Gamay, Grenache Blanc steal show at McMinnville judging

By on February 10, 2020
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Sweepstakes winners at the 2020 McMinnville Wine & Food Classic judging featured the Cória Estates 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley Vineyards 2016 Brut, August Cellars 2018 Gamay Noir; Awen Winecraft 2018 Grenache Blanc, Phelps Creek Vineyards 2016 Lynette Chardonnay, Cardwell Hill Cellars 2016 Monet Blocks Pinot Noir and Apolloni Vineyards 2015 Dolce Vino Viognier. (Photo courtesy of McMinnville Wine & Food Festival)

McMINNVILLE, Ore. — As much as Oregon justifiably brands itself with world-class Pinot Noir, a panel of judges recruited from across the country voted to highlight charming examples of Gamay Noir and Grenache Blanc as the top wines of the 27th annual McMinnville Wine & Food Classic.

The August Cellars 2018 Gamay Noir grown near Newberg and the brilliant Awen Winecraft 2018 Grenache Blanc from the Rogue Valley will be featured during the public tasting March 13-15 at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. Last year, proceeds from the festival and the competition totaled $174,000, accounting for 20% of the operating budget for St. James School.

“Thanks to so many good and generous people, the McMinnville Wine & Food Classic does so much to support St. James School, while at the same time giving small, independent producers the opportunity to share their crafts with the region,” Father Mike Walker stated in a news release. “We very much rely on and appreciate the support from this great event.”

Many of Oregon’s leading wineries entered the judging and will pour at McMinnville Wine & Food Classic. The 75 producers include Alloro Vineyard, Archer Vineyard, Archery Summit, Beaux Frères, Bjørnson Vineyard, Cardwell Hill, Cathedral Ridge, Chehalem Winery, Dobbes Family Estate, Lenné Estate, J. Scott, Lady Hill, Patton Valley, Phelps Creek, Pike Road Wines, Spangler Vineyards, Stoller Family Estate, Torii Mor, Troon, Willamette Valley Vineyards and Zerba Cellars.

Cardwell Hill repeats with Best Pinot Noir

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St. James School is the primary beneficiary of the annual public festival staged at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. (Photo courtesy of Sip McMinnville)

Tom Homewood and Sean Hopkins launched Awen in 2016, and they work on their wines at Barrel 42 in Medford with Herb Quady and Brian Gruber. Jim Schaad began making wine for his family at August Cellars in 2004.

Dan Chapel, who captured Best of Show at the 2019 McMinnville judging with his Cardwell Hill Cellars Dijon Blocks 2014 Pinot Noir, once again produced the Best Pinot Noir. This time, it was his 2016 Estate Monet Blocks Pinot Noir and proved to be among the four gold medals for Cardwell Hill at McMinnville in 2020.

Joe Ibrahim and his team at Willamette Valley Vineyards used their 2016 Brut to earn the award for the Best Sparkling Wine. The award for Best Chardonnay went to the Phelps Creek 2016 Lynette. 

One of the Northwest’s most decorated sweet wines of the past 12 months has been the Apolloni Vineyards 2015 Dolce Vino Viognier, and it was a standout again in McMinnville as Best Dessert Wine. In 2019, that same wine produced gold medals from the Indy International Wine Competition at Purdue University and Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition prior to a Platinum from Wine Press Northwest in October.

Salem winemaker Aurora Coria, a product of the nearby Northwest Wine Studies Center at Chemeketa Community College, amassed four gold medals from her family’s 90-acre vineyard. That effort included the Cória Estates 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, which paced the rosé category.

Judges from across U.S. meet in McMinnville

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Professional wine judges from across the country meet Jan. 11, 2020, in Mattie’s Room at the Hotel Oregon in McMinnville, Ore. (Photo courtesy of McMinnville Wine & Food Festival)

This year’s judging panel included Michael Alberty, wine editor for The Oregonian; Hilary Berg, Publisher of Oregon Wine Press; Otto Han, wine buyer for New Seasons Market; JoAnn Actis-Grande, journalist, Portsmouth, N.H.; sommelier/restaurant consultant David Holstrom of Guy du Vin in Portland; Florida-based sommelier/journalist Ellen Landis; Allison Levine, a journalist and podcaster based in Los Angeles; Fred Swan, educator/writer at the San Francisco Wine School; and Michelle Williams, a Forbes magazine contributor who is based in Texas.

