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Great Northwest Wine: How to find great, affordable wines

UPDATED: Mon., July 29, 2019, 12:30 p.m.

A winery visit and purchasing by the case make for a special occasion that can save you money. (Richard Duval Images)
A winery visit and purchasing by the case make for a special occasion that can save you money. (Richard Duval Images)
By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman Great Northwest Wine

Most wine lovers seek great wines at affordable prices. Fortunately, the Pacific Northwest is loaded with delicious examples.

For this column, we define a great wine as one that won a gold medal. A great value would be one that retails for less than $20 per bottle.

Here are a few pointers on getting even lower wine prices:

Join a wine club. That usually means a bigger discount in a winery’s tasting room, as well as other perks.

Buy in quantity. Purchasing wine by the case typically earns you a bigger discount. This even works in wine shops and grocery stores.

Scoop up deals at the end of a vintage. When a winery gets close to switching from one vintage to the next, discounts can happen. The best ways to know this is to get on your favorite winery’s email mailing list and our follow them on social media.

Pay attention to second labels. Some wineries create additional labels for wines that don’t quite fit a program for the main label. These wines often are excellent and should be sought out.

Here are a handful of excellent examples of Pacific Northwest wines that are less than $20 and received a gold medal at this spring’s Cascadia International Wine Competition. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact the winery directly.

For a complete list of medal winners from the Cascadia judging, go to greatnorthwestwine.com.

Laissez Faire 2018 Red Table Wine, Snake River Valley, $18: Melanie Krause of Cinder Wines in Garden City, Idaho, developed her Laissez Faire tier to be easy-drinking and affordable enough to enjoy any night of the week. The Chateau Ste. Michelle alum relies on the bright, food-friendly structure of sangiovese to serve as the foundation backed by complexity from mourvèdre, tempranillo and merlot.

Raspberry pie, chalky earth, nutmeg and vanilla aromas bid a sip. Inside, sweet raspberry, loganberry and Red Delicious apple flavors create a juicy, medium-bodied wine that’s fun to drink. Krauser intertwines acidity with tannin to produce a nicely structured wine that will pair well with just about any meal.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2018 Estate Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $19: The Campbell family long has been a champion of pinot gris and established what now are some of the oldest vineyards in Oregon. Close your eyes and think of an apricot orchard along the banks of the Columbia River, inhale the sweet smell of apricot blooms, sweet grass and river bank.

Now take a bite of fresh pear for a juicy burst of fruit. That is followed by apple pie filling and an agreeable lick of peach pit in the finish. Year after year, Elk Cove and its sister label, Pike Road Wines, release some of the best examples of pinot gris on the West Coast.

Barnard Griffin Winery 2018 C’est le Vin Rosé, Washington, $7 (per can): Rob Griffin, the dean of Washington winemakers, practically wrote the book on how to transform sangiovese in the Columbia Valley and turn it into a gold-medal-winning rosé. The 2018 vintage is no exception. It earned its first gold medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January and repeated at the Cascadia.

This time, the family chose to enter its canned version of that same rosé. While the branding on the can is youthfully edgy, it’s the same pink sangiovese that gets bottled by the tens of thousands. Still, it displays light red fruit behind its pale pink color with strawberry, watermelon and a hint of orange in the nose and on the palate. There’s a touch of minerality to go with its concluding spritely acidity. Pair it with a warm summer day.

Huston Vineyards 2018 Chicken Dinner White, Snake River Valley, $16: This summer, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to government officials in Idaho to change the name of Chicken Dinner Road. Those signs help point wine lovers to the Alger family home, who live along Chicken Dinner Road near the Huston post office. Their enticing blend of riesling, muscat and roussanne is the recipe for this fresh and easy drinker.

Sweet apple, pineapple and orchard blossom aromas sift out of the glass without effort. Drinking this is like taking a bite out of a Granny Smith apple that’s been dipped in a candy coating while sitting in a field of flowers. The roussanne grounds the palate and produces a medium-bodied foundation for all the flavors that dance on its floor.

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

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