In early October, we conducted the second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon.
For the past couple of weeks, we've been taking a look at the top red wines, and now we will review some of the white wines that earned gold medals.
Of particular interest is the broad range of varieties and styles featured, from the Spanish Albariño to the German Siegerrebe, from the French Semillon to a Chardonnay from the cool Columbia Gorge.
These are exciting wines worth tracking down. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.
Palencia Winery 2013 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $18: Victor Palencia launched his own label in Walla Walla while keeping his day job as head winemaker for Jones of Washington in Quincy. He’s scoring big with this white Spanish variety. It opens with aromas of lime zest, spice and honeydew melon. On the palate, the variety’s typically bright acidity is apparent on first sip, followed by incredible flavors of melon, Asian pear and white lavender (13 percent alcohol).
San Juan Vineyards 2013 Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $20: The first Siegerrebe grown in North America was on Bainbridge Island. The German white grape continues to thrive on San Juan Island. This example reveals aromas and flavors of lychee, ripe Golden Delicious apple, starfruit and honeydew melon. This is finished mostly dry and has a rich, luscious finish (12 percent alcohol).
Avennia 2013 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley, $25: This Woodinville winery flashes its brilliance with this gorgeous Sauv Blanc. The nose hints at seashells, fresh-cut lemon and gooseberry. Its barrel fermentation with French oak doesn’t shave much off the bright acid profile of yellow grapefruit, white peach and apricot pit. Lingering salinity should serve this well with oysters or seared scallops (12.9 percent alcohol).
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley, $10: This broad-production wine is definitely on the sweeter side of the International Riesling Foundation scale at 4.3 percent residual sugar, but the gorgeous acidity balances everything, so it is far from cloying. Rather, the aromas of baked apple and vanilla ice cream give way to flavors that are rich, bright and juicy (10.5 percent alcohol).
Cinder Wines 2013 Dry Viognier, Snake River Valley, $18: Two of Idaho’s premier vineyards — Sawtooth and Williamson — set the stage for owner Melanie Krause to produce some of the Northwest’s best examples of Viognier. Tropical fruit aromas pick up hints of cotton candy, peach blossom and orange Creamcicle. The flavors follow through in a beautiful fashion, and the Snake River Valley’s 2,800 feet of elevation allows for more natural acidity than is found in most areas of the world. Krause enjoys serving this with salads with goat cheese, vichyssoise, crab cakes and risotto. Earlier this year, this same wine earned a gold at Sunset magazine’s international wine competition (14 percent alcohol).
L’Ecole No. 41 2013 Semillon, Columbia Valley, $15: L’Ecole owner Marty Clubb has carried the flag for Semillon for decades, crafting greatness from this noble Bordeaux variety grown in the arid Columbia Valley. Classic aromas of dried pineapple and fresh fig meld with hints of caramel and ghee. On the palate, it reveals flavors of rich tropical fruit. Tired of chardonnay? Give Semillon a try (14.5 percent alcohol).
Tranche Cellars 2011 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $45: Aussie-born Andrew Trio and the Corliss family take their time with all their wines, including this high-style chardonnay from one of the Northwest’s most acclaimed sites for white wines. The nose hints at Asian pear, medium toast, fig, honey and hominy. The full mouth feel brings lemon and cream with fig and jicama leading to a finish of quince and kumquat (13.5 percent alcohol).