Top reds from 2014 Great Northwest Invite

By on October 15, 2014
The Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore., is the site of the second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

The second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition took place at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Ore. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – At the second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, 16 influential wine professionals nominated hundreds of wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.

As a result of the wines being pre-selected by the judges, a higher-than-usual percentage of wines earned gold medals – more than 20 percent.

Here are the red wines that won double gold or gold medals during the competition at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel.

Double gold medals at Great Northwest Invitational

The following red wines won double gold medals, meaning all four judges voted for gold.

Abacela 2010 Estate Syrah, Umpqua Valley, $32: Winemaker Andrew Wenzl managed the difficult 2010 vintage by crafting this stylish Southern Oregon Syrah. Aromas of a dusty country road and ripe blackberry lead to flavors of black cherry, ripe plum and white pepper. It’s all wrapped in plush tannins that give way to a lengthy, memorable finish. (13.8% alc.)

Eidolon Winery 2009 Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $75: This upscale label for Walla Walla’s Balboa Winery is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from the estate Eidolon Vineyard. It earned gold at the 2014 Walla Walla Valley Wine Competition and repeats the feat at the 2014 Great Northwest Invite. Plush aromas of ripe blackberry, Aussie black licorice and chocolate sauce lead to flavors of spicy black currant and minerality. (14.6% alc.)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2012 Merlot, Idaho, $25: The Umikers’ estate vineyard is planted within the new proposed Lewis-Clark Valley American Viticultural Area, and it forms the base of the delicious Merlot. Alluring aromas of spice highlighted by black and red fruits tantalize the senses. On the palate, deep layers of black plum, blueberry, red cherry and savory spice are wrapped around a firm backbone of tannins. It’s balanced and complex with a persistent aftertaste. (13.7% alc.)

Colene Clemens Vineyards 2011 Adriane Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $50: One of the Willamette Valley’s thrilling new Pinot Noir producers takes fruit from five clones off young vines to produce this stylish wine. A beautiful nose of Marionberry, Montmorency cherry, lilac, sage and white pepper loses nothing in the translation to the palate, where there’s graceful acidity and classy tannins. (13.5% alc.)

Obelisco Estate Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, $50: Doug Long, who ran one of Napa Valley’s best wineries, is trying to repeat history with this Red Mountain estate with a tasting room in Woodinville. Elegant aromas of black peppercorns, red cherry and sage lead to flavors of bold dark fruit, dark chocolate, dark-roasted coffee and cardamom, all backed with sturdy tannins for long-term aging. (14.4% alc.)

Two Vintners 2012 StoneTree Vineyard Zinfandel, Wahluke Slope, $29: Here’s a hedonistic kiss by winemaker Morgan Lee of the petrified tree — aka stone tree — on the Wahluke Slope. The nose is filled with Red Hots cinnamon candy, strawberry jam, cola and chocolate, while there’s more cinnamon followed by cherry hard candy and raspberry acidity on the palate. Enjoy with basted and smoked pork ribs. (17.2% alc.)

Gold medals at Great Northwest Invitational

The following wines won gold medals, meaning three of the four judges agreed they were worthy of gold.

14 Hands 2010 The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $30: The wine juggernaut that is 14 Hands steps up its game with this reserve-level Cabernet Sauvignon that has won numerous gold medals this year at wine competitions across the country and served at the groundbreaking ceremony for its Prosser, Wash., tasting room earlier this year. Aromas of dark chocolate, ripe blackberry, boysenberry syrup and a hint of licorice give way to flavors of dark plum, black cherry and clove. The reined-in tannins give this youthful approachability. (14.5% alc.)

Airlie Winery 2010 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $25: Elizabeth Clark took her degree in mathematics and left the East Coast to begin making wine in the Willamette Valley. After five years learning from Myron Redford and Darcy Pendergrass at Amity, she took the helm at Airlie, and she’s producing some of Oregon’s most overlooked Pinot Noir. Last spring, this wine won a double gold at the Great Northwest Wine Competition, and it’s not slowing down. Aromas of black plum, dark cherry, toast and licorice make their way to the palate, joined by Marionberry, pomegranate and lavender. (12% alc.)

