Spring 2011

Recent Releases: White wines

The following white wines were reviewed in the "Recent Releases" section of the Spring 2011 issue of Wine Press Northwest.

Airfield Estates 2009 Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $20

Excellent: Cantaloupe, lemon custard yogurt and watermelon accents gain prominence with lemony acidity, and there's a farewell of fresh-cut potatoes. (97 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Black Hills Estate Winery 2008 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $30 CDN

Recommended: More than half of this lot underwent barrel fermentation, but you wouldn't guess it. It's fruit-forward smooth and drinkable, showing Gala apple and Bosc pear tones, canned pineapple in the midpalate and lingering lemon/lime acidity. A pinch of saltiness in the finish calls for a pairing with Manchego cheese and quince paste. (600 cases, 14.1% alc.)

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Cathedral Ridge Winery 2009 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $22

Recommended: Banana, pineapple, butterscotch and orange tones are wrapped in a somewhat viscous drink that rallies with pleasing acidity. (350 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Chehalem Wines 2009 INOX Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $17

Excellent: Harry Peterson-Nedry helped make this style of Chardonnay famous in Oregon and beyond, and its proprietary name comes from the French term for stainless steel - inoxydable. The nose features Fuji apple, Key lime pie, starfruit and a Lady of the Night flower blossom. Its crisp palate gathers in pear, lemon peel and the return of lime with a hint of caramel in the finish. Enjoy this with flaky halibut. (4,967 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Claar Cellars 2009 White Bluffs Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $16

Excellent: Here's an oak-lovers bargain as it brings lots of wood and lots of flavors. The nose gathers up vanilla bean, sandalwood, burnt sugar and lemon pepper. The fluid produces flavors of French vanilla ice cream, butterscotch, Scottish shortbread cookie and Bananas Foster. A trickle of lemon juice emerges in the finish of this fun and fascinating wine. (117 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $20

Recommended: Sites in the Horse Heaven Hills made for a drink that leads with aromas of smoke, vanilla, butterscotch, Pear Crumble and flecks of minerality. There's a nice balance of dried apricot, whitish pineapple and toasty barrel notes, finished with lemon pith. (250 cases, 14.4% alc.)

Johan Vineyards 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $33

Recommended: Estate fruit from Dijon clones 76 and 95 goes on the lees for 18 months, which makes for an unctuous offering of pineapple, apricot jam, butterscotch and lemon peel. (77 cases, 13% alc.)

LeVieux Pin 2009 Equinoxe Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $60 CDN

Excellent: While not THE most expensive Chardonnay made in British Columbia - the crop load was 2.4 tons per acre - it ranks as one of the tastiest. Volumes of interest start with the evidence of new French oak barrels that exude hints of pineapple upside down cake and tutti frutti. The palate shows emollience along with pineapple, pear and bubble gum flavors. A good shot of acidity revives the tongue. (72 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Mission Hill Family Estate 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $19 CDN

Outstanding: Atypical of "reserve" style Chardonnay, winemaker John Simes' restrained use of French and American oak makes this remarkably fruit-forward and food-friendly. Unwrap a stick of Juicy Fruit gum and you begin to get a feel for the aromatics, which include Granny Smith apple, lime and slate. Tropical fruit continues into the mouth with mango and passion fruit. Mandarin orange provides acidity. Hints of citrus pith and jicama add complexity. Enjoy with white fish or a fish taco. (13% alc.)

