This year, his talents led to nine Platinums. No winemaker accounted for as many. In the past decade, Palencia, age 32, has been awarded 36 Platinums for his work with Jones of Washington, Palencia Winery, Vino la Monarcha and the early days of Henry Earl Estates.
“I’ve never taken the time to count, but that’s pretty cool,” Palencia said.
“That means more Platinums than years old I am, and that’s my grading scale,” he added with a chuckle. “I guess I have four years to slack off!”
It’s a statement that seems quite ridiculous to anyone who has spent 10 minutes with Palencia or tasted any of the juice he creates on the Wahluke Slope, in Walla Walla or downtown Kennewick.
The 19th Platinum Judging continues to serve as a runway for many of Pacific Northwest’s most beautiful wines released during 2018. Each of this year’s 654 entries essentially were prescreened, and in a sense it is an invitational, a product of at least one respected wine competition somewhere around the globe where a panel of respected influentials deemed it worthy a gold medal.
In many instances, once a winery achieves a gold medal with a particular wine, that award is more than enough to inspire tasting room sales and wine club reorders. Those factors help explain why many Platinum qualifiers don’t come with more gold medals on their résumé. And yet, winery owners and winemakers continue to appreciate seeing how that wine has evolved over the course of a year and stacks up against their gold medal-winning contemporaries.
Thankfully, the beat goes on in the cellars at some of the Northwest’s top wineries. The aforementioned Gehringer Brothers on the Golden Mile Bench in the Okanagan Valley brought eight more Platinums back to British Columbia. Nearby, Tinhorn Creek won three Platinums. All total, there were 34 Platinum winners from Canada, accounting for 20 percent of the top-rated wines.
Maryhill Winery, the destination on the edge of Columbia Gorge that next year will open its third tasting room in Washington, returned seven Platinums — four for Richard Batchelor’s high-end work with red Bordeaux varieties.
At the opposite end of the Columbia Gorge, winemaker Rich Cushman once again proved that he deserves to be in the discussion among the Northwest’s elite, responsible for six Platinums split between two family-owned producers in Hood River, Ore. — Mt. Hood Winery and Stave & Stone Wine Estates.
14 Hands, a brand that’s grown to be the second-largest in Washington state built on the shoulders of bargain red blends such as Hot to Trot is far more than a one-trick pony. Keith Kenison merited five Platinums for the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates giant, and those awards came in a variety of categories, styles and price points, paced by the Double Platinum for its 2015 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($30).
Reustle - Prayer Rock Vineyards in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley captured four Platinums, two for Stephen Reustle’s pioneering work with the Austrian variety Grüner Veltliner.
Judges from California, Oregon and Washington found fascination in exploring varieties. For example, there were eight Platinums given to standalone bottlings of Cabernet Franc, half of those from the Yakima Valley. There were 10 entries in the Grenache category, and half of those received a Platinum. Two came from Riviere Galets Vineyard in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. A handful of Sangiovese entries went on to wear Platinum, as did five examples of Tempranillo, one of those from Reustle.
Idaho winemakers continue to raise the bar and the state’s profile with seven Platinums. In fact, Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston bumped its career total to 12, and no woman winemaker in the Northwest has amassed as many Platinums as Coco Umiker, whose winery comes with a view of the Clearwater River.
When it comes to emerging regions, the Pinot Noir class highlighted the work of Cardwell Hills Cellars and Lumos Wine Co. in Philomath, a small community in Oregon’s Coastal Foothills west of Corvallis.
Puget Sound producers continue to display talent. Spoiled Dog Winery on Whidbey Island captured three Platinums, joined by two each from Whidbey Island Winery and Vashon Island’s Palouse Winery. Greg Osenbach at Whidbey Island Winery is on a run, having won four Platinums in the past three years to give him eight for his career.
Lake Chelan, another cool-climate region, showed well, thanks in large part to home-grown winemaker Shane Collins. There were three estate wines from showpiece Tsillan Cellars, while Rocky Pond Winery, with vineyards on the south shore of Lake Chelan and its exciting Double D Vineyard, also won three Platinums. Last year, Collins moved from Tsillan Cellars to Rocky Pond.
Ron Bunnell, whose winemaking helped put Rocky Pond on the map, picked up three Platinums for wines featured at the delectable Wine o’Clock Bistro in Prosser operated by his wife, Susan.
Young brand Love That Red Winery in Woodinville, Wash., showed vintner Terry Wells has quickly found his stride with three Platinums for high-end red wines.
Pat Spangler and Spangler Vineyards, our 2018 Oregon Winery of the Year, bumped his career total to 13, with a trio of Platinums for his work with big Bordeaux varieties.
Milbrandt Vineyards, which cracked the first half of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list for 2018 with its $17 Cabernet Sauvignon, moved up the all-time Platinum scoreboard with its 2014 The Estates Syrah.
Woodward Canyon added to the much-storied history of its Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, again earning Platinums for that program now over a 1- year span apart with the first coming in 2003 for its 2000 vintage.
Seven Falls Cellars, the brand launched by now-retired Ste. Michelle winemaker Doug Gore and based in Paterson, Wash., has won at least one Platinum in five straight years.
Community colleges continue to build on their success. College Cellars of Walla Walla earned a pair of Platinums for 2017 whites under Tim Donahue’s tutelage, including a second in five years for its Clarke Vineyard Sèmillon. (Star-studded alumni of the Walla Walla program both include Palencia and Collins.) Yakima Valley Vintners, led by instructors Trent Ball and Brad Smith, used the student-made 2015 Mid-Term Merlot ($15) to match College Cellars with five career Platinums for their program.
There also is a growing appreciation for balanced wines made with fruit other than grapes. Forbidden Fruit and Maan Farms Estate Winery in British Columbia, Sky River Meadery in Skykomish, Wash., and Westport Winery on the Washington Coast combined for six Platinums.
And while this judging helps serve as reaffirmation of some of our region’s top producers, there were more than 30 first-time winners. They included Aluel, Barons, Beresan, Bitner, Black Market Wine Co., Blind Creek Collective, Blue Grouse, Brook Horse, Callan Cellars, Catman Cellars, Cedar River Cellars, Chris James Cellars, Darige, Damsel Cellars, Dead End Cellars, Drum Roll Wines, Fences Winery, J. Scott Cellars, Lagana Cellars, Longship Cellars, Maan Farms Estate Winery, Nine Hats Wines, Owen Roe Winery, Palouse Winery, Rocky Pond Winery, Stag's Hollow Winery & Vineyard, Stottle Winery, Tertulia Cellars, Tinhorn Creek, Warr-King Wines and Yamhill Valley Vineyards.
There’s a widespread softening in the market for Riesling, which has led to some vineyards being transitioned to other varieties, and some anecdotal evidence of that may have played out within the 2018 Platinum. This year, 15 Rieslings were entered, and seven achieved Platinum. In 2017, there were 31 entries into the Platinum. In 2015, when there were a record 698 qualified wines that entered, Riesling accounted for 39 of them. And 14 of them went onto achieve Platinum, a clip of 36 percent Platinum. Overall, more than 120 Rieslings have earned Platinum. That’s 8 percent out of the 1,513 Platinums entered over the years.
Our judges this year were Dan Berger, columnist, Santa Rosa Calif.; Kristine Bono, direct to consumer manager for Tertulia Cellars, Walla Walla, Wash.; Gary Hayes, president of Explorer Media Group and the Savor NW Wine Awards, Cannon Beach, Ore.; Ellen Landis, journalist/sommelier, Vancouver, Wash.; Richard Larsen, research winemaker and enologist, Washington State University, Richland, Wash.; Gregg McConnell, editor of Wine Press Northwest; Andy Perdue, wine columnist for The Seattle Times, Richland, Wash; April Reddout, guest services manager for Col Solare, Benton City, Wash.; and Heather Unwin, instructor, Richland, Wash. Judging panel moderators were Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine; retired educator Hank Sauer, Kennewick, Wash; and Ken Robertson, Wine Press Northwest columnist, Kennewick, Wash.
Best of the Best
Aluel Cellars 2014 Coat of Arms Red Wine, Rattlesnake Hills $40.00Seattle's Alex Oh and Samuel Hilbert work with winemaker Bart Fawbush of Bartholomew Winery on the wine they pour in their Capitol Hill tasting room. Coat of Arms represents their best Bordeaux-based blend, and in 2014, it was dominated by Carménère (86%). Aromas of a warm-from-the-oven cherry pie and subtle florals are tantalizing. Luscious on the palate are black raspberry, cherry, dark chocolate, cranberry orange muffin and minerally notes. Underlying herbaceous elements intertwine. The oak is nicely integrated; tannins are round and approachable, and the finish is memorable. (125 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Classic Riesling, Okanagan Valley $13.29The King of the Platinums nearly produced the top wine of the 2018 Platinum with this quintessential Pacific Northwest example of Riesling, perhaps the most decorated wine of the judging. It broadcasts a classic Riesling aroma of river rock and stone fruit. Glorious on the palate, with fresh summer peaches, nectarines, hints of jasmine, crushed herbs, and a solid thread of minerality. Zesty and precise, with a kick of lime zest on the forever finish. (2,000 cases, 12.9% alc.) Awards: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (best of class, gold medal), Los Angeles International Wine Competition (gold), Indy International Wine Competition (gold), Cascadia International Wine Competition (double gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Fly Rod Cellars 2015 Trico Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley $29Troy Mandeville and John Richardson of Convergence Zone Cellars in the Cascade foothills town of North Bend, Wash., work with Cabernet Franc from acclaimed Dineen Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills for the second vintage of this brand and its tribute to the tricorythodes mayfly — a friend to those fly fishing for trout. Perfumed aromas of violets and graphite shout out Cab Franc. The floral note continues while flavors of strawberry-rhubarb, black raspberry, graphite, hints of tar, anise seed, then smoky spiced oak and cigar box notes unfold. Juicy, rich and balanced, the firm tannins provide great framework, suggesting its cellar worthiness. (45 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Blue Grouse Estate Winery 2016 Quill Pinot Noir, British Columbia $25Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley produces a growing number of award-winning wines, and the Brunner family’s stewardship of this beautiful property suits winemaker Bailey Williamson. Both lots were harvested at 22 Brix, and half of the fruit came from the Okanagan Valley. The results are beautiful, bright and rounded with notes of cranberry cocktail, plum, orange zest, rose petal, Baker’s chocolate and tobacco leaf. Restrained tannins and lingering acidity make for a superb structure that’s remarkably balanced. (400 cases, 13% alc.) Award: Wine Align National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Bradley Vineyards 2016 Riesling, Elkton Oregon $16Tyler Bradley has taken the reins of his late father’s bucolic vineyard just outside the tiny town of Elkton, Ore., in the northern reaches of the Umpqua Valley. The classic wet stone aroma of rocks, clearly speak of Riesling. On the palate, flinty notes join citrus-flecked white peaches, grapefruit, lemon verbena and minerality. Immaculately balanced and finely structured, it brings a lime-tinged finish. Delicious now, and age-worthy too. (84 cases, 12.3% alc.) Award: SIP McMinnville (gold).
Brook Horse Wine 2017 Chardonnay, Rogue Valley $27Second-generation winemaker Eric Weisinger in Ashland, Ore., worked with the Moore family’s Quail Run Vineyard on this barrel-fermented Chardonnay, which featured 20% new French oak. The nose offers lime, Golden Delicious apple, pineapple, pear and minerality. Across the palate roll those same fruity elements, framed by roundness and depth. Beautiful acidity makes for a long finish. (115 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: New York International Wine Competition (gold).
Callan Cellars 2017 Boushey Vineyards Picpoul, Yakima Valley $25Woodinville 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 and mouthwateringly 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. (100 cases, 12.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2014 The Chase Red Wine, Golden Mile Bench $20This marks the fifth Platinum in the past four years for Chris and Betty Jentsch, who grow the grapes for their winemaker, Amber Pratt. She takes a Right Bank approach with this blend of Cabernet Franc (34%), Merlot (34%), Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), Malbec (2%) and Petit Verdot. A product of a particularly stellar vintage in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, violets on the nose open to dark fruit and black tea notes. It’s complex and stylish as layers of Bing cherry, black olive, blackberry, hints of tar, black licorice lead to subtle underlying roasted red pepper and savory herbs, which broaden on the palate. Refined tannins, pristine balance and a lingering finish complete the stunning package. It ranks among best and most available red wines in the province. (3,300 cases, 14.1% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Old Vines Auxerrois, Okanagan Valley $14.29Few in North America work with this early-ripening white grape that’s most popular in Alsace. It can be argued that no one in the New World does it as well as the Gehringer brothers in British Columbia. It’s delightfully floral on the nose with a suggestion of tropical fruit peeking through. Beautifying the palate are delicate layers of crisp Aurora Golden Gala apples, herbal tea, dried pineapple, lemon verbena and white peach. Lovely acidity keeps it bright and dynamic through the invigorating finish. (1,800 cases, 12.7% alc.) Awards: Los Angeles International Wine Competition (gold), Indy International Wine Competition (best of class, gold), Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Hedges Family Estate 2016 Hedges Estate Vineyard Grand Class Syrah, Red Mountain $40Sarah Hedges-Goedhart grew up with these vines, now farmed using Demeter-certified Biodynamic practices. Remarkable complex, it ranges from violet to blackberry preserves and blueberry notes. This wine spent just 10 months in barrel, with two of the three barrels being new, and that oak integration displays delicious accents of mocha and Baker’s chocolate. Her family’s wines rank among the most age-worthy in Washington, so the imagination runs wild thinking about this in the early 2020s. (93 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival (best of show, gold medal).
