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NCW Wine Awards judging

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Eight credentialed wine judges and two facilitators sniffed, tasted, spit and rated about 230 wines from 38 wineries Wednesday during the third annual North Central Washington Wine Awards.

The results will be tightly corked until the NCW Wine Gala Aug. 10 at the Town Toyota Center. Full results and stories about the event's big winners will also be in the August issue of Foothills magazine, distributed statewide.

Mums the word, but I can say that judges continue to be impressed by NCW wines.

Andy Perdue, co-facilitator of the event and co-editor of Great Northwest Wine, said local wines are without question on par with wines produced in all other parts of the state. The Wahluke Slope in Grant County, where most local wines are sourced, is the backbone of the entire state wine industry. These are, without a doubt, world class wines.

Lake Chelan and Ancient Lakes grape growing areas are also coming into their own and showing unique qualities in their wines.

Judges gave out about 26 gold or higher medals by Perdue's unofficial counting right after the event. An official tabulation should be available later this week, but will be strictly confidential for the next couple of months.

More than 10 percent of wines judged received gold medals. Perdue said that's on par with other serious competitions state and world wide.

All of the judgings were done in double blind tastings. Judges were not allowed into a separate room where all the wine bottles were segregated into more than a dozen categories, labeled with numbers that was entered into computer files.

Wines were poured into identical glasses in the backroom and served in the judging room. Each glass had a number that corresponded with the bottle number, but no other information. Judges were told the general variety of each flight served, but had no idea what specific wines they were tasting.

All white wines were each chilled for 45 minutes. Red wines were double decanted for at least an hour before serving. One ounce tastes of each wine in a category were poured in the backroom for each judge.

Backroom work was supervised by the professional team of Hank and Nancy Sauer, who have run hundreds of wine competitions.

I sat in with judges on two flights of red wines, one included 12 different syrahs. The other nine cabernet sauvignons. Several more cabs were judged in a second flight.

The syrahs were mostly spectacular: full of fruit, spices, wood and tobacco aromas and flavors. Judges gave three of the syrahs gold medals. Seven others were awarded silver. A great showing by all.

Judges were less impressed with the flight of cabs. The wines were all good, but seemed still young and overly tannic for the most part. No gold there, but cabs in the second flight did better.

Judges were thoughtful, considerate, fair and mostly in agreement. There was no sugar-coating or giving of undeserved awards, but most debates ended up in an improved score.

Wineries submitted three bottles of each wine entered, so if backroom workers or judges noted a corked wine or other obvious defect, a second or third bottle was opened.

Perhaps my participation makes me biased, but I think this is a classy, professional event that is done right and has value for local wineries, consumers and the NCW economy.

The judging and awards gala to follow in August elevates the status of participating wineries, brings winemakers together to learn from each other, and offers exposure and publicity for their products. The competition is the only one exclusively for wineries in Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties.

The events offer local residents a way to rate and know local wines and learn how great wines are adding new definition to the region.

Finally, the events promote NCW's fast-growing wine economy. It's an economy that contributes to the area in different ways than the apples, pears and cherries that are our mainstay.

Wineries attract tourists and add to the cultural flavor of the area in the form of new restaurants, lodging, shops and entertainment.

The August gala promises to be a great event and worthy celebration of a young industry that has a lot to offer.