Judging at this year's Washington State Fair was a true pleasure. In addition to it being a very well organized event with a dedicated team of volunteers and experienced judges, it afforded me an opportunity I wasn't expecting: I fell in love with Washington Cabernet Sauvignon!
Cabernet Sauvignon has never been my favorite -- I've always first loved "other" varietals like Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Garnacha, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese. (I of course have really enjoyed some fantastic Bordeaux and a very well made California Cab, but I often find them over powering and just well, not my style.)
In general, each of the Cab flights in this competition showed strong wines with a great balance of ripeness, complexity and finish. None too ridiculously huge and tannic, and there wasn't the flood of watered down nondescript variety one sometimes sees in competitions. Really impressive, consistent and exciting -- perhaps Washington really is "the perfect climate for wine".
My panel also judged Viognier, Pinot Gris, proprietary and dessert whites, as well as red blends. Below are some of my favorites -- keep in mind that during competitions there isn't time to write lengthy tasting notes:
Jones of Washington 2006 - deep nose of blackberry jam, bell pepper, cedar and notes of baking bread and graphite
Dusted Valley Vintners Reserve 2006 - raspberry, fig, cocoa notes with a nice long finish balanced by pine and cedar characters
Maryhill Reserve 2006 - black and sour cherry with graphite, espresso and a super long finish
Wineglass Cellars Elerding Vineyard 2004 - sweet black fruit with pencil shavings, cigar box and an elegant, smooth finish
William Church Winery Connor Lee Vineyard 2008 - orange peel, red apple and citrus with a little spritz at the finish
Tagaris Alice Vineyard 2006 - raspberry, pepper corn and cinnamon sticks with a very long finish... really nice!
Kestrel Vintners "Pure Platinum 5" NV - pretty muscat-like nose with mango, apple and a balanced, pretty finish (this is a blend of Viognier and Gewürtztraminer)