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Arizona Stronghold Wins Five Gold Medals in International Wine Competitions; Double Gold Earns Invite to Grand Tasting Tour, Which Kicks Off Today at Arizona Biltmore

See also: Arizona Stronghold: Local Wines See also: Blind Tasting at FnB Proves AZ Blush Wines Hold Their Own Against World's Great Rosés

Pavle Milic , the wine maven who committed to an Arizona-only wine list at FnB has been saying it for, what, nearly three years now? Arizona wines deserve your attention and your respect. The naysayers probably chalked up his zeal to clever niche marketing and blind boosterism, but these days, Milic is beginning to look more like a prophet than a nattering nut-case. And here's just one reason why:

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards in Cottonwood has taken home five gold medals and six silvers in four prestigious international wine competitions this year -- The Dallas Morning News and TexSom Wine Competition, the 25th Annual Tasters Guild International Wine Judging, Sunset International Wine Competition (affiliated with Sunset Magazine) and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

The golds went to the vineyard's 2010 Mandala Red, 2010 Nachise, 2010 Dala Chardonnay and 2010 Dala Cabernet Sauvignon and silvers to 2010 Tazi, 2009 Mangus, 2010 Syrah Nursery and 2010 Mandala White.

The 2010 Dala Cabernet Sauvignon won a Double Gold medal at the San Francisco competition, and the label has been invited to go on an exclusive, 14-city Grand Tasting Tour, part of a wine and sprits event that kicks off today (for industry and media folks only) and tomorrow for the general public at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.

As Paula Woolsey, National Sales Manager for Arizona Stronghold, puts it, "These are real competitions with very prestigious judges. We're seeing our wines stack up against some of the best wine in the world and gaining recognition not just as an Arizona wine but within the wine world at large."

The judging panels for each of these competitions are a high-powered group of wine critics, distributors, importers, sommeliers, Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine -- considered the best tasters in the world. She adds that "winning in San Francisco is enormous," and happily points out that AZ Stronghold's gold medal win in the Sunset competition prompted the magazine to buy 169 cases of Tazi 2010 to distribute to their wine club members.

What makes all of this so important, according to Woolsey, is that "third-party accolades carry more weight" and Arizona wines are finally winning the hearts and minds of wine lovers around the country, not just Arizonans.

And by the way, these competitions are huge: 6,000 wines entered in the San Francisco face-off and 3500 in Texas.

But that's not all.

Arizona Stronghold's 2010 Nachise caught the attention of wine wonk Anthony Dias-Blue of The Tasting Panel Magazine earlier this year, who described the red blend as "generous, fresh and charming" and awarded it 90 points.

Dias-Blue will be at the Biltmore's big Wine and Spirits Festival this weekend, which just happens to coincide with the launch of the Grand Tasting Tour at the resort. On Sunday, September 2, from 2-3:30 p.m., he will conduct an educational seminar using Double Gold-winning wines in his discourse. The cost is $20.

Tickets may be purchased for single events or for the entire weekend. Click on the link above for more details.

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Nikki Buchanan