More than 100 red wines earned gold medals at the third annual Great Northwest Wine Competition, which took place in late March at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore.
Wine professionals from throughout the Northwest judged the wines under blind conditions (they didn't know the producer or the price, though they did know the kind of wine they were tasting.)
Here are a few of the top red wines from the competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or call the wineries directly.
Cinder Wines 2013 Syrah, Snake River Valley, $28: Melanie Krause has established herself and Cinder Wines as one of the top wineries in Idaho, and the quality of her work is helping to elevate winemaking across the state. This superb Syrah offers aromas and flavors of fresh blackberry, blueberry and vanilla. It is dense, juicy and plush. (14.1 percent alcohol)
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Estrin Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $30: Software developer-turned-winemaker Rich Estrin launched his winery in Issaquah, Wash., in 2009 and is off to a remarkable start. This Cab reveals aromas and flavors of black pepper, French press coffee, roasted meat and ripe plum. (14.7 percent alcohol)
Skylite Cellars 2012 River Rock Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Skylite Cellars winemaker Greg Matiko is helping to continue to take this Walla Walla winery to new heights of quality. This Syrah shows off aromas and flavors of blackberry, Graham cracker crust and vanilla bean, along with a minerally note. (13.8 percent alcohol)
DeLille Cellars 2012 D2, Columbia Valley, $45: This red blend opens with black currant, Bing cherry, Montana huckleberry jam, sweet tobacco and spearmint aromas that lead into flavors of Marionberry, plump cherry and currant. (14.3 percent alcohol)
Eagle Harbor Wine Co. 2012 Dwelley Vineyard Founders Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $40: This Bainbridge Island winery uses grapes from a top Walla Walla vineyard for a red that shows off lush and penetrating flavors of chocolate-covered blueberry and vanilla extract. (15.5 percent alcohol)
Jones of Washington 2011 Barrel Select Red Blend, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $25: Victor Palencia continues to make his mark for Jones of Washington in Washington’s Columbia Basin town of Quincy. This bottle is long on notes of black currant, blueberry, bittersweet chocolate and tobacco leaf notes. (14.8 percent alcohol)
Latah Creek Wine Cellars 2012 Monarch Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: Primitivo is a clone of Zinfandel, and the grapes for this wine are grown at Zephyr Ridge. This Spokane winery has a winner, thanks to aromas of rich, dark fruit and cocoa powder and flavors of ripe black cherry and dark plum. (13.5 percent alcohol)
Maryhill Winery 2013 Winemaker’s Red Columbia Valley, $12: Wine Press Northwest’s 2015 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year produces award-winning results across many price points, and this ranked among the least expensive wines of the Great Northwest Wine Competition. Crushed sweet herbs, black currant, plum sauce and roasted red pepper aromas and flavors make this worthy of any dinner table on every night of the week. (13.9 percent alcohol)
Plain Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $35: This small producer in the North Cascades town of Plain, Wash., brought in grapes from Red Mountain for this superb Cab. It opens with aromas of espresso beans, sweet oak and ripe dark fruit. On the palate, it shows off flavors of black licorice, cola, ripe dark plum and Saskatoon berry. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Thurston Wolfe 2012 Howling Wolfe Zinfandel, Horse Heaven Hills, $20: Veteran Yakima Valley winemaker Wade Wolfe has been crafting Zinfandel for more than a dozen years, giving him veteran status with the grape in the Pacific Northwest. It opens with hints of cherry pipe tobacco, black cherry and cocoa powder. On the palate, this gorgeous red explodes with flavors of ripe raspberry and pomegranate. (15 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.