Great whites from the Great Northwest

By on April 7, 2014
The Great Northwest Wine Competition took place in Hood River, Oregon, at the Columbia Gorge Hotel.

More than 900 wines await judging at the Great Northwest Wine Competition in Hood River, Ore. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – While red wines now dominate the Northwest wine landscape (in Oregon with Pinot Noir and Washington with Cabernet Sauvignon), white wines remain an important segment for wineries and consumers.

Here are the white wines that won unanimous double gold and gold medals at the second annual Great Northwest Wine Competition, held last week at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River.

Double gold

Chaberton Estate Winery 2012 Reserve Gewurztraminer, British Columbia, $18: Chaberton is one of the oldest wineries in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley. This Gewürztraminer uses grapes from the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, and it is a gorgeous and classic example of the aromatic white. It opens with aromas of pink grapefruit. lychee and clove, giving way to bright flavors of tropical fruit and light citrus. Impressive acidity brings the entire package together. (13.3% alc., 792 cases)

Hogue Cellars 2012 Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley, $11: Hogue Cellars has been crafting this inexpensive sweet wine for ages, and it’s always refreshing and delicious. There’s a lot of it at 95,000 cases, and it can usually be found for, $10 or less. Aromas of baked apple, fresh pear and clove lead to flavors of apricot, apple and golden raisin. The residual sugar of 4.8% barely shows as more than off-dry, thanks to impressive acidity. (12% alc., 95,000 cases)

Hogue Cellars 2013 Genesis Riesling, Columbia Valley, $16: Last summer, Hogue Cellars brought in Greg Winter from Sonoma County to head its winemaking program after longtime winemaker Co Dinn left to start his own consulting business. Winter picked up where Dinn left off with the Hogue Riesling program. This mid-tier example from the 2013 vintage is nothing short of stunning. It shows off aromas of jasmine, peach, apple and clove, followed by rich, bright flavors of ripe pear, sweet herbs and a hint of cantaloup. (12.5% alc., 2,244 cases)

Kyra Wines 2013 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: Winemaker Kyra Baerlocher is a one-woman revival show for noble Chenin Blanc. Every year, she consistently crafts one of the finest anywhere, and this young wine from the 2013 vintage is no exception. It opens with aromas of intriguing minerality, melon, sweet herbs and Asian pear, followed by luscious flavors of pear, Granny Smith apple and honeydew. The 1.5% residual sugar rounds the edges of this perfectly balanced wine. (12% alc., 672 cases)


Duck Pond Cellar 2012 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $12: Duck Pond Cellars now has more than two decades of winemaking in Oregon’s Dundee Hills. This bright, luscious Chardonnay reveals aromas of minerality, lime, and crisp apple. On the palate, it opens with rich, round flavors of baked apple, butter and grilled pineapple. It’s easy to imagine enjoying this with grilled halibut topped with a tropical fruit salsa. (14.1% 5,000 cases)

Eroica 2012 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: The annual collaboration among German winemaker Ernst Loosen, Australian native Wendy Stuckey and Boise State grad Bob Bertheau continues to make beautiful Riesling together at a price that’s remained constant. Perhaps no other wine is more responsible for the renaissance of American Riesling, the 2012 vintage continues the string. The nose brings hints of fresh-baked apple pie, quince, lime peel and minerality. That’s followed by flavors of pear, lemon/lime and white peach with a finish of river rock and apricot pit. The residual sugar of 1.6% is whisked clean by acidity and suggest food pairings include Asian dishes, Indian curries, crab and scallops. (12% alc., 31,000 cases)

Hogue Cellars 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $11: For decades, Hogue Cellars has made a delicious Sauvignon Blanc, though until the past couple of years, it went by the Robert Mondavi-inspired name of Fumé Blanc. Though the name has changed, the wine is still superb, a deliciously bright dry white. It shows off aromas of lime, crushed herbs and freshly mown hay. On the palate, it opens with bright acidity backing flavors of Asian pear, green apple and bright melon. Enjoy this with linguini tossed with shrimp. (13.5% alc., 35,000 cases)

Indian Creek Winery 2013 Muscat Canelli, Snake River Valley, $15: The Stowe family opened its winery in Idaho’s Snake River Valley in 1982, making it one of the oldest producers in the Gem State. This luscious Muscat opens with aromas of orange water, lychee and a hint of clove. On the palate, it reveals delicate flavors of rosewater, orange and grapefruit. It’s nicely off-dry at 5% without being cloying. (12% alc., 150 cases)

Koenig Vineyards 2011 Riesling Ice Wine, Snake River Valley, $20: Greg Koenig is one of the Northwest’s leading experts on dessert wine, and he crafts delicious ice wine from Riesling most years. This is a superb example with aromas of apricot, vanilla ice cream and clove, followed by rich, thick flavors of poached pear drizzled with honey. It’s plenty sweet at 24% residual sugar, but the impressive acidity keeps this from feeling like maple syrup in your mouth. (10.5% alc., 240 cases)

L’Ecole No 41 2012 Semillon, Columbia Valley, $15: L’Ecole No. 41 has earned its reputation as arguably the Pacific Northwest’s top producer of Semillon, and this vintage might be its best effort. Mike Sharon sourced from six distinctly different vineyards — Desert Wind and Rosebud (Wahluke Slope), Klipsun (Red Mountain), Les Collines and Seven Hills (Walla Walla Valley) and Stillwater Creek (Frenchman Hills) — then fermented in French oak that received little toast. There’s a beautiful nose of dusty apple, pineapple, poached pear, fresh fig and a touch of oak. Inside comes a rich and buttery structure that also offers fig and pear flavors, along with a spoonful of lemon yogurt, a cut of grassiness and a kiss of oak in the finish. Consider this as the Semillon for those who enjoy reserve-style Chardonnay — only at half the price — and serve with lobster or scallops. (14.5% alc., 5,365 cases)

