So every year for the past 23 years Ray’s Boathouse has gathered a bunch of sommeliers, wine writers, and experts to blind-taste their way through 100s of Northwest wines (there were 479 entries this year) and then rate them. I am in no way qualified to judge wines the way a sommelier is—let’s not kid ourselves—still, I had a good old time last week sitting amongst them and sipping through 30 pinot gris and 36 chardonnays to help pick winners in this year’s contest.
To keep things reasonably fair, Ray’s makes sure each wine is tasted by at least four judges. The judges taste for about two hours over two days: whites on the first day, reds on the second.
Once I had totally finished tasting, I had to ask after one of the chardonnays I tried, a creamy little number that jumped out from the acidic pack. It was the Stoller SV Estate Chardonnay 2006 from Oregon. Lovely, lovely, lovely. The winery ended up winning in the pinot noir category.
Most of the judges that sipped alongside me on the first day came back on day two to judge the red wines. I admire their endurance. I also admire the staff at Ray’s (led by wine director Richard Kelsey) who graciously poured glass after glass and endured plenty of shouts from the judge’s tables that certain bottles were corked. More often then not, they just contained bad wine.
Chardonnay Dusted Valley Vintners Old Vine Chardonnay, Yakima Valley 2008
Pinot Gris Panther Creek Cellars Pinot Gris, Oregon 2008
White Blends Westport Winery Bordello Blonde, Washington 2008
Dry Whites Hogue Cellars Genesis Viognier, Columbia Valley 2008
Aromatic Whites Brandborg Gewürztraminer, Umpqua Valley 2008
Dessert Gilbert Cellars Grenache Ice Wine, Columbia Valley 2008
Cabernet Sauvignon Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley 2006
Merlot Barrage Cellars Trifecta Merlot, Columbia Valley 2007
Pinot Noir Stoller SV Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills 2006
Red Blends Whitman Cellars Narcissa Red, Walla Walla Valley 2005
Syrah Powers Winery Cougar Vineyard Reserve Syrah, Wahluke Slope 2006
Single Varietal Reds Pend d’Oreille Winery
Primitivo Coyote Canyon, Washington 2007