Judges picked a Riesling by Woodinville’s Ancestry Cellars as the top wine out of more than 350 submitted to the 36th annual Tri-Cities Wine Festival.
Ancestry Cellars 2012 Reminiscence Riesling was announced as the Best of Show during the festival Saturday at Kennewick’s Three Rivers Convention Center.
Harry McWatters, one of the festival’s judges, said he had a tough time choosing between the Riesling and a sparkling wine that made it to the very top. The winning Riesling has classic appeal.
“Riesling is one of those varieties that does so exceptionally well in the Pacific Northwest,” said McWatters, who is known as the father of the modern British Columbia wine industry and just finished his 47th vintage.
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The Riesling had “deliciously perfect balance,” said Coke Roth, one of the judges and the founding chairman of the Tri-Cities Wine Festival.
Ancestry Cellars, owned by Jason and Erin Morin, used grapes exclusively from Underwood Mountain Vineyard to make the award-winning Riesling. The vineyard is in Underwood, just three miles north of Hood River, Ore. The listed bottle price is $17.50.
“The Riesling was just a gorgeous example,” said Ann Littlefield, an international wine marketing consultant from Napa Valley who was one of the festival judges. “It was like a textbook example of perfect Riesling.”
A good Riesling needs to blend, without having any specific component stand out, she said. “It’s all about the harmony, the length and the complexity.”
In addition to winning Best of Show and Best of Varietal, the Riesling also was one of 21 wines to receive double gold medals, meaning all six judges agreed the wine should receive the highest mark.
McWatters said he’s never judged for a competition that gave such a high percentage of double gold medals. That speaks to the quality of the wine.
“When you get six people all without prodding come up with gold medals independently, that’s pretty remarkable,” he said.
The judging is blind, which means the judges know the wine varietal, such as red blend or Chardonnay, but not the winery, the label or the year. The judges had to wait until Saturday’s festival to find out the names of the wineries and wines that they chose as winners.
Roth said earlier this week that he couldn’t wait to find out which wines were which so he could stock up on some of his favorites from judging.
The panel tasted and judged 358 wines submitted by 71 Northwest wineries. The top 24 made it to a final round of judging to select the Best of Show.
A number of the wines that received silver medals would have been gold in a different competition or a smaller group of wines, McWatters said. And a bronze medal from this competition is nothing for which to be apologetic.
“I’ve never judged a competition where there have been so few wines not awarded medals,” McWatters said.
McWatters judged the Tri-Cities Wine Festival in years past, but conflicts kept him away for a few years.
“What I was surprised at is that the average of the wines we tasted was so much better,” McWatters said. That could be a reflection of wineries being more selective on the wines they entered or of consistent high-quality vintages.
Littlefield, a festival judge for the past decade, agreed that the quality of the wines has gone up exponentially in the last seven years.
“The viticulture in the Northwest has gotten so precise and the winemaking has gotten so good that the standard of wines now for commercial acceptability is exceeded in virtually every case, and the standard now seems to be wines that are all above-average,” Roth said.
Having such superb wines to choose from made judging more difficult but more enjoyable as well, Roth said.
Best of Class and double gold medals went to Milbrandt Vineyards 2011 Mosaic Red Wine, Goose Ridge Estate Winery 2010 Roots of Life, Select Artist Series and Smasne Cellars for its 2013 Rosella Rosé and its 2010 Robert O. Smasne Owens Reserve. Smasne Cellars Farm Boy 2011 Bunk House Red Wine also was chosen as Best of Class and received a gold medal.
Best of varietal and double gold medals went to Ginkgo Forest Winery 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, J&J Vintners 2012 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah, Jones of Washington 2013 Chardonnay and Kitzke Cellars for its 2013 Viognier and 2010 Cabernet Franc.
Double gold winners included Barnard Griffin 2010 Touriga, Coyote Canyon Winery 2012 Viognier, DavenLore Winery 2011 Mourvèdre, Kiona Vineyards Winery 2013 Late Harvest Riesling, Martinez & Martinez Winery 2013 Viognier, Michelle non-vintage Brut Rosé, Piccola Cellars 2012 Riesling, Sol Stone Wine 2012 Grenache Roselle, Upland Estates Winery 2011 Syrah and Sun River Vintners for its 2011 Souzão, 2010 Souzão Angelica and 2010 Tinta Cão Angelica.
Wines that were recognized as the best for their varietal along with receiving gold medals were: Kiona Vineyards Winery 2012 Estate Red Mountain Malbec, Prosser Vineyard & Winery 2012 Sangiovese, Upland Estates Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and Milbrandt Vineyards for its 2013 Traditions Pinot Gris and 2011 The Estates Merlot.
The panel awarded 93 gold medals, 179 silver medals and 43 bronze medals.
The college wines also performed well in the competition, racking up some gold medals and quite a few silver ones, Roth said. The students that competed were from Walla Walla Community College’s College Cellars, Yakima Valley Vintners from Yakima Valley Community College and Northwest Wine Academy from South Seattle College.
Judges first tasted and ranked the college wines without knowing they were made by students, Littlefield said. A couple of them were just as good as many of the other wines submitted to the competition.
Roth was impressed because students have few resources when they make wine through class, often using salvage grapes, he said. The student wines show how well the next crop of winemakers is being trained.
The full results will be available at http://www.tricitieswinesociety.com/tri-cities-wine-festival.html