J. Scott Cellars 2017 Albariño, Washington $20Willamette Valley winemaker Jonathan Scott Oberlander, who rose to prominence at historic Silvan Ridge Winery, sources throughout the Pacific Northwest for grapes to pour at his tasting rooms in Eugene’s Westside Warehouse District and on the coast at Newport. His Albariño spent no time in oak, so the citrusy aromas really get the juices flowing with this precisely balanced white. It’s deliciously fruity and lively with layers of apricot, fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon, pear, mango, kiwi, and a pinch of lemon basil melding with lovely minerality and bracing acidity. Zesty and mouthwatering acidity pulses through the never-ending finish. (250 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Awards (gold).
Larch Hills Winery 2015 North Okanagan Siegerrebe, British Columbia $16A German scientist crossed Gewürztraminer with Madeleine Angevine and viewed it as such as success that Siegerrebe (pronounced ZEE-gar-RAY-beh) translates to “victory wine” in German. Jack Manser has found the grape to be a real winner at Larch Hills, a vineyard and winery north of the Okanagan Valley town of Vernon. Striking aromatics show off jasmine and citrus fruit. It’s glorious in the mouth with layers of pink grapefruit, ginger snaps, fresh pineapple, Ginger Gold apples, hints of slate, juicy apricots and fresh chopped lemongrass. Perfectly balanced with brilliant acidity, there’s a fragrant note of gardenia on the vitalizing finish. (663 cases, 11.6% alc.) Award: Savor NW (gold).
Mt. Hood Winery NV Summit Red Table Wine, Columbia Valley $24Wine Press Northwest’s Oregon Winery of the Year for 2016 shows no sign of slowing down as homegrown winemaker Rich Cushman continues to produce strings of gold medals for the Bickford family. His wide-ranging blend of Pinot Noir (25%), Tempranillo (25%), Syrah (25%), Zinfandel (12.5%) and Malbec brings a rich nose of dusty blueberry, cranberry and blackberry pie. Inside, it’s remarkably balanced and filled with dark cherry flavors, blueberry acidity and capped by a long finish of black cherry cola.(658 cases, 13% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Palencia Wine Co. 2017 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $20The combination of this white Spanish grape grown in the fascinating Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley and placed in the hands of Victor Palencia continues to produce remarkable results. There’s enticing tropical fruit, citrus and wet stone notes on the nose. Well-defined layers of guava, mango, crisp pear, a touch of fresh herbs, lemon sorbet and hints of earth invigorate the palate. Zippy acidity provides ideal balance, and a solid thread of minerality — a thumbprint of the Ancient Lakes’ caliche soils — holds through the vibrant, mesmerizing finish. (250 cases, 12.5 alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (best of class, gold).
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Revelation & Sorek Bloc Estate Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley $24Stephen Reustle’s 2014 vintage of this wine topped last year’s Platinum Judging, and this one is showing equally well. Fresh-squeezed lime and peach aromas are heavenly. Citrus blossom, white peach, earthy tones, Meyer lemon, pear, guava, lime zest, a pinch of white pepper and minerality flow effortlessly onto the palate. It’s meticulously balanced with a finish that never ends - age-worthy, too. (600 cases, 13.8% alc.)
Robert Karl Cellars 2015 Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills $26Dr. Joe Gunselman began driving from his Spokane winery to the Horse Heaven Hills for Platinum-winning grapes a decade ago, and he’s back with McKinley Springs Vineyard for this Malbec. None of the four French barrels in this lot were new oak, and that shows. Black fruits on the nose pave the way for this finely balanced Malbec. Full-bodied and intensely structured, black plum, blackberry and bay leaf accents meld with a nice underlay of oak. It’s powerful with a firm backbone of tannins while showing off a smooth texture and gracefulness; approachable now, and yet also cellar-worthy for those who can wait. (100 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
The Bunnell Family Cellar 2013 Grenache, Yakima Valley $36Tennessee native Ron Bunnell, recruited to make wine in Washington by Chateau Ste. Michelle in the 1990s, became one of the Northwest’s top producers of Rhône varieties with the advent of his own winery in Prosser. His work with Grenache from grower Art den Hoed is pure Platinum. Magnificent raspberry and spice aromas up front continue to build as the wine meets your lips. Raspberry jam, ripe pomegranate seeds, juicy red cherries and cinnamon stick glide across the palate. The perfect level of acidity and soft, silky tannins create a gorgeous mouth feel. It is simply scrumptious. (94 cases, 14.9% alc.) Award: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (gold).
Thurston Wolfe 2015 Zephyr Ridge Vineyard Petite Sirah, Horse Heaven Hills $20One of the Northwest’s wine industry’s most respected figures is winemaker/viticulturist Wade Wolfe, who probably knows Zephyr Ridge Vineyard better than anyone. He helped oversee the 1997 planting of this vineyard when he worked for Hogue Cellars. Now, this site at the southern edge of the Horse Heaven Hills provides half of the production for his Prosser winery. The fragrant floral aroma is charismatic - wow! Powerful while elegant, it broadcasts purity all the way through. Blackberries, purple plums, fresh tobacco, spice box notes, hint of black olive, and underlying toasty oak provide a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate. Rich, smooth, bright and complex through the long-lasting finish. It ranks among the best examples of Petite Sirah produced in the Pacific Northwest. (360 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley $21Andrew Windsor works with Diamondback Vineyard, an estate site along the Black Sage Bench - the warmest site in Canada - for this Chardonnay fermented in both stainless steel and oak barrels. The breathtaking aroma leads the way for this bright and lively, sleek beauty. Crisp Granny Smith apples, lime zest, fresh crushed herbs and minerality create a brilliant display of flavors decorating the palate. Pure and streamlined with fine balance and well-integrated oak, and the long finish is simply dazzling. (2,054 cases, 14% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Championships (gold).
Tsillan Cellars 2016 Estate Riesling, Lake Chelan $20Lake Chelan native Shane Collins’s final harvest for Dr. Bob Jankelson is reflected in one of the Platinum Judging’s top Rieslings. The mouth-watering aroma is compelling. Well-defined layers of Key lime and sun-ripened stone fruit include a touch of fresh earth, Ginger Gold apple and minerality. Immaculately balanced for 2% residual sugar, it flows elegantly on the palate, with lovely citrus elements on the persistent finish. (412 cases, 11.9% alc.) Awards: Indy International Wine Competition (double gold), Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Westport Winery Garden Resort NV Dawn Patrol White Wine With Natural Flavor, Washington $27This perennial crowd-pleasing blend of raspberry with Riesling is lightly sweet thanks to the balance provided by the high-acid brambleberry and the baking spice finish. It’s built by Dana Roberts to be paired with crab cakes at his family’s on-premise Sea Glass Grill, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the wine are donated to the Twin Harbor chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. (182 cases, 12.3% alc.) Award: Cascadia Wine Competition (gold).
Yamhill Valley Vineyards 2016 Riesling, Willamette Valley $18Ariel Eberle, who recently completed her 10th crush at Yamhill Valley Vineyards, continues her string of success with Riesling at the second-oldest vineyard in the McMinnville American Viticultural Area. While her 2015 Riesling leaned more toward late-harvest in approach, this is nearly bone-dry at 0.6% residual sugar, which displays her versatility as a winemaker. Gorgeous aromatic engages the senses. Nectarine, peach skin, lime zest, underlying crushed herbs and minerality expand vivaciously on the palate. It is beautifully balanced with a perfect level of acidity keeping it vibrant through the long and refreshing finish. (406 cases, 12.2% alc.) Award: Great Northwest Wine Invitational Wine Competition (double gold).
Zerba Cellars 2015 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley $45Doug Nierman’s winemaking at Zerba Cellars brought the Milton-Freewater, Ore., producer a long string of acclaim, including Wine Press Northwest’s 2011 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year. His legacy continues with this Malbec from Cecil and Marilyn Zerba’s Cockburn Vineyard. The alluring floral aroma of this gem will take your breath away! Layers of dark plum, black cherry, blackberry, a touch of blood orange, hint of molasses, understated oak, and coffee bean soar onto the palate. Well-composed with a solid backbone of tannins, thanks to the legal limit of Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), it offers precise balance and deep fruit as purity abounds through the grand finale. (190 cases, 14.1% alc.) Award: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (double gold).
Dead End Cellars 2014 No Return Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, British Columbia $27Forbidden Fruit in British Columbia’s emerging Similkameen Valley ranks among the Northwest’s top producers of non-grape wines. Nathan Venables’ winemaking for his family’s grape-based Dead End Cellars brand shows that his talent also extends to vinifera. His Right Bank Bordeaux blend of Merlot (43%) Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) and Cabernet Franc stays true to his family’s certified organic farming practices, and the aromatics of mixed berries and chocolate mint are irresistible. Spilling delectably onto the palate are well-defined layers of blueberry, SweeTart cherry, tobacco leaf, red currant, blackberry, traces of earth and warm spices. Richly textured with impeccable balance and a persistent finish, it’s already approachable and also age-worthy. (200 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Championships (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Private Reserve Dry Riesling, Okanagan Valley $13.29This marks the fourth straight vintage for Walter and Gordon Gehringer to earn at least a Platinum with this style of Riesling, which carries less than 1% residual sugar. An alluring stone fruit aroma engages the senses. Peach and nectarine fruit mingle with sweet herbs, minerality and a touch of lemon-lime, exhilarating the palate. Crisp acidity offers perfect balance, and the scintillating finish persists long after the last sip. (2,000 cases, 13% alc.) Awards: Los Angeles International Wine Competition (gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Indian Creek Winery 2016 Sangiovese, Snake River Valley $25Second-generation vintner Tammy Stowe-McClure and her winemaking husband, Mike McClure, used this young and still-unreleased Sangiovese to earn their second Platinum in as many years. Gorgeous florals on the nose pave the way to classic earth-tinged cherry notes on entry. It’s immaculately balanced with hints of damp earth, red cherries and expressive spice components that unfold on the palate with brilliant acidity. The entire package builds to a gloriously long finale. (100 cases, 13% alc.) Award: Idaho Wine Competition (gold).
Milbrandt Vineyards 2014 The Estates Syrah, Wahluke Slope $26From the middle tier of Butch Milbrandt’s five-tier portfolio, this luscious Syrah from The Estates project was constructed by Ivy League-trained Josh Maloney, who built his reputation as one of Washington’s top talents with reds during his days with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. There’s no disappointment on the palate after sniffing hints of black cherry, black plum and olive. Medium-soft tannins make for a beautiful structure, capped by a long finish of pomegranate juice. (1,000 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2016 Estate Cuvée Viognier, Umpqua Valley $27As much acclaim as this Southern Oregon producer merits for Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, Stephen Reustle’s work with Viognier too often gets overlooked. There’s an equal balance of peach, honey and enticing orchard blossom notes with apricot and dried pineapple in the background. Its beautiful character with a delicate fleck of minerality makes it both crowd-pleasing and sophisticated. (258 cases, 13.2% alc.) Awards: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (double gold medal).
Thurston Wolfe 2016 Touriga Naçional Port, Yakima Valley $16Wade Wolfe has been producing award-winning dessert wines with Portuguese varieties long enough that he is among the few outside of Portugal legally allowed to label them as “Port.” (The U.S. and European Union agreed to this restriction in 2006). This is 100% Touriga from Lonesome Springs Vineyard, and the 15 months in neutral oak barrels allow for aromas of fruitcake, fresh brioche and sweet cured meat. Inside, it’s rich and delicious with a creamy body and flavors of vanilla and raspberry jam. (180 cases, 18% alc.) Award: Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival (gold).