Nk'Mip Cellars 2008 Qwam Qwmt Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $25

Excellent: A wacky summer that included a windstorm that snapped more than 300 posts in the Inkameep vineyard didn't prevent Randy Picton and his team of tribal members from crafting a remarkably complex drink focused on sweet pear and Golden Delicious apple. Toasty oak, buttery and creamy banana accents on the midpalate get brushed aside by pleasing citrus. Enjoy with some Dungeness crab. (1,854 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2009 Estate Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $28

Excellent: Hood River, Ore., native Rich Cushman is back home, and his excitement shows up in this delicious Chardonnay. There's a greeting of segmented tangerine, Kiwi fruit, fresh cucumber, dried lemon peel and toasted pine nuts. Inside is a wide range of accessible fruit flavors, starting with more tangerine but followed by apricot and yellow grapefruit. The structure is a complex creation of barrel toast, fruit and acidity, capped by some citrus pith. (290 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Pyrenees Vineyard & Cellars 2009 Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley, $18

Excellent: The use of neutral French oak allows whiffs of pear, lemon, pineapple and starfruit to filter out above the banana and dustiness. Yellow grapefruit and slate make this amazingly refreshing for a Chardonnay made in barrel. (410 cases, 13.2% alc.)

Redman 2009 Chardonnay, Eola-Amity Hills, $25

Recommended: Dijon clone 96 nearly evenly split between French oak and stainless steel provides the feel of a Chablis or a Muscadet. It's cleansing and refreshingly dry with tones of Golden Delicious apple, pineapple, lemon zest and underlying minerality. Enjoy with oysters. (150 cases, 13.8% alc.)

St. Laurent Winery 2008 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $20

Recommended: Quincy Estate Vineyards in the proposed Ancient Lakes appellation makes for a brisk and slate-filled drink. There is no evidence of oak, and its fruit core is based on notes of Granny Smith apple, lemon, lime, quinine and minerality. Enjoy this with quiche. (250 cases, 13% alc.)

Saviah Cellars 2008 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $25

Recommended: This site overlooking Royal City, Wash., brought in Dijon clone 75 grapes that act more like orchard fruit. There's nice roundness to the presentation of peach and a caramel apple, backed by starfruit and lemon pith for complexity. Try pairing this with a cheddar frittata. (224 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $28

Excellent: As a recent graduate of the "University of Columbia Crest," Amy Alvarez-Wampfler knows what to do with a few barrels of Chardonnay. In this case, she worked with 11 from Lewis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. The nose comes alive immediately with whiffs of yellow Starburst candy, pineapple and apricot, backed by barrel notes of coconut, browned meringue and banana. Inside are soft and rounded flavors of pineapple, banana and vanilla, finished with more barrel toast. (260 cases, 14.1% alc.)

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Estate Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $30

Recommended: Jim Bernau planted these vines in 1983 and began grafting them to Dijon a decade later. There's a pleasing balance of oak and tropical fruit flavors, delicate acidity and savory notes in the finish. Enjoy with tiger shrimp, lobster, crab or even Baked Alaska. (204 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Anam Cara Cellars 2009 Nicholas Estate Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $20

Outstanding: Fermenting 71% of their 1-acre block in neutral oak barrels makes this more complex than most Rieslings made in the Northwest. There are the usual aromatics of apple, pineapple and pear with orange oil, but there's also honey and intriguing mineral. All the fruit returns on the first draw of the drink, yet it turns dry (just 1.2% residual sugar), and refreshing as lemony acidity and late flintiness assume subtle control. Among its delicious food pairing possibilities is basa fish. (390 cases, 13.8% alc.)

Brooks Wines 2008 Riesling, Willamette Valley, $18

Recommended: Orange blossom, starfruit, baked apple, petrol Asian pear and lemon accents make this a refreshing and linear drink. (780 cases, 12.8% alc.)

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2009 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $18

Recommended: Here's a definitely off-dry but still fascinating offering with accents that include tropical fruit, apricot, baked apple, honeysuckle, green tea, nutmeg and banana nut bread. (275 cases, 12.2% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2009 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20

Outstanding: The project named after Beethoven's "Third Symphony" strikes a brilliant chord in commemoration of its 11th vintage. Ernst Loosen and Bob Bertheau continue to focus on the Milbrandts' Evergreen Vineyard near the Gorge at George, and its easy-drinking character carries along lots of apples and pears with sweet citrus. There's not as much minerality as in some vintages, but the residual sugar continues to hover around 1.6%. Its finish is lengthy with peaches and apricots. (24,000 cases, 12% alc.)

