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Wineman’s Toast: NCW labels impress Wine Press judges

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Dean and Heather Neff, owners of Nefarious Cellars.

Hard Row to Hoe, that hard to find winery near Manson, scored big in Wine Press Northwest’s Platinum Awards.

The winery’s Sangiovese and Pinot sparkler and Desire Cabernet Franc won platinum medals in the taste-off of hundreds of Northwest wines that had already won top awards at other competitions this year.

Hard Row to Hoe also won a double gold for its 2010 Marsanne.

Tsillan Cellars took home the highest award — one of few double platinum awards given — for its 2009 Reserve Syrah. I’ve tried this wine and it’s a stunner. Tsillan also took a gold medal for its delicious Belissima Rosa.

There were many other big NCW winners in the competition. Mellisoni Vineyards of Chelan took two platinum medals for its white wines.

Jones of Washington, Wine Press NW’s Winery of the Year, took a platinum and two double gold medals home. Milbrandt Vineyards had a platinum and three double golds.

Other big local winners were Tildio Winery, Martin-Scott Winery, Icicle Ridge Winery, Lake Chelan Winery, Vin Du Lac Winery and Malaga Springs Winery.

More than 550 wines were entered from more than 200 wineries from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia.

A great showing by NCW wineries! There are some world class wines being produced right here.

Karma’s bubbly scores points

Lake Chelan’s Karma Vineyards posted some nice scores on its Facebook site after a few of its sparkling wines were rated in the latest issue of Wine Spectator magazine.

Wine Spectator Dec. 31 issue featured “Special Report: The Top 100, the most exciting wines of 2012” and awarded these scores:

89 — Karma Vineyards Estate Pink Méthode Champenoise 2009, “Vivid and succulent, showing a smooth feel to the delicate watermelon and citrus flavors, with toasted bread notes adding interest on the finish.”

88 — Karma Vineyards Méthode Champenoise Brut de Brut 2009, “Light and refreshing, with an earthy edge to the grapefruit and apple flavors, finishing with a tobacco note.”

86 — Karma Vineyards Méthode Champenoise Brut 2009, “Light and tangy, with a gingerbread note and a sour edge mingling with lively citrus flavors.”

Get more info at goodkarmawines.com.

Boudreaux cab enriches special occasion

Knowing that I would soon undergo the pliers and drill at a couple of dentist’s offices, Carolyn, a dear friend and fantastic cook, took pity on me and made me a wonderful meal.

A thick shoulder steak from an organically fed lamb raised on Stemilt Hill deserved a wine meant for special occasions.

A review bottle of Boudreaux Cellars 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon provided by owner and winemaker Rob Newsom seemed just the wine.

Boudreaux wines are definitely special occasion wines. The bottles themselves let you know you’re living high. Thick, heavy glass in a classic shape, topped with a thick coat of red wax: a presentation worthy of royalty.

And what’s inside is pretty darn special too. Newsom blended wines made from seven of the state’s most prestigious and oldest vineyards for this complex cabernet.

Shimmering ruby hues and aromatics of berry and cedar with a slight whiff of almond were its exciting first impressions. On taste, raspberry, cherry and strawberry flavors dominate giving way to hints of black tea, tobacco and licorice.

The wine is light, well balanced with plenty of complex flavors that linger long in the mouth. Even at five years old, there’s plenty of tannin that would likely smooth out and continue to improve with a few more years in the cellar. It’s a sensational gift wine.

At $55, you don’t have to be royalty to afford it, but it’s likely an expense left for time or event when you want to make an impression.

The meal was impressive as well, and the wine proved a great match.

Nefarious picked for world wine list

Nefarious Cellars is the only North Central Washington winery to show up on Wine Enthusiast magazine’s list of 2012’s Top 100 wines. The list was released last month.

The magazine gave Nefarious Cellars’ 2011 Stone’s Throw Vineyard Estate Grown Riesling 94 points and put it at number 55 on it’s list of the world’s best wines sampled by its reviewers this year.

This marvelous, off-dry Riesling, from an estate vineyard just outside the Lake Chelan AVA, is built upon delicately-woven threads of lemon, orange, apricot and cantaloupe, with a smattering of spun sugar,” editors wrote. “Nefarious just keeps going from strength to strength.” The wine sells for $18.

Dean and Heather Neff planted a test vineyard in the Methow Valley in 1998, purchased property above Lake Chelan in 2001 and opened their winery in 2006. The awards — for their reds as well as white wines — have come increasingly often ever since.

An amazing 10 Washington wines made the Top 100 list, showing that Washington is definitely improving its stature in the wine world and among the magazine’s wine reviewers who sampled more than 15,500 world wines this year.

Four Washington wines were picked for Wine Spectator magazine’s recently released Top 100 list. None were from NCW, but it’s just a matter of time.

Two wines from Milbrandt Vineyards in Mattawa were picked for Wine Spectator’s list of 100 Outstanding Values. Milbrandt 2010 Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon at $15 and its 2010 Traditions Riesling, $13, both scored 90 points.

Ski and sip deals

Wenatchee Wine Country and Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort have a good deal going for wine lovers who want to sample a few sips after a day of thrills on the hills.

Mission Ridge season pass holders can take advantage of discounts at 17 Wenatchee Wine Country wineries. Day and season-pass holders also get waived tasting fees at all of the wineries.

For a complete list of wineries involved and directions to each one, check out the Wenatchee Wine Country website at wenatcheewines.com.

A persuasive brew from our Bavarian town

Leavenworth’s Icicle Brewing Co. and brewmaster Dean Priebe have done it again.

After winning a keg full of awards at various national, international and regional competitions this year — the brewery’s first full year in production — Icicle Brewing adds yet another prestigious award for its newest seasonal ale.

Icicle’s Dark Persuasion German Chocolate Ale showed its persuasive powers at the recent 2012 Winter Beer Fest in Seattle. Inspired by the flavors of German Chocolate Cake, the ale was a nearly unanimous favorite at the two-day festival.

The ale topped the list for most samples sold during the festival. It also won first place in the festival’s People’s Choice category. Priebe describes the beer as delicate dark chocolate with a whisper of coconut, an ale that lets you have your cake and drink it too.

Owned by Oliver and Pam Brulotte, the brewery offers five steady brews plus a rotating wheat beer and changing assortment of seasonal beers at its tasting room at 935 Front St., Leavenworth.

U.S. wine consumption runneth over

Last month, I saw an interesting article complete with lots of graphs and data about U.S. wine consumption. The piece was written by Jeffrey Lamy, a wine consultant and Yale graduate, for enobytes.com.

According to Lamy’s research, Los Angeles and New York City areas are far and away the areas where most wine is purchased. That’s to be expected as the nation’s most populated cities.

But Seattle is one of the nation’s fastest growing imbibers of wine. Wine consumption increased nearly 28 percent to 17.6 million gallons between 2005 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. I bet you didn’t know the bureau tracks how much you drink.

You can bet a lot of that wine was made from Eastern Washington grapes by Eastern Washington wineries.

Seattle is ninth on the list of U.S. metropolitan areas with highest wine consumption, lagging far behind Los Angeles that tops the list with a staggering 71.2 million gallons in 2011, up 12 percent from five years ago.

West Coast cities of San Franscisco and Portland are also high on the list of wine consuming areas.

Nearly every major U.S. city has had double-digit increases in its wine consumption in the past five years.

It all adds up to a lot of wine, and maybe a lot of opportunity for wine entrepreneurs.