14 Hands Winery 2015 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills $30Keith Kenison first rose to prominence when he headed up the white wine program at Columbia Crest. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates promoted him to the role of head winemaker at 14 Hands, and he’s helped build the Prosser winery into the second-largest brand in the state thanks to the popularity of his value red blends. This marks the third straight vintage in which he’s checked in with a gold medal or better at one of the West Coast’s top judgings for his reserve Cab. Dusty berries and savory aromas provide a captivating entry. The velvety texture comes with lavish purple plum, mulberry and boysenberry fruit, a splash of orange, accents of licorice, cocoa bean, and vanilla extract - a combination that weaves a colorful composition of flavors on the palate. A kick of savoriness adds depth through the finish. (663 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (gold).
Chateau Walla Walla 2013 The Artisan Series #4 Masterpiece Red, Walla Walla Valley $40A part of the Claar Wine Group portfolio, this wine from winemaker Joe Hudson uses fruit from Summit View Vineyard and the Zerba family’s Winesap Vineyard in that buzz-worthy The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. This Left Bank Bordeaux angle leads with Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), followed by Malbec (30%) and Petit Verdot, and it ranks among the most expressive reds of Platinum. Spiced plum, cola and chocolate-covered cranberry notes pick up hints of graphite and violet. Underlying savoriness and black peppercorn are supported by the perfect level of tannin with everything an equal partner. (150 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Chris James Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir, Oregon $26Chris Barnes, who began under the Artem Wine Co. brand, established his young vineyard along the western edge of the Yamhill-Carlton American Viticultural Area, and Wagon Road Vineyard serves as the foundation for this exquisite three-source, four-clone Pinot Noir. It’s a gateway example, an enticing Pinot Noir with hints of cassis, raspberry and dried rose petal that keep you coming back for another evaluation. (620 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Awards (double gold).
Dunham Cellars 2014 XX Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $45The inaugural bottling by the late Eric Dunham was a 1995 Cab, and his legacy lives on in superb fashion with this 20th anniversary release from the Walla Walla icon. Fruit sources include venerable Sagemoor, Double Canyon in the Horse Heaven Hills and Kenny Hill Estate Vineyard not far from the winery. Aromas of blackberry pie are joined by roasted coffee and chocolate, signs of the investment in 70% new French oak barrels, but they allow for mint and thyme to emerge. Ripe black currant and blueberry flavors are carried by understated tannins and a juicy finish. (2,299 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Madsen Family Cellars 2013 Heart of Darkness Dessert Wine, Horse Heaven Hills $26For years, South Puget Sound producer Dana Madsen has been working with McKinley Springs Vineyard in Washington for the Petit Verdot he devotes to his Port-style project. There’s beautiful raisin, plum, Tootsie Roll and pumpkin spice aromas, followed by a beautiful body reminiscent of cherry cordials with nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Its alcohol is nicely integrated, and the level of sweetness is restrained. (106 cases, 20.5% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 McKinley Springs Vineyards Cinsault, Horse Heaven Hills $40The 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 topped with grated nutmeg. (220 cases, 15.3% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Award (gold).
Skaha Vineyard 2014 Merlot, Okanagan Valley $26Gerry and Sue Thygesen of Kraze Legz Vineyard and Winery have developed their Skaha Vineyard brand, a tribute to languid Skaha Lake, which is below their Kaleden estate. This Merlot signals their eighth overall Platinum, five of those awarded to their Skaha label. The fruity nose of cherry, red currant rose petal evolves into a beautiful blend of the aromas. And while the entry is luscious and pretty with cocoa powder and baking spices, the juiciness of pomegranate adds acidity that’s expected with a cool-climate Merlot, yet it doesn’t distract from the balance. (200 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Awards (gold).
Cave B Estate Winery 2015 Cave B Vineyard Cuvée du Soleil Red Wine, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $50Among the interesting aspects of the 19th Platinum Judging is the continued rise of wines — reds and whites from fruit in the Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley. Freddy Arredondo, the chef-turned-winemaker at his family’s Cave B Estate Winery, turned in this crowd-pleasing Left Bank Bordeaux-inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (43%) and Merlot (34%) with equal parts Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It’s a cherry-driven wine with a subtle presence of Earl Grey tea tannins that plays deliciously with the finish of red currant and plum. (120 cases, 14.7% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), Wenatchee Wine Awards (gold).
Chateau Lorane Winery 2014 Quail Run Vineyard Mourvèdre, Rogue Valley $30Longtime 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 Mourvèdre 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. (75 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Awards (gold).
Drum Roll Wine 2013 Cabernet Manet, Columbia Valley $18Matt Frazier and Dave Hill Jr., worked with one of Woodinville’s cult producers and Art denHoed Vineyard for this Cabernet Sauvignon that first attracted our attention during Wine Press Northwest’s summer judging of Cab. A different set of judges agreed in unison that it’s a standout and a remarkable bargain from small independent negoçiants. Aromas of toasted marshmallow and black currant still allow for dried fig, tobacco leaf and minerality. Its beautiful structure is filled with blackberry, plum and a finish that’s oh so smooth. It’s not quite a “Best Buy!” but it’s doggone close, and these wines are available at PCC Community Markets. (185 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Wine Press Northwest tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon (“Outstanding.”)
Lang Vineyards 2012 Riesling Ice Wine, Okanagan Valley $55British Columbia’s original Farmgate Winery has the advantage of working with 60-year-old Riesling vines for this delectable dessert wine they serve on the Naramata Bench. Founder Guenther Lang’s nephew, Michael, manages the winery, while Richard Kiltz works with consulting winemaker Robert Thielicke. The honeyed stone fruit aroma is provocative, followed by long layers of lemon gelato, raw clover honey, dried pears, sugar-dusted grilled peaches, nectarines, honeysuckle nectar and roasted almonds. Enjoy with blue cheese, crème brûlée or orange sherbet. (450 cases, 9.2% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Championships (double gold).
Bitner Vineyards 2015 Erletxe Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $33Retired bee biologist Ron Bitner is among the champions in Idaho for the early-ripening Spanish red grape, and his proprietary name for this marquee bottling of Tempranillo pulls from the Spanish term for “bee hive.” His longtime winemaker and friend, Greg Koenig, worked with Dale Jeffers fruit from the breadbasket that is Skyline Vineyards for an incredibly complex and spicy Temp. It’s loaded with blackberry and black cherry, cured meat and coffee notes that trail off with a long savory element. (234 cases, 14% alc.) Award: Idaho Wine Competition (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Gewürztraminer/Schönburger, Golden Mile Bench $15These brothers plug and play when it comes to this consistently successful 50/50 blend of Gewürztraminer and Schönburger, the latter a cross of Pinot Noir with Muscat Hamburg that was developed at the Geisenheim Institute in then-West Germany while Walter Gehringer studied winemaking there. Lychee and passion fruit, lemon curd and fresh-chopped herbs unwind in this lightly off-dry white capped by a jovial kick of acidity. Wines such as this can be transformative. (600 cases, 12.3% alc.) Awards: Indy International Wine Competition (double gold), Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), BC Best of Varietal (gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Elephant Mountain Vineyards Carménère, Rattlesnake Hills $44Oozing with juicy and sweet black fruit, this high-elevation Yakima Valley Carménère raised by Joe Hattrup is both deeply flavored and zesty. 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 mouth feel, the finish goes on and on. (101 cases, 14.5% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (best red wine, double gold), Washington State Wine Awards (gold).
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Estate Winemaker's Reserve Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley $29On occasion, Stephen Reustle will enter older vintages from his trailblazing Grüner Veltliner project in order to see how critics view a wine’s progress. Earlier this year, he entered this wine in a Florida competition, where it won a gold medal. In October, this same wine that earned a Platinum in 2016 earned another Platinum. Two years separated the two Platinums. White pepper and fresh herbs on the nose shout out Grüner. Fanning out on the palate are layers of Granny Smith apple, chamomile, starfruit, minerality, fresh sugar snap peas and lemon-lime citrusy notes. It remains elegant, spirited and pure all the way through. (442 cases, 12.8% alc.) Award: American Fine Wine Invitational (gold).
Rio Vista Wines 2015 River View Red Grand Reserve Blend, Columbia Valley $38Estate vines frame this unique tasting room along the Columbia River that’s accessible by boat, and second-generation winemaker John Little Jr, came up with a delicious blend of Malbec (40%), Merlot (40%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s elegance in a glass as lush berries and pomegranate gather up hints of earth, fresh-roasted coffee beans, molasses and spice box notes. It’s pure through the persistent finish. (300 cases, 14.2% alc.) Awards: Wenatchee Wine & Food Festival Wine Competition (best of class, double gold).
Rocky Pond Winery 2016 Double D Vineyard Grenache, Columbia Valley $33David Dufenhorst is the D.D. behind the promising and large planting along the Columbia River downstream from Chelan, Wash. Prosser winemaker Ron Bunnell was onboard for the crush of this Grenache, and Washington State University grad Shane Collins took over in the summer of 2017, so they combined for this deeply fruited Grenache. Aromas of raspberry and blueberry include fresh-turned earth, while an appealing earthiness remains consistent on the palate. Black raspberries, brown spices, purple plums, loganberries, Marionberries form the core that’s underscored by brisk acid and firm tannins. (116 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Westport Winery Garden Resort NV Shiver Me Timbers, Washington $27As the Roberts family enters its second decade of wine production along the Washington Coast, they pay a partial tribute to their many years on Maui with this Hawaiian imitation of a Sauterne. They blend POG juice with Riesling from one of the Yakima Valley’s top producers, which offers something akin to a nutty marmalade in aromas and flavors, backed by lots of acidity. At their on-premise Sea Glass Bistro, they suggest a pairing with the Cobb-like Salmagundi Salad, and proceeds help to build homes for Grays Harbor Habitat of Humanity. (248 cases, 11.9% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Barrister Winery NV Rough Justice X, Columbia Valley $23A number of Washington state’s most venerable vineyards, such as Bacchus, Dionysus, Dwelley, Kiona, Pepper Bridge and Weinbau, give Spokane Cork District attorneys Greg Lipsker and Michael White plenty of evidence for one of the region’s most popular red wines. Merlot traditionally leads the blend, followed closely by the influence of Syrah which fleshes out the midpalate for their winemaker, Tyler Walters. The latest is no exception with its jammy goodness as blackberry, olallieberry and blueberry are met by toasty notes, vanilla bean, a hint of spice and cocoa powder. Purity and palate weight is backed by a bright finish. (1,700 cases, 14.9% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Blind Creek Collective 2015 Consensus Red Wine, Similkameen Valley $60The promise of Blind Creek Vineyards in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley prompted the Luckhurst family at Road 13 to not only enter into a partnership but also create a separate tier devoted to this 100-acre property. Jeff Del Nin’s Merlot-led Right Bank inspiration straddles New World and Old World with its dark purple fruit and earthiness. Well-managed oak and spiced blackberry compote meld within a powerful structure that offers depth and age-worthy tannins. (364 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Browne Family Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $45Among the Pacific Northwest’s most competitive Cabs was made by Waterbrook winemaker John Freeman for Precept Wine CEO Andrew Browne’s eponymous label. Three Red Mountain vineyards factored heavily into it - Blue Mountain, Quintessence and Dick & Wendy Shaw’s — which sets the table for greatness. There’s blackberry jam, cassis and chai spice running throughout, and the delicious mouth feel includes dried herbs, blueberry skin tannins and a stunning finish of roasted meat and cherry pie filling. (6,700 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Seattle Wine Awards (gold), Wine Press Northwest tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon (Outstanding!)
College Cellars of Walla Walla 2017 Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley $20Winemaking instructor Tim Donahue and his students continue to reel in gold medals with seemingly every bottling, and their big and round Chardonnay has gone Platinum. There’s a pleasing grassy nose with starfruit, ripe pear and citrus that’s realized on the palate with Bosc pear and Granny Smith apple. It’s big and round yet not at all flabby. (100 cases, 13.4% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold).
College Cellars of Walla Walla 2017 Clarke Vineyard Sèmillon, Walla Walla Valley $18The late Stan Clarke lives on in the hearts and minds of students and faculty at Walla Walla Community College, and the vineyard he doted on near the Walla Walla airport continues to flourish. Winemaking educator Tim Donahue and his students pulled from Clarke Vineyard for one of the state’s top white wines released in 2018. Charming aromas of peach, lemon custard, honeysuckle and limestone lead to flavors of white peach and nectarine. There’s a touch of canola oil in the midpalate for complexity, but that’s whisked clean by a long finish of Meyer lemon and apricot. (60 cases, 13.3% alc.) Awards: Washington State Wine Awards (best white, gold).
