Reds ruled the day during the second annual Great Northwest Wine Competition held in early April at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore.
Of the 86 wines awarded gold medals, 60 of them were reds. Here are a few of our favorites. Find the full results at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.
AniChe Cellars 2011 Moth Love, Rattlesnake Hills, $34: Columbia Gorge winemaker Rachel Horn crafted this blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvdre from Elephant Mountain Vineyard in Washington's Rattlesnake Hills. Aromas feature red currant, hibiscusand hints of a humidor. A pour releases flavors of president plum, boysenberry and pomegranate with blueberry skin tannin, which ease into a finish of black licorice.
Bitner Vineyards 2009 Cab-Shiraz, Snake River Valley, $28: Longtime Idaho grower Ron Bitner puts his grapes and trust in the hands of talented friend Greg Koenig, and the results in this presentation of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are stunning. It's a noseful of blackberry, black currant, thyme and tar. On the attack, it's Marionberry cobbler with pomegranate acidity and black cherry skin in the finish.
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Gamache Vintners 2010 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $30: Brothers Roger and Bob Gamache planted their estate vineyard in 1982 and now have a successful tasting room at the Vintners Village in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser. This is a beautiful Syrah with aromas of bacon fat and blackberry, followed by rich flavors of blackberry, plum and a sprinkling of coffee.
Mosquito Fleet Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $39: Chiropractor Brian Petersen grew up in the Hood Canal community of Belfair, and knew all about the area's rich maritime history, including the famed Mosquito Fleet -- a group of small ferries that plied the waters of Puget Sound for more than 100 years. For this outstanding Cab, he went to warm Red Mountain for his fruit. On the nose, it offers aromas of sweet spice, plum, blackberry and pipe tobacco, followed by flavors of black cherry, ripe plum, blackberry and vanilla.
Seven Falls 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $15: Seven Falls is a label for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates using grapes from the warm Wahluke Slope. The inexpensive wines are sold primarily at restaurants (though they're available on the Seven Falls website). It's ridiculously good with aromas and flavors of sweet spice, ripe cherry, plum and chocolate. Velvety tannins provide right-on structure. Open this any night of the week.
Amelia Wynn Winery 2011 Sangiovese, Red Mountain, $29: Bainbridge Island, winemaker Paul Bianchi brought in Sangiovese grapes from warm Red Mountain in the eastern Yakima Valley to craft this delicious red wine. It opens with gorgeous aromas of ripe cherry, crushed herb and white pepper, followed by bright, delicious flavors of cherry, raspberry, cranberry and pomegranate.
Barrister Winery 2011 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $29: Spokane attorney/winemakers Greg Lipsker and Michael White have set the bar high in the Northwest with this Bordeaux variety, and they continue to keep the focus on ripe fruit. There's very little of the leafy, herbaceous note often found in Cabernet Franc. Instead, it shows a nose of dusty black currant, blueberry, cedar and a pinch of fresh sage. The drink is juicy with ripe plum, currant and blueberry, while the structure angles more toward acidity than tannin.
Wedge Mountain Winery 2010 Northridge Vineyard Malbec, Wahluke Slope, $35: Owner and winemaker Charlie McKee operates this small winery along the Wenatchee River near Leavenworth. He used grapes from highly regarded Northridge Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope for this luscious Malbec. It opens with aromas of black pepper, dark plum, black cherry and a whiff of maple syrup, followed by flavors of rich dark fruit, including plum, boysenberry and ripe raspberry. It's all backed up by mild tannins and harmonious acidity.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Check out their new weekly podcast, "Great Northwest Winecast," on the Apple iTunes Store or go to Great Northwest Wine.