Dunham Cellars 2008 Lewis Estate Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley, $22

Recommended: The Dunhams long have relied on this Yakima Valley site for many of its wines, including their off-dry Riesling, which settled at 2.5% sugar. It's a tasty serving of Granny Smith apple, apricot, jasmine and Frosted Mini-Wheats with a lemon/lime finish. (672 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Grey Monk Estate Winery 2009 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $17 CDN

Excellent: The Heiss family began planting vines along Okanagan Lake in the 1970s, and they remain among the leaders in the province. And here's a serious example of Riesling, leading with aromas of minerality, Golden Delicious apple, peach and clean flannel. Lemony acidity, more minerality and even some tannin tighten up the juicy peach and pineapple tones, as well as the residual sugar (1.6%). (2,000 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Long Shadows Vintners 2009 Poet's Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20

Recommended: Armin Diel's approach with this vintage takes on a rather delicate style, beginning with aromas of dried orange rind, pear and apple with light diesel, lavender, lilac and baseball card bubblegum powder. There's appealing flintiness, honeysuckle and Jonagold apple flavors, and the acidity matches the low residual sugar (1.3%). (3,200 cases, 12.9% alc.)

Mellisoni Vineyards 2009 Riesling, Lake Chelan, $25

Recommended: Young vines overlooking the south shore of Lake Chelan created an off-dry Riesling with notes of baked pear, diesel, lemon/lime, candy corn and a finish akin to an Arnold Palmer ice tea. (86 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Nk'Mip Cellars 2009 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $18 CDN

Excellent: Randy Picton probably wanted these grapes to hang a bit longer, but an Oct. 9 frost quashed any plans. Still, we're left with an exotic wine that includes tropical aromas, along with peach, spiced orange, nectarine and vanilla bean. The palate zeroes in on peach, apple, orange, lime and citrus pith. It's a high-acid drink with flecks of minerality. Enjoy with calamari or white fish influenced by peach salsa. (1,833 cases, 12% alc.)

Pyrenees Vineyard & Cellars 2009 Riesling, Umpqua Valley, $18

Recommended: This young project south of Roseburg, Ore., won't have any trouble selling this to the wedding receptions it hosts. Peaches and apples gush out of the aromas, backed by jasmine and lemon. The drink is of an ambrosia salad, joined by lychee and rosewater. Its residual sugar (1.5%) comes across as sugar cane before the finish of apple skin. (150 cases, 12.1% alc.)

Road 13 2009 Jackpot Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $30 CDN

Recommended: This fits in with the Alsatian style of Riesling with its theme of mineral, petrol, lemon juice, lime peel and chalkboard dust. One gets a bit of a sense of the Golden Mile though because there's some peach in the mix, too. (181 cases, 13.3% alc.)

Tsillan Cellars 2008 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $18

Recommended: Tree-ripened nectarine, baked apple, diesel, lychee, honeysuckle and sweet lemon give this good acidity and pleasing length. It drinks more along the lines of off-dry, despite its relatively low residual sugar of 1.3%. (312 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Gray Monk Estate Winery 2009 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, $17 CDN

Excellent: Unless you are an insider, one might not imaging that a B.C. winery could bottle this much Pinot Gris. And the Heiss family does it exceptionally well. It glitters with aromas of starfruit, Bartlett pear, honeydew melon, lemon and daffodil stocks. Pear leads the flavors, backed by lemon, grassiness and some slate. (8,200 cases, 13.6 alc.