Damsel Cellars 2015 Stillwater Creek Vineyard Malbec, Columbia Valley $36Mari Womack worked at some of Woodinville’s top boutique wineries before launching her own brand with the 2013 vintage, and she uses a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) to build upon the framework of Stillwater Creek fruit. The 22 months in seasoned French oak barrels keep the focus on the wild berry and black currant as spice and black tea tannins mesh perfectly with the blueberry acidity. (88 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Eye of the Needle Winery 2014 The Point Reserve Red Wine, Columbia Valley $35Woodinville negoçiant Bob Bullock arrived at this Cab Franc-based blend involving Stillwater Creek Vineyard for a well-balanced wine. It’s radiant and pure as red cherries, raspberries and fresh strawberries join Italian herbs. Toasted oak nuances glide across the palate that’s capped by a bright, fresh, long and satisfying finish. (52 cases, 15.2% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Dry Rock Unoaked Chardonnay, Golden Mile Bench $14Here is the third time in four vintages that this historic property near Oliver, British Columbia, has earned at least a Platinum for their estate unbaked Chardonnay program. Lemon-lime, passionfruit and a bite of gooseberry form a complex nose. Inside, there’s gorgeous acidity as minerality. light grapefruit flavors and lime combine for a remarkable mouth feel. (1,500 cases, 13.1% alc.) Awards: Indy International Wine Competition (best of class, double gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Dry Rock Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley $16This winery just south of Oliver, British Columbia, routinely sells out of its white wines by the time the next vintage is ready, and it’s easy to see why with this heavily decorated Sauvignon Blanc off the Gehringer brothers’ estate. It’s complex from start to finish with starfruit and gooseberry, joined by mango, a scrape of minerality and citrus fruit. (600 cases, 13.1% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold), Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (best of class, gold), Cascadia International Wine Competition (best of class, gold), British Columbia Best of Varietal Awards (best of class), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2017 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley $14This showy Riesling-based white variety was developed in Geisenheim, West Germany, and Walter Gehringer earned his winemaking degree from the University of Geisenheim. It’s intensely aromatic with honeydew melon and apricot on the nose. On the palate, its lively flavors of crisp pear, a splash of lime, dried apricot, clover honey and blanched almonds unfold delectably. The finish is clean and refreshing with a tinge of anise. (2,500 cases, 12.9 alc.) Awards: Indy International Wine Competition (gold), Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Jones of Washington 2017 Rosé of Syrah, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $14Victor Palencia dialed down the hue just a bit from previous vintages, but he didn’t alter the appeal of this rosé that drinks so remarkably easy. Aromas of strawberry and citrus zest reach out and grab you, pulling you in for delicious and seamless tangerine and lemon/lime flavors. It doesn’t come with screaming acidity, making it a possible gateway for those new to rosé. (1,089 cases, 12.3% alc.) Awards: Seattle Wine Awards (gold), Wenatchee Wine and Food Festival (double gold).
Larch Hills Winery 2016 North Okanagan Lemberger, British Columbia $15Owner/winemaker Jack Manser makes his wine in Salmon Arm, but he sources his Lemberger to the south at Knorr Vineyard in Kelowna. The work with stainless steel fermentation makes for a wildly aromatic red, and this gem begs you into the glass. Bing cherry, a twist of multi-colored peppercorns, thyme, black raspberry and a splash of Dr Pepper entwine gracefully. The involvement of oak is skillfully managed and sits perfectly in the background, making for a well-balanced example of Blaufränkisch with good depth through the succulent finish. (350 cases, 13.2% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Love That Red Winery 2015 Rivière Galets Vineyard Fillies & Mares Grenache, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater $50Woodinville winemaker Terry Wells sticks with his horse racing theme for this stunning Grenache from one of the Walla Walla Valley estate vineyards of Tertulia Cellars. Chopped garden-fresh herbs and a hint of earth on the nose. Filling the mouth are wild raspberries, blueberry pastry, loganberries and blood orange with nice savory spice accents. Toasty oak notes add dimension without being over the top, and the finish is round and juicy. (91 cases, 14.8% alc.) Awards: San Francisco Chronicle (gold), 2017 Tri-Cities Wine Festival (gold).
Lumos Wine Co. 2015 Temperance Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills $45Dai Crisp’s 25 years of work with the sprawling 97 acres of Temperance Hills has played a key role in raising the profile of the Eola-Amity Hills. As a result, he’s a recent inductee into the Oregon State University Hall of Fame. His longtime winemaker for his own Lumos Wine Co., brand, Julia Cattrall, shows restraint with this super-expressive Pinot Noir that’s red-fruited with Maraschino cherry, raspberry and cranberry sauce. A nibble of plum skins still leaves the door open to a sprinkle of minerality and a slice of spice cake. (199 cases, 14% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Kiona Vineyards Heart of the Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain $49The winemaking Williams family, now three generations strong, plays a role in many of Washington’s top examples of Cab. Here, they served as growers to talented Richard Batchelor. Blackcurrant, blackberry, Damson plum, fresh pipe tobacco, Bing cherry, eucalyptus, a touch of crushed mint, nutmeg and toasted oak spice marry delectably. Red Mountain’s telltale firm tannins and lively acidity support the fine core of fruit as the depth and synchronization of flavors carries long after the last drop. (178 cases, 15.2% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold).
Owen Roe Winery 2015 Chapel Block Syrah, Yakima Valley $55Close proximity to the Sauer family’s historic Red Willow Vineyard in the foothills of Mount Adams helped inspire David O’Reilly to begin making wine in the Yakima Valley. He shows reverence to these rows of Syrah the late David Lake walked in this bottling with its plum and pomegranate flavors, which come with touches of violet, roasted coffee, fresh mint and the turn of a pepper mill. (420 cases, 14.1% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Palencia Wine Co. 2015 Grenache, Yakima Valley $36This wine holds an extra-special place in the heart of Victor Palencia. He grew up in Prosser, Wash., was mentored by Willow Crest vintner David Minick, and their relationship continues to this day. Minick, who now oversees all of Precept Wine’s 4,000 acres of vines, allows his former pupil to access Precept’s Canyon Vineyard Ranch east of Prosser — the birthplace of this stunning Grenache. Fragrant scents of crushed red raspberries and savory notes are stimulating. Pomegranate juice, spicy raspberry chutney, grapefruit and red cherries energize the palate. Pure, distinctive and well-balanced with lively acidity through the elegant final sip. (200 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Palouse Winery Dog Day Chardonnay, Washington $32Puget Sound winemaker George Kirkish reaches into the Rattlesnake Hills of the Yakima Valley to pull Chardonnay off one of the state’s most historic sites at Portteus Vineyard. The 50/50 blend of neutral French oak and stainless steel leads to a blend of stone fruit, citrus and lanolin aromas followed by bone-dry flavors Asian pear, lemon peel and lime, capped by apricot custard and apple skin. (60 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Rocky Pond Winery 2016 Double D Vineyard Malbec, Columbia Valley $42There’s growing interest in the Dufenhorst family’s 165-acre site below Knapps Hills Tunnel near Chelan, Wash., and this Malbec serves as more evidence of its promise. A mellow theme of plum and smoky oak is superbly balanced with blackberry jam acidity and a nice sense of tobacco and dried herbs. (193 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Spangler Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc, Southern Oregon $28Our reigning Oregon Winery of the Year records its third career Platinum for Cabernet Franc. Black cherry and vanilla notes jump from the glass. Inside, it’s deeply fruited with black plum, fresh-picked blackberries, licorice, chocolate-covered cherries and sarsaparilla coating the mouth. It’s well defined and smooth with excellent balance. (268 cases, 14.9% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Spoiled Dog Winery 2017 Escape Blanc, Washington $17Cool-climate grape expert Karen Krug crafts this Germanic white blend of Riesling (85%) from Crawford Vineyard in the Yakima with Siegerrebe from Kang Vineyard on Whidbey Island. Scents of a white floral bouquet and wet stone notes provide a perk. It’s sleek and minerally, with pear, peach and nectarine, the accents of clove and fresh honey, creating a colorful blast of flavors. Brisk acidity keeps it vivacious, and a kick of lime zest enlivens the finish. (98 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Spoiled Dog Winery 2014 Estate Reserve Selection Pinot Noir, Puget Sound $38Trained in chemistry prior to 20 years as an international attorney, Karen Krug shows a keen understanding of winemaking with the grapes she and her husband planted across their 25 acres on the south end of Whidbey Island. This Pinot Noir from top lots of seven clones spent 18 months in 25% new French oak, and the nose is exceptional with cherry, Mud Pie crust and earth. Inside, there’s beautifully bright red fruit akin to cherry pie and graham cracker crust and a clean, dry finish reminiscent of sweet tea. (104 cases, 13.2% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (gold).
Tertulia Cellars 2016 Rivière Galets Estate Vineyard Grenache, Walla Walla Valley $35Ryan Driver grows the grapes and erstwhile chef Ryan Raber handles the juice at this Walla Walla, Wash., winery with tasting rooms in Woodinville and Dundee, Ore. Their Grenache is rich, jammy and expressive with black raspberries, chocolate-covered strawberries, nutmeg, red licorice, a touch of earth and the sweet peppery note of pink peppercorns. While velvety smooth, the natural acidity of Grenache provides the juicy and satisfying acidity. (150 cases, 13% alc.) Awards: Dan Berger International Wine Competition (double gold, best of class).
The Bunnell Family Cellar 2014 Painted Hills Vineyard Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley $48Officially, Art den Hoed’s viticultural tapestry that is Painted Hills Vineyard near Mabton, Wash., was established just outside the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area. (Look for that to change). It’s become a go-to source for a growing number of top winemakers, and Ron Bunnell’s Petit Verdot serves as an example of why it is. A sense of earth on the nose opens to tasty wild berries on entry. A rich tapestry of blackberry, huckleberry and blackberry fruits, mocha, savory spice and subtle oak is showcased on the palate. With its silky texture, pleasing balance and firm tannins, it’s a fine example of Petit Verdot as a stand-alone variety. (96 cases, 14.2% alc.) Awards: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (best of class, gold medal).
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2014 Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Valley $32Bay Area native Sandra Oldfield made Tinhorn Creek’s Cabernet Franc program arguably the best in Canada, and her successor, Andrew Windsor, continues to build upon that reputation. Cherry vanilla and hints of earth captivate the nose. Blueberry pie, cassis, bay leaf and espresso bean notes dance with earthiness and savory elements on the palate. Chalky tannins and a spot-on level of acidity pull the package together, and the aftertaste showcases good length. (800 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Los Angeles International Wine Competition (gold).
Tsillan Cellars 2017 Estate Sempre Amore White Wine, Lake Chelan $28Ray Sandidge, one of Washington state’s most experienced winemakers, took over the program at Tsillan Cellars just before the harvest of his off-dry blend of Pinot Gris (79%) and Gewürztraminer (16%) with stainless steel Chardonnay (5%). Aromas of fresh apples and white flowers rise at first swirl. It’s delicate and lively as flavors of Honeycrisp apple, lemon zest, and fresh-sliced pineapple include a drop of sesame oil. Judges found it balanced and refreshing through the lemon-spiked finish. (510 cases, 13% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Vino la Monarcha Winery 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $20“A party in a bottle” is how one judge described this rosé that Victor Palencia pulls from the Jones family’s Two Gun Vineyard. The aromas open with the facial powder dustiness of the Ancient Lakes. There’s so much beyond that with this pink filled with lively red fruit that brings in orange spice to build upon the wow factor. It’s a fantastic example. (690 cases, 12% alc.) Awards: Washington State Wine Competition (double gold).
Walla Walla Vintners 2016 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $35Co-founders Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri helped put Cabernet Franc on the map as a stand-alone bottling among Washington producers, and the winemaker that Anderson helped train — William VonMetzger — has continued that tradition with Walla Walla Vintners’ third career Platinum with the variety. Expressive aromas of dark berries and a touch of spice are fully engaging. Juicy and ripe with blackberry jam, Asian tea, raspberry candy, savory spice, cedar and graphite tickle the taste buds. Juicy and balanced, its firm tannins suggests more years ahead. (1,170 cases, 14.2% alc.) Awards: Seattle Wine Awards (gold), Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition (gold).
Whidbey Island Winery 2016 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley $22Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Greg Osenbach opening his tasting room in the middle of Puget Sound. He’s come to depend on three of Eastern Washington’s most underrated vineyards — Crawford, Coyote Canyon and Elephant Mountain — for his Sangiovese program. Here is a pleasingly aromatic, earth-driven example with a solid backing of red fruit. Broadening on the palate are notes of tobacco leaf, underlying orange peel, cranberry and spicy cherry compote melding in harmony. (300 cases, 14.4% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Wilridge Winery 2014 Wilridge Vineyard Estate Biodynamic Sangiovese, Naches Heights $30Seattle’s most appropriately named lawyer, Paul Beveridge, is a tireless advocate for Washington wine and a disciple of Biodynamic farming. In addition to using Demeter practices, he also ferments his Sangiovese using native yeast, giving it a fruit-forward theme with a touch of earth. Cranberry, Bing cherry and a thread of cocoa join in, and the grape’s elevated level of acidity pulls it all together. (289 cases, 13.7% alc.) Awards: Seattle Wine Awards (best of class, double gold).
