Hello friends. I generally only serve as a judge for two local wine competitions each year. The first is Seattle Magazine, since I do the wine writing for the mag. The second is Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman’s Great Northwest Invitational, held each October in Hood River, and including a field of wines from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia.
What’s special about the GNI (aside, of course, from the fact that each judge receives a giant wheel of Cougar Gold cheese; oh, and the fact that the competition takes place in a haunted hotel) is the invitational aspect. Wineries can only submit wines that have been specifically nominated by a competition judge. Because the caliber of judges at the competition is high, the concomitant caliber of the wines tends to be high too.
At this year’s competition, I tasted a number of truly excellent wines, none better than the wine that was the eventual winner of Best in Show. Out of 2000 wines nominated, and 600 wines entered in the competition, only one wine earns the Best in Show tag. And this year, it came from a winery that will be plenty familiar to our list members:
Here is the full article from Great Northwest about Dunham’s big win, and here are some pertinent excerpts:
This is a terrific honor indeed for Dan Wampfler’s winemaking and also for the quality of our pal Kenny Hart’s growing. Our list members know Kenny more for his own Tulpen label, but in Washington wine circles, Ken Hart is known first and foremost as one of our state’s truly formidable farmers (and as one hell of a cook).
We’ve talked a few times in previous offers about the magic going on in the Mill Creek drainage of the Walla Walla Valley. This area is high-elevation, and also high enough rainfall that dry-farming without irrigation becomes a possibility. A number of vineyards have been planted in this area over the past decade, and many of them are just now coming online with usable fruit. Kenny Hill is one such site, and it’s thrilling to see its fruit already making Dunham’s Cabernet bottling on its second commercial vintage. That bodes extremely well for the future.
This 2013 spent just shy of two years in barrel (two-thirds French, one-third America, a mix of new and used) and then another year in bottle before its release. It clocks in at 13.9% listed alc and offered immediate charm in blind-tasting circumstances. My notes begin with the wine’s aromatic complexity, offering rich berry and currant fruit swaddled in smoky, espressoey barrel notes, along with notes of cedar and cola spice. This stood out in a flight of excellent Cabernets for its intensity and above all its balance: balance of fruit and oak and earth elements; balance of rich fruit to sturdy structure (bright acid and pleasingly chewy tannin). I believe it won best in show because it is an honest expression of Washington Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a deserving winner to be sure.
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.