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Northwest Wine: Double gold indicates extra-special bottle

Jeff and Sheila Jirka, who took winemaking classes from South Seattle Community College, Washington State University and University of California-Davis, celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Woodinville tasting room this summer. (Richard Duval)
Jeff and Sheila Jirka, who took winemaking classes from South Seattle Community College, Washington State University and University of California-Davis, celebrate the 10th anniversary of their Woodinville tasting room this summer. (Richard Duval)
By Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman Great Northwest Wine

When looking through the results of a wine competition, you may notice some wines winning a double gold medal and become curious about what that means, much the same way you wondered what extra-virgin olive oil is when you first saw it.

Basically, it indicates that a wine earned a gold medal by unanimous vote, meaning every judge on a panel awarded it a gold medal. At a wine competition, a panel typically consists of three to five judges.

Getting that many wine professionals to agree on something should be considered rare. Indeed, a wine achieving a double gold medal should be considered special, one that nearly everyone may enjoy.

At the seventh-annual Cascadia International Wine Competition from April 9-11 at the Courtyard Richland Columbia Point in Richland, 22 professional judges evaluated more than 1,000 wines from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho. They awarded 40 of those wines a double gold medal.

Here are six of those double gold medal wines from this year’s Cascadia. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant, or order them directly from the winery. See the entire list of medal winners at

AntoLin Cellars 2015 Petite Sirah, Yakima Valley, $30: The grapes for this 100% petite sirah came from Elephant Mountain Vineyard in the Rattlesnake Hills above Yakima Valley. Red black in appearance, the glass oozes dark fruit and spice aromas such as black plum, blackberry and licorice as your nose nears the glass.

The palate is full but with surprising acidity to give it a firm structure. The tannins are well integrated and balanced, creating a smooth mouthfeel. Boysenberry jam with butter on toast comes to mind for the flavors, along with plum, pork belly and a multitude of spices, including anise and cinnamon.

Mercer Estates Winery 2016 Reserve Cavalie Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills, $42: This is a delicious blend based on bordeaux varieties merlot (51%), cabernet sauvignon (23%), malbec (11%) and petit verdot (8%) that’s joined by a juicy dose of syrah (7%). It’s an estate-grown wine driven by blackberry and dark cherry with subtle oak spices that delivers in a rich and rewarding fashion, capped by blackberry jam.

Brian Carter Cellars 2015 Takahashi Red Wine Blend, Columbia Valley, $38: Woodinville winemaker and microbiologist Brian Carter dedicated this wine to his longtime winery sidekick Robert Takahashi, who himself created the blend of malbec (58%), merlot (34%) and cabernet franc.

Thanks in part of vineyard sources such as StoneTree on the Wahluke Slope and Olsen in the Yakima Valley, there’s a gorgeous theme of blueberry compote, blackberries, dark cherry and oak spices.

Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Renaissance Red, Lewis-Clark Valley, $23: Co-owner and winemaker Coco Umiker used grapes from her home region surrounding Lewiston, Idaho, for this Malbec-based blend that has become her flagship bottling. The result is a wine that exudes blackberries, blueberries and spice.

In the mouth, the berries are joined by dark plum and more spice, leading to a long finish. Serve it with prime rib.

Davenport Cellars 2015 Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills $35: Jeff and Sheila Jirka in Woodinville work with respected Sheridan Vineyard for this single barrel of Malbec. French oak creates elegant aromas of blueberry, black currant, blackberry and vanilla, which leap from the glass.

More dark and purple fruits make up a rich, full-bodied palate with silky soft tannins and just the right amount of acidity for a perfect long finish. Enjoy with the Adult Ham and Cheese Panini they offer at their on-premise bistro, grilled chicken or marinated pork loin.

Jones of Washington Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley $15: The Jones family made it to the sweepstakes of the Cascadia with its 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, which won the award for Best White, and this Sauvignon Blanc received accolades, too. Classic grapefruit and lime aromas start things off, picking up a hint of dried sweet grass.

The palate is easy with acidity in check but giving the fruit flavors perkiness. Passion fruit joins the citrus, green apple and dried tarragon for a tasty combo. Chicken, pork chops and clams would be happy to share the table.

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

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