Don't cry, Argentina, but you've lost a bit of your glory. The top Malbec in the 2009 San Francisco International Wine Competition didn't come from Argentina, where Malbec is so common that wine judges there get tired of tasting it. Voted overall best was a California wine, the 2006 Malbec from McKeon-Phillips Winery in Santa Maria. The judging took place in June.

The 64 entries in the Malbec category included 38 from Argentina. Three of those won double golds in the competition as did one other California Malbec. But only the McKeon-Phillips wine was elevated beyond double gold to best overall. Winery owner Ardison Phillips says blending is responsible for the wine's structure and elegance. “Most great wines, except for those of Burgundy, are blended,” he observed. “And the quality of the grapes was excellent.” The grapes came from Halcyon Vineyard in Paso Robles.

The McKeon-Phillips Malbec is composed of 92% Malbec, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 % Merlot. After blending, the wine spent 29 months in French and American oak. Only 113 cases were produced. Phillips' son, Bailey Paul McKeon-Phillips, was the winemaker.

The other California double gold winner was Charles Creek Vineyard Malbec 2007, East

Soda Rock Vineyard, Alexander Valley. The Argentine double gold winners were the 2008 Alamos Malbec, 2008 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec and the 2008 Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec, all from Mendoza. The Alamos wine was named best of nation.

McKeon-Phillips Winery: 2115 S. Blosser Road, Unit 114, Santa Maria; (805) 928-3025. The price of the McKeon-Phillips wine is $52. The others sell for $20 or less.

LA Weekly