The judges break for lunch, a splendid catered affair outside under the heat lamps. Then they return for the sweepstakes voting -- each panel has been allowed to select one white and one red for this round. Voting is by acclamation: everybody can vote for as many wines as they feel are worthy. "It's a good system, statistically," says Warren. "As long as you have a large enough sample."
Director Foster has pulled Landis from the judging so that she can smell the wines before they are brought out ("She has such a great nose for corked wines," he says). But even so, one judge immediately names one wine as corked, and her tablemate joins her. "That's just too many oak trees that have been sacrificed for the wine," suggests another judge, but no go. The wine is sent back to Landis. She sniffs, pronounces it clean. It's compared to the same wine from another bottle -- no apparent difference. "Normally, when a wine is corked," says Foster, "you get hands up all over the room. I don't get it; this is really unusual. Maybe something in the glass?" Eventually, the judge who cried corked agrees to back down, but the complaint made for an anxious few minutes.
The winners from the white and red categories -- a Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc and a Carol Shelton Old Vines Zinfandel -- are judged from the only sparkling and dessert wines submitted for the finals, and the final round of judging begins. I might have gone with the Riesling Ice Wine, which hails from the Mission Hill Winery in the Okenagen Valley of British Columbia. But the nod goes to the '01 Mumm Napa Valley Blanc de Blanc bubbly -- judging from the reaction among the judges, a sparkling sweepstakes winner is a bit of a surprise. Also surprising is the inclusion of two Argentinean wines -- a Cabernet and a Chardonnay from Andeluna -- among the sweepstakes finalists. The judges applaud the volunteers and congratulate Shelton and Geyser Peak's Daryl Groom -- winners from among their own ranks. The volunteers begin cleanup, and Foster bids his team adieu until next year.