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Cork Dork: Local Wineries Are Looking Golden During Awards Season

Woodinville winemakers judged each other's wines in the second-annual Golden Grape Awards organized by Willows Lodge.

The Golden Grape Awards is the competition for winemakers, of winemakers and by winemakers. Organized by wine directors Matt Davis and Jennifer Schmitt, it is the only major wine competition in the state judged exclusively by winemakers who are also competing.

“We didn’t want the competition to be about the judges,” Davis said. “We wanted to make it about the winemakers. You can’t do this anywhere else. Since we are in Woodinville, the winemakers are our neighbors.”

won for best Syrah with the 2010 Darby Winery “Aunt Lee” Syrah and The King’s Cup for the highest scoring wine overall on a 25-point scale. Darby also won last year in the Rhone varietals and blends category with the 2008 Darby Winery Flipside, a Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre blend.

More than 30 wineries vinifying wine in Woodinville submitted wines into the competition this year in the categories of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varietals and blends, and Bordeaux blends. All wines were blinded and tasted in flights over three days of judging.

“The fact that it’s all a blind tasting is a great thing,” English said. “The fact that we are all winemakers and we are super critical—that makes it more special for me to be recognized.”

The 2010 Pearl won for best Sauvignon Blanc. The 2010 Autumn Chase Sundace Vineyard won for best Chardonnay. The 2010 Indomitable won for best Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2008 Ma Belle won for best Rhone varietal or blend. The 2008 Isabella won for best Bordeaux blend.  

The winning white wines will be featured in a complimentary wine tasting at the Fireside Cellars at Willows Lodge on Wednesday, March 21 from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. The winning red wines were featured in a complimentary wine tasting on Wednesday, March 7.  

Winning wineries will also be featured on the wine list. Further, guests buying wines at the winning wineries can bring the wines to Barking Frog free of corkage with a “Yes, You May” card available at the winning wineries.

Davis created the awards program last year in his first year, modeling after the Retrospective of Northwest Wines at Ray’s Boathouse, where he used to work. The Willows Lodge’s location in the heart of Woodinville wine country positioned the resort as the epicurean center of the wine community. Building community among the winemakers is part of Davis and Schmitt’s ambition for the Golden Grape Awards.

“A lot of winemakers say they don’t get to taste their neighbors' wine,” Davis said. "If other winemakers are making something really well, it raises the bar for them.

“What’s important for me is that the people who participate have a good time. We want to make it an award worth winning. I want to see the whole neighborhood turn out and feel honored when they win.”

Winemakers, in turn, are eager to participate in the completion.

“I don’t enter any other award competitions,” English said. “It’s important to support Willows Lodge. It’s great, too, because Barking Frog will run our wines on special for a month. It’s not just receiving a trophy and a 'good job' from the organizers because there’s nothing we can do with that.

“It’s a lot of fun participating. It’s always more fun when you win.”

Wine Pick of the Week: 2010 Alexandria Nicole Jet Black Syrah Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills

The husband-and-wife team of Jarrod and Ali Boyle initially intended to grow fruit to sell to winemakers in 1998 when they bought what would become their estate vineyard, Destiny Ridge. Growing wine grapes led to winemaking with particularly good results with Rhone varietals such as Syrah.

The 2010 Alexandria Nicole Jet Balck Syrah is a forward expression of Washington Syrah. Black cherries, blackberries, blueberries, black licorice and pine needles explode on the nose. Black cherries, blackberries and blueberries echo on the palate. The plush mid-palate leads to a lengthy finish of vanilla, a reminder of the American oak barrels used to age the wine, and a hint of white pepper.

This hedonistic wine pairs nicely with casual grilled meats such as the applewood grilled chicken sandwich at in Redmond Town Center. Grilled meats are a natural pair for Syrah, with its notes of smoke and spices.

Fewer than 300 cases of this wine were made. It is available for $25 at the Alexandria Nicole tasting room in the in Woodinville.

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