Sokol Blosser 2009 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $25

Excellent: The fun drink opens with aromas of tangerine, honeydew melon, dried pineapple, white rose petal and a spent drier sheet. Brightness on the palate shows up immediately with assertive acidity, followed by a flow of more melon, Asian pear, allspice and apple slices. (1,350 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Solena Estate 2009 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $20

Excellent: Laurent Montalieu and his wife continue to raise the profile of their elegant label with wines such as this. Its graceful nose carries aromas of yellow grapefruit, pineapple, orange zest, nectarine, cling peach, cotton candy, slate and white pepper. Peach and lemon chiffon strike an accord on the palate with a bit of jasmine. A squeeze of tangerine makes this a lip-smacker on the finish. (1,500 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Trium 2009 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Pinot Gris, Rogue Valley, $19

Recommended: Dusty apple, peach fuzz, clover honey, slate and savory herb aromas turn into an easy drink of oranges, sweetened lemon, yellow grapefruit and butterscotch. (200 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Kandarian Wine Cellars 2009 Oster Vineyard Blue Eye Sauvignon Blanc, Willamette Valley, $20

Outstanding: Jeff Kandarian oversees one of Oregon's largest wineries as the winemaker for King Estate, but he's allowed this side project in nearby Veneta, Ore. His source is a 1-acre block near Mount Angel, but you'd think he made this in New Zealand. It casts out huge gooseberry aromas, backed by lime peel, passion fruit, a frond of noble fir and ryegrass. There's more of a restrained approach on the palate, balancing tropical fruit flavors, fresh herbs and a finish of minerality. There's none of the bitterness found with many Sauv Blancs. (75 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Mission Hill Family Estate 2009 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, $19 CDN

Recommended: A small part of this spent time in French oak and on the lees, which explains aromas of butterscotch behind the peaches and apricots. Citrusy acidity arrives quickly on the palate, followed by Pink Lady and honeydew flavors. (13.5% alc.)

Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2009 Viognier, Columbia Valley, $25

Outstanding: Steffen Jorgensen continues to shine with Rhone varieties, regardless of color. Here, he blended Roussanne (6%) and the nose is clean and pure with tangerine, starfruit, sliced banana and lemon pepper. A spoonful of orange vanilla sherbet says a lot about the palate, where there's lively acidity and citrus pith for balance. (396 cases, 14.2% alc.)

Quady North 2008 Steelhead Run Vineyard Viognier, Applegate Valley, $19

Recommended: Fun aromas of ginger cream cookie, melon, lemon, grassiness and coriander descend into a rounded palate of Gala apple, Knudsen Hibiscus Cooler and orange peel. (120 cases, 13.5% alc.)

William Church Winery 2008 Sarah's Vintage Viognier, Columbia Valley, $21

Excellent: Stainless steel treatment of Conner-Lee Vineyard fruit allows for aromas featuring lemon yogurt, banana and orange Creamsicle. The palate is rich and creamy with more of the same fruit, joined by white peach, delicate acidity and orange peel pith. (240 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Agate Ridge Vineyard 2009 Marsanne, Rogue Valley, $22

Excellent: The Kinderman family shows itself to be a quick study with this lesser-known Rhone white. Their second vintage is showing lovely aromas of dried pineapple, lemon-frosted banana nut bread, candy corn and corn silk. There's no sign of oak on the palate, though, as pleasing tartness leads with flavors of lemon, peach, starfruit and dried apple slices. There's a lingering of honeydew melon and lime in the finish. (118 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Agate Ridge Vineyard 2009 Roussanne, Rogue Valley, $21

Excellent: Kiley Evans, formerly the winemaker at Abacela, went with a slightly off-dry approach for this Rhone white and there's plenty of acidity to carry its residual sugar (1.6%). A very floral nose features dusty apple, tangerine, orchard blossoms and fresh linen. Flavors range from Honeycrisp apple, kumquat, quince and candy corn to sweet lemons at the end. (84 cases, 12.6% alc.)