Alexander the Grape 2008 The Philosopher, Red Mountain, $50: Alexander Gelles, son of the founders of famed Klipsun Vineyards, is off to a great start with his winery. This Syrah-based blend uses estate grapes and opens with aromas of minerality, squid ink risotto, blackberry and black pepper, followed by bold flavors of black currant, black olive and dark chocolate. Telltale firm tannins are a hallmark of the Klipsun fruit. (14.8% alc.)

Avennia 2012 Boushey Vineyard Arnaut Syrah, Yakima Valley, $50: Chris Peterson went from Walla Walla Community College to learning from DeLille’s Chris Upchurch, and he puts that education to delicious use with one of the Northwest’s top sources for Syrah. Hints of blueberry milkshake, licorice, smoked meat and lavender turn into silky and supple flavors of Marionberry, purple plum and chalkboard dust. (14.8% alc.)

Brian Carter Cellars 2009 Tuttorosso, Yakima Valley, $34: Master blender Brian Carter pays homage to Super Tuscan style wines with the blend whose name means “All Red.” It’s a fascinating wine with aromas of red cherry, allspice, mocha and a bit of toast, followed by flavors of bright, approachable flavors of red plum, ripe raspberry, white chocolate and a twist of black pepper. Perfect with lasagna or grilled meats. (14.2% alc.)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2008 Lia, Columbia Valley, $36: Ron Bunnell is an expert in Washington red Rhône wines, and this Mourvèdre-based blend also includes Grenache, Counoise and Syrah further makes the case that you should be drinking more of his wines. Luscious aromas of blackberry pie and a bowl of freshly picked Montana huckleberries lead to rich flavors of Saskatoon berry, Rainier cherry and pomegranate. Bright acidity lifts all the fruit until it jitterbugs across the palate. (14.5% alc.)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 alx, Columbia Valley, $42: Ron Bunnell named this superb Syrah after his son, Alex, and it is off to a great start in its inaugural vintage. He used grapes from the Yakima Valley and Wahluke Slope – two regions that grow distinctively different examples of Syrah. Spicy aromas of bacon fat, clove and ripe Marionberry lead to bold, sexy flavors of ripe dark fruit, sensual spices and lusciousness. It’s all backed with impressive acidity and mild tannins. (14.7% alc.)

Cascade Cliffs 2012 Reserve Estate Barbera, Columbia Valley, $80: Bob Lorkowski is the owner and winemaker for this small winery atop basalt cliffs in the Columbia Gorge, and he crafts some of the most beautiful red wines using varieties that are firmly out of the mainstream. This Barbera shows off alluring aromas of ripe purple plum, vanilla and spice, followed by rich, luscious flavors of plum jam, blackberry pie and caramel ice cream. (16.2% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Cold Creek Vineyard Merlot, Columbia Valley, $28: Head winemaker Bob Bertheau and red winemaker Ray McKee love this old estate vineyard, first planted in the 1970s and expanded to more than 700 acres since. Lovely floral scents make way for delectable dark berry, cherry and tobacco spice building intensely on the palate and finishing long. It’s dense, pure and marvelously structured with impressive depth. (14.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: This estate vineyard in the southern Horse Heaven Hills was planted in the early 1990s and has become the backbone for so many of red winemaker Ray McKee’s wines. Expressive earthy, spicy aromas rise from the glass. Wild berry, blueberry and candy apple notes meld with baking spices and tinges of toasty oak richly filling the palate. It finishes elegantly with a pretty touch of cinnamon. (14.5% alc.)

Cinder Wines 2012 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley, $29: Idaho native Melanie Krause brought her winemaking prowess home from a stint in Washington and now is leading the charge in the Gem State. She’s out to prove that Spanish reds can achieve greatness in the Snake River Valley, and this is a prime example. It offers aromas and flavors of red plum, blueberry, alder-smoked bacon and black pepper. Rich yet approachable tannins back up all the luscious fruit. (13.5% alc.)

