Best-in-show wines deserve a spot in your cellar

March 27, 2013 

The inaugural Great Northwest Wine Competition is in the books, and the results showed a delicious diversity of wines from across the Pacific Northwest.

The competition at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore., drew 791 wines from more than 200 producers in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.

Sixteen wine professionals tasted the entries over two days. They evaluated all wines blind, meaning they didn’t know who made them.

The results: nearly 100 gold medals and several hundred silvers and bronzes — a great showing.

In the next couple of weeks, we will take a closer look at the top red and white wines in the competition, which should give some ideas on wines you will want to have in your cellar. This week, we take a look at the top six wines of the competition.

Interestingly, those six wines included three from Washington, two from Oregon and one from British Columbia — a spread that showed the tremendous talent throughout the Northwest.

The best in show was Zerba Cellars’ 2010 Malbec from the Walla Walla Valley. The winery is in Milton-Freewater, Ore., about 15 minutes south of Walla Walla. Zerba uses estate grapes from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. The winery’s prowess should come as no surprise, as winemaker Doug Nierman’s reds have been among the best anywhere for the past half-dozen years.

The top white wine also came from Oregon. Abacela’s 2012 Albariño from the Umpqua Valley was a big favorite with the judges. The winery near Roseburg has pioneered this Spanish variety in the Northwest, and its stunning fruit and acidity caught the attention of the judges. It was a close second for best in show.

The best rosé of the competition also nearly came out on top. It was from Barnard Griffin in Richland. Winemaker Rob Griffin has made a rosé of sangiovese for several years, and this is the eighth consecutive year it has won a gold medal or better in a professional wine judging. It’s a gorgeous dry rosé that has gained near-cult status among Barnard Griffin’s customers.

Robert Smasne is a Yakima Valley winemaker who won a startling six gold medals in the competition under three different labels (Smasne Cellars, Northwest Cellars and Upland Estates). His Smasne Cellars 2010 Muscat Ice Wine using grapes from Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley was the best dessert wine in this competition.

Westport Winery, on the Washington coast, is earning a strong reputation, thanks to the winemaking of young Dana Roberts, who makes no fewer than 33 different wines. His sparkling cranberry wine called Rapture of the Deep captured our judges’ attention and earned the best fruit wine. The winery near Aberdeen used fruit grown in bogs on the nearby Cranberry Coast. Even if you don’t care for fruit wines, this is one you should consider trying.

And the top sparkling wine came from Bella, a new winery in British Columbia that focuses exclusively on bubbly. Owner/winemaker Jay Drysdale’s 2011 sparkling Chardonnay was made in the traditional methods used in Champagne, though he tops his bottle with a crown cap instead of a cork, which makes it a lot easier to open. It is important to note that Drysdale — who has worked for years in British Columbia as a chef, wine retailer and government wine evaluator — was a judge at the Great Northwest Wine Competition. However, he did not judge his own wine, and none of the other judges realized any of his wines were entered.

For complete results of the competition, go to greatnorthwestwine.com. Next week, we will look at some of the top red wines of the judging.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information website. Go to greatnorthwestwine.com.

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