Top wines from 2016 Great NW Invitiational

By on October 10, 2016
The Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition is conducted at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon.

The Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition is staged at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore. It is a beautiful venue in which to conduct a professional wine evaluation. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – During the next three days, we will take a closer look at all the gold medal-winning wines from the fourth annual Great Northwest Wine Competition, which took place last week at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel.

Twenty-one wine professionals from along the West Coast spent two days evaluating more than 500 wines – all of which were nominated by the judges themselves.

In the end, they chose a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of Walla Walla’s oldest wineries, Dunham Cellars. But two of the final four wines were from Gehringer Brothers, a winery on the Canadian side of the border near the town of Oliver, B.C. Last year, the best of show in this competition was Gehringer Brothers’ 2014 Old Vine Auxerrois, a rare white grape grown by the brothers and produced by winemaker Walter Gehringer.

Tasting through all the gold medal winners and writing reviews was chief judge Mike Dunne, wine columnist for The Sacramento Bee and one of California’s most respected wine journalists, critics and competition judges.

Here are the reviews:

Best of show: Dunham Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon XIX, Columbia Valley, $45: This best-of-show wine pays tribute to the work of founders (and father and son) Mike and Eric Dunham, who have passed away in the past few years. It’s also a tribute to winemaker Daniel Wampfler, who left for anther Walla Walla Valley winery this fall. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon that defines Columbia Valley if that definition runs to terms like clean cherry fruit, an alluring seam of fine leather and a note of earthiness. It’s a Cabernet ready to drink now for its supple tannins and gentle finish. It should be noted that this is the second Dunham Cellars win to win best of show this year, with the 2013 Syrah taking the top price in the fourth annual Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition. (13.9% alc., 2,249 cases)

Best white wine: Best Buy! Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Gewürztraminer/Schonburger, Golden Mile Bench, $14: This affordable and unusual blend from one of the best Northwest wineries you’ve probably never heard of, this wine came within a whisker of earning best of show at the fourth annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. Schonburger is a German grape developed at the Geisenheim Institute. A rocket ship of a wine, lighting up the sky at launch with a burst of flowers, fruit and spice, trailing off into the clouds with drive and arc. (12.8% alc., 600 cases)

Best dessert wine: Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Signature Riesling Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $42: Okanagan Valley winemaker Walter Gehringer is king of the Platinum Judging, the year-end competition by Wine Press Northwest magazine. He’s quickly earning a reputation as “king of the invite” with last year’s best of show and several best-of-class awards this year. And this icewine is nothing short of stunning. Welcome to a huge and varied botanical garden within a tropical paradise. This has all the perfume, richness and complexity you could want in either a tropical garden or an ice wine. Simply amazing. (9.3% alc., 1,000 cases)

Best rosé: Renegade Wine Co. 2015 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $15: Aside from the blend of red Rhône grapes, this is not really a renegade in the rosé class. It’s light and bright, with centered fruit complicated with earthy notes, which, come to think of it, does make this pink something of a renegade. This is produced by Sleight of Hands Cellars south of downtown Walla Walla, orchestrated by winemaker Trey Busch in association with the Wahluke Wine Co. (11.6% alc.)


About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is founding partner of Great Northwest Wine LLC and a longtime wine columnist. 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 the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books.

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