Chehalem Wines 2009 Stoller Vineyards Pinot Blanc, Dundee Hills, $17

Outstanding: Turkeys once roamed this plot, and it proves Pinot Blanc deserves a home in Oregon. Harry Peterson-Nedry's adroit use of oak (1/3 barrel fermented) provides complexity. The nose shows minerality, pineapple and lemon along with hints of banana. They meet again on the palate, joined by fresh-picked Bartlett pear, sliced ginger, Mandarin orange and anise in the finish. Despite the lofty alcohol and dry approach, skillful winemaking provides balance. (327 cases, 15.5% alc.)

Erath Winery 2009 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, $14

Excellent: Gary Horner brought in this fruit from Fuqua, Niederberger and Scharf vineyards on Oct. 11-12, and it was the right call. The nose features lemon curd, lime peel and Asian pear, and there's no disappointment on the attack. Honeydew melon flesh gives it body, while pleasing citrus and a thread of minerality wake up the palate. Suggested fare includes grilled seafood, smoked salmon and antipasto. (2,700 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Gray Monk Cellars 2009 Gewurztraminer, Okanagan Valley, $16 CDN

Excellent: George Heiss Jr. and Roger Wong team up for one of the Northwest's largest productions of this variety. The nose conjures up thoughts of sugared yellow grapefruit, topped with a maraschino cherry, joined by lychee and hints of minerality. At 2.4% residual sugar, it's a tasty and cocktailish drink brimming with passion fruit, mango and Honeycrisp apple, chased with a squirt of lime. (6,500 cases, 12.8% alc.)

Martinez & Martinez 2009 Alder Ridge Vineyard Roussanne, Horse Heaven Hills, $16

Recommended: Few in the Northwest bottle this lesser-known Rhone variety on its own, and the Martinez family near Prosser, Wash., turned this into a tasty hot-tubber. A squirt of fresh-sliced lemon, white pepper and minerality join tropical aromas. Prepare for a drink that blasts sweetness of candy corn, ripe cantaloupe and a lemon custard pie dusted with baking powder. (130 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Mellisoni Vineyard 2009 Gewurztraminer, Lake Chelan, $35

Recommended: Rob and Donna Mellisoni are into their second vintage of estate whites, and this offering is one of the most expensive bottlings of Gewurz in the Pacific Northwest. There's a lot of expression with tones of lychee, cantaloupe, pear, cinnamon and white pepper. The spicy clove and sweet guava finish - residual sugar is 3.4% - will make this a pleasing pairing with Asian food. (49 cases, 13.6% alc.)

Nk'Mip Cellars 2008 Pinot Blanc, Okanagan Valley, $16 CDN

Excellent: There are some in British Columbia who believe this variety should be viewed as the province's signature grape. Randy Picton developed scents reminiscent of gooseberry, lemon, banana, Golden Mile peaches and fresh-cut grass that are reinforced on the palate. It drinks akin to a juicy Fuji apple, followed by a subtle midpalate sheen of lanolin that's whisked clean using more lemon and gooseberry tartness. (2,786 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Pyrenees Vineyard & Cellars 2009 Gewurztraminer, Umpqua Valley, $18

Outstanding: In May, this former dairy farm will celebrate its one-year anniversary, and this snappy drink may be the best wine they will pour. After all, Gewurz guru Terry Brandborg makes the wine. This is brimming with pink grapefruit, apricot, lychee, lemon zest, clove, honey and gardenia aromas. On the palate, there's a pleasing fruit-to-minerality balance as orange, grapefruit and sweetened lemon flavors are supported by wet rock. And wisely, they limited the residual sugar to 1%. (600 cases, 13.1% alc.)

Airfield Estates 2009 Lightning, Yakima Valley, $18

Excellent: Marcus Miller does a red Rhone blend, so here's the white version, a melange of Viognier (65%), Roussanne (25%) and Marsanne. It's a nose filled with orange essence, grapefruit, butterscotch, chalkboard dust and freshly sliced Yukon Gold potato aromas. There's just a whisper of oak in the drink, but it's mostly a good balance of lemon and grapefruit. (454 cases, 14.8% alc.)

