Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winning Washington Wines

The Discover Washington cover stories in this month's Wine Spectator are definitely worth a read. We had that distinct pleasure last year, as we tasted our way through nearly 100 Northwest wines. The occasion was the first Renaud Society wine competition, held in conjunction with the 5th International Wine and Heart Health Summit in Walla Walla that you read about here.

At the 2009 competition, the Renaud Society – an international organization of medical and wine professionals with an interest in better health and a passion for wine – awarded its best-in-show Tastevin to little-known Skylite Cellars for their 2006 Columbia Valley Reserve, a blend of Malbec, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This year's Renaud Society competition was a bit different. First, the venue had changed to Silverado Resort, in the heart of Napa Cab country. As before, the 2010 contest was held blind using the same 20-point scoring system as in Walla Walla, but with a different panel of judges that tasted their way through a new batch of wine entries. In the end, a surprise outcome carried a familiar ring: the winner of the best in show Renaud Society 2010 Tastevin was Skylite Cellars once again, this time for their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scoring a second coveted Renaud Society Tastevin recognizes talent at young Skylite Cellars, founded in 2003 by owners Tom and Cheryl Hodgins. To make Skylite's winning 2007 Reserve, winemaker Robert O. Smasne uses 100% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from three Walla Walla vineyards.

Other Washington wines that landed top-ten scores for gold medal awards were four reds by Maryhill Winery. A Columbia Valley 2009 Gewürztraminer by Maryhill received the highest white wine score for a gold medal. Located along the northern bank of the Columbia River in the gorgeous Gorge region, Winepress NW named Maryhill Winery the 2009 Washington Winery of the Year.

Filling out the 2010 competition's top ten picks were red wines by Napa's Rocca Family Vineyards Grigsby Vineyard 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Syrah; 2006 M by Michael Mondavi Family Wines; and Lamborn Family Vineyards Howell Mountain 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. Check out the full list of competition winners from 2009 and 2010 on the Renaud Society website.

As the nation's second-largest wine-producing state, Washington is producing terrific wines worth a pop. More than 30 different grape varieties are under vine with acreage dominated by its big four: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Riesling. Add to that Syrah, a variety that appears destined for signature status, much as Pinot Noir dominates Oregon's wineprint.

Find tips for your next visit to Washington wine country on our WinewomenPSP website, with updates coming soon. In the meantime, treat yourself to Washington wines. Many wines flagged by Wine Spectator are available at local outlets. Find wines by large producers Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle at grocers and big-box stores. Wines by smaller wineries noted in Steiman's articles and those hailed by the Renaud Society can be found at valley wine shops, online at Avalon or from the wineries themselves.

Pick up the December 15th Spectator and start your own Washington wine discovery. Wines by Leonetti, Cayuse, Woodward Canyon, Tamarack Cellars, Pepperbridge, Buty, K Vintners, Abeja, Walla Walla Vintners and Otis Kenyon are just a few you won't want to miss. Give your 'buds a treat, Washington style.

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