FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Oregon brands Alexana Winery and Chehalem Wines and Washington state’s Kestrel Vintners and Tenor Wines starred recently at the 10th annual American Fine Wine Invitational as Pacific Northwest representation increased at the prestigious South Florida judging.
Second-generation winemaker Wynne Peterson-Nedry earned the title of best white wine with her Chehalem Wines 2015 Wind Ridge Block Estate Grüner Veltliner from Ribbon Ridge in the North Willamette Valley. The 2014 Three Vineyard Estate Riesling also brought a gold medal back to the Newberg winery founded by her father, Harry Peterson-Nedry.
Texan cardiologist Madaiah Revana saw his Alexana Winery team of Lynn Penner-Ash and Bryan Weil combine for two double gold medals and three golds among the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling categories.
Walla Walla-based winemaker Aryn Morell produced the best Merlot of the competition for Tenor Wines in Woodinville, as well as meriting a double gold for his 2013 Syrah and gold medals with his 2013 Malbec and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the Yakima Valley town of Prosser, Kestrel Vintners, owned by Florida resident Cynthia Walker Crowley, received the best of class honor for Malbec, a pair of double golds and a gold medal. Crowley’s late parents, John and Helen Walker, founded the winery in 1995 and were longtime residents of South Florida.
Washington sommelier sparks Northwest entries
Many of the entries from the Pacific Northwest were nominated by educator Ellen Landis, long recognized as one of the top wine judges in the United States and a recent transplant to Vancouver, Wash. The former Bay Area sommelier/innkeeper was among the 24 judges who evaluated a combined 850 wines from 230 wineries across the United States.
“I noticed the low level of wines from the Pacific Northwest region when I judged this competition the previous year and discussed that with the organizers,” Landis wrote in an email to Great Northwest Wine.
The judging was staged Jan. 15-16 in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Lab at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. This year, the additional influence of Pacific Northwest wines helped the AFWI set a record for entries, up 16 percent from the 2016 competition. Judges awarded 272 gold and 188 double gold medals. That 54 percent is extremely high for most competitions, however, these wines were not only nominated, but also prejudged.
“There are a few unique characteristics with this competition,” Landis wrote. “First of all, one must be invited to enter, by an acquisition board member. All wines are vetted. Secondly, the acquisition board member must have tasted the wine that he or she invites to enter.
“Thirdly, this competition is primarily focused on high-end/high-quality wines,” she continued. “This competition does not strive to gain more entries than any other competition; it is quality, not quantity, driven. There are many wines presented to the judges priced at a range between $70 and $250 per bottle. Lastly, this competition is in its 10th year, and thus far, there has been NO entry fee for the wines invited to enter.”
Those joining Landis on the Fort Lauderdale panel included Michael Braun, South Florida lead educator for Total Wine and More; FIU professors Chip Cassidy and Barry Gump; Minwoo Kwon, sommelier, Jean-Georges, New York City; and Florida wine merchant Virginia Philip, the 11th woman in the world to earn Master Sommelier status.
Shari Gherman, co-founder/president of the competition, is a sommelier in south Florida. The 10th annual AFWI Charity Wine Gala on April 28-29 in Fort Lauderdale will feature many of the wines and winemakers represented in the judging. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, and a number of players from the NFL team traditionally attend the event. The competition and gala has raised nearly $1 million during its first decade.
2017 American Fine Wine Invitational superlatives
Baldacci Family Vineyards 2013 Ruppert Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $125
Chehalem Wines 2015 Wind Ridge Block Estate Grüner Veltliner, Ribbon Ridge, $24
Mumm Napa NV Santana Brut, Napa Valley, $50
John Anthony Vineyards 2011 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $65
Pacific Northwest results
Best of class
Kestrel Vintners 2013 Winemaker’s Select Series Malbec, Yakima Valley, $45
Tenor Wines 2013 Merlot, Columbia Valley, $58
Alexana Winery 2014 Revana Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $49
Alexana Winery 2014 West Blocks – Sedimentary Soils Pinot Noir, $65
Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $46
Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Nicholas Vineyards Wadenswil Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, $55
Barrister Winery 2013 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $31
Barrister Winery 2013 Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $37
Kestrel Vintners 2013 Winemaker’s Select Series Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley, $50
Kestrel Vintners 2012 Winemaker’s Select Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, $45
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemakers Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley, $39
Tenor Wines 2013 Syrah, Columbia Valley, $58
Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Bello Rosso Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $38
Alexana Winery 2013 Signature Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $65
Alexana Winery 2014 Revana Vineyard East Blocks – Volcanic Soils Estate Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, $65
Alexana Winery 2014 Late Harvest Riesling, Columbia Valley, $35
Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Nicholas Estate Riesling, Chehalem Mountains, $22
Barrister Winery 2013 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $31
Brittan Vineyards 2013 Cygnus Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $65
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Ethos Reserve Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $36
Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen 2014 Eroica Ice Wine, Horse Heaven Hills, $60
Chehalem Wines 2014 Three Vineyard Estate Riesling, Willamette Valley, $22
Kestrel Vintners 2013 Winemaker’s Select Series Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, $45
Pepper Bridge Winery 2013 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $50
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Grüner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $32
Tenor Wines 2013 Malbec, Columbia Valley, $58
Tenor Wines 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $68
Alexana Winery 2014 Lonesome Spring Ranch Gran Blanc White Wine, Columbia Valley, $40
Barrister Winery NV Rough Justice Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $23
Brittan Vineyards 2013 Basalt Block Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $48
Brittan Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $42
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Ethos Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $48
Chehalem Wines 2013 Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $40
Chehalem Wines 2013 Ridgecrest Vineyards Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $80
Dobbes Family Estate 2015 Sundown Vineyard Viognier, Rogue Valley, $26
Gramercy Cellars 2014 The Deuce Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $54
Kestrel Vintners 2012 Winemaker’s Select Series Co-Ferment Syrah, Yakima Valley, $45
Kestrel Vintners 2015 Signature Series Old Vine Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, $45
Matthews Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $55
Pepper Bridge Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $60
Pepper Bridge Winery 2012 Trine Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $65
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir, Umpqua Valley, $39
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2014 Gruner Veltliner, Umpqua Valley, $29
Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Umpqua Valley, $23
Tenor Wines 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $48
Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $40
Walla Walla Vintners 2014 Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $32