America's largest wine competition grew even bigger, and Northwest wines continued to shine on the country's largest stage.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which took place the first full week of January in this town in northern Sonoma County, drew a record 6,400 entries from 23 states, and about 60 wine professionals spent four days tasting, evaluating and rewarding each wine on its own merits.
Overall, wines from Washington, Oregon and Idaho won about 500 medals at the Chronicle wine competition, with 109 earning gold medals and nine of those rising to the status of "best of class." A wine earns best of class when it is deemed the best wine in its group. (Typically, about 40 wines of similar style, grape variety and/or price range will make up a class.)
The best-of-class wines were:
• Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $15. This is an affordable red from a Walla Walla winery.
• College Cellars 2014 Red Boar Vineyard Muscat Ottonel, Walla Walla Valley, $15. This was made by the faculty and students at Walla Walla Community College's wine program.
• Columbia Winery 2013 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $14. Columbia, now owned by E&J Gallo in California, is one of Washington's oldest wineries and has a tasting room in Woodinville.
• Eye of the Needle NV 12th Blend Red, Columbia Valley, $15. This Woodinville winery made this wine from Italian varieties. Proceeds of this wine, inspired by Seattle Seahawks fans, are donated to food banks.
• Firesteed Cellars 2011 Riesling, Willamette Valley, $13. Seattle-based Firesteed uses grapes from Oregon.
• Gamache Vintners 2011 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $25. Brothers Bob and Roger Gamache have been growing wine grapes since 1983 and have a tasting room in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser.
• Parejas Cellars 2013 Albariño, Yakima Valley, $15. This small Yakima Valley producer focuses on Spanish varieties, such as this delicious white.
• Samson Estates Winery 2014 Framboise, Washington, $13. This raspberry wine is made by a small producer north of Bellingham.
• Locati Cellars 2012 Mission Hills Vineyard Estate Barbera, Walla Walla Valley, $25. Locati in Walla Walla focuses on primarily Italian grape varieties.
A full list of all Northwest medal winners is at www.greatnorthwestwine.com. The complete list of all winning wines is at www.winejudging.com.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.