Woodinville Wine Honors (6th vintage, 2014)

Still the longest running honors gala in the heart of Woodinville, whatever that means!

2014 was another of change for the better. The first honor for Washington wine was a Chester Kidder 2009 red wine being served at a state dinner for France’s president at the White House. A big, fat California winery (Canvasback by Duckhorn) setup roost on Red Mountain in what should be the first of many Cali ex-pats arriving on our musty shores. Speaking of California influences, Force Majeure hired a winemaker from Bryant Family Vineyards that put more prime Red Mountain acreage in the hands of non-natives and former residents. And more graduates of the wine program at South Seattle C.C. took up space in the warehouse district. Now, why Betz Family Winery buying an estate vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley made such news with other wine floggers is the real puzzle there. Who gives a flying fcuk?? And, we seal up the year with vintage news that 2014 will be the best since the unanimously heralded 2007 vintage, and may even surpass that and 2005 to own the latest “best vintage ever in Washington” moniker. And the beat goes on…

The best news within city limits is that most of the wineries have finally depleted their stock of 2010 and 2011 so we can look forward to better wines at your favorite tasting venues in an industrial setting. The 2012 reds are showing well now. Not great, but good enough. No one worked harder to get tourists and wedding parties into the warehouse district to buy up all the flat stuff so that the locals who snuck in on Seahawk Sundays could enjoy the new releases in peace. We high-fived some fans at a tasting room with a flat-screen tv and we all know that a delicious red goes well with a Seahawk victory! Is there a better combination of witnessing Jim Harbaugh go down in flames (twice!) and drinking the blood (red blends) of those fallen 49ers? We think not!

To the awards…

Best tasting room experience: Bunnell Family Cellar/Upland Estates. Finally, someone got the message that a really dandy lineup of wines deserves a well-manicured plate of charcuterie. The lethal Bunnell syrahs and Upland Estate whites are a fine match with the selected cheeses and cured meats and the staff is congenial and upbeat. Everyone else just fell a step behind…

Rookie of the Year: Ambassador Vineyards. Always the most competitive category, it seems. The tasting room is as big as the wines, whose grapes hail from Red Mountain’s former La Coye Vineyard. That means the wines will be bold and the staff attentive and knowledgeable (and pretty, too). The gals may not all be from Benton City but they have that small-town friendliness that makes walking in a fun and comfortable experience. Of note, the other finalists are neighbors– W.T. Vintners and Savage Grace Cellars. Watch out for these two as they develop their lineup of alternative headline wines that eschew the fighting Bordeaux lineage. Their ode to Rhones, Burgundies, and obscurata fully rounds out the varieties available in the warehouse district and makes for wonderful exploration of Washington’s ideal climate for grape growing.

Winery of the Year: Pondera Winery. Ever since their entrance a couple years back, this winery/art gallery has upped their game with each vintage and now sports a lineup of wines every bit as colorful as the artwork hanging on the walls. Strong and sturdy are the reds with the malbec as its biceps, get their wines now as they are underpriced. Really underpriced.

Red Wine of the Year: Pondera Winery 2010 Stillwater Creek malbec. Fine, fine… yes, it’s from the 2010 vintage (cool year) but the vineyard is sited in a warm zone so the grapes performed well and this is the result. Read the earlier review…

White Wine of the Year: Guardian Cellars 2013 Angel sauvignon blanc. Like seriously, this is one heckuva wine, year after year after year. Is it a felony that we, the wanted, hired a confidential source and another informant to draw a chalk line to other wineries’ sauv blancs but our rookie’s palate was tainted by the gun metal wine in those mini-kegs (a misdemeanor in our P&Ps), some 50 (five-O) or so, sprouting around the warehouse district so she had an alibi and besides, she’s an angel, too.

Washington Wine of the Year: Cooper Wine Company 2012 Estate carmenere. Those big, bold, complex, nuanced, and elegant wines that you remembered from yesteryear… yeah, they’re all back and in this one package of rapturous delight. Don’t let the carmenere listing scare you as this is representative of what’s going on in the Red Mountain AVA. THIS is what carmenere should taste like at its best. It ain’t a cheap bottle but holds its value well and you will be proud to serve it at your own state dinner with a spicy prime rib or grilled porterhouse.

Merry F’N Christmas, winos! I gotta get on the next plane out of here…

Next week, we will feature Sean Sillyvain’s Top 100 wines of 2015.

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