Mercer Canyons tops Indy International with $17 Cab

By on May 29, 2017
Rob Mercer at Spice Cabinet in the Horse Heaven Hills

Rob Mercer stands in Spice Cabinet Vineyard, a family planting in the Horse Heaven Hills that contributed to the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that topped the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition in Indiana. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Washington wine took the triple crown at this month’s 26th annual Indy International Wine Competition, led by the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon — a $17 wine from the Horse Heaven Hills — as best of show.

The sister brand for Mercer Estates in Prosser, Wash., received the award for Wine of the Year from the Purdue University judging. Barrister Winery in Spokane earned the trophy for Red Wine of the Year with its 2013 Dionysus Vineyard Petit Verdot. And College Cellars, the student-driven program at Walla Walla Community College, is touting its award for White Wine of the Year thanks to its 2016 Red Boar Vineyard Muscat Ottonel.

“That’s a pretty good statement for Washington,” Rob Mercer, owner of the family-operated Mercer Estates, told Great Northwest Wine.

Greg Lipsker, co-owner/co-winemaker at Barrister, said via email, “The triple crown at Indy is a tribute to the quality of the grapes being grown in Washington and truly a testament to the fact that Washington wines can hold their own and excel on the global stage.”

There were 1,671 wines entered in the Indy International’s commercial competition, which is directed by Jill Blume, enology specialist for Purdue’s Department of Food Sciences. Her judging panel, which represented more than a dozen states, included Mark Chien of Oregon State University’s Oregon Wine Research Institute, Morgan Lee of Two Vintners/Covington Cellars in Woodinville, wine educator Mary Studt of, Portland-based sommelier Jennifer Valenta of Wine Acumen and Bill Ward, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s James Beard Award-winning wine columnist. The competition was conducted May 24-25.

College Cellars adds chapter to Muscat history

Walla Walla Community College viticulture and enology students ham it up at Red Boar Vineyard, the birthplace of their award-winning 2016 Muscat Ottonel. (Photo by Greg Schnorr/Courtesy of Red Boar Vineyard)

It’s worth noting that the College Cellars 2016 Muscat Ottonel reached the sweepstakes portion for best of show at last fall’s Tri-Cities Wine Festival. That judging was staged less than two months after the grapes came off Red Boar Vineyard, and the Muscat project annually provides winemaking instructor Tim Donahue with a delicious teaching opportunity.

All total, College Cellars earned three double gold medals at the Indiana judging, which included its 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Scholarship Red.

Cougar Crest in Walla Walla made an impression with judges, meriting a double gold and three gold medals – all for red wines. Tsillan Cellars showed the viticultural versatility of Lake Chelan as Shane Collins used estate fruit to grab double golds for 2016 Riesling and 2014 Malbec.

Gehringer burnishes reputation in British Columbia

Walter Gehringer and his brother, Gordon, make wine for Gehringer Brother Estate Winery from estate vineyards on the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver, British Columbia, which is just north of Oroville, Wash.

Four decades ago in West Germany, Walter Gehringer learned winemaking at Geisenheim and his brother, Gordon, studied viticulture in Weinsberg in preparation for launching Gehringer Brother Estate Winery on the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver, British Columbia. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, the historic operation in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, added to its international résumé at the Midwest competition. Wine Press Northwest magazine’s “King of the Platinum” earned more invitations to the year-end best-of-the-best judging with its best of class 2016 Gewürztraminer Schönburger and gold medals for 2016 Ehrenfelser and 2016 Old Vines Auxerrois. Each wine retails for $15.

Zerba Cellars in the Walla Walla Valley picked up gold medals for its 2011 Wild Z Red Wine, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Estate Syrah.

Spangler Vineyards in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley displayed the promise of Italian varieties in the Northwest with a double gold for its 2015 Estate Dolcetto and gold for a 2014 Zinfandel. Patrick Spangler is particularly proud of his young Dolcetto, which he bottled April 11. He harvested it Sept. 14 from his Roseburg vineyard at nearly 27 Brix during the historically hot vintage.

“Mine is much riper and darker than most I have seen,” he said via text. “The dry farming really keeps the berry and bunch sizes down.”

Mercer Canyons 2014 Cab available in 47 states

Jessica Munnell, a graduate of Washington State University and a product of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, is the winemaker for Mercer Estates and Mercer Canyons in Prosser, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

It shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone across the country to judge the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cab for themselves. Richland winemaker Jessica Munnell produced 4,000 cases of that wine, and thanks to Mercer’s partnership with industry giant Southern Wine and Spirits, Mercer Canyon wines are available in 47 states. In the Pacific Northwest, look for the refreshed label at Albertsons, QFC and Yoke’s Fresh Markets.

