After evaluating 916 wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho, 20 professional wine judges deemed a red blend from a Walla Walla Valley winery as the top wine of the second annual Great Northwest Wine Competition.
The judging, held April 2-3 at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore., is among the largest competitions of Pacific Northwest wines. All the wines were evaluated blind, meaning the judges knew what kind of wine they were tasting but not who made them.
Here’s a look at the top wines from the competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Double gold/best red wine/best in show: Saviah Cellars 2011 Elephant Mountain Vineyard GSM, Yakima Valley, $38. This blend of grenache, mourvedre and syrah by Walla Walla’s Richard Funk offers aromas of blueberry, plum juice and white pepper. There’s a match on the palate amid a suave structure. In the finish is a pinch of sweet mint leaf.
Double gold/best white wine: Hip Chicks Do Wine 2011 Muscat, Willamette Valley, $16. This Portland winery is all about having fun and making seriously good wine. This shows off aromas of rosewater, jasmine and Mandarin orange, followed by delicate flavors of cherry blossom petals, lemon and apricot that are far from cloying.
Gold/best rose wine: Mt. Hood Winery 2013 Estate Pinot Noir Rose, Columbia Gorge, $17. Brothers Steve and Don Bickford run this small winery in Hood River, Ore. This gorgeous rose opens with aromas of cranberry, strawberry and cherry, followed by flavors of pomegranate and red currant.
Double gold/best dessert wine: Sun River Vintners 2010 Red Heaven Vineyard Tinta Cao Angelica, Red Mountain, $20. Angelica is made by adding brandy to unfermented grape juice — in this case the Portuguese grape tinta cao. This is a rich wine with gorgeous flavors of dark chocolate, ripe plum and golden raisin.
Gold/best nongrape wine: Latah Creek Wine Cellars NV Huckleberry d’Latah, Columbia Valley, $10. This blend of riesling with huckleberry juice is easy to like from the first whiff of huckleberry and cranberry, followed quickly by off-dry flavors of huckleberry, red delicious apple and Rainier cherry.
Double gold/best in class: Gamache Vintners 2010 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $25. This opens with luscious and inviting aromas of ripe plum, succulent spice, Bing cherry and blackberry jam. On the palate, it reveals flavors of ripe cherry, black raspberry and berry compote.
Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $24: In the nose, this presents intriguing spice aromas, along with notes of mango, papaya and faint minerality. On the palate, it shows off flavors of butter, mild oak, apple and tropical fruit.
Gold/best in class: Barrister Winery 2012 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, $28. This red from a top Spokane winery opens with aromas of bittersweet chocolate, black olive and ripe plum. On the palate, it delivers flavors of rich, dark fruit backed by black pepper and mild vanilla.
DeLille Cellars 2012 Chaleur Estate Blanc, Columbia Valley, $37: This blend of sauvignon blanc (65 percent) and semillon is winemaker Chris Upchurch’s answer to white Bordeaux. This is a fascinating white with aromas of lemon, freshly mown hay and ripe apple, followed by flavors of ripe pear, white pepper and a lusciously creamy midpalate.
Dowsett Family Winery 2011 Heart of the Hill Vineyard Mourvedre, Red Mountain, $40: Walla Walla winemaker Chris Dowsett has crafted a delicious red with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and supple spice, and flavors of rhubarb-cherry pie and blackberry cobbler, all backed with bright acidity.
Jones of Washington 2013 Pinot Gris, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $13: Young Victor Palencia is quickly finding success with the warm 2013 vintage. This white reveals aromas of Asian pear, nectarine skin, starfruit, anise and talcum powder that transcend into flavors of firm nectarine and pear with a tingle of pink grapefruit in the finish.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.