the great wines you already have in your cellar. And, consumers are wanting to learn more about those upcoming areas that may not be front and center yet, like the Santa Rita Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, Tualatin Hills and Royal Slope. 

Winners will be promoted via nationwide press release, on all social media platforms and listed on  An overview article will also appear online at and in a future issue of award-winning Spirited magazine, a nationally distributed adult beverage trade publication.

Enter the Harvest Terroir Challenge Competition Here

Early Bird entries are accepted through October 19.  Entry deadline and wines due November 4, 2020. 

For more information, contact Debra Del Fiorentino at [email protected] or call 415–640-6337


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