It's a wine judging unlike any other in North America.
The Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, staged Oct. 8-9 at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, is the only judging in which wine professionals nominate and then evaluate the entries.
For this competition, we gathered 16 influential wine professionals, including restaurateurs, retailers, wholesalers and writers. Each of them nominated up to 100 wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho, and more than 420 wines were entered.
Most competitions are open to wineries of a certain region, which then enter any wines they choose.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
As a result of the wines being preselected by the judges, the percentage of medals was higher, and the number of wines rejected were fewer. In fact, the judges awarded about 20 percent of the wines gold medals, compared with about 12 percent for many competitions.
All wines were tasted blind by the judges, meaning they knew neither the winery nor the price of each wine. They did know the style or variety.
Here are the five wines that finished at the top, led by a Riesling from British Columbia that not only earned best white wine but also best of show. See the full results at greatnorthwestwine.com.
Best of show: Wild Goose Vineyards 2012 God's Mountain Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $20: The Kruger brothers are second-generation winemakers near the town of Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, where they specialize in such white varieties as Riesling, Gewrztraminer, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. They craft some of the finest wine anywhere, and this further proves it. Created in a Germanic style, the nose is filled with Meyer lemon, ripe pear, minerality and hint of petrol. It's brilliantly dry with quince, Asian pear, lemon juice and lime peel. The mouthwatering finish immediately demands another sip. (12.5 percent alcohol)
Best red: Forgeron Cellars 2011 Boushey Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley, $30: French winemaker Marie-Eve Gilla crafts her wine at this downtown Walla Walla winery. For this superb Merlot, she brought in grapes from the Yakima Valley's Boushey Vineyard. Fragrant dark fruits on the nose lead to intense, delicious flavors of blueberry compote, tart black cherry and baking spice highlights which coat the mouth. It's nicely balanced with a lingering finish. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Best ros: Colene Clemens Vineyards 2013 Ros of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20: Fresno State grad Stephen Goff produces small lots under his eponymous brand, but the focus of this former assistant at Beaux Frres is Colene Clemens Vineyards, and his recent releases for the Stark family continue to raise the profile of this young Newberg, Ore., winery. Here's the rare instance when he strays beyond estate vineyards, but his work with Dundee Hills fruit is stunning, rather prolific and reasonably priced for a pink from Pinot Noir. The bright salmon color leads to aromas of watermelon, white strawberry, Rainier cherry and apricot. It's a complex drink of Montmorency cherry, fresh cranberry, apricot and pineapple that brings a finish of pink grapefruit. (13 percent alcohol)
Best dessert: Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2013 Signature Riesling Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $47: Perhaps no one in the Northwest nails their ice wine with as much remarkable regularity as Walter and Gordon Gehringer. This is a classic example that's loaded with aromas and flavors of baked apple, glaced apricot, tangerine and honeysuckle. The nectar trickles out in a trail of syrup, and the sugar is balanced perfectly with natural acidity. (10.4 percent alcohol)
Best sparkling: Michelle NV Brut Ros, Columbia Valley, $14: Rebranded last year from Domaine Ste. Michelle, the sparkling wine house for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates crafts amazing bubbles under the direction of winemaker Rick Casqueiro. Enticing fruity aromatics with hints of freshly baked bread are fully engaging. Flavors of fresh strawberries, cherries, a touch of earth and citrus accents swirl on the palate. Beautiful acidity persists through the finish. (11.5 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company; www.greatnorthwestwine.com.