Washington’s original wine country is proving to be on quite the comeback. The wines of North Central Washington are growing in quality and quantity, as this year’s North Central Washington Wine Awards show.
Washington’s first two wineries opened in this region: in 1874 in East Wenatchee and a year later in Wenatchee. The area was mostly dormant after Prohibition, but in the past 15 years we have seen a lot of activity, with more than 60 wineries opening in such communities as Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Lake Chelan, Cashmere and Peshastin.
The North Central Washington Wine Awards, put on by Foothills Magazine (owned by Wenatchee World newspaper) and Great Northwest Wine, drew about 225 entries and impressed the judges.
Here is a sampling of gold-medal winners from this year’s competition. Ask for the wines at your favorite merchant or contact the producers directly.
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Jones of Washington 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $15: Winemaker Victor Palencia has crafted a stunning white with aromas of fig, grapefruit, white peach and lime, followed by flavors of bright, balanced orchard and tropical fruit. It’s all backed by refreshing acidity. (12 percent alcohol)
Silvara Vineyards 2013 Red Blend, Washington, $32: This blend of Bordeaux varieties provides aromas of blackberry, leather and spice, followed by flavors of dark chocolate and ripe dark fruit, all backed by rich tannins that give way to a long, balanced, delicious finish. (14.1 percent alcohol)
Beaumont Cellars 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $36: Using grapes from vaunted Red Mountain, Pete Beaumont has crafted a luscious Cab with aromas and flavors of black cherry, spice, blackberry and dark chocolate, all leading to a long, luscious finish. (14.2 percent alcohol)
Ginkgo Forest Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope, $30: This Cab Franc is one of Mike Thiede’s finest efforts to date. It shows off aromas and flavors of cranberry, pomegranate, black currant and dried herbs, all backed with a bright, youthful and expressive structure. (14.5 percent alcohol)
Stemilt Creek Winery NV Adelaide Sherwood Mathison Sweet Adelaide, Columbia Valley, $13: This off-dry blend of Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Chenin Blanc is from a Wenatchee winery that is crafting a wide variety of wines. This is a luscious picnic wine with aromas and flavors of grilled peach, cinnamon spice, baked pear and fresh-cut apricot. (11.5 percent alcohol.)
Ryan Patrick Vineyards 2013 Ryan’s Riesling, Columbia Valley, $12: This Leavenworth winery has long crafted delicious and affordable wines, and this Riesling is one of the best in the Northwest vintage after vintage. It’s an easy-drinking white with aromas and flavors of Bartlett pear drizzled with honey, all balanced with bright acidity. (12 percent alcohol)
Cave B Estate Winery 2012 Cave B Vineyards Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $33: Talented winemaker Freddy Arredondo produces superb wines from this winery atop cliffs towering above the Columbia River near George. This beautiful Sangiovese shows off aromas and flavors of strawberry, pomegranate, blueberry and a whisper of smokiness, all wrapped within firm tannins. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Chateau Faire Le Pont 2011 Confluence, Washington, $45: Inky purple colors give way to flavors of raspberry, chocolate, grilled spicy meats and ripe plum, all backed with bright acidity and toasty barrel notes. This is a wine to savor with a great meal. (13.7 percent alcohol)
Martin-Scott Winery 2011 Shaw Vineyard Malbec, Red Mountain, $28: Mike Scott has put together a superb example of Malbec. This provides aromas and flavors of blackberry, cranberry and even hints of floral notes, all backed with spice and beautiful balance through the finish. (14.3 percent alcohol)
Crayelle Cellars 2014 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $21: Crayelle is Craig Mitrakul’s project in Cashmere. This Spanish white variety has a real future in Washington, and this is a classic example, thanks to aromas and flavors of peach, French vanilla, minerality and even a hint of honey. (13.4 percent alcohol)
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.