My Experience at the Great Northwest Wine Competition


I’ve tasted a lot of wine during my journey as a wine business owner and wine blogger, but being a wine judge for the inaugural Great Northwest Wine Competition was an immersion in wine like I’ve never experienced. I was part of a panel of 4 judges and tasted over 200 wines in a 30 hour period. In total our group of 16 judges tasted and evaluated  over 850 wines to determine the Greatest Northwest Wines. is a new project from Andy Purdue and Eric Degerman, formerly of Winepress Northwest. According to Eric and Andy, ” On Great Northwest Wine, we will write daily about wine. This will include news, features, updates, photos and videos. We will also post reviews of the latest Northwest wines, tasted blind by our panel of wine experts.” I highly recommend following their new journey.


What were my favorites? Read the whole article and you’ll find out.

All wines are judged blind, meaning that the judges do not know the winery, region or price of the wine. The only knowledge given to each panel is the grape varietal (or varietals for blends) are being tasted. Wine is brought to the group of four judges in flights of 10-15 wines. The group is given about 30 minutes per flight to evaluate, take notes and discuss the level of medal to be awarded. Wines are awarded medals based on the average of the panel discussion.

  • NM – equals no medal for the particular wine. About 15%of the wines our group tasted fell in this category. Any wines thought to be flawed by poor storage or being corked were given a second evaluation with a new pour from a new bottle.
  • BRONZE – Our group considered these wines to be varietally correct, of good quality, and we would either enjoy a glass of it and would recommend it as a wine to be tried by our friends. My guess is that 40% of the wines fell in this category.
  • SILVER – Wines in this category are above average, show great character, and provide something of interest. Many of these wines were considered GOLD by one judge but didn’t necessarily get the necessary votes to be a top wine of the flight. Approximately 20% of the wines seemed to fall in this category.
  • GOLD – Wines winning this award are of exceptional quality and stood out among the group as having layers of flavor and being varietally correct. Our group awarded 20 GOLD medals, about 10%.
  • DOUBLE GOLD – Wines receiving this award were unanimous GOLD from each of the four judges in the panel. In the competition only 11 wines received this distinction. Seek these out!


Going into a tasting like this, I had a few misconceptions and a few concerns. I was very impressed by the level of integrity the Great Northwest Wines team held for the competition. Judges were never allowed in the back room and each judge took their roll very seriously.

Each wine received great consideration in the review. Our group of four included a wine steward at a Hood River hotel, a winemaker, myself, and a long time wine judging panelist for Winepress Northwest. From time to time judges would fight for wines they considered deserving of a medal. Other times we were all in mutual agreement.

One of my concerns was palate fatigue. Starting wine tasting at 8:30am is odd and I’ve often heard of mass tastings and wondered if only the biggest and most intense wines stood out to receive the awards. I appreciated the pace of the tasting and made sure to regularly cleanse my palate with water, crackers, olives, and cheese. One lesson learned is that a good wine will always stand out and a bad wine is easy to identify, even after 200 wines. As my teeth got more and more purple there could be a blur between SILVER and BRONZE but having the group of four helped keep things honest.

Thanks again to Eric and Andy for the invitation. Nectar Tasting Room wishes you all the best in your new journey.


WHITE: Unique to the Northwest, taking BEST WHITE of the show Abacela 2012 Albariño, Umpqua Valley, $18

WHITE: We tasted 15 Sauvignon Blanc’s and none of them got gold, but this Nectar winery was the best of the Group. Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $18

PINOT NOIR: We tasted 10 Pinot Noir wines. My favorite was the Ribbon Ridge Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir, Ribbon Ridge, $32

RED BLEND: One of the few Double Gold’s awarded Col Solare 2008 Red, Columbia Valley, $70

CABERNET: Love that a local favorite was blindly selected Nodland Cellars 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $38

OTHER RED: A Nectar winery gets props: Northwest Cellars 2009 Petit Verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, $36

OTHER RED: Another Double Gold Amelia Wynn Winery 2010 Sangiovese, Red Mountain, $25


Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

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