The Pacific Northwest Wine Competition’s 8th annual judged event was, without a doubt, the biggest and best in the Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation’s history. 110 wineries from the Pacific Northwest entered a record total of 557 wines in this year’s competition, held from July 9 to 12, 2023 at Walla Walla Community College.
Best in Show honors were awarded to the Alexandria Nicole Cellars 2022 Shepards Mark. The Prosser, Washington-based winery, owned by veteran winemaker Jarrod Boyle and his wife Ali, earned a near-perfect, 99-point score for its white wine blend, which was also recognized as the Best White Wine of the competition.
Among the judging’s 154 Double Gold (unanimous Gold) and 152 Gold medalists, Walla Walla’s Dunham Cellars 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon XXV received the Best Red Wine award, and Prosser’s Mercer Wine Estates 2022 Rosé, crafted from 100% Grenache, took home the Best Rosé honors.
Alexandria Nicole launched the Shepards Mark label in 2004, and the three-varietal Rhone blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier was the first of its kind in Washington State. It’s fitting that the grapes for this long-time winery favorite were sourced from the Boyle’s estate-grown Destiny Ridge Vineyard, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of its initial planting this year.
Other notable achievements in this year’s competition included Woodinville-based wineries Callan Cellars, which scored a perfect four Double Golds on its four entries and DeLille Cellars, which earned three out of four Double Golds; Red Mountain’s Hamilton Cellars, which picked up three Double Golds and a Gold from its four entries; Mercer Wine Estates, a four out of five Double Gold entrant; and Longship Cellars in Richland, a four Double Gold and two Gold medal recipient on six entries.
Heading up Walla Walla wineries were Plumb Cellars, which received four Double Golds out of five entries; and Golden Ridge Cellars, which entered four wines and earned three Double Golds plus a Gold medal.
Other multiple Double Gold and Gold medalists included Carlton, Oregon’s Chris James Cellars, receiving five Doubles and five Golds out of 15 entries; Chelan’s Mellisoni Vineyards, which earned six Double Golds and five Golds on 14 entries, and Tsillan Cellars, also of Chelan, which entered 20 wines and picked up a well-deserved eight Double Golds and seven Gold medals.
Also notable were two wineries based in the Puget Sound AVA: Stanwood’s Bayernmoor Cellars, a four Double Gold and two Gold Medal winner out of seven entries; and newcomer Blaine winery Van Vino Vineyards, which came away with three Double Golds and one Gold out of six entries in one of their first-ever competitions.
“The fact that 20 wineries joined us for the first time this year speaks to the increasing support we’re receiving for our competition,” said Dan Radil of the Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation, the non-profit organization that produces the event.
“We moved our competition from Bellingham to Walla Walla this year, and the transition was virtually seamless,” he added.
“We couldn’t have done this without an outstanding panel of both new and returning judges, and without our incredible team of volunteers, many who travelled from Whatcom County and kept the backroom and overall competition operating flawlessly.”
“We’ll continue to grow the event and look forward to expanding our outreach to promote wineries throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, while working to raise funds for our designated beneficiaries,” he said.
The Foundation plans to return to Walla Walla Community College in 2024 for its 9th Annual Judged Competition. A late-June date is anticipated, and applications for wine entries will be available beginning in April of 2024.