“That’s not a bad way to end the week,” Mercer quipped Friday. “It seems that everything coming out of that 2014 vintage is awesome, so this doesn’t surprise me. We’re excited to get those wines out there.”

And on Memorial Day Weekend, the Mercers quietly opened up a satellite tasting room in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Their grand opening is Friday, June 7.

Pacific Northwest results at the 26th Indy International

Best of show/double gold

Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $17

Best red wine/double gold

Barrister Winery 2013 Dionysus Vineyard Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, $45

Best white/double gold

College Cellars 2016 Red Boar Vineyard Muscat Ottonel, Walla Walla Valley, $15

Best of class/double gold

Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $38
Grizzly Peak Winery 2014 Syrah, Oregon, $24
Spangler Vineyards 2015 Khayam’s Block Estate Dolcetto, Umpqua Valley, $35
Tsillan Cellars 2014 Estate Malbec, Lake Chelan, $42

Best of glass/gold

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Gewürztraminer Schönburger, Golden Mile Bench, $15

Double gold

Bainbridge Vineyards NV Raspberry Dessert Wine, Washington, $23
Basalt Cellars 2013 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $26
College Cellars 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $25
College Cellars 2014 Scholarship Red, Walla Walla Valley, $16
Tsillan Cellars 2016 Estate Riesling, Lake Chelan, $18

Gold medal

Bainbridge Vineyards NV Ferryboat White Wine, Puget Sound, $18
Barrister Winery NV XII Rough Justice Red Wine, Washington, $23
Basalt Cellars 2014 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $28
Charles & Charles 2015 Cabernet Blend, Columbia Valley, $14
Charles & Charles 2016 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $14
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, $42
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $45
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $38
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley, $14
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Old Vines Auxerrois, Golden Mile Bench, $15
ROAM 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
Spangler Vineyards 2014 Zinfandel, Oregon, $28
Zerba Cellars 2011 Wild Z Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $24
Zerba Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $36
Zerba Cellars 2014 Estate Syrah, The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, $36

Silver medal

A Cheerful Note Cellars 2014 Pinot Noir, McMinnville
Barrister Winery 2012 Churchill’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Barrister Winery 2013 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $33
Barrister Winery 2013 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
Barrister Winery 2014 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $31
Barrister Winery 2014 Kiona Sangiovese, Red Mountain
Barrister Winery 2014 Summit View Vineyard Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, $33
Barrister Winery 2015 Carmenere
Basalt Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec
Charles & Charles 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $13
City Limits 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
City Limits 2015 Chardonnay
College Cellars 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Anniversary Cuvee, Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2013 Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley
Covington Cellars 2012 Cabernet Franc
Covington Cellars 2012 Petite Sirah
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc Rosé
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Desert Sun White Wine
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Dry Red Cabernet-Merlot
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Dry Rock Sauvignon Blanc
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Dry Rock Unoaked Chardonnay
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Optimum Pinot Noir
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Private Reserve Pinot Noir
Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2016 Private Reserve Riesling
Grizzly Peak Winery 2014 Malbec, Oregon
Grizzly Peak Winery 2014 Merlot, Oregon
Mercer Canyons 2014 Red Blend
Mercer Canyons 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
Nodland Cellars 2013 Avant Garde Carmenere
Nodland Cellars 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Skipper’s Knot 2015 Riesling, Washington
Spangler Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc, Southern Oregon
Spangler Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oregon
Tsillan Cellars 2014 Estate Reserve Syrah
Tsillan Cellars 2014 Estate Winemaker Select Malbec, Lake Chelan
Two Vintners 2014 Syrah
Two Vintners 2014 Zinfandel
Wedge Mountain Winery 2015 Les Chevaux Magnifiques
Wedge Mountain Winery 2015 Merlot
Zerba Cellars 2013 Reserve Petite Sirah, Walla Walla Valley
Zerba Cellars 2014 Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley

Bronze medal

Barrister Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
College Cellars 2014 Riesling, Walla Walla Valley
Cougar Crest Estate Winery 2015 Estate Viognier, Walla Walla Valley
Nodland Cellars 2013 Bad Attitude Red Wine
Nodland Cellars 2013 Private Blend Red Wine












About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the President and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for a decade. He is a frequent wine judge at international wine competitions throughout North America and orchestrates 10 Northwest competitions each year.


  1. […] Winery of the Year. This year, the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, a $17 wine, won best of show at the Indy International Wine Competition, a judging staged at Purdue […]

  2. […] older brother of this Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mercer family earned best of show at the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition on the campus of Purdue University, and the 2015 Cab seems cut from the same cloth. Aromas of dusty […]

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