Food & Drink

Reds shine in 16th best-of-best judging

Dana Roberts is the head winemaker for Westport Winery, a family-owned winery, restaurant, arboretum and nursery near Aberdeen, Wash.
Dana Roberts is the head winemaker for Westport Winery, a family-owned winery, restaurant, arboretum and nursery near Aberdeen, Wash. Great Northwest Wine

Each year, Wine Press Northwest magazine conducts its Platinum Judging – “the best of the best in the Great Northwest” — in which Northwest wineries are invited to submit wines that have won gold medals during the year.

The 16th annual competition drew 531 entries from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho. From these, 44 wines earned unanimous Double Platinum awards, and another 124 were awarded Platinum status.

This week and next, we will offer a few of the highlights, first with red wines and then with whites. Ask for these wines at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

Find the full results of the Platinum Judging at

Cloudlift Cellars 2013 Panorama Merlot, Columbia Valley, $26: Seattle winemaker Tom Stangeland produced the top merlot of the Platinum, using a blend of fruit from Alder Ridge and Elephant Mountain vineyards to top the field of 39 entries. Sophisticated aromas of mint, cedar, eucalyptus, blackberries and blueberries are followed by blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors, leading to a long chocolaty finish.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2013 “a squared” Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: This entry-level tier by Jarrod and Alexandria Nicole “Ali” Boyle earned a gold medal at three Pacific Northwest competitions, and it proved to be the highest-scoring cabernet sauvignon among the 59 entries at the Platinum. Its theme is one of cassis, baking spices and mint with undertones of leather and tobacco.

Cave B Estate Winery 2013 Cave B Vineyards Barbera, Columbia Valley, $35: Freddy Arredondo traveled the world as a chef before he met his wife, Carrie, a fellow culinary student in Italy. He learned his winemaking at Walla Walla Community College, and his love of Piemonte shows in this barbera made from estate grapes grapes near the Gorge Amphitheater. The nose of cherries and blackberries is matched on the palate with mouth-watering acidity and smooth tannins.

DaMa Wines 2011 DaMa Nation Red Wine, Washington, $40: This Walla Walla brand began with founders Dawn Kammer and Mary Tuuri Derby (DaMa), and Derby now spearheads the winery with Judith Shulman. They worked with Lonesome Springs Vineyard for this Rhône-style blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre that’s loaded with tones of black fruit and spice box, framed by bright but well managed tannins.

Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Golgotha Bloc Malbec, Umpqua Valley, $31: Southern Oregon winemaker Stephen Reustle relies on estate fruit for this Bordeaux grape that’s become much more than a blender in the Pacific Northwest. Dense fruitiness that hints at blackberry and plum includes black tea, minerality and earthiness while offering superb balance.

Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 Tres Cruces Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Mike Andrews sells most of his prized grapes to a number of the state’s top winemakers, but he holds back a small percentage for his boutique winery at the Winemakers Loft in Prosser, Wash. His Syrah-based blend is dark, brooding, earthy and inky as hints of blue fruit, vanilla and coconut make for a gorgeous mouth feel that earned gold medals at judgings in San Francisco, Denver and Seattle.

Barnard Griffin 2014 Rob’s Red Blend, Washington, $14: Year after year, Rob Griffin’s Bordeaux-based blend remains one of the best bargains in the Washington wine industry. This effort by the dean of Washington winemakers leads with merlot and offers youthful notes of blackberry and raspberry with an undertone of cassis and rose petal. Its tannin structure merely serves as a subtext, and the price makes it affordable every night of the week.

Maryhill Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $24: New Zealand native Richard Batchelor continues to prove he’s one of the Northwest’s premier winemakers, and his beautiful expression with cabernet Franc is also one of the largest, showcasing delicious dark cherry notes with the pinch of leafiness that’s often a hallmark with this food-friendly variety.

Westport Winery Garden Resort 2013 Jetty Cat Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $29: Grays Harbor winemaker Dana Roberts leads this red blend with cabernet franc, and there’s a rich presentation of blackberry syrup and blueberry jam. Secondary notes range from dried herbs to pomegranate acidity to slaty tannins. At the winery’s restaurant, they suggest pairing this with Italian Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms.


Freddy Arredondo, a graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s acclaimed winemaking program, is the winemaker at his family’s Cave B Estate Winery in George, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at