Amavi Cellars 2017 Estate Vineyards Sèmillon, Walla Walla Valley $24Jean-François Pellet again affirms Amavi’s place in the discussion of Northwest leaders with the Sèmillon from this brand he founded with Pepper Bridge managing partner Norm McKibben. Les Collines, Goff and Seven Hills vineyards, all partner-controlled, contribute the fruit that went into neutral French oak. What has emerged is a theme of dried apricot and white peach with hints of botanicals and fresh lemon juice. It’s tailored to a table with grilled seafood and asparagus. (978 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition (gold).
Ambassador Wines of Washington 2015 Estate Diplomat Red Wine, Red Mountain $40With Dick Boushey growing the grapes, Sarah Hedges Goedhart crafting the wine and historic Duckhorn winemaker Tom Rinaldi involved, this Cab-dominated wine carried quite a pedigree into this competition. Judges fell for the inky core of black cherry and dark plum that’s joined by classic notes of dried herbs and violet. It’s capped by a lingering spicy finish hinting of black pepper and cayenne. (288 cases, 14.3% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Barons Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $45One of Washington state’s top winemaking consultants, Matthew Loso, blended only Cab from two of the Columbia Valley’s older vineyards — Conner-Lee and Red Mountain showpiece Hedges — for a Cab lover’s dream. Its appealing theme of cherry pipe tobacco, cola, plum and dried herbs includes a proper level of grip from fine-grained tannins. And a deft touch with the 100% new French oak barrels for 23 months still allows for a hint of bell pepper in the food-friendly, lower-alcohol finish. (360 cases, 14.1% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (double gold).
Black Market Wine Co. 2015 The Syndicate Red Wine, Okanagan Valley $30Among the exciting discoveries within the field for this year’s Platinum was a coming out for Black Market Wine Co., a garagiste husband-wife project by Rob Hammersley and Michelle Shewchuk at Mark Simpson’s upstart B.C. Wine Studio in Okanagan Falls. Their Right Bank angle of Merlot (32%) and Cabernet Franc (29%) is intensely flavored and layered as blueberry jam, black cherry, black licorice, boysenberry, black tea and dried herbs uncoil gracefully among long and velvety tannins. (225 cases, 14.4% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2014 Ferris Wheel Estate Pinot Noir, Elkton Oregon $38This marks the sixth Platinum that Terry Brandborg has won for Pinot Noir, and half of those are from his Ferris Wheel Vineyard. There’s a purity to the expression of this Pinot Noir with a sense of Burgundy, too. Charming strawberry jam aromas lead to delicate flavors of Craisin and raspberry. Its smooth tannin structure is joined by a beautiful finish that includes dried tea leaves and a pinch of earthiness. (465 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Cascadia Wine Competition (gold).
Cardwell Hill Cellars 2014 Estate Dijon Blocks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $32This estate winery in the foothills of the Coastal Range west of Corvallis, Ore., bumped its career total of Platinums to seven this fall, and all for Pinot Noir. The straightforward 50/50 blend of Dijon 115 and Dijon 77 was seen as close to perfect, screaming all the nuances of the grape that’s made Oregon famous. Gorgeous tones of cranberry, strawberry-rhubarb include spot-on acidity, discreet white tea tannins, a nice leather component and a dusting of white pepper. “Buy a case,” urged one judge. (225 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: McMinnville Wine and Food Classic (gold).
Colter's Creek Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Lewis-Clark Valley $20Mike Pearson’s vineyard work in his Fools Block that overlooks his winemaking wife Melissa Sanborn’s winery in tiny Juliaetta, Idaho, proves that Tempranillo has a home in the historic Lewis-Clark Valley. This rather youthful example brings cherry jam and blueberries with reasonably tamed tannins, pomegranate acidity and finishing touches of leather and lavender. (291 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (best of class, double gold).
DANCIN Vineyards 2016 Ecarté Pinot Noir, Oregon $42This vintage signals the 20th anniversary of California transplants Dan and Cinda Marca attending their first viticulture class through Oregon State University. The Marcas routinely venture beyond their home turf in the Rogue Valley for their Pinot Noir program, and this bottling — one of seven from 2016 — is 100% Pommard clone fruit. It’s a charming and easy drink with rounded red fruit akin to Bing cherry and raspberry, supported by dried blueberry skin tannins and a curtsy of savory black olive pit. (140 cases, 14.35% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Competition (gold).
14 Hands Winery 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $12Cab is king in Washington, and Keith Kenison and his team at 14 Hands in Prosser continue their reputation for producing one of the state’s most likable, affordable and available examples. Part of the winery’s “Essentials Series,” it’s fruit-forward with creamy black cherry and blueberry in its silky tannins,which makes for a long finish. (197,790 cases, 15% alc.) Awards: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition (double gold).
14 Hands Winery 2017 Rosé, Washington $12A number of the Northwest’s top examples of rosé feature Syrah, and Keith Kenison spotlights the Rhône Valley grape within his pink program for 14 Hands. That explains the theme of strawberry and watermelon, which carries the background acidity akin to rhubarb compote that keeps it clean, bright, beautiful and refreshing. Enjoy with grilled seafood and savory cheeses. (44,000 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (double gold.)
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, 2017 Private Reserve Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley $14This marks the third career Platinum for Pinot Gris by these two German-educated brothers. Described by one judge as “rapturous,” it offers typicity with a great backbone of grapefruit and lime while performing a remarkable transition from a creamy midpalate of strawberry pie to a finish of lemon peel with minerality. (2,500 cases, 13.2% alc.) Awards: Indy International Wine Competition (gold), Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (gold), Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Jones of Washington 2016 Pinot Gris, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $17Victor Palencia deserves to be in the discussion when it comes to the top Pinot Gris producers in the Northwest because this marks the fourth time that he’s produced a Platinum for Jones of Washington in the Pinot Gris category. He’s quick to credit the Jones family’s fruit, which he showcases with notes of lime and grapefruit. It’s a crisp style, and the enjoyable citrus pith in the midpalate leads to a lingering finish of lemon oil and that Ancient Lakes minerality. (2,093 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (gold) Wenatchee Wine and Food Festival (gold).
Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2016 Heart of the Hill Malbec, Red Mountain $45Wine Press Northwest’s reigning Washington Winery of the Year owns three vineyards on Red Mountain, and Heart of the Hills is the largest at 150 acres. Less than 3 acres are devoted to Malbec, but those vines produce marvelous wines for customers of the Williams family as well as their own brand. Scott Williams’s latest example checks all the boxes for Washington Malbec, with accents of white pepper and forest floor with an abundance of blue fruit. Its beautiful texture includes finishing touches of cinnamon and caramel. (142 cases, 14.5% alc.) Awards: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (best of class, gold).
Lake Breeze Vineyards 2017 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley $21South African winemaker Garron Elmes excels with aromatic whites so Pinot Gris from the Naramata Bench overlooking Okanagan Lake is an ideal fit. It’s abundantly citrusy, redolent of lemon tart, gooseberry and lime oil, perfect to pair with white meat and appetizers. (2,500 cases, 13.5% alc.) Awards: All Canadian Wine Championships (double gold), Okanagan Life Best of BC Wine (gold).
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2015 Fries Vineyard Carménère, Wahluke Slope $18It’s no surprise to us that Spokane’s Mike Conway and his winemaking daughter Natalie Conway-Barnes combined for one of biggest values of the 19th Platinum when it comes to this obscure red Bordeaux variety. A bit shy at first, this intense Carménère shows off nicely with aeration. Black currant, blackberry and savory earth elements, spiced oak, vanilla bean and black cherry crisp flavors are supported by firm tannins. Its finish displays the variety’s classic peppery notes. (425 cases, 12.5% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold) and Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
L'Ecole No. 41 2015 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley $36Mike Sharon began making wine at the little schoolhouse in Lowden with Marty Clubb more than 20 years ago, so he’s been on the ground floor of the planting of basalt-influenced Ferguson Vineyard. That fascinating site comes together with acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard, another estate site, for a remarkable example of Merlot that’s both consumer-friendly and food-friendly. It’s chock full of raspberry jam, cherry pie crust and dried fig notes amid a structure that easily speaks over the tannins with delicious acidity. (1,105 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Longship Cellars 2016 Invader Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley $36While Kyle Welch pays tribute to his Scandinavian roots with the name of his winery, an internship in Spain continues to inspire him, and the Richland, Wash., winemaker views Tempranillo as the variety that most fascinates him. His lean toward new barrels with Zerba-farmed Cockburn Vineyard leads to tongue-coating tones of chocolate fudge, blackberry and blueberry as the gorgeous mid palate structure permits touches of violet and cherry pit on the finish. (225 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Lumos Wine Co. 2015 Five Blocks Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $25A collaboration between grower Dai Crisp and winemaker Julia Cattrall, Five Blocks represents both of the vineyards that Crisp manages — acclaimed Temperance Hill and his own site, Wren. This product of a record-warm vintage leads to a really easy drink reminiscent of blueberry scones and Trappist Abbey fruitcake. Pleasing intensity comes with the finish of Montmorency cherry juice and a nibble of the skin. (449 cases, 14% alc.) Awards: Oregon Wine Awards (double gold), Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Maan Farms Estate Winery 2016 Raspberry Dessert, Fraser Valley $27This third-generation Lower Mainland berry farm began producing nongrape wines in 2012, and Gaurav Maan seems to have been a quick study. His fortified raspberry wine involves at least two pounds of raspberries for each bottle, and the fluid is pure, fresh-off-the-cane raspberry. In fact, the flavor is so vibrant and intense that it is difficult to pick up on the fortifying spirits. Those seeking framboise deserve to seek out this unique product across the border from Bellingham. (118 cases, 17% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Championship (best fruit wine).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Clifton Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope $40New Zealand native Richard Batchelor has gone on the record to proclaim that his favorite wines to make for Craig and Vicki Leuthold are Cabernet Sauvignon. That pride and passion is evident with these 10 barrels from Milbrandt-owned Clifton Hill Vineyard, which conjures up thoughts of huckleberry syrup, cassis and dried cherries in a marvelous mouth feel. It’s backed by secondary notes of bacon, cedar, tarragon and spice. (264 cases, 15.2% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Proprietor's Reserve Sangiovese, Columbia Valley $36In the past decade, the Leutholds have dialed in two primary sites for Sangiovese — Gunkel Vineyard near their Goldendale, Wash., production facility — and more recently Tudor Hills in the Yakima Valley. This exceptionally aromatic and savory Sangio fully engages the palate. Dried cherry, cranberry, hints of earthiness, gratifying spicy elements and a solid acid backbone drive the wine to a classic expression. It then finishes with style and persistence. (771 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Mt. Hood Winery 2015 Dry Hollow Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley $34The Bickfords and Rich Cushman work with this site near The Dalles, Ore., devoting 22 months in 25% new American oak to their four-barrels of Merlot. Fresh-fruit aromas of cherry, blueberry and plum include cedar and black peppercorns. On the entry, pleasingly soft cherries are met by pomegranate syrup and a long, easy finish of blueberry skins tannins. (96 cases, 13.9% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (best of class, gold medal).
Northstar Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $40 Dave “Merf” Merfeld has been awarded three Platinums for his work with Merlot, but his Cabernet Sauvignon obviously should not be overlooked either. Pedigree plays a role, and this example features Ste. Michelle Wine Estates’s historic and immense Cold Creek Vineyard and nearby Four Feathers with Dick Shaw’s namesake planting on Red Mountain. Beautifully rounded with ripe plum, black cherry and dried herbs, including black peppercorns and savory elements. All of the elements are in perfect balance with an elegant finish. (2,800 cases, 15% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Palencia Wine Co. 2017 Rosélia, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $20For years, Victor Palencia wanted to make a wine to pay tribute to his mother, Roselia. This marks the debut vintage of the Pinot Noir rosé that he creates a bit differently than his award-winning Vino la Monarcha rosé from the same grape. Judges used “beautiful” more than once to describe this, which comes with hints of pink grapefruit and fresh watermelon salad that lead to mixed berries in the finish. Deliciously spritzy acidity makes for a perfect and dry farewell. (220 cases, 12% alc.) Award: Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition (gold).
