In a Year Many of Us Would Like to Forget, Washington Wines Were Truly Memorable
This article originally appeared in the November/December, 2020 issue of Bellingham Alive Magazine
Trying to come up with some of the best Washington wines in 2020 is a daunting task. With over 1,000 wineries and counting, the state’s winemakers are increasingly creating a “nice problem” for wine enthusiasts by providing them with quality wines to choose from at every taste preference level.
Unless you have a limitless supply of time and money for tasting, a great way to narrow down the field is to refer to the results of a judged competition. The Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival, now in its fifth year, has just such a competition.
This year’s judging, held at Bellingham’s Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, featured 274 wines from the Pacific Northwest. Eighteen of the entrants received double golds (unanimous gold medals) from the panel of judges in a blind tasting. Although these medalists represent just a tiny fraction of Washington wines currently available, they offer a great starting point for those interested in exploring some of the state’s standout wines of 2020.
Reds and red wine blends continue to dominate the Washington wine scene, and the judging results overwhelmingly reflected consumer preferences in this area.
Seven double golds went to six different red varietals, with syrah claiming the only multiple winners: the Beaumont Cellars 2017 Syrah, and the Joseph Christy Vineyards 2017 Estate Syrah, which also took home Best in Show honors as the top point-receiving wine.
Bayernmoor Cellars 2017 Puget Sound AVA Pinot Noir, Bergevin Lane Vineyards 2015 Dreamweaver Malbec, Hightower Cellars 2018 Murray Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagana Cellars 2017 Cabernet Franc, and Robert Ramsay Cellars 2016 Grenache rounded out the other red varietal top medalists.
For those enjoying red wine blends, several double gold-worthy wines were selected. The Dama Wines 2015 Collage features a Bordeaux-based blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc; Desert Winds Winery 2017 Ruah is a proprietary blend of five red varietals; Eternal Wines 2015 Reserve Blend includes a 50/50 combination of cabernet sauvignon and syrah; and Chelan’s Mellisoni Vineyards 2017 60° offers a stunning, equal-parts blend of three Italian varietals: nebbiolo, sangiovese, and barbera.
Albariño is an up-and-coming white varietal that’s gaining popularity among Washington winemakers and wine drinkers…and three of the judging’s albariño entrants received double gold honors: Walla Walla’s Eternal Wines 2019 Albariño, Woodinville’s Michael Florentino Cellars 2017 Albariño, and a Palencia Wine Company 2019 Albariño from the Tri-Cities. Put this wine on your must-try list; it’s bright, sassy, and somewhat similar to a sauvignon blanc, oftentimes with citrus and white peach flavors.
Sparkling and dessert wines also fared well in the competition, indicative of Washington’s diversity and reach into an area where wines are traditionally served before and after a meal. Double golds were awarded to the Treveri Cellars Non-Vintage Sparkling Gewurztraminer and Wit Cellars 2019 Sparkling Rosé, along with the Lopez Island Vineyards Raspberry Wine and Pacific Rim & Company 2019 Sweet Riesling.
For a complete list of all 2020 medal winners go to: whatcombeerandwinefoundation.org/wine-festival