Brewer said that attendance exceeded last year's figures, and participation by both amateur and professional wine makers increased substantially.
He added that the introduction of a system of discounted advance ticket sales also helped to stimulate attendance
It is anticipated that, for the first time in its six-year history, Winefest revenues will top $10,000.
The festival, which is co-sponsored by the Kelseyville Business Association and the Lake County Wine Growers Association, is CLPA's major fundraiser with all net proceeds going to support the local symphony, its youth orchestra, scholarships and a regular concert series. Other major supporters are Sears, Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Westamerica Bank, the Specialty Care and Surgery Center and Nestegg Investment Consulting.
Suzanne Tunzi, chair of the judges panel, said that there was universal agreement among the seven experts tasting and rating the homemade wines, that quality is improving each year, and that different varietals are adding to the experience of attendees.
"Our visitors had the chance to taste wines like Monvedre and Columbard that we've not had in prior winefests, and we also saw quite a number of interesting blends," she said.
Craig Renaud, nationally known wine critic and broker and author of "Great American Wines: The Wine Rebel's Manual" joined a panel of local experts in judging 76 entries from some two dozen home wine makers. One of the chapters in his book notes that traditional wine judging is far too complicated, and outlined a simplified method.
The judges, consisting of Charley Hassom of Snows Lake Vineyard, Jack Vos of Rob Roy restaurant, Rodney Duncan of Duncan Vineyard, Stephanie Cruz-Green of Focus on Wine, Valerie Ramirez of Wildhurst Vineyards and Eric Stine of Langtry Estate and Vineyard all agreed to adopt Renaud's method.
Once initial judging was completed, winning entries were re-tasted in order to decide which wines were best in show in red and white categories.
Winner of the former was Dennis and Marisa Koenig of San Mateo for their 2006 Merlot; for the whites, Bill and Susan Laymon of Lower Lake won for a 2007 French Columbard.
There were a number of multiple winners, led by Kelseyville's Tom and Nancy Harty, with three – two silvers and a bronze. One silver was for their 2006 Merlot, with fruit from Snows Lake Vineyard, while the second was for a 2006 Italian blend utilizing grapes from DeVoto vineyards. The bronze was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from Snows Lake Vineyard and Zinfandel from Beringer.
Many of the winemakers rely on donations of winegrapes from local growers, who participate in order to support CLPA's music activities in Lake County.
Other multiple winners were Renee Miller of San Bruno, San Mateo County, who took a gold for her 2006 Merlot, and a silver for a 2004 Syrah; Paul Spillane of Clearlake Highlands, with a gold for his 2006 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon from Beringer Vineyards and Syrah from Paul Smith Vineyard, and a bronze for his 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon also from Beringer. Kelseyville's June and Conn Murray won gold for their 2006 Sangiovese donated by DeVoto Vineyards, and a silver for an 2006 Merlot made from fruit contributed by Honeycutt Vineyard.
Single ribbons were awarded to David and Cheryl Lucido, who took a gold ribbon for their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and to Kirk DeAlba, Dean Whitecotton and Gerich Fellerman of St. Helena who won the silver for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The popular Peoples Choice award, voted on by all attendees, was won in a complete sweep by the "Howling Coyote" home winery of the Robert Greco family of Kelseyville. Their lavishly outfitted booth, complete with comfortable furniture, an ornate bar, a multicolored Harley Davidson motorcycle and a metal-sculptured howling coyote, was hands-down winner in the Best Booth category, while their colorful labels depicting their howling signature mascot was judged best label.
The festival goers disagreed with the judges "Best in Show" decision and named Howling Coyote's Syrah as the event's best wine.
Vicky Maley, chair of the silent auction and raffle committee, said nearly $5,000 was generated from the many prizes awarded by some 70 Lake County businesses and individuals.