L’Ecole No 41 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Luminesce, Walla Walla Valley, $20: Marty Clubb, owner and director of winemaking at the Walla Walla Valley’s third-oldest producer, focuses on Bordeaux varieties, and this combines his love of blending with a serious dedication to the vastly underappreciated Semillon grape. He uses grapes from famed Seven Hills Vineyard on the Oregon side of the valley to craft a wine showing off aromas of fresh fig, almond paste and ripe pineapple. On the palate, it reveals depth and complexity, offering flavors of Golden Delicious apple, papaya and cookie dough. (14.5% alc., 1,260 cases)

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2013 Tudor Hills Vineyard Pinot Grigio Yakima Valley, $16: This two-generation winemaking family in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills also has family ties to this vineyard in the Yakima Valley. Prosser native Andrew Martinez shows his expanding talents with Pinot Gris, making it in a restrained style starting with aromas of starfruit, Bosc pear, lime peel and alyssum. The approach to the palate screams of fresh-cut Golden Delicious apple, more pear and Key lime pie. While the residual sugar is reported at 1.5%, it finishes dry with no perception of alcohol (12.2% alc., 350 cases)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2012 Traditions Riesling, Columbia Valley, $13: The Milbrandt brothers helped create some of the Northwest’s best-known Rieslings by using their Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes, and that’s the focus of this bottling. It features an array of aromatics, staring with dusty apricot, white peach, river rock and lemon. However, the nose doesn’t prepare the drinker for the rush of fresh fruit flavors that hint at peach, apricot jam and sugared pink grapefruit. It is harmonius and lengthy as tartness of Granny Smith apple polishes up the 1.4% residual sugar. (12.5% alc., 6,000 cases)

Mount Baker Vineyards 2012 Madeleine Angevine, Puget Sound, $17: Madeleine Angevine is a rare grape in the New World (and Old, for that matter). It’s traditionally grown in the Loire Valley but is rarely found in the United States outside of the cool Puget Sound region of Washington. This example comes from Mount Baker Vineyards, a winery in the Nooksack Valley that is so close to the Canadian border, it wouldn’t hurt to know the metric system. Aromas of fresh-cut hay, melon and minerality lead to flavors of bright flavors of honeydew, lemongrass and flinty acidity. This is a perfect wine to pair with oysters (raw or baked). (13.4% alc., 156 cases)

Seven of Hearts 2012 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $24: Owner/winemaker Byron Dooley has crafted a deliciously round Chardonnay that reveals aromas of ripe pineapple, mango, melted butter and a whisper of toast. On the palate, it is a rich, full-bodied white with flavors of ripe tropical fruit, oak and banana bread. Enjoy with seared scallops topped with a beurre blanc sauce. (14.2% alc., 329 cases)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Late Harvest Muscat, Snipes Mountain, $22: No winemaker produces more wines from Snipes Mountain than Robert Smasne, as he uses grapes from the hill in the middle of the Yakima Valley near Sunnyside for his own label as well as Upland Estate Winery. This is a gorgeous dessert wine using the somewhat rare Muscat grape, which reveals aromas of rose petal, cherry blossom, orange water and cardamom. On the palate, it offers luscious flavors of rosewater, pink grapefruit and ripe pear. It’s plenty sweet at 14% residual sugar, but it is harmonious balance. (11.6% alc., 100 cases)

Smasne Cellars 2013 Otis Vineyard Pinot Gris, Yakima Valley, $12: Yakima Valley winemaker Robert Smasne is starting to get his hands more deeply into one of Washington’s most historic vineyards, and this Pinot Gris is a sign of more great things to come. It’s not the fruit salad-style of Pinot Gris, but rather one focused on minerality, Asian pear, starfruit and lemon peel — both in the aromatics and the palate. The entry is akin to a bite into juicy Bartlett pear before the focus swings into a bone-dry approach with persistent acidity. 13% alc., 600 cases)

Tsillan Cellars 2012 Estate Nudo Chardonnay, Lake Chelan, $18: Winemaking Shane Collins crafts superb wines on the south shore of Lake Chelan using estate grapes. This tree-free Chardonnay shows off aromas of flint, Key lime, Mandarin orange and white pepper, followed by flavors of crisp apple, Asian pear and steely minerality. (12.9% alc., 314 cases)

Indian Creek Winery 2013 Rosé of Mourvèdre, Snake River Valley, $15: Indian Creek Winery, a family-run operation in the community of Kuna, Idaho, is now headed by Mike McClure, son-in-law of founders Bill and Mui Stowe. This gorgeous rosé is made from the Rhône Mourvèdre grape. It opens with aromas of fresh strawberry, cranberry and raspberry. On the palate, it provides bright flavors of pomegranate, cranberry and red currant. This is a versatile wine that will pair with everything from salmon to chicken. (12% alc., 75 cases)

Wild Goose Vineyards and Winery 2012 Stoney Slope Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $20: Hagen Kruger, second-generation winemaker in Okanagan Falls, B.C., is simply making some of the best white wines anywhere, and this Riesling is worth crossing international borders. Intense aromas of green apple, Asian pear, white pepper and river rock give way to flavors of honeydew, peach and Granny Smith apple. Perfect acidity backs up all the fruit. Enjoy this with everything from baked oysters to curries. (12.5% alc., 300 cases)

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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