Atalanta Cellars 2008 Tuesday Night White, Washington/Idaho, $16

Excellent: Boise winemaker Angie Riff created this blend of Viognier, Riesling and Chardonnay, which will be a welcome friend after you come home knowing the work week is not yet half over. Inviting aromas of orange marmalade, apricot and honeysuckle play out on the weighty palate. There's a charming persistence of blood orange and fresh-cut pineapple with vanilla. (125 cases, 14% alc.)

Black Hills Estate Winery 2009 Alibi, Okanagan Valley, $30 CDN

Excellent: Vineyard manager Steve Carberry and winemaker Graham Pierce collaborated well on this blend of Sauvignon Blanc (75%) and Semillon that leads aromas of gooseberry, lime peel, apple and minerality. It's not a disappointing drink either, featuring tartness of quince, gooseberry and yellow grapefruit that sandwich a creamy midpalate of caramel and mango skin. (13.9% alc.)

Cliff Creek Cellars 2009 Marsanne-Roussanne, Southern Oregon, $22

Outstanding: The Garvin family has farmed in the Rogue Valley for more than a century, but it only started planting vines in 2000. The wines are creating a following at their tasting room in Carlton, Ore. This blend leads with Roussanne (69%) and opens the door with aromas of apricot preserves, tangerine, peach, mango and canned pineapple. It's a brisk and refreshing drink circling back to the tangerine and apricot, balanced by second-cut pineapple, then finished with mango in vanilla ice cream. (144 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Domaine Pouillon 2008 Blanc du Moulin, Horse Heaven Hills, $17

Recommended: Coyote Canyon Vineyard supplied the Roussanne (80%) and Viognier, which went into 5-year-old French oak. That explains the aromas of vanilla, banana and butterscotch. Gooseberry leads the charge on the tongue, followed by more butterscotch, banana and lemon with nice slate in the farewell. (200 cases, 14.5% alc.)

Domaine Pouillon 2009 Deux White Wine, Columbia Valley, $19

Excellent: Chardonnay (55%) from Brehm Vineyards near White Salmon, Wash., and Viognier off Coyote Canyon make for a very easy drink of fruit cocktail flavors with lively acidity. Enjoy with a greens served with Roquefort dressing or a shrimp salad. (232 cases, 14% alc.)

Lake Chelan Winery 2009 Stormy Mountain White, Lake Chelan, $18

Recommended: Huge aromatics of pink grapefruit, passion fruit, guava and vanilla emerge from this blend of Viognier (41%), Pinot Gris (20%), Gewurztraminer (15%), Riesling (15%) and Chardonnay. Sweetness stays ahead of acidity on the palate, where it's orange, lemon cream and Brach's vanilla Creme Filled Caramel. The tasting room manager must love this, and it also will be enjoyed well-chilled on the patio behind the estate BBQ house. (400 cases, 13.7% alc.)

LeVieux Pin 2009 Viognier/Roussanne, Okanagan Valley, $35 CDN

Outstanding: Our 2009 B.C. Winery to Watch continues to impress with its high-quality, small-lot program. Some may even call it extreme. These blocks off the Black Sage Bench were cropped to 3.5 tons per acre and dropped in French and acacia barrels for four months. That regimen only seems to have elevated and complemented the exotic nose of orange Creamsicle, white peach and pineapple with a splash of lemon bitters. The palate brings volumes of interest with orange, tangerine, toasted marshmallow and peach. While round and a bit sweet, it's not out of balance because of some pleasing citrus pith in the finish. (360 cases, 14.3% alc.)