Claar Cellars 2010 White Bluffs Syrah, Columbia Valley, $22: The Claar family farms its prized vineyards atop the White Bluffs overlooking the tranquil Columbia River. This delicious example of Washington Syrah opens with aromas of bacon fat, ripe dark fruit and black licorice. Flavors of cola, black fruit and crushed herbs are backed with firm tannins. Enjoy this with duck breast topped with cherry reduction sauce. (14.5% alc.)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2012 Renaissance Red, Idaho/Washington, $23: Winemaker Coco Umiker is making a case for great red wines from Idaho at her Lewiston winery. This Cab Franc-leading blend uses 60% grapes from Idaho and 40% from Washington. And it’s 100% fantastic, opening with aromas of dark chocolate, black currant and a hint of crushed herbs. On the palate, bright acidity lifts flavors of ripe Bing cherry, dark plum and blackberry Hostess pie. Mild tannins give this youthful approachability. (13.3% alc.)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2012 Carménère, Washington, $28: This wine from an Idaho producer using top grapes from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills earned a gold at the Idaho Wine Competition and repeated the feat at the Great Northwest Invite. Aromas of red currant, ripe strawberry, Bing cherry and white pepper, give way to flavors of Rainier cherry, creamy chocolate, black pepper and olive. Impressive acidity and mild tannins give this harmonious balance. (14.4% alc.)

Colene Clemens Vineyards 2011 Margo Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $35: Fruit taken just before Halloween during this vintage is beginning to develop beautifully and worthy of it being the namesake of the family’s great granddaughter. Plum, pomegranate and boysenberry aromas show very little signs of oak, and that purple fruit profile plies its way onto the palate. Juicy acidity and a hint of anise make this a delicious foil for duck breast. (13.2% alc.)

Columbia Crest 2012 H3 Les Chevaux Red Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Winemaker Juan Muñoz-Oca and his team at Columbia Crest do a remarkable job crafting luscious bottles of red wine in large amounts. This example of a wine that leads with Syrah comes from grapes in the Horse Heaven Hills. It offers up aromas of black cherry, vanilla and a Middle East spice market, followed by flavors of fresh espresso, raspberry-chocolate sauce, and ripe dark fruit. It’s all backed by smooth, velvety tannins. (14.5% alc.)

Corliss Estates 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $85: Michael Corliss is one of the largest vineyard landowners on Red Mountain and runs one of Walla Walla’s finest wineries. This gorgeous Cab from a classically warm Washington vintage exudes aromas of black licorice, ripe dark berries, black pepper and warm chocolate sauce. On the palate, this balances thoroughbred tannins behind suave dark fruit. (14.9% alc.)

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden 2010 Syrah 58, Applegate Valley, $45: High-elevation, biodynamically farmed Syrah grapes from Southern Oregon go into this beautifully crafted Syrah. Dark, dense aromas of black olive, ripe blackberry and rich plum sauce lead to flavors of bold dark fruit, crushed dried herbs and dark chocolate, all backed with firm structure. (13.4% alc.)

DeLille Cellars 2011 Chaleur Estate, Red Mountain, $80: DeLille Cellars’ flagship Bordeaux-style blend leads with Cabernet Sauvignon and continues to impress under blind judging conditions. This opens with aromas of dense, dark fruit such as boysenberry and blackberry, along with hints of black pepper and cocoa powder. On the palate, it provides flavors of ripe plum, Bing cherry and a hint of toastiness. While the tannins are firm, they’re also plenty approachable in this wine’s youth. (14% alc.)

Gamache Vintners 2010 Estate Syrah, Columbia Valley, $30: Bob and Roger Gamache planted their grapes in 1982 and launched the winery a couple of decades later. Thanks to beautiful grapes and Charlie Hoppes’ winemaking prowess, Gamache wines are some of Washington’s most delicious. This example of a superb Syrah reveals aromas and flavors of espresso, blackberry jam, ripe raspberry and a hint of smoked meat. It is a rich, hedonistic wine. (14.9% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2012 Coury Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $60: Charles Coury is part of Oregon wine lore, this early vineyard pioneer brought what now is known as the Coury clone of Pinot Noir from Alsace in the 1960s. This example from master winemaker Laurent Montalieu opens with aromas of mineral-rich earth, raspberry and a hint of purple lavender. On the palate, this medium-bodied red unravels elegant flavors of Rainier cherry, cumin and red plum. (13.5% alc.)