Palouse Winery 2015 Two Blondes Vineyard The Poet Red Wine, Rattlesnake Hills $50Vashon Island commercial pilot George Kirkish saw a number of the wines in his portfolio take flight in 2018, including this Left Bank-inspired blend from Two Blondes Vineyard, a Yakima Valley site owned by Vashon’s cult producer Chris Camarda of Andrew Will. The spice-driven aromas and purity of fruit are beautifully displayed. Blueberry pie, blackberry, a touch of melted chocolate, hints of tobacco and fresh-chopped herbs cast brilliant acidity across the velvety-smooth tannins.(75 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Puffin Brand 2017 Pinot Gris, Oregon $20Cannon Beach wine merchant Steven Sinkler wisely aligns the Pinot Gris program for his Puffin lineup with Capitello winemaker Ray Walsh, renowned for his work at King Estate. They tapped into Deer Haven Vineyard and Lush Vineyards for crowd-pleasing Pinot Gris that’s remarkably floral and tropical as it follows through with mango and lychee before picking up a twist of lime. (120 cases, 13.7% alc.) Awards: Oregon Wine Awards (best of class, double gold).
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Estate Winemaker's Reserve Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley $42Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley has earned a reputation for award-winning Tempranillo, and this signals the second career Platinum focused on Tempranillo for Stephen Reustle. It is redolent of lavender, blackberry, cherry and dusty plum as a deft touch with barrel shows a nice use of oak. Touches of smoked meat and fresh herbs with beautiful acidity and restrained tannins give it food-friendly complexity. (396 cases, 14.2% alc.) Awards: San Diego Wine Competition (Platinum), Cascadia Wine Competition (gold).
Ryan Patrick Wines 2016 Redhead Red, Columbia Valley $15Two talented winemakers combined to deliver Butch Milbrandt his fourth Platinum under the Ryan Patrick brand as Kendall Mix took over for Jeremy Santo in the summer of 2017. Three warm sites on the Wahluke Slope, including prized Clifton and Northridge, came together for this blend built of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%) with an easy push of Syrah (17%). An abundance of sweet purple fruit pushes into a backbone of Merlot (22%) and Petit Verdot, where pinches of nutmeg and allspice filter into the finish. (3,000 cases, 13.5% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Seven Falls Cellars 2015 Rapids Red, Wahluke Slope $18Now a legacy of recently retired Ste. Michelle executive Doug Gore, this young brand is in the hands of young Reid Klei, a product of Eastern Washington University now into his second decade working at Columbia Crest. Syrah from Mrachek Vineyard dominates this blend with Merlot (35%), which explains the notes of bacon fat and violet that are layered with blackberry, strawberry and cherry amid an inviting structure. (15,000 cases, 14.5% alc.) Awards: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition (double gold), Tri-Cities Wine Festival (gold).
Spoiled Dog Winery 2017 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir, Puget Sound $23Seven clones of Pinot Noir are grown across Jack and Karen Krug’s bucolic estate on Whidbey Island, and her passion for pink shows in her winemaking on this rosé. All seven clones came into play for a wine that’s alive with beautiful blood orange and pink strawberry notes, carried along in dry fashion by spritzy acidity. (85 cases, 13.4% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Stottle Winery 2014 Tempranillo, Horse Heaven Hills $32Northwest Wine Academy product Josh Stottlemyer records his first career Platinum, using a vineyard that’s been at the core of his Olympia winery program — 6 Prong, a former site belonging to Dr. Steve Elerding, whose records indicate the Tempranillo was planted in 1993. In 2014, harvest came Sept. 23 for the crop load of 3.5 tons per acre. While it offers penetrating black cherries and cured meat notes, the hallmark of the Temp might be its amazingly pleasing texture. (135 cases, 14.4% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
The Bunnell Family Cellar 2015 Wine o'Clock Sangiovese, Columbia Valley $24Ron and Susan Bunnell collaborate on the Sangiovese served at their Wine o’Clock bistro at the Vintner’s Village in Prosser, Wash. The compelling nose begs you to linger over the glass. Earthy, cherry, forest berry aromas and flavors shout out varietal correctness. This Sangio demonstrates elegant fruit, gentle tannins and precise balance from the inviting start to the lingering finish. (218 cases, 14.5% alc.) Awards: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (gold), Seattle Wine Awards (gold), Pacific Rim International Wine Competition (gold).
Township 7 Vineyards & Winery 2016 Merlot, Okanagan Valley $25Blue Terrace Vineyard around the corner from the might Black Sage Bench in the South Okanagan Valley has gone down as a breadbasket for T7 and winemaker Mary McDermott. Her use of oak came in dialed perfectly, accounting for charming toast and smoke, while allowing for hints of cherry pipe tobacco and lots of plum and baking spice. The structure plays out beautifully heavy, plush and simply yummy. (1,038 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Los Angeles International (gold).
Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Tualatin Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $55New York native Joe Ibrahim took a path to Oregon that included stops with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Gallo then San Luis Obispo before receiving the opportunity to work with sites such as Tualatin Estate, one of Northwest’s oldest plantings of Pinot Noir dating to 1973. Beautiful lines of red fruit and Christmastime baking spices, including anise, add up to a winsome expression of Pinot Noir that’s nicely rounded. (976 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Aluel Cellars 2015 Coat of Arms Red Wine, Columbia Valley $40This young brand on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which topped the 2018 Platinum with its 2014 Coat of Arms, took a much different approach with its Meritage-style wine from the 2015 vintage, sourcing fruit from Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills. Merlot (73%) steers the ship with Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Petit Verdot filling in the gaps. It’s pleasing on the nose with deep, dark fruits as black cherry, plum and blackberry compote meld in harmony with savory spice and subtle earthiness. Well-structured and balanced, refined tannins provide good support, giving it appeal from first sip to last lingering one. Unfortunately, production of this wine is miniscule. (35 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $24Dan Chapel, among Oregon’s most overlooked winemakers, produces one of the state’s most approachable and affordable examples of independently grown Pinot Noir. His dry-farmed, four-clone collage of Dijon 115, Dijon 777, Pommard and Wadenswil is perfectly bright with candied cherry, Craisins and pomegranate. Background notes of lilac, dusty earth and savory olive give it complexity and grace. (2,365 cases, 13.9 alc.) Award: Northwest Wine Summit (gold).
Cassini Cellars 2014 Bella Vineyard Limited Edition Nobilus Merlot, Okanagan Valley $40Winemaking and grape growing in Adrian Cassini’s family runs deep back in Romania. Near the Golden Mile, he’s transformed what used to be a huge lavender farm into one of British Columbia’s top brands. His vineyard-designate Merlot is a cool-climate example that offers aromas of blackberry jam, chocolate and cedar. On the attack, it’s rounded and dark with plum sauce, bittersweet chocolate and baking spice, backed by a sense of graphite. (200 cases, 15% alc.) Award: Intervin International Wine Awards (gold).
Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills $20Head winemaker Bob Bertheau and white wine specialist David Rosenthal collaborate on what is one of Washington’s top examples of Chardonnay year in and year out. Their work with the perfect amount of oak influence brings a hint of tastiness reminiscent of Baked Alaska, bringing a touch of meringue and apple in a full-bodied approach that finishes with sweet corn. (5,740 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (double gold).
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut Rosé, Columbia Valley $13The sparkling wine house for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has garnered 13 Platinums in the 19 years of this judging, and Northwest native Paula Eakin records the third with its Brut Rosé. This is all about bright red fruit — think Montmorency cherry, red currant and strawberry/watermelon. Her skill shows with the delicate presentation of mousse, while maintaining a sense of minerality and food-friendly acidity. (20,000 cases, 11.5% alc.) Awards: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition (gold), Savor NW Wine Awards (best of class).
La Frenz Winery 2017 Knorr Vineyard Naramata Bench Sèmillon, Okanagan Valley $23Founding winemaker Jeff Martin raised the bar in British Columbia during his early days at Quails’ Gate, and his reputation with white Bordeaux varieties has given the Australian access to perhaps the oldest planting of Sèmillon in Canada. Citrusy notes of Ruby Red grapefruit and gooseberry serve as bookends for the beautifully silky midpalate of honey, almond paste and lychee that head winemaker Dominic McCosker nurtured. (486 cases, 11.7% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
La Frenz Winery 2016 Naramata Bench One Hundred Series Vivant Reserve, Okanagan Valley $29Dominic McCosker, recruited to British Columbia’s Naramata Bench by fellow Aussie winemaker Jeff Martin, turned this work with Viognier (50%), Roussanne (36%) and Chardonnay (14%) into one of judging’s top white blends. Pretty aromas of peaches and cream lead to round flavors of fresh-baked peach pie with nutmeg, a papaya smoothie and a pinch of dried tarragon. A nice level of acidity keeps it spirited alongside those lush flavors. (349 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Larch Hills Winery 2016 North Okanagan Tamarack Rosé, British Columbia $14Jack Manser’s winemaking produced a trio of Platinums in 2018. His rosé is a blend of Lemberger from Knorr Vineyard in the Okanagan Valley with the aromatic white variety Ortega (80%) he grows at his winery north of Vernon. Its delightful color is an indicator of its off-dry approach, hinting at raspberry and cherry with its nose. Inside, the focus turns to citrus fruit flavors of Ruby Red grapefruit and Mandarin orange. The tannin structure and raspberry acidity will allow it to stand up to a savory meal. (342 cases, 12.6% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Ledger David Cellars 2017 Viognier, Rogue Valley $23Bryan Wilson, one of the Northwest’s top winemakers, continues to get pulled into various Southern Oregon wineries that seek his extra-special touch. That’s apparent in this Viognier for Ledger David grower/owner Lena Varner. Classic orchard notes of orange Creamsicle, peach and Asian pear are ushered along by a beautiful presentation of the Meyer lemon acidity so often lacking in Viognier. The light finish of pineapple and nectarine pit are perfect for food applications. (219 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Award (gold).
Love That Red Winery 2014 Daily Double Red Blend, Columbia Valley $80This Meritage-style blend by Woodinville vintner Terry Wells is steered by Cabernet Franc (50%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (33%) with Merlot, and it’s a triple crown of Yakima Valley vineyards with Dineen, Quintessence and Red Heaven. (It’s also the third of his three Platinum awards.) The fragrance is reminiscent of a stroll through a field of wild berries, while succulent plum, concentrated berries, cool spearmint, subtle spiced oak notes and bittersweet chocolate shavings fill the mouth. It’s nicely balanced with complementary acidity offsetting the dense fruit. (66 cases, 14.3% alc.) Award: 2017 Tri-Cities Wine Festival (gold).
Mt. Hood Winery 2017 Estate Bottled Riesling, Columbia Gorge $20This marks the third time that Rich Cushman has produced a Platinum for the Bickford family using Riesling from Van Horn Vineyard on their century farm. Sweet fruit scents rise from the glass. Asian pear, ripe apricots and Ginger Gold apple interplay with dusty earthiness and a touch of minerality. It’s easy to quaff, nicely balanced with the 3% residual sugar, and juicy through the lively finish. (225 cases, 10.6% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (double gold).
Road 13 Vineyards 2013 5th Element Red Wine, British Columbia $49This proprietary blend from the Luckhurst family leads with Merlot and uses Syrah to round out the structure. Aromas and flavors of boysenberries, blueberries and chocolate-covered black cherries make it deep, dark and delicious, with a hint of candy apple coating on the spicy finish. (852 cases, 15.5% alc.) Award: National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2016 Broken Boulder Vineyard Dukes Valley Block Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge $42It took Jill House more than a decade, but she’s transformed her family’s 50-acre orchard in Hood River into Broken Boulder Vineyard. Now, her downtown tasting room is yet another stage for Columbia Gorge winemaker Rich Cushman. With young vines, he’s created an elegant and enjoyable fruit-forward Pinot Noir as notes of vine-ripened strawberry and sweet blueberry pick up structure from orange pekoe tea and bramble. (195 cases, 13.6% alc.) Awards: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold), Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Spangler Vineyards 2014 Merlot, Oregon $25While he’s since branched out successfully with Italian reds, Patrick Spangler made his early splashes with Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot. It is complex and conversational as jammy notes of cassis and boysenberry are joined by toasty oak. There’s roundness on the palate, which finishes with a sense of earthiness and slate. (244 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Awards (gold).
The Sky River Meadery NV Solas Honey Wine, Washington $26Denice Ingalls in the fishing community of Skykomish ferments and ages this lot of honey wine in Dry Fly whisky barrels. This mead dances across the palate in ballet slippers, not wooden clogs, which are so common to mead. Its aromas include lemongrass and starfruit, then wax, honey, coconut and a whisper of citrus on the palate to deal with the 14% residual sugar. (100 cases, 10.5% alc.) Award: NW Wine Summit (gold).
Vino la Monarcha Winery 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley $15Victor Palencia offers these wines in Kennewick near the Columbia River, but his Chardonnay comes from Frenchman Hills Vineyard in the Columbia Basin. He uses both stainless steel and American oak to create a complex Chardonnay. Lovely aromatics of lemon curd, apple and passionfruit transition to more of an orchard fruit focus on the palate. A touch of toast on the midpalate and bright acidity allow for some limestone in the finish, making for a well-executed Chardonnay built for turkey, a BLT or seafood. (100 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Wine Press Northwest tasting of Chardonnay (Outstanding!)
