State Fair Drinking Guide

Your guide to the best beer and wine at the California State Fair!

The California State Fair's incredible wine garden
The California State Fair's incredible wine garden

The California State Fair was created by the legislature in 1854 to celebrate and promote California agriculture and industry. I choose to celebrate The Fair’s historical origins by seeking out the finest alcoholic beverages in the realm of Cal Expo. If you choose to join me on this quest, print up this handy guide to the best beer and wine offered at The Fair.

Since 1854, The Fair has honored California’s winemakers in what is now North America’s oldest wine competition. This year, almost 1200 wines were designated as bronze, silver, gold or double gold award winners. At the Save Mart Wine Garden, you can choose from more than 100 winning wines. 100! How can you decide? Before I get to the recommendations, I’ll give you tip #1. If you plan on enjoying more than a few wines, invest in the souvenir wine glass. For $5, your wine purchase will double from a 5 oz pour in a plastic cup to a 10 oz pour in a reusable, stylish glass.

White Wines
Gloria Ferrer Rose Brut – Best of Show (white)
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs – Best Sparkling
Sierra Star Solstice Sauvingon Blanc – Best Microwinery (white)
Big House ‘The Birdman’ – Best Pinot Grigio
Mount Aukum ‘4 of a Kind’
Harney Lane Albarino
Tangent Riesling – Best of South-Central Coast (white)

Red Wines
Jeff Runquist Barbara – Best of Show (red)
Jeff Runquist Zinfandel
Oakstone Meritage – Best Bordeaux Blend
Oakstone Reserve Syrah
Obscurity Malbec
Obscurity ‘Grandson of O’blivion’
Obscurity Sangiovese – Best Sangiovese
Kenneth Volk Pinot Noir
Castle Rock Pinot Noir
Busby Petite Syrah – Best Petite Syrah

Dessert Wine
Trentadue Chocolate Amore
Quady Elysium Black Muscat – Best Dessert Wine

If you see Steve, thank him for delivering fantastic wine year after year!
If you see Steve, thank him for delivering fantastic wine year after year!

As for beer, there are a few spots to be aware of. The most important is the Craft Brew stand located next to the Wine Garden. While there are several delicious ales and lagers available, I must protest the inclusion of beers that are made outside of California. With some of the best microbreweries in the world, there is no excuse for turning to other states to fill the taps at our State Fair. At this location I recommend:

Lost Coast Great White – This light, crisp, slightly citrus wheat beer is perfect for those who are looking for a tasty upgrade from light beer.
Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale – A California classic that practically defines the style. A great, middle-of-the-road beer with sweet toasty malt and a hint of hops.
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale – A robust India Pale Ale that delivers a deliciously huge mouthful of sweet, citrusy hops. Incredibly approachable and smooth for such a big beer.

Around the corner at the Blues and Brews Stage, boogie to Mick Martin and the Blues rockers or Terry Hanck and enjoy two other options from Sierra Nevada Brewing. Their Anniversary Ale is another India Pale Ale that is bursting with spicy Cascade hops. For those who prefer a darker beer, their Brown Ale is a California take on a traditional English brown ale.

The real showcase of California beer is on Friday, August 28th. At 5pm, winners from the Commercial Craft Brew Competition will be available for tasting while you watch mule and thoroughbred racing. Tickets are only $10, the best brewfest bargain all year!!!

Too many beers from out of state!
Too many beers from out of state!

2 thoughts on “State Fair Drinking Guide”

  1. Well done – completely agree about the “too many beers from out of state” too! That’s what happens when you let the distributors run the show, however. Hey, a minor thing, but the State Fair website says beer fest starts at 5:30pm, not 5:00. Will be there tonight I think, definitely going to find a better beer, thanks for the help with that. Oh, I may need to prime or detox at Xtreme Pizza – I hear they have a location nearby that has some impressive beer.


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