Often, when we think of red wine from the Northwest, we think of varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and pinot noir. These are the big five in our corner of the continent.
But they are only part of the story. The Pacific Northwest is a diverse region, where there are more than 100 grape varieties. Half of them are red wine grapes.
With that in mind, here are a selection of red wines that won Platinum medals at Wine Press Northwest magazine’s annual best-of-the-best judging. These six wines are not only a testament to the winemakers, but also the grape growers who had the courage to plant varieties that are more difficult to grow and more challenging to sell to wineries.
Ask for these at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Callan Cellars 2017 Boushey Vineyards Picpoul, Yakima Valley, $25: Woodinville boutique producer Lisa Callan, a product of Washington State University’s winemaking program, continues to blossom in the Artisan Hill Warehouse District. Her focus is Rhône varieties, and that shows in this collaboration with renowned grower Dick Boushey on this vibrant expression of picpoul. It’s fresh, mouthwatering and delicious from the start with the fragrant floral and stony aroma. Crisp pear, white peach, Meyer lemon and a hint of Juicy Fruit gum explode on the palate, which is accented by underlying minerality. It is shimmering, pure and expressive with a spine-tingling finish.
Maryhill Winery 2015 McKinley Springs Vineyards Cinsault, Horse Heaven Hills, $40: The string of hits continues from Richard Batchelor and Maryhill, and special wines such as this vineyard-designate cinsault add to the allure of this destination winery on the edge of the Columbia Gorge. This is a gorgeous red that offers so much from the start, opening with plum jam on fresh-baked bread and spiced ham. Fresh brambleberries take center stage on the palate, which is creamy and vibrant throughout, capped by s’mores and topped with grated nutmeg.
Chateau Lorane Winery 2014 Quail Run Vineyard Mourvèdre, Rogue Valley, $30: Longtime Oregon winemaker Linde Kester, who lives in the southern Willamette Valley community of Lorane, has earned Platinum awards for his work with red Bordeaux varieties. Here, the retired engineer from San Diego taps into one of Southern Oregon’s oldest plantings for the top mourvedre of the judging. (It’s also the second unanimous Platinum in 2018 for Quail Run.) There’s a constant sprinkling of fresh-cracked black pepper throughout this red Rhône, joined by fresh blackberry, roasted coffee and a sense of earthiness. Sweet boysenberry juice makes for a long finish.
Maryhill Winery 2015 Elephant Mountain Vineyards Carménère, Rattlesnake Hills, $44: Oozing with juicy and sweet black fruit, this high-elevation Yakima Valley carmenere raised by Joe Hattrup is both deeply flavored and zesty. We taste boysenberry, marionberry and black cherry with hints of dried herbs and underlying oak converge with nice acids and well-integrated tannins. Elegant with a satin-like mouthfeel, the finish goes on and on.
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2015 Petite Sirah, Washington, $28: Idaho’s most decorated winery in the 19-year history of the Platinum would add to its tote board of medals when Coco Umiker toured the Horse Heaven Hills and came down with petite sirah (84 percent), petit verdot (12 percent) and carmenere from the Verhey family’s Roosevelt Ridge Vineyard near The Burn and Phinny Hill near famed Champoux Vineyard. Penetrating while maintaining elegance, this lovely wine has showy varietal characteristics. Black plum, boysenberry, subtle earthiness, a hint of tar and savory spice create a tasty and spirited flow through the palate. Refined tannins and a silky mouthfeel top it gracefully.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.