Road 13 2009 Viognier Riesling Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, $23

Excellent: Perhaps the Luckhursts will come up with a suitable proprietary name, but it is easy to pick out the components, which arrived from nearby Castle, Rockpile and Gully vineyards. The nose comes loaded with lemons, limes, creamy caramel, bay rum, minerality and NECCO water. It's a zesty drink of Mandarin orange, tangerine and lemon peel, backed by pineapple, slate and taro root. (350 cases, 13.9% alc.)

Tsillan Cellars 2009 Sempre Amore, Lake Chelan, $19

Recommended: Translated, it means "love always," and its new blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurz from this Lake Chelan icon. It comes across as an easy and balanced offering of Bosc pear, Golden Delicious apple, rose petal and lemon. (412 cases, 13.5% alc.)

William Augustus 2009 Viognier-Marsanne, Rogue Valley, $16

Outstanding: Gus Janeway was one of Oregon's early advocates for screwcaps, and here is one of the first blends of Viognier and Marsanne in the Northwest. It's a style others should follow as Viognier (72%) from Gold and Marsanne at Crater View vineyards produce spellbinding aromas of Lemon Head candy, banana cream pie, Circus Peanuts, baking soda biscuit and freshly laundered flannel pajamas. The drink provides an alternative to Chardonnay as it's rich with butterscotch pudding, banana taffy and orange oil. There's a wonderful closure of minerality, giving it a dry edge to pair with foods such as clams steamed with lemon butter and vermouth, pasta tossed with olive oil or a good steak. (375 cases, 13.5% alc.)

Wild Goose Vineyards 2009 Autumn Gold, Okanagan Valley, $19 CDN

Outstanding: This perennial off-dry blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc - aka "Mom's wine" - remains the best-selling wine for our 2009 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. It's easy to see why. The perfumy nose fans out notes of lychee, passion fruit, peach, petrol and toast. And the drink follows the same path. It's delicious, complex and well balanced as gooseberry-like acidity matches the 3.0% residual sugar. (2,000 cases, 12.5% alc.)

Westport Winery NV Rapture of the Deep Cranberry Carbonate, Washington, $25

Excellent: It is billed as "cranberry made for sunrise brunch to midnight toast," and Dana Roberts builds it with pleasing tartness to sweep clean the residual sugar (10%) and intriguing bit of viscosity on the midpalate. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Driftwood Theater in nearby Aberdeen. (173 cases, 11% alc.)

Martinez & Martinez 2009 Cabernet Blanca Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $16

Excellent: The Martinez family must enjoy a cold glass of this while watching the warm sunset in the Horse Heaven Hills. Its garnet color is attractive to the eye, and the aromas start by slicing a strawberry/rhubarb pie, joined by raspberry and orange marmalade. The pour produces sweet cherry and apricot flavors amid a slightly viscous structure. Lingering notes of orange and pineapple are reminiscent of a mai tai. In Tahitian, that means "good." (180 cases, 12.8% alc.)

Westport Winery NV Little Wild Blackberry Riesling, Washington, $25

Excellent: A number of wineries near the Idaho/Washington border can't make enough huckleberry-affected Riesling to satisfy customers. Our 2011 Washington Winery to Watch is going down the blackberry path. The aromas are akin to grabbing a blackberry off the vine, with some lime, red strawberry, violets and black currant. It is very much Riesling on the palate with some late acidity to balance the residual sugar (14%) and a bit of berry seed tannin in the finish. This will appeal to the Sunday brunch crowd and would go well with French toast. Serve chilled. (396 cases, 10% alc.)

Westport Winery NV Message in a Bottle, Washington, $19

Excellent: There's truth in advertising with blackberry wine that incorporates vanilla, which takes over the nose with hints of maple nut ice cream and a root beer float. The fruit leads the palate, which is quite sweet (10% residual sugar) and drinks like an adults-only blackberry shake or an Italian soda that's boozy. Technically, it's well-made. (103 cases, 11% alc.)

