It’s not every Tuesday that one has the opportunity to taste and judge a plethora of local wines but that was the scene this past Tuesday, August 17th when the 12th Annual Idaho Wine Competition was held at Koenig Vineyards in Caldwell, Idaho. With a record setting 180 distinct wine entries, judges swirled and sipped their way through a variety of wines from sparkling to whites, roses, reds, and even dessert-styled wines. And some true gems were found throughout the event.
As a judge in this competition, I’ve found that the quality of Idaho wines continues to increase. In fact, 25% of the wines in the competition earned gold medals in contrast to 17% two years ago. And achieving a gold medal in a wine competition is no small feat. The amount of work that goes into producing a gold-medal worthy wine is intense and continues from the vineyard into the winery and of course, into the glass.
This year’s Best of Show winner is no stranger to hard work. Hat Ranch Winery’s 2018 Rivaura Vineyards Cabernet Franc is the product of hard work and dedication. Hat Ranch Winery, the winery who produced the winning wine, has been crafting wines since 2011 in homage to their 100+ year ranching family history. They won the 2019 Idaho Winery of the Year Award from Wine Press Northwest magazine, further supporting the high quality of wines that they craft.
Rivaura Estate Vineyards and Winery, the Lewis-Clark Valley vineyard that grew the award-winning Cabernet Franc grapes, has a 100+ year family homesteading history in the area. The Hewett family is relatively new to the wine-growing scene having planted their first grapes in 2014. However, they have made a large impact in the area with a star consulting winemaker in Billo Naravane, MW and cousins Vince and Lane Hewett (graduates of WSU and Walla Walla Community College’s Wine Production programs respectively) leading the grapegrowing and winemaking operations.
The Best of Show wine was not the only standout in the field. Indian Creek Winery, scored an impressive five gold medals including three best of class for their 2020 Riesling, 2019 Reserve Chardonnay, and 2018 Reserve Tempranillo. In addition, local wineries Koenig Vineyards and Cinder Winery each scored four gold medals and Coiled Wines three gold medals.
Perhaps the best part of being a judge is not only being able to award medals for the outstanding wines crafted by these dedicated wineries but recommending these winners to wine lovers in our area and beyond. While still an unknown gem on the global stage, the winners of these competitions can easily compete with high quality wines from across the world. Plus, the best part is that they are found in our amazing gem state!
Exceptional Award-Winning Wines
Best of Show/ Best Red Wine/ Double Gold Medal
Hat Ranch Winery, Rivaura Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2018, Lewis-Clark Valley- $34
*Elegantly crafted red wine with notes of roses, dried herbs and bright cherry fruit that is both delicate and persistent with a long, silky finish.
Best Sparkling Wine/Gold Medal
Coiled Wines, Rizza 2018, Washington $30.00
*Vibrant nose of pear and yellow apple with a hint of white flowers, this wine shows great contrast between the juicy fruit and toasty complexity on the palate.
Best Rosé/ Gold Medal
Cinder Wines, Cinsault Rosé 2020, Snake River Valley $23.00
*From the medium pink color to notes of strawberry and raspberry, this medium bodied rosé is as delicious as it is pretty.
Best White Wine / Double Gold Medal
Cinder Wines, Dry Viognier 2020, Snake River Valley $25.00
*Unoaked, aromatic, full-bodied white wine with sumptuous aromatics of white flowers, bosc pear, and white nectarine with bright acidity.
Best Sweet Wine / Double Gold Medal
Roghani Vineyards, Riesling Late Harvest 2015, Snake River Valley $30.40
*Lusciously sweet with notes of candied apricots and honeysuckle and great tension between the racy acidity and rich midpalate.
Kat’s Personal Picks
Best Tempranillo/ Double Gold Medal
Indian Creek Winery, Reserve Tempranillo 2018, Snake River Valley $32.00
*Decadent notes of coconut and vanilla are well balanced with the strong blue and black fruit intensity, smooth midpalate, balanced acidity and velvety tannic finish.
Sawtooth Winery, Classic Fly Chenin Blanc 2020, Snake River Valley- $24
*Dry, white wine with elevated notes of honeydew melon, citrus, and beeswax with mouthwatering acidity deftly balanced with the full body.