For the second straight year, a young Walla Walla Valley winemaker has taken home the top prize from the largest judging of Northwest wines.
Palencia Wine Co.’s 2015 Albariño won best of show at the fourth annual Cascadia Wine Competition, which took place March 15-17 at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River.
The winery, owned by Victor Palencia, 31, is at the Walla Walla airport and also has a downtown Walla Walla tasting room. Last year, Palencia’s 2014 Rosé of Pinot Noir won best of show at the competition.
This year, the crisp white Albariño stood out amid more than 1,000 wines entered by more than 250 wineries from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho. During the three-day competition, 22 wine professionals evaluated all the wines and concluded the Albariño was the best.
Here are the best wines of the competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Best of show: Palencia Wine Co. 2015 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $18. Aromas of crushed herb, kiwi and green apple lead to stunning flavors of crisp orchard fruit, lime zest and starfruit. This is a perfect wine for shellfish, particularly crab dip. This will be released April 9 to Palencia’s wine club and to the public shortly after that. (13 percent alcohol)
Best red and Bob Woehler Award for best Washington wine: Thurston Wolfe 2012 Zephyr Ridge Vineyard Reserve Petite Sirah, Horse Heaven Hills, $30. Rich aromas of dark chocolate, plum and oak lead to flavors of deep, dark, ripe black fruit, cocoa powder, espresso and clove. The Bob Woehler Award honors the longtime Tri-City Herald wine writer, who died in 2011. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Best rosé: Indian Creek Winery 2015 Rosé of Syrah, Snake River Valley, $16. This gorgeous pink wine displays aromas of ruby grapefruit and wild plum, which lead into crisp flavors of grapefruit and jellied tart wild plums. (12 percent alcohol)
Best sparkling: College Cellars 2015 Inland Desert Vineyard Muscat, Yakima Valley, $15. Upon opening, this semi-sparkler produces subdued bubbles, then spicy, sweet pink grapefruit aromas. In the mouth, the grapefruit is augmented by tropical flavors of lychee and papaya. It closes with just enough acidity to wash away the 5 percent residual sugar. (9 percent alcohol)
Best dessert: Abacela 2015 Blanco Dulce, Umpqua Valley, $30. Using estate Albariño, this opens with aromas of honey-glazed apricot and intense Christmas spices and leads to flavors of candied orange peel, poached peach and vanilla ice cream. It is a stunning dessert wine. (15 percent alcohol)
Cole Danehower Award for best Oregon wine: Mt. Hood Winery 2014 Estate Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge, $28. There’s little sign of oak in the nose of blueberry jam, cherry juice and plum flesh from this product of estate vines first established in 2000. Red currant, Red Vines licorice and white pepper lead to a racy finish of fresh cranberry and Montmorency cherry. The Cole Danehower Award honors the longtime Oregon wine writer, who died in 2015. (13.6 percent alcohol)
Best British Columbia wine: JoieFarm Winery 2015 A Noble Blend, Okanagan Valley, $24. This beautiful white blend is led by Gewürztraminer. It displays spice, lychee and a bit of grapefruit in its aromas, then lychee, papaya, tart lime and lemon, starfruit and melon flavors, all finishing with juicy, crisp acidity that balances its .07 percent residual sugar. (13.6 percent alcohol)
Best Idaho wine: Colter’s Creek Winery 2013 Arrow Rim Red, Idaho, $25. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre once again shows Idaho can star in producing Rhône blends. Spice, blackberries, pomegranate and plums offer up their aromas readily and in the mouth the wine shows off black pepper as well, leading to smooth tannins. (14.6 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.