Western Wine Winners.: The Top 34 Wines from Sunset's Taste-Off

By Johnson, Elaine | Sunset, August 1999 | Go to article overview

Western Wine Winners.: The Top 34 Wines from Sunset's Taste-Off


Johnson, Elaine, Sunset


As the saying goes, it was a tough job, but someone had to do it. We asked vintners from the eight emerging Western wine regions in this story to send us their finest efforts. In a blind tasting, a panel of eight judges sampled 86 wines and chose the best each region has to offer.

Judges were wine writers Karen MacNeil-Fife of St. Helena, California, and Chuck Hill of Seattle; beverage manager/sommelier Traci Dutton and assistant beverage manager Michael Pryor of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena; Michele Valence, Greystone bartender; Jerry Anne Di Vecchic, Sunset senior food editor; Sara Schneider, Sunset senior editor; and Elaine Johnson, Sunset senior writer. Rebecca Murphy, a Portland-based consultant, ran the tasting.

Our recommended wines show particular promise. But many are still works in progress. Winemakers are constantly improving their efforts. Stay tuned for the next vintage. Many of our favorites are available only in small quantities and are sold primarily at the wineries - a great reason to visit.

* GRAND VALLEY, COLORADO

Canyon Wind Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Palisades, $20. Pleasing pine, eucalyptus, cassis, and smoke; a bit rough around the edges.

Canyon Wind Merlot 1996, Palisades, $18. Spicy ripeness, lots of new oak.

Grande River Meritage 1995, Grand Valley, $13. Bordeaux-style blend. Lean, tight, sleek, and smoky.

Plum Creek Redstone Reserve Chardonnay 1997, $13. Apple, banana, and butterscotch with lemony brightness, hot finish.

* PUGET SOUND, WASHINGTON

Bainbridge Island Late Harvest Botrytised Siegerrebe 1996, Puget Sound, $22. Apricots, honey, and tea. Hoodsport Raspberry Wine, $9. Also sold under Whidbey Island Greenbank Farms label. Essence of raspberries; light and fresh.

Lopez Island Siegerrebe 1997, San Juan County, $12. Spicy, gingery; great for Asian food.

Mount Baker Madeleine Angevine, Washington State, $14. Off-dry, spicy baked pears.

* ROGUE VALLEY, OREGON

Bridgeview Pinot Gris Cuvee Speciale 1997, Oregon, $10. Lean and fresh with lively acidity.

Foris Pinot Noir 1996, Siskiyou Terrace, Rogue Valley, $19. Earthy cherries and blackberries, tart finish.

Troon Vintage Select, Proprietor's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, $18. Light cassis, earthy.

Valley View Anna Maria Merlot 1995, Rogue Valley, $28. Soft, deadripe cherries, toasty oak, bright acidity.

* SOUTHEAST ARIZONA

Callaghan Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Buena Suerte Vineyard, $18. Light-bodied cherry and herb flavors, forthright tannins. …

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