Jim and Sally Arnold have much to celebrate these days.
For the past six years, the Arnolds have brought home medals for every wine they have submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest annual contest for North American wines.
However, the 2020 competition realized two outstanding achievements for the owners of Triassic Vineyards located in Cummings Valley — they took home their first Best of Class medal, which led to Tehachapi being recognized for its skilled vintners.
"The recognition we got this year with Best of Class was really special because it is the top award that's given out," Jim Arnold said of the vineyard's red blend, which retails for $48 a bottle.
Even more exciting was the plaque the Arnolds received this year detailing medals won.
"Every year, up until now, all of our plaques said 'California' as our AVA (American Viticultural Area)," said Jim.
This year, however, the Arnolds' plaque reads, "Tehachapi-Cummings Valley," which in essence, puts Tehachapi on the map as a wine growing destination.
"More people were talking about Tehachapi and where we are located than anytime before. I think that is a result of the five years we previously entered this contest, and this was the third year we participated in the pouring," Jim said of the highly anticipated public tasting, which showcased the contest winners. It was held Feb. 15 at Fort Mason, San Francisco.
During the public tasting, one Napa couple, Bob and Joann Brandt, who have attended the annual pouring for the past several years, told the Arnolds their red wines "were the best in the house."
"This helps us to be ambassadors to Tehachapi," said Jim. "Getting positive feedback like that is everything. It helps me to realize that what we are doing is working and it's worthwhile."
In addition to their 2016 Big Bang, which won Best of Class, the Arnolds were awarded one double gold medal for their 2016 Triassic Rocks and two silver medals for their 2016 Zinfandel and 2018 Viognier.
Producing award winning wine has not always been easy, but it has been very rewarding for the Arnolds.
"What it takes to get there is not easy. I liken it to a marathon runner. Months, days, hours of training, sacrificing time for other things. Hard work dedicated to the end goal — to not only run a marathon, but to also finish the race," said Sally Arnold.
Not only did Triassic make it through to the end, but they finished the course and achieved their personal best, Sally said.
Now in its 20th year, the San Francisco Wine Competition featured 66 judges who evaluated nearly 6,700 North American wines.
"It is quite a recognition by people who are knowledgeable about wines so it's exciting for us because it's a blind test, and they don't know what they are tasting," said Jim.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Advertising Feature (Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020), each judge tastes between 100 and 130 wines per day during the intensive week of evaluating, swirling and sniffing, sipping and swishing, with barely a break between rounds.
Since wine flavors tend to build up on the palate, the judges snack on olives to break up the red wine's tannins and drink plenty of crisp, sparkling water for the whites.
The judges agree it is a fantasy life, but it also takes a lot of hard work.
Triassic Vineyards & Tasting Room is located at 24627 Cummings Valley Road. Hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., and by appointment for special engagements and events.
Every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., Triassic Vineyards features its Wine and Dine catered dinner featuring live music. Reservations are required.
For more information, call 822-5341 or visit triassicvineyards.com.