Hyland Estates 2012 Pinot Noir, McMinnville, $38: Hyland Vineyard was planted in 1971 in what now is the McMinnville AVA, a hill not far from the capital city of Salem that is affected by the Van Duzer corridor, a gap in the Coast Range that brings cool air from the nearby Pacific Ocean. This wine opens with aromas of Rainier cherry, ripe strawberry and a hint of pomegranate. On the palate, it offers flavors of bright red fruit with underlying strength. The tannins merely flutter across the palate. (13.7% alc.)

Koenig Vineyards 2011 Cuvée Alden Private Reserve, Snake River Valley, $50: Talented Snake River Valley winemaker Greg Koenig named this red blend for his son. It leads with Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), along with Merlot (38%) and Syrah. Bright, approachable aromas of black pepper, red currant, Bing cherry and raspberry jam give way to flavors of gorgeously ripened dark fruit, including boysenberry, blackberry and plum. Rich flavors are backed by perfectly balanced tannins. Decant to drink now or hold for a few years. (15% alc.)

Lady Hill Winery 2012 Cuvée Marie Dorion, Columbia Valley, $40: Carlton, Ore., winemaker Erik Brasher has crafted a gorgeous Merlot-based red blend relying on grapes from highly regarded Tapteil Vineyard on Washington’s Red Mountain. Aromas of black pepper, chai spices and blackberry give way to bold flavors of spicy black currant, rich blackberry and plum sauce. It’s all backed with impressive acidity and velvety tannins. (14.7% alc.)

Maryhill Winery 2011 Sugarloaf Vineyard Mourvèdre, Rattlesnake Hills, $40: Mourvèdre is becoming a niche star in the Washington Rhône scene, and the grapes grown by Joe Hattrup at Sugarloaf Vineyard are among the best – especially in the hands of Maryhill winemaker Richard Batchelor. This rich red shows off aromas and flavors of toast, black cherry, salted caramel and rich, minerally soil. On the palate, pleasing flavors of horehound candy, Saskatoon berry, dark chocolate and alder-smoked ham follow. Mild tannins give this youthful approachability. (13.1% alc.)

Maverick Estate Winery 2012, Rubicon, Okanagan Valley, $25: Just over the U.S. border in Oliver, British Columbia, this small winery has crafted a superb blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of toasted walnut, espresso and blackberry give way to flavors of blackstrap molasses, black licorice, alder-smoked bacon and ripe Marionberry. (14% alc.)

Mercer Estates 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $28: Chateau Ste. Michelle alum Jessica Munnell heads the winemaking program for Mercer Estates in the Yakima Valley town of Prosser. She rounded out this gorgeous Cab with a bit of Syrah and Merlot, giving it aromas of clove, sage, Rainier cherry and red currant. On the palate, flavors of ripe raspberry, plum and coconut are backed by moderate tannins and bright acidity. (14.1% alc.)

Northstar 2010 Premier Merlot, Columbia Valley, $85: Northstar winemaker David “Merf” Merfeld carved out this reserve-level Merlot at his Walla Walla operation amid some of the best Merlots in Washington. This is the second vintage of Premier, and it is starting to come around to show its greatness, exhibiting aromas of black cherry, black licorice and black pepper, followed by luscious, rich and intense flavors of beautifully balanced dark fruit. (14.7% alc.)

Northwest Cellars 2011 Madrigal, Columbia Valley, $19: Vintner Bob Delf and winemaker Robert Smasne team up for this Southern Rhône-style blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Syrah. Aromas of cranberry, ripe raspberry and a slice of cherry pie lead to round, luscious and sensual flavors ripe plum, cola and cardamom. The finish is incredibly smooth. (13.9% alc.)

Northwest Cellars 2011 Art den Hoed Vineyard Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, $32: Winemaker Robert Smasne is starting to make Petite Sirah – amid the myriad varieties he works with – and is proving it can achieve greatness in Washington’s arid Columbia Valley. This wine for Northwest Cellars in Kirkland is big, dark, dense and mouthwatering. Aromas and flavors of black currant, ripe dark cherry, dusty minerality and dark chocolate are backed by sturdy tannins. (13.9% alc.)