The judging was staged in Mattie’s Room on the second floor of McMenamin’s historic Hotel Oregon, while the young luxury boutique Atticus Hotel served as the official basecamp for judges. Famed chef Jody Kropf of the adjacent Red Hills Kitchen catered their reception.

This year, competition coordinator Rolland Toevs transitioned his event to Enofile Online Wine Competition Management, the Portland-based platform that has quickly become the industry standard in the U.S. He and the McMinnville committee recruited more experts than ever before from beyond the Northwest to serve as judges for the 200-entry field.

“A major goal of the competition is to introduce Oregon’s wines to the consumer,” Toevs said. “Our efforts begin with selecting influential and credentialed judges who can communicate the results to consumers. As the competition gets more rigorous, we attract more and more esteemed wineries to participate, in an upward spiral.”

Festival offers range of flavors, attractions

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The annual Sip McMinnville Wine and Food Classic will be staged at the Evergreen Space Museum for the 13th consecutive year. (Photo by C. Hillestad Photography/Courtesy of McMinnville Wine & Food Festival)

Each July, McMinnville plays host to the world during the International Pinot Noir Celebration. In March, when the weather is much less reliable, approximately 160 vendors will set up in the Evergreen Space Museum among jets, missiles and displays from space missions.

“Everything about the event is centered upon having fun, and the venue is what really sets the Classic apart,” said event chair Jon Johnson. 

  • Guests will enjoy live music throughout the weekend and take home a limited supply of free stemmed crystal Pinot Noir glasses while supplies last.
  • One-day or three-day tickets are available, as well as a new “decide later” one-day ticket that entitles access on any day the holder selects.
  • Wines are available for purchase, and orders are available for pick up at a valet counter with transportation assistance to a vehicle.

More than 25 food vendors, 18 artisans, six distilleries, local beer, cider, and distilled spirits will also participate in this year’s event, including Pacific Crab Company, Ribslayer BBQ, Asiatico Waterfront Fusion Sushi and Lajitama Greek Cuisine. Guests can enjoy their craft beverage with fresh oysters, crab and shrimp melts, barbecue, German grilled specialties, tamales and more. 

Artisans will display jewelry, artwork and woodwork, while musicians will perform live all three days.

General admission single-day tickets are $24 for Friday, $28 for Saturday, $16 for Sunday, or $28 for an “any day” ticket that lets you keep your plans flexible. General admission three-day passes are $44. Children 12 and under are free with parent or guardian. After entry, patrons pay for each tasting or food item on an individual basis. 

VIP Parking, free parking, and Portland and McMinnville shuttle service will be available. For more info and to order tickets online, go to MacClassic.org.

27th McMinnville Wine & Food Classic

Best red wine

August Cellars 2018 Gamay Noir, Willamette Valley $25

Best white wine

Awen Winecraft 2018 Grenache Blanc, Rogue Valley $30

Best sparkling wine

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2016 Méthode Champenoise Brut, Willamette Valley $55

Best sweet wine

Apolloni Vineyards 2015 Dolce Vino, Columbia Valley $22

Best Pinot Noir

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Monet Block, Willamette Valley $32

Best Chardonnay

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2016 Lynette, Columbia Gorge $38

Gold medal

40:31 Wines 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley $23

Alloro Vineyard 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains $40

Alloro Vineyard 2017 Estate Riservata Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains $50

Apolloni Vineyards 2018 Estate Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley $18

Bjørnson Vineyard 2017 Estate Gamay Noir, Eola-Amity Hills $29

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2017 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $49

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley $22

Bravuro Cellars 2016 El Matador, Red Mountain $50

Bravuro Cellars 2017 Petite Sirah, Lodi $40

Bravuro Cellars 2017 Tannat, Lodi $40

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Bottled Old Vines Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $28

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Dijon Blocks, Willamette Valley $32

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Pommard Block, Willamette Valley $28

Carlton Cellars 2016 Roads End Reserve, Yamhill-Carlton $45

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2015 Rock Star Red,, Columbia Valley $48

Chehalem Winery 2017 Reserve Chardonnay,, Dundee Hills $40

Chehalem Winery 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge $70

Chris James Cellars 2018 Gewürztraminer, Willamette Valley $20

Coria Estate Wines 2016 Gray Label Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $32

Cória Estate Wines 2016 Mary Sharon, Willamette Valley $60

Cória Estate Wines 2017 Gray Label Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $28

Cória Estate Wines 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $24

Cubanisimo Vineyards 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills $36

Denison Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills $45

Denison Cellars 2017 Tête de Cuvée, Willamette Valley $75

Eliana 2015 Cabernet Franc, Applegate Valley $42

Eola Hills Wine Cellars Reserve 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi $30

