As a little girl, my younger daughter, like a lot of kids, spent a lot of time with coloring books. She would be in the middle of her latest masterpiece — usually something Disney-related — and she’d want me to pick the next color crayon she’d use.
She’d ask, “What’s your favorite color?” I would always answer, “Today, ______ is my favorite color.” Each time she asked for my favorite color, I gave her a different answer — often the first color that caught my eye right before I answered her. It didn’t take long for her to catch on that I have no favorite color. I pretty much like them all.
That’s not far removed from my outlook on wine. I pretty much like them all — some more than others. I lean heavily toward reds, but I don’t shun whites, especially during the warmer months of the year.
My favorite variety of wine? Today, Malbec is my favorite variety. Ask me that question tomorrow and you’ll likely get a different answer.
For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to moderate one of the tasting panels for the annual North Central Washington Wine Awards judging. My job is to record the ratings of each judge in an electronic database after they have completed tasting a flight of wines.
Do judges have their favorites when it comes to variety? Absolutely. But I’ve learned that judges play no favorites. They pay each flight — and each wine — the respect it deserves by going glass-by-glass to analyze the different qualities and give an honest judgment of it.
I’ve also learned that no two judges go through a flight of wine identically. Some spend more time with their nose in the glass than others. Some go at a slower pace than others, often revisiting a wine after recording their notes on each wine in the flight.
There are no givens during the blind judging. It’s not uncommon for a variety or blend that earned a Double Gold Medal for Winery X one year to earn a Bronze the following year. Each vintage is different.
And there are usually surprises. This year’s big surprise came during the final round of tastings when judges taste the day’s top-rated wines to select Superlative winners — Best Red, Best, White, Best of Show, etc. They ultimately selected a 2015 Syrah from Burke Vineyard as the overall top wine from the judging. Haven’t heard of Burke Vineyard before? You’re not the only one. After the judging was complete, the name of the Best of Show winner was announced and none of the nine judges had heard of the tiny winery that operates in the Royal Slope.
You’ll find the full results from this year’s judging in this issue. Take a look. You might come across a wine that becomes your new favorite … even if it is for just today.
— Marco Martinez, editor