Northwest Wine — Best of the best from 2012

In November, we conducted our 13th annual Platinum Judging, in which we gather gold medal wines from the Pacific Northwest to determine “the best of the best.”

The results came out in the Winter issue of Wine Press Northwest.

Here are a few facts about the 13th Platinum Judging: We reviewed 552 wines under blind conditions from 205 wineries. Of these, 14 earned unanimous Double Platinum awards, and 80 were awarded Platinums. The total production of the 552 wines represented 3.5 million cases of wines, and the average price per bottle was $27.16.

Here are some of the top wines from the judging. Read reviews of all the Platinum winners at

Thurston Wolfe 2009 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, Washington, $16: This affordable red from Prosser, Wash., is a blend of Lemberger, Primitivo and Petite Sirah. Winemaker Wade Wolfe’s wines have now earned nine Platinums since 2005, with six of them being unanimous Double Platinums

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9: This is, perhaps, the most remarkable wine in the Pacific Northwest. How Ste. Michelle manages to make something so delicious, so broadly appealing, so balanced, so consistent and in such large quantities (900,000 cases!) is astonishing.

Tsillan Cellars 2009 Reserve Syrah, Lake Chelan, $32: Bob Jankelson’s vision for a world-class winery led him to the south shore of Lake Chelan in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Here, he built a beautiful Tuscan-inspired winery and planted grapes where some of the world’s finest Red Delicious apples once grew. This is the second consecutive Platinum for Tsillan’s Reserve Syrah.

Dusty Cellars Winery 2008 The Queen Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $25: If you haven’t heard of Dusty Cellars, you aren’t alone. This tiny, 700-cases-per-year winery is on Camano Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. Ryan and Dusty Kramer launched Dusty Cellars in 2006, and they’ve produced a remarkable wine in just their third vintage.

Maryhill Winery 2010 Winemaker’s Red, Columbia Valley, $12: Here’s a great wine regardless of price. Winemaker Richard Batchelor blended Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cab Franc to come up with this delicious and affordable red.

Columbia Crest 2009 Grand Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12: It is remarkable that the Pacific Northwest’s largest winery also is one of its best. Columbia Crest’s Grand Estates program began more than a decade ago, and it has been responsible for some of the Northwest’s best bargains.

Koenig Vineyards 2010 Botrytis Single Berry Select Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley, $30: This late-harvest Riesling is made in the style of a Trockenbeerenauslese, or TBA, a dessert wine in which botrytis-affected grapes are chosen individually. It is a painstaking process, but the the effort is worth it.

Abacela 2011 Albariño, Umpqua Valley, $18: Owner Earl Jones was a pioneer in bringing this Iberian white variety to the Northwest, and he and winemaker Andrew Wenzl craft one of the region’s best. This is a bone-dry wine that is loaded with acidity on top of it.

Elk Cove Vineyards 2010 Mount Richmond Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $48: Second-generation winemaker Adam Campbell crafts some of the finest Pinot Noir in Oregon — and that’s saying something. He loves highlighting specific vineyard sites that are special to him, and Mount Richmond is one of his favorites.

Zerba Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $30: With this wine, Cecil and Marilyn Zerba have won 10 Platinums since 2005, making their winery in Milton-Freewater, Ore., the most decorated producer in the Walla Walla Valley in the 13-year history of this competition.

Dusted Valley Vintners 2009 Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $42: Owners/winemakers Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel are becoming fascinated with Petite Sirah, a grape best known in California but starting to earn some credentials in Washington, and this is a blockbuster example.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Great Northwest Wine. For more information, go to