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The Pacific Northwest shines at Decanter World Wine Awards

Two wines from the ‘Upper Left, USA’ as they like to say in the Pacific Northwest, took top honours at Decanter World Wine Awards 2023.

Results from Decanter World Wine Awards 2023 have been unveiled with a fascinating set of results, including some big wins for the United States’ Pacific Northwest.

In it’s 20th edition, the world’s largest wine competition saw 18,250 wines judged from 57 countries with only 50 Best in Show and 125 Platinum medals awarded, together making up just 0.9% of all wines tasted.

Long awaited, wines from Oregon and Washington State feature in this year’s top percentile of medal winners, with two wines awarded 97 points by the competition’s expert judging panel.

Oregon’s Best in Show

Oregon’s Archery Summit, Dundee Hills Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and the promising 2021 vintage took one of the 50 Best in Show awards at this year’s competition, scoring 97 points. 

‘No one is naïve about the difficulties and challenges of growing Pinot Noir away from its home in Burgundy (even there, of course, it isn’t easy). Pinot has taken to Oregon’s Willamette Valley with remarkable success, though, and especially to the red-soiled Dundee Hills,’ the judges commented.

‘This 2021 wine is a fine example of the charm, balance and satisfaction that fine Dundee Hills Pinot can provide. Translucent scarlet in colour, with magnetically attractive raspberry scents, once on the palate the wine is soft-contoured yet energetic, with arresting intensity of fruit,’ they said.

Here, they added, ‘the raspberry shades into something more curranty and tenacious, and there are refreshing bitter notes in the finish, too, with a hint of earthiness perhaps derived from the clays of volcanic origin in which the vines grow. The warm edge of cool climate and it makes for beautiful drinking’.

Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is making strides in the international competition; this being the third time Pinot Noir from this acclaimed Willamette Valley sub-region has been awarded a Best in Show medal. Domaine Serene was last awarded this top accolade in 2020 for its Mark Bradford Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 and once before in 2016 for its Winery Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012.

‘We’re very honoured,’ said Archery Summit winemaker, Ian Burch. ‘Our export sales person had suggested that we enter, and because it was Decanter and the reputation of the event, we thought it was a great idea.

‘As a winemaker, I tend to gravitate towards people who make wines that I like. I tend to make wines that I enjoy myself. But it’s so rewarding when your wine gets recognition like this, especially from a body like the DWWA.’   

Winemaker Ian Burch. Credit: Archery Summit

The 2021 Archery Summit Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is a blend of several sites (they farm 27ha in total in the Dundee Hills). ‘This wine is a blend of our blocks. It’s not a single vineyard; it’s like all these pieces that come together. And we think they coalesced in a very charming way,’ said Burch.

‘It’s just very validating. We’ve got a lot of work to do; we’re building a new tasting room right now. So we’re very busy, and you get caught up in that, but news like this is absolutely wonderful and makes us feel very good about what we’re doing.’

The Dundee Hills won more acclaim with Domaine Serene’s Two Barns Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 taking home an additional Gold medal.

Platinum for Walla Walla Washington

One of only two Platinum medals awarded to the United States went to Washington’s Bledsoe Family Winery for its 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the first Platinum award for a Washington wine in six years, last awarded to Reininger‘s Walla Walla Valley Syrah 2013.

DWWA judges described the 97-point wine as having ‘ripe blue and blackberry notes with floral quality, minty cherries and elegant oak spice undertones. There’s a dense core of dark plummy fruit and chocolatey texture on the palate, supported by refreshing acidity. It’s concentrated and rounded’.

Drew Bledoe (left) and Josh McDaniels (right) Credit: Bledsoe Family Winery

Josh McDaniels, Bledsoe Family Winery’s director of winemaking, explained: ‘This Cabernet is made to be “quintessentially Walla Walla” in our minds. It is sourced from historic vineyard blocks like Seven Hills Block 1 and an old block at Pepper Bridge vineyard, alongside some of our own estate fruit.

‘Both Drew (Bledsoe) and I are from Walla Walla and we take pride in contributing to the valley’s reputation. Walla Walla shows great diversity for such a small area. This allows us to create wines of complexity,’ he said.

McDaniels added that the growing season in 2020 had been ‘truly fantastic’, providing a ‘much-needed silver lining’ in the midst of the global pandemic and unfortunate wildfire pressure in other parts of the country.

‘The Pacific Northwest is still so young in terms of its wine industry. The DWWA gives us a great global platform to highlight all that is going on here. The publication is extremely well respected, the competition is well executed, and operated by true professionals,’ he concluded.

Search all DWWA 2023 award-winning wines from the US

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