Warr-King Wines 2015 Descendant Red Wine, Washington State $36A refugee of the high-tech world, Lisa Warr-King Packer began to learn about wine by working in the trenches beside the likes of John Patterson and Brian Carter and as an enology intern at Chateau Ste. Michell while earning her winemaking certificate at Washington State University. This marks the third commercial vintage of her brand, and her Cab Franc-dominant blend pulls from two historic vineyards — Rosebud and Kiona. Herbes de Provence, dark plum and Marionberry jam include a hint of smoke and pleasing earthy edge as Montmorency cherry makes for a vibrant and balanced finish. (135 cases, 15.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Basalt Cellars 2015 G.S.M Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley $36This award was somewhat predictable because two years ago, Rick Wasem in the Lewis-Clark Valley town of Clarkston received a Platinum for his Rhône-inspired blend. Here, it’s Syrah (44%) in the lead over Grenache (39%), which explains the delicious array of Marionberry and black cherry and young leather ahead of the plush raspberry and nicely managed tannins to give it a delicate farewell. (280 cases, 15% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Beresan Winery 2014 Carménère, Walla Walla Valley $40At the time of harvest, this Carm from Summit View Vineyard could have been viewed as “estate” because of Tom Waliser’s dual role as vineyard manager and winery owner. However, Balboa Winery owner Tom Glase agreed to take over Beresan for Waliser, and Glase now works with College Cellars product Tyler Grennan on the wines. Hints of violets on the nose chart the course for this spicy and expressive Carménère. Succulent blackberries, purple plum jam, toasty oak nuances, black pepper, a tinge of eucalyptus and candied cherries meld in harmony. Lively acids keep it balanced through the juicy finish. (500 cases, 14.1% alc.) Award: Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition (gold).
Cedar River Cellars 2015 It's A Long Way Barrel Select Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley $40Eight times a qualifying example of Cabernet Franc went on to earn Platinum, and Renton, Wash., winemaker Micah Nasarow’s work might be the most focused of them all. He pulled from Two Blondes Vineyard near Zillah and used only free-run juice for this tiny, two-barrel project. Intense yet graceful with its fine balance, aromas and flavors range from black plums, mixed berry jam, thyme, black licorice, earthiness and lead pencil shavings. Threads of minerality and food-friendly acidity carries through the finish in this marriage of Old World and New World characteristics. (35 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2015 Petite Sirah, Washington $28Idaho’s most decorated winery in the 19-year history of the Platinum would add to its tote board of medals when Coco Umiker, Ph.D., toured the Horse Heaven Hills and came down with Petite Sirah (84%), Petit Verdot (12%) and Carménère from the Verheys’ 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 mouth feel top it gracefully. (208 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Sip Northwest 'Best of the Northwest’ (gold).
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Selway Red Wine, Washington $45Lewis-Clark Valley winemaker Coco Umiker follows up the 2013 Selway that wowed judges at the San Francisco International by leaning this time on Malbec (37%), Merlot (30%) and Petit Verdot (26%) from two of her favorite vineyards - Rock n’ J near the Grand Ronde River in Asotin, Wash., and Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills. It spent 30 months in 30% new American oak barrels, creating a deep, dark and intense mood of blackberry cobbler, sweet boysenberries, cassis and toasted spices with mocha. It comes wrapped in firm tannins and a nice thread of licorice. (156 cases, 14.9% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (double gold).
Coeur de Terre Vineyard 2015 Estate Heritage Reserve Pinot Noir, McMinnville $36Scott Neal’s vineyard, which he planted in the coastal foothills near McMinnville back in 1998, affords him a selection of four blocks that went into this vintage of their Heritage bottling. It’s perfumy with allspice in front of sweetened cranberries and blueberry. There’s very little discussion of tannins, which are replaced by a mineral finish. (932 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Colter's Creek Winery 2015 Arrow Rim GSM, Idaho $20This husband/wife duo recently became the second producers in the Gem State to operate two tasting rooms by opening one near the University of Idaho, and their blending of Grenache (30%), Syrah (40%) and Mourvèdre serves as another recruiting tool. Super-soft tannins allow for full enjoyment of blackberry and raspberry fruitiness as rose petals and cinnamon give it a finish filled with finesse. (300 cases, 14.4% alc.) Awards: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (best of class, double gold).
Darighe 2014 Proprietor's Blend Red Wine, Columbia Valley $65The Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville, founded in 2004, includes the Kennedy Shah lineup, while Darighe stands out within those Kennedy Shah reserves. Jean-Claude Beck embarked on a classic Left Bank Bordeaux path for this blend that features Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain and Stillwater Creek in the Frenchman Hills. Complex hints of black currant and cherry are joined by a sense of herbaceousness from the Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Cabernet Franc (12%). Sandalwood provides a nice counterpart to the fruit, as bold tannins don’t overpower, leaving a gap for barrel notes of smoke, toast and caramel. (210 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
14 Hands Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington $10In terms of vintage, this was the senior example of Sauvignon Blanc in this year’s judging, yet Keith Kenison’s history as a white wine craftsman is on full display. At this point, there’s no sign of his bargain Sauv Blanc slowing down as floral aromas of elderflower and alyssum waft alongside lychee, citrus and minearlity. On the palate, it pulsates with Key lime juice and jicama, backed by flecks of minerality. Bring on the oysters. (66,000 cases, 13% alc.)
Hightower Cellars 2014 Estate Red Wine, Red Mountain $45Balance remains a hallmark of Tim and Kelly Hightower’s wines, which doesn’t come naturally in the cellars of those who work with Red Mountain fruit. Here, their blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Merlot (33%) and Malbec opens with sophisticated notes of green peppercorns and olive that easily give way to Chukar Cherry, cola and Jolly Rancher grape candy from the Malbec. A deft touch with the barrels helps to smooth out the tannin profile before the lime zest and Craisin pop up in the finish. (146 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Great Northwest Wine Invitational Wine Competition (gold).
Kitzke Cellars 2013 Kitzke Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley $33Seth Kitzke has taken over the winemaking for his folks in Richland, Wash., and they planted their Candy Ridge Vineyards in what is poised to become the Candy Mountain American Viticultural Area. However, highly respected Charlie “Wine Boss” Hoppes helped get their wine program started, and the Kitzkes give the Fidelitas winemaker credit for this suave Cab Franc. Delightfully aromatic, it offers up florals and lead pencil shavings, followed by black currant, ripe blueberries, wild blackberries and sage. It’s deliciously smooth with savory elements on the pleasing finish. (65 cases, 14.7% alc.) Award: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (gold).
Lake Breeze Vineyards 2016 Naramata Bench Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley $19In 2016, Garron Elmes and his winemaking led Lake Breeze to receiving recognition as the Best Performing Small Winery in Canada at the WineAling National Wine Awards. A late harvest of their 25-year-old vineyard on this Naramata Bench paved the way to glory for this standout example of this Alsace-inspired grape. Gorgeous orange blossom and stone fruit notes include fresh sun-kissed apricots and juicy Freestone peaches as complexity comes from underlying stony minerality and a zippy acidity. (430 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Love That Red Winery 2014 Derby Day Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain $90Terry Wells’s family ran Thoroughbreds in Southern California, and their top performer was Love That Red, talented enough to win money at Santa Anita, one of the country’s top tracks. His purchase of grapes from two of Red Mountain’s up-and-coming vineyards - Quintessence and Red Heaven - helped him run down a Platinum in a very tough field. Aromas of dried earth and bright fruit hold your attention. Boysenberry, Japanese plum, cassis, black cherry, hints of vanilla and warm toast, join pleasing earthiness on the palate. (50 cases, 14.4% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Art den Hoed Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley $36Faraway Vineyard, an Art den Hoed site near the Rattlesnake Hills, is the setting for this enchanting Petite Sirah that’s all about blackberries. Complementing the deep berry notes are flavors of spearmint leaves, dark plum, a twist of black pepper and well-managed oak. Vibrant acidity, the grape’s telltale chalky tannins and a long-lived finish combine to make it lively and persuasive. (159 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold), Washington State Wine Awards (gold).
Maryhill Winery 2015 Tudor Hills Vineyard Proprietor's Reserve Malbec, Columbia Valley $36The Tudor family is behind some of the top white wines in the Maryhill portfolio, but they also help produce one of the Northwest’s top examples of Malbec. A lovely floral aroma greets the nose with this brilliantly balanced Bordeaux variety. Layers of juicy black boysenberry, purple plum and black cherry fruit, sage and dusty earth elements coat the mouth with a subtle hint of cocoa on the long, pleasing finish. (688 cases, 14.2% alc.) Award: Indy International Wine Competition (gold).
Nine Hats Wines 2017 Riesling, Columbia Valley $14One of the top wines under this sister label for Long Shadows Vintners — Wine Press Northwest’s 2018 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year — is Riesling, and Gilles Nicault’s approach to the Nine Hats example differs from that of Poet’s Leap. Engaging white floral notes on the nose lead to juicy tropical fruit on entry. Edelweiss flowers, sweet tea, ripe pineapple, white peach and honeycomb come within a clean, lively and refreshing finish to the 1.25% residual sugar. (2,500 cases, 13.4% alc.) Award: Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition (gold).
Pend d'Oreille Winery 2016 Syrah, Washington $18James Bopp, a third-generation native of Sandpoint, Idaho, recently took over the winery he’s worked at for the past decade. His blend of Syrah from Columbia Valley sites Coyote Canyon, O’Brien and Weinbau focuses on dark blue fruit aromas, white pepper and tea leaves before giving way to plum skins, pomegranate and cranberry, bringing a savory Kalamata olive and plum skin finish with well-integrated tannins. (397 cases, 14.9% alc.) Award: 2018 Northwest Wine Summit (best of class, gold).
Blind Creek Collective 2016 Cabernet Franc, Similkameen Valley $35Jeff Del Nin’s winemaking and this Cabernet Franc from the fascinating Similkameen Valley just to the west of the Golden Mile Bench helped Road 13 Vineyards earn the title for the top winery at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. It’s rich and delicious, oozing with boysenberry, spiced blueberry compote and plum preserves enhanced by accents of graphite and anise. Fine-grained yet firm tannins lead to a remarkable finish. (191 cases, 14.8% alc.) Award: National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Rocky Pond Winery 2017 ClosCheValle Vineyard Gewürztraminer, Lake Chelan $20Seattle businessman David Dufenhorst took control of picturesque ClosCheValle Vineyard overlooking the south shore of Lake Chelan to help launch his fascinating Rocky Pond Winery project, and now he’s got Lake Chelan native Shane Collins making his wines. This marked Collins’s first vintage for the Dufenhorsts, and the expertise he’s brought over from his decade at Tsillan Cellars shows deliciously with this Gewürz. A pleasing jasmine aroma opens to notes of rosewater, sweet Mandarin orange and dragonfruit joined by loquats, clove and nutmeg on the palate. Nicely balanced and expressive, its texture is satin smooth. A bright lift of orange zest enhances the long aftertaste. (89 cases, 13.2% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (gold).
Spangler Vineyards 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Oregon $60A decade ago, Patrick Spangler used a reserve Cab to earn his first Platinum, so it was no surprise when the results of this bottling were unveiled. It’s assertively beautiful and true to the variety with hints of violet, mint and eucalyptus ahead of the ripe plum and Marionberry. The tannin structure is both smooth and persistent, leading to finish peppercorn. (199 cases, 14.5% alc.) Award: Wine Press Northwest tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon (Outstanding!)
Stag's Hollow Winery & Vineyard 2017 Shuttleworth Creek Vineyard Albariño, Okanagan Valley $22Albariño’s first ambassador in U.S. — Abacela in Southern Oregon — has served as a role model for Stag’s Hollow, so it makes sense that owners Larry Gerelus and Linda Pruegger and longtime winemaker Dwight Sick shine in Okanagan Falls with this Spanish white. Sick recently handed the baton to Keira LeFranc, and sommelier-turned-winemaker might describe this using terms as “steely” and “straightforward” with ripe peach, Golden Delicious apple, guava and sweet clementine with a sense of river rock. (250 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (gold).
Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2017 Broken Boulder Vineyards Pinot Noir Blanc, Columbia Gorge $32Still white wines made from Pinot Noir remain rather rare in the Northwest, and Rich Cushman made the pick on two lots on Sept. 29. Virtually no skin contact and a handful of essentially neutral French oak barrels led to aromas of mixed fruits that pave the way to a yummy spiced fruit entry. Rainier cherry, cranberry/apple juice and sweet Navel orange flavors receive a dash of white pepper for a perk. Crisp acidity and subtle chalky tannins balance the bright fruit. (116 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Oregon Wine Competition (gold).
