Having just completed another year of judging for the SIP Northwest Wine Awards, it's time for me to reflect again on a few trends and developments that two days of blind tasting and judging reveal. If you're interested in reading about some of the unique challenges of judging this kind of event, check out my most recent column.
My first takeaway is, as always, to marvel at the sheer variety. Almost every grape imaginable was represented, at least in one wine, and it's clear that local winemakers are limited only by their imagination. That's not to say that all those experimental varietals were good...but success is hard to come by without first failing a few times.
That said, there's no doubt that the Northwest still has a lot of work to do when it comes to understanding how important aromatics are to wine enjoyment. I tasted a number of wines that were, from a flavor/palate perspective, quite fine, but had all kinds of off aromas: volatile acidity, over-the-top sulfur additions, and the occasional runaway Brettanomyces culture. Other wines seemingly lacked any aromas: it's hard to fathom a Gewurztraminer/Riesling/Viognier blend that didn't smell like anything. While not everyone smells their wine before they taste it, those of us who do have a hard time overlooking such unpleasant, aggressive, or non-existent odors.
In a big, catch-all tasting like this one, the good and bad both come in sizable quantities, but the same could be said about virtually any region in the world. This just happens to be the one I call home!