Each year, Wine Press Northwest magazine conducts its Platinum Judging -- "the best of the best in the Great Northwest" -- in which Northwest wineries are invited to submit wines that have won gold medals during the year.
The 14th annual competition drew a record 634 entries from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho. From these, 26 wines earned unanimous Double Platinum awards and another 125 were awarded Platinum status.
This week and next, we will offer a few of the highlights, first with red wines and then with whites. Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Find the full results of the Platinum Judging at www.winepressnw.com.
Smasne Cellars 2009 Upland Vineyard Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain, $45: The grapes for this Cab come from Snipes Mountain, where some of the oldest vines in the Pacific Northwest are planted. This features aromas of cedar, chocolate and mint, followed by flavors of cherry, blackberry, blueberry and chocolate. It's a broad-shouldered wine with assertive tannins that are matched by the fruit and acidity.
Maryhill Winery 2010 Sugarloaf Vineyard Mourvdre, Rattlesnake Hills, $30: It's been some kind of year for Maryhill and winemaker Richard Batchelor, winner of about 70 gold medals in 2013 throughout the United States. This wine, part of a new tier called The Vineyards, is the best of the bunch. This offers aromas of vanilla, plum and gaminess, followed by flavors of dark fruit compote, blackberry pie and spice.
Robert Ramsay Cellars 2010 Par La Mer Red, Columbia Valley, $38: Some of the best blends coming out of Washington wineries are Rhone-style reds. This wine from a Woodinville producer is a great example, as it leads with Mourve`dre and includes Grenache and Cinsault. It opens with aromas of cassis, forest floor and garrigue, followed by brambly flavors of plum, blackberry, black pepper and blueberry.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2010 Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope, $28: This Spanish variety that is making strong headway in the Pacific Northwest. This offers aromas of cherry, cranberry and vanilla, backed by fresh flavors of dark plum, cherry and a slatiness that adds great complexity.
Martin-Scott Winery 2009 Raven Ridge Red, Columbia Valley, $24: Mike Scott is crafting superb wines at his operation in East Wenatchee. This is a delicious and affordable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that reveals mature blackberry and plum aromas followed by layers of dark fruit, oak and black licorice.
Fraser Vineyard 2011 Malbec, Washington, $28: Fraser Vineyard is one of Idaho's top boutique wineries and was Boise's first winery since the repeal of Prohibition. Fraser often uses grapes from Washington, and this Malbec is a great example of the variety. It shows off complex notes of violet, blueberry and black pepper.
Gamache Vintners 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $55: Bob and Roger Gamache have been growing wine grapes above the Columbia River for decades, and they teamed up with master winemaker Charlie Hoppes. This high-end Cab blends their estate grapes with Champoux and Ciel du Cheval vineyards, and the results are spectacular. It offers aromas and flavors of cherry, clove and black olive. The restrained use of oak allows the varietal flavors to shine.
Silvara Vineyards 2010 Quartette Red, Columbia Valley, $42: Gary Seidler is the man behind this winery near Leavenworth, and this Malbec-based blend is among the best we tasted in 2013. It's a classic with notes of cherry, black pepper, chocolate and boysenberry.
Kitzke Cellars 2010 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $29: This winery in the heart of Washington wine country near the Tri-Cities has gotten on a serious roll since Charlie Hoppes took over winemaking duties. This Malbec using grapes from Gamache Vineyards is a deep, rich, dark wine with aromas and flavors of chocolate and cherry that carries through the impressive finish.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company.