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Great whites from the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition
HOOD RIVER, Ore. – At last week’s second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, white wines were in the spotlight.
Though far more red wines were entered – and far more won gold medals – in the end, a Riesling from British Columbia took best-of-show honors.
But that wasn’t the only big winner. Below are reviews of the rest of the white wines that won double gold or gold medals.
A wine earns a double gold medal when all four judges on a panel agree it is a gold medal. When three of four judges vote gold, the wine wins a gold medal.
Of particular interest are the two double golds below, which are out-of-the-mainstream varieties. Albariño is a Spanish variety that is catching on in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to its bright fruit and dazzling acidity. Siegerrebe is an extremely rare grape variety grown only in cool areas, such as the wet and often gray Puget Sound American Viticultural Area.
- See the complete list of medal winners.
- See the top red wines of the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.
- See the top overall wines of the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.
- Read our insights on the competition.
Palencia Winery 2013 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $18: Victor Palencia has started his own label in Walla Walla while keeping his day job as head winemaker for Jones of Washington and director of winemaking for Columbia River’s Edge Winery on the Wahluke Slope. Good thing he’s a young man. He’s scoring big with this white Spanish variety. It opens with aromas of lime zest, spice and honeydew melon. On the palate, the variety’s typically bright acidity is apparent on first sip, followed by incredible flavors of melon, Asian pear and white lavender. (13% alc.)
San Juan Vineyards 2013 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $20: The first Siegerrebe grown in North America was on Bainbridge Island, just west of Seattle. The German white grape continues to thrive on the Puget Sound island of San Juan. This example reveals aromas and flavors of lychee, ripe Golden Delicious apple, starfruit and honeydew melon. This is finished mostly dry and has a rich, luscious finish. (12% alc.)
Avennia 2013 Oliane, Yakima Valley, $25: Wine Press Northwest’s reigning Washington Winery to Watch flashes its brilliance with this presentation from acclaimed Boushey and Red Willow vineyards. The nose hints at seashells, fresh-cut lemon and gooseberry. Its barrel fermentation with French oak doesn’t shave much off the bright acid profile of yellow grapefruit, white peach and apricot pit. Lingering salinity should serve this well with oysters or seared scallops. (12.9% alc.)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Ethos Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $36: Head winemaker Bob Bertheau works closely with white winemaker Wendy Stuckey on this reserve-level Chardonnay from Canoe Ridge Estate and Cold Creek vineyards. Those who embrace toasty and buttery Chardonnay from the south of the Oregon border should appreciate this presentation of butterscotch, vanilla, toast and orchard fruit. Think of creme brulee and lemon cream pie flavors as the mouth feel moves from creamy to juicy on the finish. Suggested food pairings include pasta with mushrooms, salmon or veal. (14.5% alc.)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: Known as “Baby Eroica” amid the Chateau Ste. Michelle white winemaking crew, this dry Riesling is made in large enough amounts to enjoy broad distribution. With its aromas and flavors of Golden Delicious apple, Asian pear, lime zest and exotic spices, this enchanting white stands tall against some of the best – and most expensive – Rieslings of Germany and Alsace. (12.5% alc.)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: This broad-production wine is definitely on the sweeter side of the International Riesling Foundation scale at 4.3% residual sugar, but the gorgeous acidity balances everything so it is far from cloying. Rather, the aromas of baked apple and vanilla ice cream give way to flavors that are rich, bright and juicy. Enjoy its purity of fruit with fresh fruit or cheesecake. (10.5% alc.)
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: This is the 15th vintage of the wine that ignited the American Riesling revolution. It’s a collaboration between Washington’s oldest winery and Ernst Loosen, the Mosel master. Luscious aromas of ripe pear and Fuji apple topped with a shake of nutmeg lead to beautifully balanced flavors of rich orchard fruit. This exudes purity of fruit and remains the standard by which other American Rieslings are measured. (12% alc.)
Cinder Wines 2013 Dry Viognier, Snake River Valley, $18: Two of Idaho’s premier vineyards — Sawtooth and Williamson — set the stage for Melanie Krause to the produce some of the Northwest’s best examples of Viognier. She’s enjoyed commercial and critical success with her “Off-Dry Viognier” and here’s a gold medal that may appeal to many more. Tropical fruit aromas pick up hints of cotton candy, peach blossom and orange Creamcicle. The flavors follow through in a beautiful fashion, and the Snake River Valley’s 2,800 feet of elevation allows for more natural acidity than is found in most areas of the world. Krause enjoys serving this with salads with goat cheese, vichyssoise, crab cakes and risotto. Earlier this year, this same wine earned a gold at Sunset magazine’s international wine competition. (14% alc.)
