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Northwest Wines: Walla Walla Vintners continues to shine

It’s been quite a year for the team at Walla Walla Vintners.

Led by owners Gordy Venneri and Myles Anderson and winemaker William VonMetzger, this winery east of downtown Walla Walla has been capturing medals and acclaim at a fast clip in 2015.

In June, the Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon earned best of show at the third annual Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition — its second best of show in as many years.

The triumvirate amassed four gold medals, led by a best of class award for its 2012 Estate Syrah, at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition in Southern California. Prior to that, the 2012 Estate Syrah received a double gold at the Savor Northwest Wine Awards.

In October, the wines once again performed beautifully, winning five gold medals at the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition.

To longtime fans of the winery, these kinds of results are not surprising. Rather, they serve as a reminder of just how consistently great Walla Walla Vintners has been. Venneri and Anderson launched Walla Walla Vintners in the mid-1990s, making it one of the first dozen producers in the Walla Walla Valley — a region that today boasts more than 100 wineries.

They found quick success, thanks to their stylish red wines, and their production grew from fewer than 700 cases in 1995 to more than 5,000 cases today.

Walla Walla Vintners wines are available at better wine merchants throughout the Northwest or directly from the winery.

Here are five of their award-winning wines.

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $25: Using grapes from the broad Columbia Valley, VonMetzger crafted one of the year’s most delicious examples of Sangiovese. Hints of oak provide a touch of spice in the nose to augment a whisper of strawberry and cranberry. On the palate, flavors of cranberry and loganberry are backed by brambly tannins. Enjoy this with medium-rare duck breast with sautéed mushrooms.

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $30: The 2013 vintage was not easy for grape growers or winemakers, but this producer in the barn with the red roof managed to craft one of the most delicious Merlots we’ve seen from a warm year. Aromas of spicy blackberry lead to flavors of sweet blueberry and a touch of black currant. It finishes off with dark chocolate tannins that make for a lingering finish.

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cuvée, Washington, $32: This Cab-based blend has been a staple for the Vintners for the better part of two decades. Using fruit from several of the region’s top vineyards, it is loaded with aromas and flavors of spice, red and black fruit and judicious use of oak. A pleasant jamminess on the midpalate reveals a dollop of Syrah in the blend.

Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Yellow Bird Vineyard Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $38: Yellow Bird Vineyard is adjacent to Walla Walla Vintners and owned by the Chan family. This opens with a whiff of pepper and sweet blackberry, which carry over onto the palate. The generous fruit also brings with it flavors of blueberry backed by firm but pliable tannins.

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Estate Vineyard Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $40: It would seem that the team at Walla Walla Vintners has its dial on Syrah on the gold medal setting year in and year out. This recently released vintage from estate grapes does not disappoint. Aromas of cured meat lead to flavors of dark fruit, giving this a hint of a classic Côte-Rôtie style of wine. Flavors of blueberry, black pepper, black tea and earthy minerality are backed by smooth, approachable tannins in the lengthy finish.

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

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