Fox Farm Vineyards 2016 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills $45

Garibaldi Cellars 2017 2017 Philip Pinot Noir, McMinnville $52

J Wrigley Vineyard 2018 Estate Pinot Noir, McMinnville $42

K & M Wines 2017 Alchemy Cuvée Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $25

Melrose Vineyards 2015 Baco Noir, Umpqua Valley $32

Noble Estate 2018 Muscat, Willamette Valley $20

Pinot Vista Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc, Rogue Valley $30

Rallison Cellars 2016 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains $40

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Cals Choice, Applegate Valley $20

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2018 Estate Albariño, Applegate Valley $22

Silver Falls Vineyards 2016 Smooth Ride, Willamette Valley $32

Spangler Vineyards 2015 Petit Verdot, Oregon $35

Stoller Family Estate 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills $50

Torii Mor 2013 Syrah Port, Rogue Valley $45

Torii Mor 2017, Dundee Hills Select Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills $45

Vino Vasai 2017 Barrel 17 Select Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains $44

Vino Vasai 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $36

WildAire 2018 Yates Conwill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton $45

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2016 Griffin Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Rogue Valley $48

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2017 Vintage 44 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $50

Zerba Cellars 2017 Estate Wild Z Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley $24

Silver medal

40:31 Wines 2017 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $45

40:31 Wines 2018 Rose of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $23

Ad Lucem 2015 Daystar GSM, Columbia Valley, $42

Alloro Vineyard Estate 2017 Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains, $37

Apolloni Vineyards 2014 Conti di Val Seriana Soleggio, Walla Walla Valley, $31

Apolloni Vineyards 2016 L Pinot Noir Cuvée, Willamette Valley, $26

Apolloni Vineyards 2018 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $19

Apolloni Vineyards NV Rosé Bubbles, Willamette Valley, $25

Archer Vineyard 2017 Archer Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $65

Archer Vineyard 2017 Archer, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $50

Archer Vineyard 2017 Olenik Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $60

Archer Vineyard 2018 Sheru Pinot Gris, Chehalem Mountains, $30

August Cellars 2012 Portus Augustus Oregon, $30

Awen Winecraft 2017 Sangiovese, Rogue Valley, $40

Awen Winecraft 2018 Albariño, Applegate Valley, $30

Awen Winecraft 2018 Rosé, Applegate Valley, $25

Awen Winecraft 2018 Vermentino, Rogue Valley, $30

Awen Winecraft 2018 Viognier, Applegate Valley, $30

Bjørnson Vineyard 2015 Reserve, Eola-Amity Hills, $39

Bjørnson Vineyard 2018 Thor, Eola-Amity Hills, $35

Bluebird Hill Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $32

Bradley Vineyards 2018 Bored Doe Blend Elkton, $28

Bravuro Cellars 2016 Carefree Port-style, Lodi, $40

Bravuro Cellars 2017 Barbera Lodi, $40

Bravuro Cellars 2017 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, $40

Bravuro Cellars 2017 Tempranillo, Lodi, $40

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2015 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $24

Cardwell Hill Cellars 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $18

Carlton Cellars 2016 Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, $35

Carlton Cellars 2017, Auxerrois, Willamette Valley, $22

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $48

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2016 Dampier Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $38

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2016 Rhett’s Red Reserve, Columbia Valley, $44

Cathedral Ridge Winery 2016 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $34

Catman Cellars 2016 Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $32

Catman Cellars 2017 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $32

Catman Cellars 2017 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $42

Chateau Bianca 2016 Chardonnay, Applegate Valley, $25

Chateau Bianca 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $15

Chehalem Winery 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, Dundee Hills, $40

Chris James Cellars 2017 Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $24

Chris James Cellars 2017 Claret, Columbia Valley, $39

Chris James Cellars 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Yamhill-Carlton, $24

Coria Estate Wines 2017 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $45

Coria Estate Wines 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $22

Cubanisimo Vineyards 2016 Rumba Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $25

Denison Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $45

Denison Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $28

Denison Cellars 2018 Chardonnay Yamhill-Carlton, $30

Dobbes Family Estate 2016 Eola-Amity Cuvée Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $35

Dobbes Family Estate 2016 Sundown Vineyard Syrah, Rogue Valley, $50

Dobbes Family Estate 2018 Grenache Blanc, Rogue Valley, $26

Eliana 2011 Reserve, Rogue Valley, $28

Eliana 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rogue Valley, $38

Eola Hills 2016 Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, $42

Eola Hills Reserve 2017 Pinot Noir Barrel Select Oregon, $36

Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards 2009 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $60

Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards 2013 Barbera, Columbia Valley, $65

Faith Hope & Charity Vineyards 2015 Viognier, Rogue Valley, $32

Fox Farm Vineyards 2016, Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $34

Garibaldi Cellars 2017 Giovanni Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $45

Girardet 2016 Teroldego, Umpqua Valley, $48

Girardet 2017 Riesling, Umpqua Valley, $20

Girardet 2017 Sangiovese, Umpqua Valley, $34

J Wrigley Vineyard 2018 Acceptance Block Estate Chardonnay, McMinnville, $35

K & M Wines 2018 Alchemy Reserve Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $40

K & M Wines 2018 Alchemy Vineyard Chardonnay, Chehalem Mountains, $33

K & M Wines 2018 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Viognier, Columbia Valley, $28

K & M Wines 2018 Grenache, Columbia Valley, $35

Lady Hill 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $38

Lady Hill 2018 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $22

Lenne Estate 2016 Lenne Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, $40

Lenne Estate 2018 Lenne Estate Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton, $44

Melrose Vineyards 2015 Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, $28

Melrose Vineyards 2015 Vin du Fermier, Umpqua Valley, $16

Melrose Vineyard 2018 Chardonnay, Umpqua Valley, $25

Merrill-Monserrat 2016 Garnacha, Rogue Valley, $40

Noble Estate 2018 Malbec, Rogue Valley, $36

Parrett Mountain Cellars 2016 2016 Merdot, Columbia Valley, $44

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2014 Celilo, Columbia Gorge, $36

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2015 Cuvee Alexandrine, Columbia Gorge, $54

Phelps Creek Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Gorge, $26

Pinot Vista Vineyards 2015 Sangiovese, Lodi, $30

Pinot Vista Vineyards 2017 Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, $30

Procedo 2016 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $38

Résolu Cellars 2016 Triomphe, Columbia Valley, $48

Résolu Cellars 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $38

Résolu Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $36

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Duncan’s Choice, Applegate Valley, $20

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Applegate Valley, $40

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Merlot, Applegate Valley, $38

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Pinot Noir, Applegate Valley, $40

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Syrah, Applegate Valley, $34

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2016 Estate Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, $36

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2018 Pink, Applegate Valley, $24

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2018 Reserve Chardonnay, Applegate Valley, $30

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2018 Reserve Riesling, Applegate Valley, $20

Schmidt Family Vineyards 2018 Reserve Viognier, Applegate Valley, $30

Schultz 2015 Shepherd Syrah, Applegate Valley, $28

Schultz 2016 Blessed Merlot, Applegate Valley, $27

Schultz 2018 Mission Viognier, Applegate Valley, $20

Season Cellars 2014 Phoenix Southern Oregon, $36

Season Cellars 2015 Malbec Southern Oregon, $30

Season Cellars 2016 Carménère Southern Oregon, $38

Siltstone Wines 2013 Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $30

Siltstone Wines 2017 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $15

Siltstone Wines 2017 Sauvignon Blanc Yamhill-Carlton, $15

Siltstone Wines 2018 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $20

Silver Falls Vineyards 2016 Maréchal Foch, Willamette Valley, $32

Silver Falls Vineyards 2018 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $18

Silver Falls Vineyards 2018 Finish Line, Willamette Valley, $25

Spangler Vineyards 2014 Zinfandel, Oregon, $28

Stone Griffon Vineyard 2016 Estate Reserve Tempranillo Eclipse, Willamette Valley, $58

Stone Griffon Vineyard 2017 2017 Rive Droite Blend, Columbia Valley, $36

Stone Griffon Vineyard 2018 Malbec, Red Mountain, $42

Three Feathers Estate Vineyard 2018 Blanc de Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $28

Torii Mor 2018 Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley, $24

Trella Vineyards 2016 Gewürztraminer, Umpqua Valley, $24

Trella Vineyards 2016 Pinot Gris Southern Oregon, $16

Trella Vineyards 2017 Torero Southern Oregon, $42

Vino Vasai 2017 Celilo Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $38

Vino Vasai 2017 Dario Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $34

Vino Vasai 2018 Rosa Vasai Bubbles, Chehalem Mountains, $36

WildAire 2018 Open Claim Vineyard, Willamette Valley, $30

WildAire 2018 Timothy, Willamette Valley, $30

Zerba Cellars 2016 Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, $36

Zerba Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $36

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.

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