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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Wines as good as gold

Experts pick top reds from region’s offerings

Eric Degerman And Andy Perdue

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Last week, we announced the top wines from the second annual Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition. This week, we take a look at some of the top red wines from the judging.

The invitational is the only wine competition in North America in which the judges – 16 influential wine professionals – nominate the wines they want to have entered in the competition.

Of those nominations, more than 420 wines were entered, then evaluated during the two-day blind tasting at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel.

The following wines earned gold medals in the competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the wineries directly.

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 percent alcohol)

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2012 Merlot, Idaho, $25: The Umikers’ estate vineyard is planted within the 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. (13.7 percent alcohol)

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 percent alcohol)

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. 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 wine a youthful approachability. (14.5 percent alcohol)

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 alx, Columbia Valley, $42: Owner/winemaker Ron Bunnell named this superb Syrah after his son, Alex. 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 percent alcohol)

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 percent) 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. (13.9 percent alcohol)

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 of 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 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. (15.4 percent alcohol)

Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company. Learn more about wine at