D.C. judges name Michelle Brut best U.S. oyster wine

By on November 12, 2016
Paula Eakin has served as head winemaker for Michelle Sparkling Wines, the bubbles division of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, since 2015.

Paula Eakin, a native of Spokane, Wash., and a graduate of the University of Idaho, has served as head winemaker for Michelle Sparkling Wines since 2015. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michelle Sparkling Wine’s nonvintage Brut was announced Friday as the Best American Wine at the 22nd annual Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition staged in the nation’s capital.

Eakin’s flagship methode Champenoise bottling for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is made using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from the Columbia Valley. The $13 bottle of sparkling wine, with about 1.3 percent residual sugar, topped a field of 94 domestic entries submitted to the panel of 14 judges tasked to determine the best wines to complement oysters.

“I am honored that the Oyster Competition judges awarded our Michelle Brut a gold medal,” Michelle winemaker Paula Eakin said in a communique to Great Northwest Wine. “The Michelle Brut sparkling wine has a touch of sweetness and lively acidity, which pairs really well with the salinity and buttery notes of oysters.”

The grand champion was the Kono 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. It topped the field of 233 entries from 12 countries — two years after the Kono 2013 Sauv Blanc finished second overall.

Eakin’s bubbles and the other gold medal wines will be showcased Nov. 18-19 at Oyster Riot 2016. The two-day, 22-year-old festival is staged at Old Ebbitt Grill for more than 1,000 guests each night. In 2013, nearly 2,700 patrons consumed more than 75,000 bivalves just a block east of The White House.

Availability of Michelle Brut should not be a problem with annual production at about 200,000 cases.

Michelle won gold at 2013 oyster wine judging

Michelle Sparkling Wines nonvintage Brut is created with methode Champenoise using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It is aged on the lees for 18 months and topped with a dosage to create a residual sugar of about 1.3 percent.

Michelle Sparkling Wines’ nonvintage Brut is created methode Champenoise using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. It is aged on the lees for 18 months and topped with a dosage to create a residual sugar of about 1.3 percent. The wines are made near the Columbia River in Paterson, Wash. (Photo courtesy of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates)

More than a dozen judges met Nov. 7 in the Cabinet Room of Old Ebbitt Grill to select gold medals from among the 20 finalists. Runner-up wines were given silver medals. Bronze medals were determined a week prior during the semifinals of this competition dominated by Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Two Northwest wines received bronze medals — Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Dry Riesling and Van Duzer Vineyards 2015 Riesling from NorrisMcKinley Vineyard on Oregon’s Ribbon Ridge. Three years ago, the Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Brut received a gold medal.

Event organizers cite the now-defunct Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition in Seattle as an inspiration, and Northwest oysters traditionally have been spotlighted during “The Riot.” Last year, there were Penn Cove Select and Compass Point oysters from Washington’s Samish Bay as well as Kusshi out of Stellar Bay in British Columbia.

This year’s judging panel included Spanish chef José Andrés, restaurateur David Del Bene, businessman James Dinegar, restaurateur Bart Farrell, wine writer Michael Franz, wine director Steven Heald, wine writer Paul Lukacs, radio personality Tommy McFly, restaurateur Tom Meyer, Virginia winemaker Luca Paschina, food critic Anna Spiegel, food writer/broadcaster Sally Swift, wine writer Marguerite Thomas and chef Robert Wiedmaier.

Old Ebbitt Grill International Wines for Oysters Competition

oyster-riot-2016-posterGrand Champion
Kono 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
First runner-Up
Villa Maria Estates 2016 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Best of class/gold medal
Best American
Michelle Sparkling Wines NV Brut, Columbia Valley, Washington
Best French
Patient Cottat 2015 Sancerre Anciennes Vignes, Loire Valley
Best Italian
Pighin 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli Grave
Best Spanish
Gotas de Mar 2015 Albariño, Rias Baixas
Best Portuguese
Adega do Salvador 2015 Portal da Calçada Reserva Vinho Verde
Best South African
Essay 2015 Chenin Blanc/Viognier, Western Cape
Gold medal
Huntaway 2014 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Starborough 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough

Silver medal
Sea Pearl 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Three Brooms 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Wairau River Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Kim Crawford 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Sileni Estates 2016 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Ranga Ranga 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Bodegas as Laxas 2015 Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain
Neil Ellis 2015 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
Martin Codax 2015 Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain
Maso Canali 2015 Pinot Grigio, Trentino, Italy

Bronze medal
Casablanca Nimbus 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile
Le Charmel Touraine 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley
Cavas Masachs Mas Fi NV Cava Brut, Penedes, Spain
Trefethen Family Vineyards 2015 Dry Riesling, Oak Knoll/Napa Valley
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley
Glen Manor Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Virginia
Santa Rita 2016 120 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Valley, Chile
Van Duzer Vineyards 2015 Riesling, Ribbon Ridge, Oregon

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About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.

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  1. Pingback: Ste. Michelle brings back Domaine Ste. Michelle label - Great Northwest Wine

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