Top white wines from 2016 Great NW Invite

By on October 12, 2016
Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition

White wine is poured by the Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition backroom team to present to the judges. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Many white wines stood out for our judges at the fourth annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, which took place last week at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River.

Amid the highlights were the numerous gold medals for Rieslings and rosés.

Perhaps most remarkable is that of the five Rieslings entered by Chateau Ste. Michelle, well, all five of them, won gold or better from our professional judges. Not a  bad showing for the world’s largest producer of Riesling.

Here are our reviews of the gold medal white and pink wines, written by our chief of judges, Mike Dunne of the Sacramento Bee in California.


Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Dry Rock Unoaked Chardonnay, Golden Mile Bench, $13: In a university class on how chardonnay should be made without the intrusion of oak, this would be the instructor’s principal exhibit for its fresh and faithful fruit. What a refreshingly refreshing take on Chardonnay! (13.3% alc.)

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Classic Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $13: The label says “Classic Riesling,” which apparently means a Riesling whose peachy fruit is exceptionally wide and long. (13.1% alc.)

Double gold and best of class

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Signature Riesling Icewine, Okanagan Valley, $42: Welcome to some huge and varied botanical garden in a tropical paradise. This has all the perfume, richness and complexity you could want in either a tropical garden or an ice wine. Simply amazing. (9.3% alc.)

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Gewürztraminer/Schönburger, Golden Mile Bench, $14: A rocket ship of a wine, lighting up the sky at launch with a burst of flowers, fruit and spice, trailing off into the clouds with drive and arc. This was voted the top white wine of the competition. (12.8% alc.)

Thurston Wolfe 2015 Albariño, Yakima Valley, $18: Plenty ripe fruit produces here an Albariño of exceptional verve and texture while respecting the varietal’s standing for refreshing citric flavors. (12.5% alc.)

Double gold

50th Parallel Estate 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $32: A Chardonnay of ample tropical fruit, yet buoyant for its rhythmic acidity and teasing spice. (14% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: The joy of Eroica harvest after harvest is how faithfully it represents the vintage. In this case, 2014 yielded an interpretation classically lean and centered, seizing Riesling in all its subversive complexity, with dryness and crispness. (12% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: The next time someone complains that they don’t like Riesling because it’s sweet, hand them a glass of this. Yes, it’s sweet, but not sticky and not lifeless. It has a thrust to it that will satisfy anyone looking for a white wine of vitality and distinction. And more than 1 million cases of this was made – making this the largest-production Riesling in the world. (12% alc.)

Kiona Vineyards and Winery 2014 Estate Chenin Blanc Ice Wine, Red Mountain, $32: Here, have a bowl of ripe peaches drizzled with honey, all kept astutely well proportioned. (9% alc.)

Tightrope Winery 2015 Rosé, Okanagan Valley, $25: Not Californian, not Provençal, but a rosé from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley that combines the best of the former (fruit) and the latter (structure), then adds volume and spice. (13.2% alc.)

Van Duzer Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley, $20: An acoustic rosé – direct, honest, uncontrived and true to Pinot Noir’s reputation for versatility and charm. (13.5% alc.)

Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery 2015 Mystic River Pinot Blanc, Okanagan Valley, $17: This is a neat Pinot Blanc because the winemaker didn’t try to dress it up as a Chardonnay, which is often the case. Instead, he respected the grape’s inherent tropical fruit, presenting it cleanly and in balance. (13.6% alc.)


50th Parallel Estate 2015 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $19: A Riesling that pops with lime, peach and a hint of apricot from first sniff to final swallow, which comes too soon for a take of uncommon equilibrium and persistence. (12.5% alc.)

Abeja 2014 Chardonnay, Washington, $40: Dry and lean, but with rare composure and generosity, resulting in a Chardonnay of refreshing sleekness and lift. (13.9% alc.)

Airfield Estates Winery 2015 Sweet Riesling, Yakima Valley, $15: Bravo for labeling this wine “sweet.” It is, but it also is frisky, an attribute not often associated with sweetness in a wine. The result is a Riesling husky yet nimble. (10.1% alc.)

Amelia Wynn 2015 Destiny Ridge Vineyard Roussanne-Marsanne, Horse Heaven Hill, $24: An intriguing blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, the former contributing fruit evocative of peaches and pears, the later suggesting a landscape of limestone and granite. In short, an unusually provocative white wine. (13.8% alc.)

Anam Cara Cellars 2013 Nicholas Estate Dry Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $22: A Riesling that stands apart for its litheness combined with clout. Not heavy handed, just convincing for its rippling stride against a dry, minerally background. (12.1% alc.)

Ardor Cellars 2015 Lawrence Vineyard White Blend, Walla Walla Valley, $25: Rich aroma runs to orange groves, melon patches and flower gardens, all of which is borne across the palate with body fat yet quick footed. (14.7% alc.)

Bainbridge Vineyards 2009 Late Harvest Siegerrebe, Puget Sound, $32: The queen bee of late-harvest wines, sure to draw a colony of willing workers for its centered richness, lemony core and bracing acidity, rare for a wine so thick. (11% alc.)

Barnard Griffin Winery 2014 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: A Chardonnay this easy drinking also shouldn’t be so rich and layered, but here you go, another bargain from one of the Northwest’s more consistent producers. (13.2% alc.)

Cave B Estate Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $25: A richer take than usual for Sauvignon Blanc, coming down on the apricot end of the variety’s flavor spectrum, its round body well modulated with silken texture and revitalizing acidity. (13.9% alc.)

