HOOD RIVER, Ore. — Second-generation winemaker Adam Campbell ranks among the West Coast elite with his award-winning work for Elk Cove Vineyards with cool-climate reds and whites in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Earlier this month he raised the profile for his family’s latest project, as the Pike Road Wines 2016 Pinot Gris earned best of show honors at the fifth annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. The $16 bottle topped the field of a record 644 entries nominated by a select panel of regional wine buyers. They met at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon, to judge some of the best wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.
“My family has always had a real reverence and passion for white wines in Oregon,” Campbell said. “Sometimes, I think that gets lost in the excitement for pinot noir. There are other great cool-climate grapes in Oregon besides pinot noir.”
Judges at the competition organized by Great Northwest Wine selected the Huston Vineyards 2015 Malbec as the event’s best red wine. It was among seven wines made with grapes from the Snake River Valley in Idaho to be awarded a gold medal.
Best rose of the competition was awarded to the Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Rosé ($13), and the award for top sparkling wine went to 14 Hands Winery for its NV Brut ($12). Winning the best sweet wine category was the Kiona Vineyards Winery 2016 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine from Red Mountain.
Other top awards included Upchurch Vineyard for its 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, a young estate project on Red Mountain by DeLille Cellars founding winemaker Chris Upchurch and his wife, Thea; Mt. Hood Winery in the Columbia Gorge for its 2014 Estate Pinot Noir, and Yamhill Valley Vineyards near McMinnville, Oregon, for its 2015 Estate Riesling.
Here are a few of the top wines from last week’s Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Pike Road Wines 2016 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $16: Adam Campbell and Heather Perkin of Elk Cove Vineyards produced this Pinot Gris primarily from estate fruit, but it also includes smaller lots from longtime growers. The multi-vineyard approach results in a more complex, flavorful wine. It opens with bright aromas of citrus and pear. The palate is crisp, making for a refreshing finish of citrus. This earned best of show honors at the 2017 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.
Huston Vineyards 2015 Malbec, Snake River Valley, $29: Idaho has quietly been building a reputation for producing a small stable of exceptional red wines. This Gem State gem was made from malbec grown in the Snake River Valley and crafted Garden City, Idaho, by Melanie Krause. It opens with gorgeous aromas of blackberries and a hint of spice and herbs. In the mouth, it’s rich in black and blue fruit. Idaho wines can be hard to find outside their home state, but this one is worth the search. It was voted as the best red wine at the 2017 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, beating out 440 red wines along the way.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $13: Emily Haines, a longtime winemaker at Wahluke Wine Co., produced this delightful pink wine for Butch Milbrandt. Aromas of nectarine, freesia and pear are followed by a light-bodied, fruit-forward drink reminiscent of fresh strawberries and watermelon. This wine channels warm summer days filled with barbecue on the patio, and has the structure to pair with light summer fare. These wines are available in retail locations as well as the tasting room in Prosser’s Vintners Village.
Novelty Hill 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $26: One of the Northwest’s top winemakers, Mike Januik, relies on Tom Alberg’s Stillwater Creek Vineyard on the Royal Slope for much of the fruit for this cab. Aromas of currants, plums and blackberries leap from the glass while flavors of blackberry, fig, currant and cola dance across the palate. The tannins are bold and balanced, and the finish lingers with cloves and white pepper.
Tenet Wines 2015 The Pundit Syrah, Columbia Valley, $25: Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Bob Bertheau collaborates with Michel Gassier and Philippe Cambie, two of the Rhône Valley’s leading figures, for this dark, inky and brooding syrah. It’s packed with aromas and flavors of blackberry jam, strong fruit-forwardness and a lush mouth feel that includes hay, leather, espresso and a sprinkling of black pepper.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.