We taste many Northwest wines, and we find ourselves enjoying more of them than ever before.
Thanks to a string of warm vintages, investments in technology, advancements in research and the influx of educated vineyard managers and winemakers, an increasing amount of delicious wines are made in the Pacific Northwest. Critics beyond our region seem to agree.
When wine is submitted to us for review, it goes into a queue to be tasted under blind conditions — the fairest way we can think to evaluate it.
During the evaluation process, we don’t know the producer or the price until we have written our notes and determined our scores are completed.
We don’t use a point scale, rather, we use the same system as professional judgings: bronze, silver and gold. We then convert that to recommended, excellent and outstanding.
Here are several wines we’ve tasted recently that have earned our top “Outstanding!” rating. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.
Vidon Vineyard 2013 Mirabelle Clone 115 Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $50: Vicki and Don Hagge began to lay out Vidon Vineyard in 1999, and they’ve achieved LIVE status as a certified sustainable site near Newberg, Oregon. From their block of clone 115 pinot noir comes hints of black cherry, Sugarfina black currant berries and cola with rose petal and a dusting of white pepper. There are delicious rich cherry and dried blueberry flavors among a smooth structure, backed by more notes of pepper and another chew of those berry gummies. (14.3 percent alcohol)
Lopez Island Vineyard 2015 Estate Grown Organic Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $25: Brent Charnley established his vineyards on Lopez Island in 1987, and his work with Madeleine Angevine serves as a stunning example of terroir and maritime climate. The record warmth of the 2015 vintage allowed him to create floral aromas of jasmine and lychee with apricot and mandarin orange. Delicious flavors of tangelo and apricot nectar include a nibble of skin tannin that leads out with a long finish of mandarin orange. (12%)
Sparkman Cellars 2013 Evermore Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $100: This marks Christian Sparkman’s second vintage of cab from 40-year-old vines and his winemaker, Linn Scott, shows that these old vines still have plenty of life. The experience begins with aromas of black cherry, dried strawberry and orange oil with fresh cedar and spearmint. Inside, there’s a panoply of dark fruit flavors akin to plum, blackberry and cassis, backed by Bing cherry skin tannins and pomegranate acidity. It’s a remarkable blend of power and grace. (14.5%)
Abacela 2014 Barrel Select Estate Garnacha, Umpqua Valley, $29: This southern Oregon winery uses the Spanish spelling for Grenache, and its work has earned considerable praise — whether it be its stunning rosé or the Barrel Select program. This offers juicy aromas and flavors of plum, boysenberry and pomegranate with sweet herbs and a remarkable mouth feel. This already is generating headlines, starting with a double gold at the 2017 San Francisco Chronicle. (14.4%)
Palencia Wine Co. 2014 Casa Amarilla Grenache, Syrah &Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, $36: This GSM-style blend offers an abundance of toast in the aromatics with chocolate and nutmeg as well as blackberry, black cherry and black pepper. It’s a delicious drink that focuses on sweet blueberry and blackberry flavors. Supple tannins, a nice backbone of minerality and a trail of chocolate combine for a long finish. (14.5%)
Winter’s Hill 2015 Estate Pinot Blanc, Dundee Hills, $19: The Gladhart family devotes two of their 35 acres to pinot blanc, a white grape from Burgundy that does well in cooler conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Phenomenally floral aromas of piña colada and peach fuzz are backed by tangerine, grapefruit and Rose’s Lime Juice. Tangy tangerine flavors are followed by white peach and nectarine. The family suggests serving it with shellfish. (14.1%)
Isenhower Cellars 2014 Wallula Vineyard Mourvèdre, Horse Heaven Hills, $34: One of Washington’s oldest plantings of Mourvèdre, a block dating to 1998, comes to life in the hands of Walla Walla’s Brett Isenhower. Enticing aromas of dusty blackberry and Jolly Rancher grape candy include pinches of black pepper and oregano. Next are flavors of elderberry and deep blueberry, supported within a pleasing tannin structure that’s capped by white pepper. (15%)
Ross Andrew Winery 2015 Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $15: Ross Andrew Mickel made his name in the Woodinville wine scene, and now his wines are poured in downtown Walla Walla. Dark cherry, blackberry and vanilla aromas lead to yummy and bright flavors of red plum, black cherry and cola with blueberry acidity and bittersweet chocolate. (13.8%)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.