Pend d’Oreille Winery 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $21: Owner/winemaker Stephen Meyer quietly makes superb red wines at his operation in the North Idaho town of Sandpoint. The grapes for this Cab come from four vineyards, the majority of which is Sagemoor’s Dionysus Vineyard north of Pasco, Wash. Elegant aromas of graphite, chocolate-covered strawberry and white pepper lead to plush, approachable flavors of red currant, Rainier cherry and even a hint of caramel. (14.3% alc.)

Pondera Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $34: This little Woodinville winery captured beauty in a bottle with this Cabernet Sauvignon. Using grapes from such stellar vineyards as Stillwater Creek, Conner Lee and The Benches, winemaker Shane Howard crafted a red with aromas of vanilla bean, purple plum, white pepper and clove. On the palate, it exhibits flavors of ripe blackberry, boysenberry and dark chocolate, all seated on a pillow of plush tannins. (14.2% alc.)

Pondera Winery 2011 Entwined, Columbia Valley, $34: This boutique producer in Woodinville consistently scores well with judges, as exemplified in the Great Northwest Invite. This Merlot-leading blend offers aromas of espresso, dark cherry, blackberry jam and toast. On the palate, flavors of ripe dark berries meld with milk chocolate and are backed by approachable tannins. (14.7% alc.)

Proper Wines 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $42: This boutique producer at the Walla Walla airport crafted this Syrah using estate grapes planted in the proposed Rocks District of Milton-Freewater on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. Rich, exotic aromas of shitake mushroom, soy sauce, ripe plum and gravelly minerality lead to flavors of black cherry, white pepper and venison topped with a cherry reduction sauce. In fact, that sounds like a pretty good food pairing. (13.9% alc.)

Red Lily Vineyards 2007 Reserve Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, $65: Tempranillo has been planted in the Pacific Northwest for 21 years and is quite comfortable in warm Southern Oregon. This luscious example from a Medford winery opens with aromas of red licorice, Rainier cherry, vanilla extract and a sprinkling of cocoa powder. On the palate, it unveils flavors of strawberry-rhubarb jam, milk chocolate and a hint of dried rosemary. It’s all backed by rough-and-tumble tannins that give this a wild west feel. (14% alc.)

Saviah Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $30: Owner/winemaker Rich Funk blended Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from five vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley to craft this complex and luscious wine. Aromas of black olive, white pepper, black currant and dark chocolate give way to flavors of dark fruit, minerality and a sip of espresso. (14.4% alc.)

Seven Falls 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $15: This inexpensive, restaurant-only Cab from the folks at Columbia Crest earned best of show at the Great Northwest Invite a year ago (for the 2010 vintage). The 2012 is off to a fast start with another gold medal this year. Aromas of dark-roast espresso, dark chocolate, black olive, black pepper and ripe berry lead to plush, approachable flavors of chocolate-covered espresso beans, blackberry jam and ripe raspberry. This reveals the lush, delicious flavors indicative of the warm Wahluke Slope. (14.5% alc.)

Smasne Cellars 2011 Upland Vineyard Ancient Rocks, Snipes Mountain, $44: The second vintage of winemaker Robert Smasne’s Southern Rhône blend from Snipes Mountain in the Yakima Valley is just as impressive as his 2010 effort. This leads with Grenache (42%) but also includes Mourvèdre, Syrah and Viognier. It leads with aromas of red cherry, cranberry and pomegranate, followed by smooth flavors of plum, ripe strawberry and red currant. Mild tannins give this drink-now approachability. (13.9% alc.)

Smasne Cellars 2012 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Block #4 Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, $44: The Andrews family has farmed in the Horse Heaven Hills since before World War II, and the Smasne family has worked the land of the Yakima Valley for more than a century. These two legacies come together in this bottle of Syrah, with grape grower Mike Andrews providing superb grapes to winemaker Robert Smasne. Rich, complex aromas of black pepper, black licorice, black olive and blackberry lead to flavors of rich, dark, ripe fruit that invites an immediate second sip and raised eyebrows. (13.9% alc.)

