After three days of swirling, sipping and spitting, 22 wine professionals from throughout the Pacific Northwest tasted through 1,040 wines for the seventh annual Cascadia International Wine Competition, held this month in Richland.
The judging panel, which included winemakers, viticulturists, wine buyers, writers and restaurateurs from California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia, concluded that the top entry was a delicious red wine from a small producer in Prosser: the 2015 sangiovese by Coyote Canyon Winery, which pulls from owner Mike Andrews’ estate vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Winning best dessert wine was Kiona Vineyards and Winery on Red Mountain, while the top white wine was crafted by Kennewick-based winemaker Victor Palencia for Jones of Washington in Quincy and Wenatchee. Aberdeen’s Westport Winery earned top honors for best nongrape wine, while Oregon icon King Estate took the award for top rose wine.
Here are our reviews of the top five wines from the largest international judging of Northwest wines staged in the Pacific Northwest. Find the complete results of the annual Cascadia competition at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.
Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Best in Show: Coyote Canyon Winery 2015 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Sangiovese, Horse Heaven Hills, $26: Justin Michaud, winemaker at Coyote Canyon Winery, used a historically hot vintage to create a beautiful sangiovese. In the nose, it offers hints of strawberry, then blackberry and a touch of plum. In the mouth, there are abundant flavors of dark cherry and blackberry, backed by juicy acidity and a dusty finish so often found in wines from the Horse Heaven Hills. Roast pork or rack of lamb would pair nicely.
Best Dessert Wine: Kiona Vineyards & Winery 2018 Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, Red Mountain, $50: This style of dessert wine is rare because the grapes must freeze on the vine for several hours at 17 degrees before they are harvested. The Williams family relies on a pocket of its most historic vineyard for ice wine, providing a rare nectar loaded with aromas of lavender-infused honey, cloves and ripe nectarine. Honeyed flavors of baked orchard fruit are backed by ample acidity to keep all the sweetness in balance.
Best White Wine: Jones of Washington 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $30: Victor Palencia, who received Wine Press Northwest magazine’s award for the 2019 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year, helped Jones of Washington earn Washington Winery of the Year honors in 2012. The collaboration continues, and the Jones family has this stunning young reserve chardonnay. There are flashes of oak behind the apple, pineapple and lime in its aromas and flavors. If you’re a chardonnay sipper, it’s perfect for a summer evening on the deck and would pair well with light dishes with a cream sauce such as chicken alfredo or even spaghetti carbonara with slightly crisped and crumbled prosciutto and topped with freshly grated Parmesan.
Best Nongrape Wine: Westport Winery Garden Resort NV Little Wild, Washington, $27: This destination winery on the Washington coast near Aberdeen continues to produce delectable wines, often by infusing them with fruit other than grapes. In this case, it is riesling loaded with marionberry, creating a dessert wine that is nicely sweet and loaded with flavors of dark blue fruit, including marionberry syrup. An ideal pairing would be with vanilla ice cream within view of the beach.
Best Rose: King Estate 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20: The kings of pinot noir in Oregon ruled the rose portion of the Cascadia with this lovely offering in a pale salmon wardrobe by winemaker Brent Stone. A product of Washington State University, Stone used pinot noir from the King family’s Demeter-USA certified biodynamic estate vineyard near Eugene as well as pinot noir from other organically farmed sites in the Willamette Valley. Strawberry gummy bears, lemonade and river pebbles on the nose extend onto the palate, where the structure is spunky with a long and bright farewell.