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The hot days and cool nights of California’s Sonoma County create ideal conditions for red wines. The heat builds hearty ripeness; the cool evening respite protects the crisp acids that make the wines lively and balanced.

This was demonstrated at the September Sonoma Harvest Fair wine judging. I was on the tasting panel for zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, among others, and we awarded a lot of gold medals.

A top winner for zinfandels was Mazzocco Sonoma Winery of Healdsburg, Calif. It’s been a good year overall for Mazzocco.

At the harvest fair, three of its red zinfandels won “best of class,” double gold and gold medals in the $25 to $35 category. And in July its sauvignon blanc was featured at a state dinner in Washington, D.C., hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry and attended by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

It was part of a U.S. State Department effort to further good international relations through excellence in food and wine.

The top cabernet sauvignon my panel tasted in the $25-$35 range was by Forchini Vineyards & Winery, a small family winery in Healdsburg, owned and run by Jim and Anita Forchini. Using “sustainable” growing practices that limit artificial pesticides and fertilizers, they make 3,000 cases of wine under their own label, and sell the rest of their grapes to surrounding wineries.

Some of these wines, especially those made in small quantities, may not be available in all markets.

In most cases, you can buy the wines online.

Gold Medal Zinfandels $25 to $35:

•  Best of class, double gold: 2011 Mazzocco Sonoma Winery “Briar” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: big, rich, hearty black raspberry and bittersweet chocolate aromas and flavors, spicy and full-bodied; $29.

•  Double gold: 2011 Mazzocco Sonoma Winery Zinfandel, Sonoma County: subtle, pure black plum aromas and flavors, medium body, excellent balance; $26.

•  2011 Mazzocco Sonoma Winery “Beasley” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: black cherry and bittersweet chocolate aromas and flavors, spicy, balanced; $34.

•  2009 Deerfield Ranch Winery Zinfandel, Sonoma County: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black raspberries, hearty and crisp; $30.

•  2009 Selby Winery “Old Vines” Zinfandel, Sonoma County: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black plums, hearty and full-bodied; $26.

•  2011 Dry Creek Vineyard “Old Vines” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries, big, dry and rich, with ripe tannins; $30.

•  2011 Mill Creek Vineyards Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: hint of cedar and menthol, black plum flavors, firm tannins, lean; $28.

•  2011 deLorimier Winery Zinfandel, Alexander Valley: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and bittersweet chocolate, full-bodied; $30.

•  2010 West Coast Wine Partners “Valley of the Moon” Zinfandel, Sonoma County: hint of oak, black cherry aromas and flavors, dry and hearty, big, ripe tannins; $30.

• 2012 Little Vineyards Family Winery Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: menthol aromas, black cherry flavors, rich, dry and hearty, with big, ripe tannins; $30.

• 2011 Pech Merle Winery “Treborce Vineyard” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: black raspberry and bittersweet chocolate aromas and flavors, spicy and concentrated; $29.

Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon, $25 to $35.

• Best of class, gold medal: 2010 Forchini Vineyards Proprietors’ Reserve Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley: aromas and flavors of black cherries and espresso, big tannins, concentrated; $32.

• Double gold: 2009 Clos du Bois Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley: hint of cedar, aromas and flavors of sweet black plums, big, ripe tannins, good balance; $28.

• 2010 Wilson Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, “Sydney Vineyards,” Dry Creek Valley: sweet black cherry and vanilla flavors, soft tannins; $34.

email: fredtaskerwine@gmail.com.