Northwest Wine

Northwest Wine: Platinum Judging takes gold medal wines to next level

Westport Winery Garden Resort near Aberdeen is home to many award-winning wines, including the 2015 Mermaid Merlot, which won a Platinum medal this year.
Westport Winery Garden Resort near Aberdeen is home to many award-winning wines, including the 2015 Mermaid Merlot, which won a Platinum medal this year. Great Northwest Wine photo

Eighteen years ago, Wine Press Northwest, a wine publication in Kennewick, began its annual Platinum Judging, a multi-day tasting of Pacific Northwest wines that have won a gold medal in at least one of globe’s top competitions.

We chart more than 40 of these competitions throughout the year, and this “best of the best in the great Northwest” is a fun way to find great wines from our region right before the holidays. Results were published in the new issue of the magazine, which is also available at

Here are a few wines that showed particularly well in this year’s Platinum. Ask for them at your favorite wine shop or contact the wineries directly. Act quickly because a number of these wines earned their first gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in early January.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Revelation & Sorek Bloc Estate Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $24: Stephen Reustle caps his reign as the 2017 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year by topping the Platinum Judging with his flagship bottling of Grüner Veltliner. His pioneering work in Southern Oregon with the noble white grape of Austria elicited an audible “Wow!” from panelists as irresistible aromatics jump from the glass. On the palate, well-defined flavors of green apple, fresh pea shoots, tropical fruit, a pinch of white pepper and a thread of minerality meld harmoniously. (13.6 percent alcohol)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Red Heaven Vineyard Petite Sirah, Red Mountain: $48: One of Washington’s hottest young vineyards shines in the hands of viticulturist Damon Lalonde and winemaker Robert Smasne. This powerful red grape, native to the Rhône, offers rich and concentrated tones of blackberry, semi-sweet chocolate, loganberry, Damson plum jam and black pepper. Its finish is energetic. (13.9 percent alcohol)

Chateau Ste. Michelle produced the top Riesling in the Platinum Judging for the second straight year, and the 2016 Dry Riesling is one of the region’s top bargains. Photo courtesy of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2016 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: A year ago, the 2015 vintage of this wine topped Platinum. This latest bottling by Bob Bertheau and David Rosenthal repeated as the best example of Riesling in the judging. Mouthwatering aromas of orange peel, lavender and dried rose petals transition to flavors that blend tropical fruit and stone fruit. Brilliant acidity and a touch of minerality create the perfect mouth feel for a Riesling. (12.5 percent alcohol)

Westport Winery 2015 Mermaid Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28: The Roberts family readily credits its association with Mike Sauer and his Red Willow Vineyard for helping this Washington coastal winery win awards for red wine. This is a plush, fruit-forward example. A dab of sweetness and fine-grained tannins make this an ideal pour for those who often find Washington Merlot too bold. (13.5 percent alcohol)

Upchurch Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $70: It’s a lofty goal of Chris and Thea Upchurch for their Red Mountain estate project to be viewed as a “First Growth” of Washington state, but the consistent reception for their Cabs, starting with the debut 2010 vintage, is matching those aspirations. Storied viticulturist Dick Boushey sets the table for the DeLille Cellars winemaker, who presents a theme of cassis, strawberry-rhubarb compote and dark Chukar cherry. (14.6 percent alcohol)

Brandborg Vineyard & Winery 2014 Love Puppets Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, $32: An early memento of Terry and Sue Brandborg’s courtship is a refrigerator magnet described as “Love Puppets on a Ferris Wheel.” They produce prized Pinot Noir bottlings named for each half, including the dry-farmed Love Puppets. It shows ripeness with red currants and Craisins joined by cola and basil notes as the rich and creamy structure is capped by orange oil and Montmorency cherry. (13.7 percent alcohol)

Richard Batchelor, a native of New Zealand, worked in California’s Napa Valley prior to taking over the winemaking at Maryhill Winery in 2009. Photo courtesy of Maryhill Winery

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2014 Coco’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewis-Clark Valley, $42: Co-petitioners of the Lewis-Clark Valley appellation, Coco Umiker and her viticulturist husband Karl used only L-C Valley fruit for this heady Cab — Rock ’n J, Arnett and their estate vineyard in Lewiston, Idaho. Distinctive and delicious, it’s approachable yet ageworthy as dusty dark fruit, mint, basil and lavender flow over beautifully textured tannins. (14.7 percent alcohol)

Maryhill Winery 2014 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley $24: A decade ago, the Leutholds helped put Zinfandel on the map in the Northwest with a strong showing at a California judging, and the Columbia Gorge producer continues to excel with this Italian grape, earning three Platinums in the past two years. Baked cherry, dusty prune and meaty notes are matched on the palate with blackberry, a chocolaty mouth feel. (14.5 percent alcohol)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company;