CC Jentsch Cellars 2015 Small Lots Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, $36: Since when is “Chablis” in “Okanagan Valley”? Apparently only since 2015, the year to yield this exceptional take on chardonnay. It is spunky with suggestions of lemon and lime hung on a fine-boned trellis, with its oak treatment giving it roundness and complexity without interfering with the fruit. (12.8% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Cold Creek Riesling, Columbia Valley, $16: To a degree unmatched by most other varietal wines, Riesling can reflect the source of its grapes and the nature of its vintage. In this instance, Cold Creek is a vineyard worth seeking and 2015 a harvest worth cherishing for the translucence of this forward and sharp Riesling. (12.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: Zeroes in on what Riesling is all about – lime, peach, grapefruit – but in a presentation dry and peppy. (12.5% alc.)

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Eroica Gold Riesling, Columbia Valley, $40: Honeyed yet lithe, an after-dinner sipper that with its huskiness and brightness will keep you beside the fireplace long after the last log had been reduced to ash. (9.5% alc.)

Chehalem Wines 2014 Corral Creek Vineyards Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $29: For a Riesling dry yet flamboyant, this is your baby. It has more flesh than most in its fruit, yet is downright bouncy in its spirit. (12.5% alc.)

Cinder Wines 2015 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $18: An exceptionally keen Chardonnay for its Burgundian sculpting, careful not to cut off any elements to contribute to an immensely enduring finish. (13.8% alc.)

Dunham Cellars 2014 Lewis Estate Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley, $20: While Rieslings generally are direct in their expressiveness, they also can be billowy, enveloping rather than assaulting the palate with sweet peachy fruit. This is that kind of Riesling. (11% alc.)

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2015 Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley, $14: “Ehrenfelser” must translate to mean a spring flower garden golden with pollen and buzzing with bees, to judge by this husky, spicy and citric white wine, which despite all its blooming fruit is dry. (13.1% alc.)

Huston Vineyards 2015 Private Reserve Chardonnay, Snake River Valley, $24: A spot-on Chardonnay for its tropical fruit, its suggestion of special place and its puff of discreet smoke from the oak, as good as signal as any to stock up on this exceptional release. (14.1% alc.)

Jones of Washington 2015 Rosé of Syrah, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $14: Looking for a zesty rosé, capable of filling the role of aperitif or companion with robust appetizer? Look no further. This satisfies for its radiant fruit, crispness and length. (13.1% alc.)

Maryhill Winery 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $16: Voluminous and juicy, reaffirming that Sangiovese’s role in the United States may best be realized as a rosé of pinpoint fruit and voluminous expression. (12.9% alc.)

Milbrandt Vineyards 2015 Traditions Evergreen Riesling, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $13: Whatever lurks in the depths of the “ancient lakes” of Columbia Valley it is pretty darn eloquent when it comes to Riesling, expressed here with maturity, frankness and unusually haunting complexity. (11.5% alc.)

Moraine Estate Winery 2015 Riesling, Okanagan Valley, $25: A glorious take on Riesling not only for its up-front peachy fruit but also its persistence in the finish. It also has an underlying complexity rare for the breed. (11.8% alc.)

Pacific Rim Winemakers 2012 Selenium Vineyard Noble Riesling, Yakima Valley, $39: Dawn in the Yakima Valley, with warm sunshine bathing vineyards with honeyed light, captured here in a late-harvest wine rich while buoyant. (9% alc.)

Pacific Rim Winemakers 2015 Twin Vineyards Gewürztraminer, Yakima Valley, $16: No shrinking violet here; more like a bouquet of rose petals in the aroma and a bowl of unaldurated lychee nuts on the palate, finishing with the varietal’s perky spice and stimulating acidity. (13% alc.)

Palencia Wine Co. 2015 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $18: If anyone questions whether white wines can be as persistent in the finish as red, this lanky and minerally Albariño will put the argument to rest with its enduring freshness. This won best of show at the 2016 Cascadia Wine Competition. (13% alc.)

Reustle – Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $24: If scallops, shrimp or even veal is on the menu, pull the cork on this lean, dry and crisp Grüner Veltliner, which pivots delicately to a whiff of the white pepper for which the varietal is recognized. (13.6% alc.)

Tightrope Winery 2015 Tip-Toe, Okanagan Valley, $22: A picnic can consist of cold cuts, cheese and bread and be quite satisfying, or it can be over the top with all sorts of exotic and intricate dishes. This blend of Gewürztraminer (38%), Viognier (24%), Riesling (22%) and Chardonnay is that kind of picnic – exceptionally entertaining in its tension, drama and cheer. (12.6% alc.)

Tranche Cellars 2012 Celilo Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, $45: Convincing evidence that a wine in a bottle topped with a screwcap isn’t somehow lacking. This is one compelling Chardonnay for its rich ripe fruit, buoyant acidity, diverting spice and suggestions of hazelnut. (13.8% alc.)

Volcanic Hills Estate Winery 2015 Rosé, Okanagan Valley, $17: In an exceptionally strong class of rosés, this stood out for its energy, harmony and persistence. (12.6% alc.)

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $24: Not your simple adolescent rosé, but a pink that invites contemplation for its forthright fruit, insinuating earthiness and invigorating acidity. (14.1% alc.)

The Woodhouse Wine Estates 2013 Kennedy Shah Reserve Riesling, Yakima Valley, $15: Let’s celebrate maturity, which brings to the inherent youthfulness of Riesling a depth, breadth and length not always found in the varietal. For convincing, start here. (13.3% 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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