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2013 Auxerrois, Okanagan Valley, $15: Walter and Gordon Gehringer won a gold with this Alsatian grape at the 2014 Indy International Wine Competition, and they followed that up this fall at the Great Northwest Invitational. The fact that this grape is often confused with Pinot Blanc in Europe is somewhat ironic because both varieties excel in the Okanagan Valley when put in the hands of skillful winemakers. It’s bright lemony and Asian pear aromas come through on the palate with ripeness and tantalizing acidity. These brothers along British Columbia’s Golden Mile suggest pairing their Auxerrois with scallops and cream sauce dishes. (13% alc.)
Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2011 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $24: Kendall Mix created this beautiful Chardonnay for the Monson family before leaving for Cadaretta in Walla Walla. He shows a steady hand with oak, allowing for tones of creamy butterscotch, fresh-baked brioche and pineapple upside-down cake, backed with a creamy entry before apricot acidity builds for a lengthy finish. (13.5%)
L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $22: L’Ecole winemaker Mike Sharon has headed up Marty Clubb’s winemaking team since 2006. This luscious Chardonnay opens with aromas of pineapple, banana and a whiff of butter. On the palate, this is a rich wine, thanks to sur lee aging. It’s a beautiful wine with flavors of mango and melon, followed by a rich finish. (14.5% alc.)
L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Semillon, Columbia Valley, $15: L’Ecole owner Marty Clubb has carried the flag for Semillon for decades, crafting greatness from this noble Bordeaux variety grown in the arid Columbia Valley. Classic aromas of dried pineapple and fresh fig meld with hints of caramel and ghee. On the palate, it reveals flavors of rich tropical fruit. Tired of Chardonnay? Give Semillon a try. (14.5% alc.)
Mission Hill Family Estate 2013 Reserve Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $22: Anthony von Mandl hired John Simes in 1992 and his first work assignment was to spearhead the reserve chardonnay program at the Okanagan Valley’s largest destination winery. Two decades later, his skill continues to show with this showy Chardonnay. It could double for an expensive California reserve style, opening with fresh caramel, buttered popcorn, lemon, pineapple and apricot. The mouth feel offers many entry points sweet oak, pineapple and apricot, backed by succulent lemon juice and Golden Delicious apple. (13.5% alc.)
Puffin 2013 Pinot Gris, Oregon, $20: Ray Walsh left his native New Zealand in 1993 for King Estate, which begins to explain his success with Oregon Pinot Gris. In addition to making wine for his Capitello brand, he also works with Steven and Maryann Sinkler on this label for their regionally famous Cannon Beach shop — The Wine Shack. The nose hints at starfruit, white peach, pear, apricot and honeysuckle. It’s a succulent drink of Golden Delicious apple and peach cobbler, backed by racy acidity. (13.5% alc.)
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $24: Stephen Reustle has been a godsend for this Austrian variety in the U.S., blazing the trail for this grape. The Rutgers University product first planted it in the Umpqua Valley in 2005, and those who desire dry Riesling should appreciate this. Aromas of elderflower, Asian pear and Granny Smith apple lead to flavors of Key lime pie and yellow grapefruit with Granny Smith apple peel bite in the finish. (13.6% alc.)
Seven Falls 2012 Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, $15: Buttered toast and oak notes fill the nose with this plush Chardonnay. Flavors of creamy pears and spiced apple pie notes entwine with the toasty oak mirrored on the palate. It’s well balanced with nice acidity offsetting the generous fruit. (13.5% alc.)
Tranche Cellars 2011 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $45: Aussie-born Andrew Trio and the Corliss family take their time with all their wines, including this high-style Chardonnay from one of the Northwest’s most acclaimed sites for white wines. The nose hints at Asian pear, medium toast, fig, honey and hominy. The full mouth feel brings lemon and cream with fig and jicama leading to a finish of quince and kumquat. (13.5% alc.)
Tranche Cellars 2011 Slice of Pape Blanc, Columbia Valley, $30: Corliss sister winery in Walla Walla uses a combination of neutral oak and concrete egg fermentation to transform this white Rhône-style blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne into a bright and fruit-filled drink. It starts with a green and grassy nose of Granny Smith apple, lime juice and lemongrass, backed by Bosc pear, apricot and gooseberry flavors. (14.2% alc.)
Viento Wines 2011 Columbia Gorge Vineyard Retro Riesling, Columbia Gorge, $18: Those driving eastbound on Interstate 84 can spot Rich Cushman’s 30-year-old vineyard just south of the freeway on the western edge of Hood River, Ore. The Riesling he produces from these old vines hints at aromas of jasmine, pear, lemon extract and petrol. While the residual sugar is listed at 3.3%, it drinks drier than one might expect with a burst of lemon and lime juice with sliced pear and tangerine in the finish. (9.2% alc.)
Wild Goose Vineyards 2013 Gewürztraminer, Okanagan Valley, $19: One of the New World’s top producers of Gewürztraminer doesn’t disappoint with this classic example that opens with aromas of freshly peeled lychee nut, Ruby Red grapefruit, lemon oil and talcum powder. There is no disappointment on the pour, which comes with the succulent acidity so often lacking in most West Coast examples of this cool-climate grape. (13.6% alc.)