Sparkman Cellars 2012 Rainmaker, Yakima Valley, $62: Owner Chris Sparkman brought in grapes from the renowned Olsen near Prosser and Obelisco on Red Mountain for this superb Cabernet Sauvignon. The aromas are reminiscent of sautéed mushrooms, ripe plum and forest floor, and the flavors are loaded with notes of sizzling bacon, alder smoke, dark chocolate and ripe dark cherry. Firm tannins will give this structure for the long haul. (14.3% alc.)

Sparkman Cellars 2012 Wonderland Grenache, Yakima Valley, $38: Winemaker Chris Sparkman brought in Grenache and a bit of Syrah from such top vineyards as Boushey, Olsen and Lonesome Spring. If he’s out to prove the potential greatness of Yakima Valley reds, then point taken. This wine is a labyrinth of luscious aromas and flavors that include milk chocolate, red plum, blackberry, espresso, crushed herbs and black pepper. (14.5% alc.)

Spindrift Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $22: Matt and Tabitha Compton run this small, distinctive winery in the Willamette Valley town of Philomath, and they are regularly crafting wines that exhibit purity of fruit. A prime example is this superb and affordable Pinot Noir. It offers aromas of moist earth, shaved black truffle and bright red cherry. On the palate, flavors of raspberry, red plum and red currant are backed by modest tannins and impressive acidity. (14% alc.)

Syringa 2011 Tempranillo, Snake River Valley, $25: This winery named for Idaho’s official state flower is crafting superb Tempranillos from its winery in the Boise suburb of Garden City. This wine earned gold at the Idaho Wine Competition and repeated the feat with a different set of judges at the Great Northwest Invite – showing the promise for this and other Spanish reds in the Snake River Valley. This unveils aromas and flavors of dark-roast coffee, ripe raspberry, red licorice and dark chocolate. Big, luscious, bombastic tannins back this gorgeous red. (13.9% alc.)

SYZYGY 2009 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $25: The stars aligned for this Syrah-based blend from a Walla Walla airport winery. It’s a luscious red with aromas of blackberry jam, chocolate-covered cherry and a hint of alder-smoked bacon. On the palate, it unveils flavors of big, jammy dark fruit backed by modest tannins that give way to a plush, memorable finish. (14.8% alc.)

Tapteil Vineyard Winery 2011 Spilya Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $34: Technically, this family-owned vineyard is in the Yakima Valley appellation, but it’s essentially on Red Mountain. Larry Pearson turned it into a rich drink that’s gamy with lots of Marionberry and chocolate notes. Fine-grained tannins will serve this well with elk osso bucco. (14.5% alc.)

Upper Five Vineyard 2012 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, $28: This 5-acre vineyard near Talent, Ore., was established in a former pear orchard at 2,000 feet elevation, and it was certified as organic in 2005. It comes with tones of cinnamon, blueberry and black cherry, followed by fine-grained tannins and a wealth of acidity. It’s a masculine drink now that should age with grace. (14% alc.)

Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $30: William vonMetzger creates two versions of Merlot from the Walla Walla Valley, and this assemblage of four vineyards is the much larger of the two. Classic aromas of salted dark chocolate, black cherry, blueberry, violet and chalkboard dust transition into a suave drink of Bing cherry, chocolate-covered blueberry and sandy tannins. Its supple structure can serve as a model for others to follow. (14.2% alc.)

Walter Dacon Wines 2009 C’est Syrah Beaux, Columbia Valley, $38: Puget Sound winemaker Lloyd Anderson specializes in Syrah, and his work with American oak leaps out the glass with amazing aromatics of vanilla bean, clove, allspice, bittersweet chocolate and black pepper, backed by dark blueberry and black cherry. This is no syrupy Syrah as it jumps out in the mouth with Marionberry and pomegranate flavors, followed by an abundance of tannin and blueberry acidity. There’s black licorice, horehound and black pepper in the spicy finish. We tasted this same wine early in 2014, and it has continued to improve. (15.4% alc.)

About Andy Perdue

Andy Perdue is the editor and publisher of Great Northwest Wine. He is a third-generation journalist who has worked at newspapers since the mid-1980s and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest magazine with Eric Degerman and served as its editor-in-chief for 15 years. He is a frequent judge at international wine competitions. He is the author of "The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook" (Sasquatch, 2003) and has contributed to four other books. He writes about wine for The Seattle Times. You can find him on Twitter and .

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