Stave & Stone Wine Estates 2016 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge $28The versatility of the Columbia Gorge is on display as Rich Cushman creates a complex and balanced Chardonnay for this family with nearly a century of farming experience in the Hood River Valley. There’s partial malolactic fermentation and a subtle amount of new French oak on display with citrus blossom, crisp green apples, juicy ripe pears and subtle toasty notes. Honeysuckle and lemon curd meet up with lively acidity creating wonderful lift on the energetic, zesty and memorable palate. (139 cases, 13.4% alc.) Award: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (gold).
Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2017 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley $19There’s no doubt that British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley produces some of the top Pinot Gris on the continent, and Tinhorn Creek pulls from two estate vineyards on opposite sides of the valley their Golden Mile Bench winery overlooks. It’s a Pinot Gris with purpose, a cool-climate example featuring nectarine and lime early on. Surlie aging in stainless steel builds a subtle touch of lemon curd creaminess on the midpalate before a finish of peach pit and minerality. Enjoy with shellfish.(8,700 cases, 12.5% alc.) Award: Wine Align National Wine Awards (gold).
Wilridge Winery 2015 Lodmell Vineyard Merlot, Walla Walla County $23Biodynamic vintner Paul Beveridge, who focuses most of his attention on helping to pioneer the Naches Heights west of Yakima, sources these eight barrels of Merlot from Walla Walla’s Lodmell Vineyard. The winemaking attorney made his case for Platinum by opening with blackberry cobbler, cherry cotton candy and vanilla bean aromas. The flavor profile leads with blueberry sauce and baking spices as dark chocolate makes for a long finish. (203 cases, 13.8% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Yakima Valley Vintners 2015 Mid-Term Merlot, Columbia Valley $15Students of the Yakima Valley College winemaking program were given the assignment of working with Merlot from Wautoma Winds near historic Cold Creek and Pontin Farms Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Let’s hope they received an A grade. The soft application of oak creates a compelling theme of black currant and Craisins, backed by slate and earthiness with a structure focused on raspberry acidity that one judge described as “magical.” This single-barrel project ranks among the head of the class in the Northwest, and the price is a steal at the college’s boutique tasting room on the Grandview campus. (21 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: 2018 Washington State Wine Competition (gold).
Basalt Cellars 2014 Malbec, Columbia Valley $28Lesser-known red Bordeaux varieties continue to earn the attention of Northwest winemakers, and pharmacist Rick Wasem in Clarkston, Wash., provides another example of why. Mixed berries make up both the aromas and the flavors, backed by sweet spices. Skillful integration of soft tannins allow for that blueberry, strawberry and cherry theme to push well into the finish. (125 cases, 14.9% alc.) Awards: Tri-Cities Wine Festival (gold), Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
Browne Family Vineyard 2015 Tribute Red, Columbia Valley $30Longtime Walla Walla winemaker John Freeman used the record-warm 2015 vintage to ripen reds and turn them into Platinum winners. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc account for more than half of this proprietary blend, but the involvement of Malbec (10%) and Syrah (10%) find their way into the discussion of his hedonistic angle with sweet pomegranate syrup, blueberry, Jolly Rancher grape candy and sweet tobacco underpinnings. (5,500 cases, 14.4% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Catman Cellars 2015 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains $32The trio of Ted Johnson, Dennis Grant and Marlene Grant recently launched Catman Cellars in the North Willamette Valley, and while Pinot Noir is only a portion of their portfolio, they made a quick impression at their first Platinum Judging. Strawberry jam and dark raspberry notes come with a delightful surprise of flavors and structure as a rush of tannin is met by cranberry acidity and a touch of earthy gravel in the background. (80 cases, 14.9% alc.) Awards: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Cinder Wines 2017 Dry Viognier, Washington $23Soul-crushing winter damage that struck much of Idaho’s Snake River Valley forced Boise winemaking talent Melanie Krause to reach into Washington state. Her reputation and contacts from her days at Chateau Ste. Michelle got her into Columbia Valley sites such as Dionysus, Gamache and Mercer, allowing her to maintain her stellar Viognier program from 2017. Thoughts of strolling through a Pike Place Market flower stand are joined by bright notes of Bosc pear, peach and Uncola, making for a fun finish. (1,283 cases, 13.7% alc.) Award: Idaho Wine Competition (gold).
Fences Winery 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rogue Valley $42The Lennon family hired one of Southern Oregon’s trend-setting winemakers, John Quinones, to work with the fruit from their 8-acre site, which he turned into one of the Northwest’s top Cabs. Concentrated fruit and toasty oak on the nose float up from the glass. Black plum, cherry pie, black currant, chocolate covered blueberries and a touch of tobacco fill the palate. Richly textured with nice balancing acidity combine for a long, smooth finish. (287 cases, 13.9% alc.) Award: Sip Northwest Best of the Northwest (gold).
Forbidden Fruit Winery 2017 Pomme Desiree Iced Apple, Canada $26The Venables family launched Forbidden Fruit Winery in Cawston, British Columbia, in 2005, and winemaking son Nathan continues to change the way that many think of non-grape wines. They start with estate grown, certified organic fruit, and this iced apple wine incorporates six varieties of apple. Aromas of apple, orange blossom and citrus zest come through in layers across the palate, backed by all-important juicy acidity to balance the 7% residual sugar. It’s simply a very well crafted wine. (150 cases, 11.5% alc.) Awards: All Canadian Wine Championships (gold).
14 Hands Winery 2014 The Reserve Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills $30Keith Kenison’s haul of Platinum awards under the 14 Hands banner spans a variety of styles, but his artistic work with blending might be his hallmark, and The Reserve shows as a special project for him. The 2014 vintage leans ever so slightly toward Bordeaux’s Right Bank, leading with Merlot (31%) ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Cabernet Franc (22%) and Malbec. Heavenly barrel room notes of vanilla and baking spices meld with cherry, huckleberry and blueberry. It’s firmly structured and well balanced with lingering chai notes. (375 cases, 14.5% alc.)
Gordon Estate 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $24The second generation at Gordon Estate oversees Washington state’s oldest winery dedicated to estate fruit, and the wines are crafted by Hillary Sjolund. A decade ago, her talents prompted Wine Press Northwest to name DiStefano in Woodinville as Washington Winery of the Year. Vines overlooking the Snake River and Walla Walla County produced an intense and spirited Cabernet Sauvignon with generous fruit and gentle, approachable tannins. Flavors of blackberries, plum preserves, cherry liqueur, dried sage, tea leaves, toasted oak notes and black olive tapenade intertwine on the palate, and the finish lingers. (2,986 cases, 13.7% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Palencia Wine Co. 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley $18This delightful example of Sauvignon Blanc carries a nice tropical theme with passionfruit and starfruit along with jasmine, capped by a pulse of lime juice, lemon peel and Granny Smith apple peel bite. (275 cases, 12.1% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Tsillan Cellars 2015 Estate Reserve Syrah, Lake Chelan $36This destination on the south shore of Lake Chelan continues to prove the region’s versatility in the vineyards. Syrah is a significant portion of the 40 acres of vines, and the state’s record-warm vintage of 2015 is reflected in this hedonistic Syrah. It offers a theme of plums, blackberry yogurt and sweet cherries, which are met by sexy blueberry-skin tannins, pomegranate acidity and a finish of Graham cracker. Enjoy with pan-seared duck or Eggplant Parmesan at Dr. Bob Jankelson’s on-premise Sorrento’s Ristorante. (571 cases, 15.8% alc.) Awards: New World International Wine Competition (gold), NorthWest Wine Summit (gold), Wenatchee Wine Festival (gold).
Vino la Monarcha Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $18There’s remarkable consistency to the Sauvignon Blanc program for Victor Palencia, and this brand is featured in the new Columbia Gardens wine project in downtown Kennewick. Grapefruit and fruit salad aromas and flavors blend into a lovely white well suited for sipping alone or with a favorite seafood or chicken dish. (250 cases, 13% alc.) Award: Washington State Wine Competition (gold).
Whidbey Island Winery 2015 Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley $22Puget Sound winemaker Greg Osenbach used Yakima Valley fruit to notch a pair of Platinums, led by the remarkable work with Cabernet Franc. Beautiful scents of a floral bouquet and minerality set the stage for a mouth-watering entry. On the palate, black currant, sage, plum, wild berries, black licorice drops, and cedar join up with pronounced minerally notes. A tasty note of chocolate-dusted raspberries on the long finish. (240 cases, 14.6% alc.) Award: Cascadia International Wine Competition (gold).
Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2014 Westbrook Vineyard Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley $30Terry Brandborg works several corners of the Umpqua Valley for his Pinot Noir program, including Westbrook Vineyard near Sutherlin for clones 114 and 777, and this wine would have been in barrel when Wine Press Northwest named Brandborg as its 2015 Oregon Winery of the Year. There’s a wow factor to the profile of cranberry-rhubarb compote with savory black olive, teasing smokiness and lick of horehound in the finish. (210 cases, 13.6% alc.) Award: Cascadia Wine Competition (gold).
Convergence Zone Cellars 2016 Upland Vineyard Sunbreak Chenin Blanc, Snipes Mountain $15North Bend vintner Scott Greenberg rarely strays from Red Mountain for his grapes, but the Newhouse family’s historic Upland Vineyard is an exception when it comes to Chenin Blanc. There’s no oak involved in this crowd-pleaser that fills you with thoughts of apple pie and white peach drizzled with honey. A sense of beeswax and orange peel bite provides plenty of balance to the sweetness.(60 cases, 12.2% alc.) Award: Seattle Wine Awards (double gold).
Forbidden Fruit Winery 2017 Flaunt Sparkling Plum, Similkameen Valley $22Nathan Venables turned the heads of judges at the 19th annual Platinum by returning a trio of Platinums to his family’s certified organic program in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley. Here, he goes with a frizzante style for the three varieties of Asian plum from their estate near the U.S.-Canada border. He left it off-dry with 5% residual sugar, making it fun and fizzy with notes of jasmine, watermelon, rose petal, sweet herbs and stunningly clean finish of plum juice. (180 cases, 12.8% alc.) Award: All Canadian Wine Championship (gold).
Lagana Cellars 2016 Cockburn Ranch Vineyard Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley $22Jason Fox, a proud product of Walla Walla Community College’s College Cellars program, works with the Zerba family’s Block 9 Chardonnay and he keeps the steely focus on those grapes. Tree fruits and hints of oak greet the nose. Bosc pear, citrus-splashed Granny Smith apple, lemon-filled pastry and fresh herb highlights flow seamlessly across the palate. Snappy and fresh with nice oak tones in the background, it is vivid and lengthy. (82 cases, 12.4% alc.) Award: Savor NW Wine Awards (gold).
Vanessa Vineyard Right Bank Red Wine, Similkameen Valley $40The affable Howard Soon, as talented as he is respected, immediately anointed Vanessa Vineyard as one of the Pacific Northwest’s most buzzworthy brands when he took over as its winemaker after retiring from Canadian giant Peller. While true to the blend’s namesake, Merlot (77%) dominates the equation with Cab Franc (14%) and Cab Sauv. Yummy aromas of wild blackberries and licorice make their way to the flavor profile that joined by blackberry jam, savory spice, black cherry, anise, dark chocolate and toasty oak nuances. Firm tannins and pleasing acid, combined with its deep fruit focus, make it perfectly balanced now, yet cellar-worthy. (1,090 cases, 14.9% alc.) Awards: Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition (gold), All Canadian Wine Championships (gold).
Cave B Estate Winery 2016 Cave B Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $22There’s a sense of early spring with this fresh Chardonnay, which brings orchard blossom, cling peach and dried mango flavors with great weight and a touch of sweetness to round off the wine’s acidity. (600 cases, 13.5% alc.) Award: Wine Press Northwest tasting of Chardonnay (Outstanding!)
Woodward Canyon Winery 2014 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State $99Grapes from famed grower Paul Champoux’s final vintage at iconic Champoux Vineyard factor prominently into this Cab that history has proved to be perhaps Washington state’s most age-worthy wine. Kevin Mott, with contributions from venerable Sagemoor and the Small family’s own Woodward Canyon Estate Vineyard, produced another extraordinary example, harnessing compelling aromas and flavors of dark plum, saddle leather, eucalyptus, blackberry, tobacco, black currant, hints of earth and spiced oak nuances, adding up to purity and complexity in the glass. It drinks magnificently now, and cellaring will reap further rewards thanks to the firm tannins and forever finish. (628 cases, 14.6% alc.) Awards: Jefferson Cup (gold), Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition (gold), Great Northwest Invitational (gold), Seattle Wine Awards (gold).
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This story was originally published December 21, 2018 12:00 AM.