Westport Winery NV Red Sky at Night, Washington, $29

Recommended: This creation of raspberry wine blended with chocolate must be a favorite at the Westport Timberland Library, because it receives a donation for each bottle sold. Rather than raspberry, the aromas and flavors are reminiscent of a cherry Tootsie pop, backed by cranberry tartness and bit of tannin to balance the residual sugar (10%). (253 cases, 11% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2007 Ethos Late Harvest White Riesling, Columbia Valley, $35

Outstanding: Here's proof that you don't need to go north of the 49th parallel for a dessert wine that drinks like a top-notch Canadian ice wine. Bob Bertheau had these botrytis-covered clustered harvested Nov. 1, which made for succulent aromatics of apricot glaceed, fresh-squeezed lemon, honey, jasmine and lime. It's dog-gone delicious and viscous as flavors of baked apple, more apricot and bananas foster trickle in. (120 cases, 8% alc.)

Dunham Cellars 2008 Lewis Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley, $19

Excellent: Eric Dunham provided the artwork for the label, and this marked Dan Wampfler's first harvest for this famed Walla Walla winery. You breathe in aromas of orange marmalade, creme brulee, diesel and lemon zest. It's sweet but not syrupy, bursting with apricots, passion fruit and more orange. Acidity shows up in the finish along with butterscotch button candy. The residual sugar is 23%. (750 cases, 9.5% alc.)

Mount Baker Vineyards & Winery 2007 Late Harvest Viognier, Yakima Valley, $21

Recommended: Accents of apricot jam, canned pear, caramel apple and grilled pineapple swirl in a drink of Karo syrup that could be mistaken for an ice wine if had more acidity. The residual sugar checks at 18%. (67 cases, 9% alc.)

Tsillan Cellars 2007 Dolcezza d'Oro Dessert Riesling, Columbia Valley, $35

Recommended: Lemon, pear, apple, grapefruit, dried apple peel and petrol notes are blended into a sweet syrup (12.7% residual sugar) with flecks of minerality. (804 cases, 11.5% alc.)

Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery 2007 The Lost Bars Vidal Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $60 CDN

Outstanding: Here's yet another delicious wine from the smaller sister label of Mission Hills. The nose is resplendent with figs, apricot, honey and vanilla. Rich flavors bring thoughts of apricot ice cream, Golden Delicious apple and honey, backed by cloves. The sugar was left at 19%, and the structure is balanced but not syrupy. As for the story behind the name, Camp McKinney in the Okanagan Valley was robbed of three gold bars in 1896. The bars were never found. (9.5% alc.)

Lake Chelan Winery 2008 Chardonnay Ice Wine, Columbia Valley, $30

Recommended: Passion fruit, pineapple, lychee and lavender fill this lightly syrupy dessert wine from Smasne Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Citrus pith and a touch of clove balance the residual sugar (14%). (105 cases, 11.1% alc.)

Mission Hill Family Estate 2009 Reserve Riesling Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $60

Excellent: Harvest at the Kelowna estate vineyard hit Dec. 7, and the hangtime allowed for a residual sugar (33%). While the nose of dried apricots, lemon bitters and orange zest is rather restrained for an ice wine, but dessert lovers will find redemption between the gums. It's filled with crushed pineapple, poached apricots and honey, backed by lip-smacking acidity and finishes with a Bit o' Honey. (8.5% alc.)

Gray Monk Estate Winery NV Odyssey III Port-style, Okanagan Valley, $20 CDN

Excellent: The Heiss family takes Gamay Noir to new heights with this, blending it with Merlot and developing it in the solera style. It is structured like ruby port and brings a wide range of citrusy aromas including lemon, lime, orange Pop Rocks candy, but also dill weed and a Christmas tree. A pour brings in chocolate-covered orange peel and huge amount of acidity to balance the 8% residual sugar. It's fruitier than most Port-style wines, and the chemistry keeps it fresh. (470 cases, 19.8% alc.)

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