During the first week of May, more than 1,000 wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho (as well as a handful from Montana, Alberta and even Saskatchewan) were judged blind by wine professionals at the Northwest Wine Summit, held at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore. The top wine was a Petite Sirah from Dusted Valley Vintners in Walla Walla.
Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel -- co-owners, co-winemakers and brothers-in-law -- are best known for their Syrahs, but they've recently shown deep affection for Petite Sirah, a related red wine grape.
That their 2009 Petite Sirah captured best-in-show honors at the Northwest Wine Summit speaks loudly. We've tasted a number of superb Petite Sirahs from the Pacific Northwest, and this could help spur greater interest in the wine. We sure hope so.
The Northwest Wine Summit has been run since its inception by Parks Redwine. Redwine (yes, that's his real name) is a wine lover, collector, importer and writer. He became enamored with Northwest wines in the 1970s and runs the competition despite living across the country in Atlanta.
The Northwest Wine Summit is a fascinating competition, one we've been associated with for more than a decade as judges and organizers. Redwine believes in giving every wine the best chance it can to show well. Thus, he has every wine judged twice: once by a panel of judges and once by an "audit" judge. If the panel, for example, gives a wine a bronze medal or no award and the audit judge gives it a gold medal, that wine will be sent out to another group of judges. More than half the time when this happens, the wine will end up with a higher medal.
Redwine also has a love for the region's wine history. A couple of years ago, he created an award for the best Oregon Pinot Noir and called it the Pioneers Award to honor those visionaries who came to Oregon to plant the red wine grape, such men as David Lett, Dick Erath, Dick Ponzi and David Adelsheim.
This year, Redwine honored Bob Woehler, his longtime friend and fellow wine writer who died last summer, by naming the competition's top Cabernet Sauvignon in his honor.
The inaugural winner was a Cab coming from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley -- a selection that undoubtedly would have pleased Bob.
Here are the top winners in this year's competition.
All should be available through your favorite wine merchant or directly from the wineries.
Best in show: Dusted Valley Vintners 2009 Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $42. (Also won best Washington and best red wine).
Best white: L'Ecole No. 41 2011 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $14.
Best sparkling: Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Blanc de Blancs, Columbia Valley, $12.
Best rosé: Arrowleaf 2011 First Crush Rosé, Okanagan Valley, $15.
Best dessert: Koenig Vineyards 2010 Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley, $30. (Also won best Idaho wine.)
Best ice wine: Mission Hill Family Estate 2010 Reserve Vidal Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $50. (Also won best British Columbia wine.)
Best nongrape wine: Blue Mountain Cider Co. NV Peach Hard Apple Cider, Washington, $12.
Best spirit: It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere Northwest Dry Gin, $41.
Best fortified wine: Field Stone Fruit Wines NV Raspberry, Alberta, $25. (Also won best Alberta wine.)
Pioneer Award for best Oregon Pinot Noir: Styring Vineyards 2009 Signature Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $35.
Bob Woehler Award for best Cabernet Sauvignon: Watermill Winery 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35. (Also won best Oregon wine; the vineyards are in the Oregon portion of the Walla Walla Valley.)
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.