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Mercer Canyons tops Indy International with $17 Cab

Mercer Canyons tops Indy International with $17 Cab By on May 29, 2017 0 Rob Mercer at Spice Cabinet in the Horse Heaven Hills

Rob Mercer stands in Spice Cabinet Vineyard, a family planting in the Horse Heaven Hills that contributed to the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that topped the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition in Indiana. (Photo by Andy Perdue/Great Northwest Wine)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Washington wine took the triple crown at this month's 26th annual Indy International Wine Competition, led by the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon - a $17 wine from the Horse Heaven Hills - as best of show.

The sister brand for Mercer Estates in Prosser, Wash., received the award for Wine of the Year from the Purdue University judging. Barrister Winery in Spokane earned the trophy for Red Wine of the Year with its 2013 Dionysus Vineyard Petit Verdot. And College Cellars, the student-driven program at Walla Walla Community College, is touting its award for White Wine of the Year thanks to its 2016 Red Boar Vineyard Muscat Ottonel.

"That's a pretty good statement for Washington," Rob Mercer, owner of the family-operated Mercer Estates, told Great Northwest Wine.

Greg Lipsker, co-owner/co-winemaker at Barrister, said via email, "The triple crown at Indy is a tribute to the quality of the grapes being grown in Washington and truly a testament to the fact that Washington wines can hold their own and excel on the global stage."

There were 1,671 wines entered in the Indy International's commercial competition, which is directed by Jill Blume, enology specialist for Purdue's Department of Food Sciences. Her judging panel, which represented more than a dozen states, included Mark Chien of Oregon State University's Oregon Wine Research Institute, Morgan Lee of Two Vintners/Covington Cellars in Woodinville, wine educator Mary Studt of, Portland-based sommelier Jennifer Valenta of Wine Acumen and Bill Ward, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's James Beard Award-winning wine columnist. The competition was conducted May 24-25.

College Cellars adds chapter to Muscat history

Walla Walla Community College viticulture and enology students ham it up at Red Boar Vineyard, the birthplace of their award-winning 2016 Muscat Ottonel. (Photo by Greg Schnorr/Courtesy of Red Boar Vineyard)

It's worth noting that the College Cellars 2016 Muscat Ottonel reached the sweepstakes portion for best of show at last fall's Tri-Cities Wine Festival. That judging was staged less than two months after the grapes came off Red Boar Vineyard, and the Muscat project annually provides winemaking instructor Tim Donahue with a delicious teaching opportunity.

All total, College Cellars earned three double gold medals at the Indiana judging, which included its 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 Scholarship Red.

Cougar Crest in Walla Walla made an impression with judges, meriting a double gold and three gold medals - all for red wines. Tsillan Cellars showed the viticultural versatility of Lake Chelan as Shane Collins used estate fruit to grab double golds for 2016 Riesling and 2014 Malbec.

Gehringer burnishes reputation in British Columbia Walter Gehringer and his brother, Gordon, make wine for Gehringer Brother Estate Winery from estate vineyards on the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver, British Columbia, which is just north of Oroville, Wash.

Four decades ago in West Germany, Walter Gehringer learned winemaking at Geisenheim and his brother, Gordon, studied viticulture in Weinsberg in preparation for launching Gehringer Brother Estate Winery on the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver, British Columbia. (Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery, the historic operation in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, added to its international résumé at the Midwest competition. Wine Press Northwest magazine's "King of the Platinum" earned more invitations to the year-end best-of-the-best judging with its best of class 2016 Gewürztraminer Schönburger and gold medals for 2016 Ehrenfelser and 2016 Old Vines Auxerrois. Each wine retails for $15.

Zerba Cellars in the Walla Walla Valley picked up gold medals for its 2011 Wild Z Red Wine, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Estate Syrah.

Spangler Vineyards in Southern Oregon's Umpqua Valley displayed the promise of Italian varieties in the Northwest with a double gold for its 2015 Estate Dolcetto and gold for a 2014 Zinfandel. Patrick Spangler is particularly proud of his young Dolcetto, which he bottled April 11. He harvested it Sept. 14 from his Roseburg vineyard at nearly 27 Brix during the historically hot vintage.

"Mine is much riper and darker than most I have seen," he said via text. "The dry farming really keeps the berry and bunch sizes down."

Mercer Canyons 2014 Cab available in 47 states

Jessica Munnell, a graduate of Washington State University and a product of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, is the winemaker for Mercer Estates and Mercer Canyons in Prosser, Wash. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

It shouldn't be too difficult for anyone across the country to judge the Mercer Canyons 2014 Cab for themselves. Richland winemaker Jessica Munnell produced 4,000 cases of that wine, and thanks to Mercer's partnership with industry giant Southern Wine and Spirits, Mercer Canyon wines are available in 47 states. In the Pacific Northwest, look for the refreshed label at Albertsons, QFC and Yoke's Fresh Markets.

"That's not a bad way to end the week," Mercer quipped Friday. "It seems that everything coming out of that 2014 vintage is awesome, so this doesn't surprise me. We're excited to get those wines out there."

About Eric Degerman

Eric Degerman is the president and CEO of Great Northwest Wine. He is a journalist with more than 30 years of daily newspaper experience and has been writing about wine since 1998. He co-founded Wine Press Northwest with Andy Perdue and served as its managing editor for 15 years. He is a frequent wine judge along the West Coast and contributor to Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, the region's longest-running golf publication.