Having recently judged the Oregon Wine Competition, I had an opportunity to survey the Oregon landscape. As it turned out, we had many good Pinot noirs and Rieslings for the ’08 and ’09 vintage. Some of the standouts , which I sometimes refer to as ‘diamonds in the rough’, include a handful of gems.

Zerba Cellars for example, kicked it with their ’08 white blend & ’07 red blend. The ’06 Merlot & Syrah was tasty as was their ’07 Mourvedre.  As for Chardonnay, the ’08 Phelps Creek Vineyards and the’09 Stoller Vineyards rocked it.

There were many great Pinot’s but the most impressionable were the  ’07 Emerson Vineyards, ‘08 Amity Vineyards, ‘08 Cardwell Hills, ‘08 Cathedral Ridge, ‘08 Spindrift Cellars, and a late harvest by Ankeny Winery.

Emerson Vineyards did well in the Riesling category.  If you haven’t tried their wine, go out and grab yourself a bottle. They continue to bring it year after year.  Another favorite was the ’09 Pudding Ridge Riesling, which dances in your mouth with high and low notes – complex and pretty.

There were a few great Gewürztraminers including the ‘08 Honeywood Winery, which had a slight lemon and lychee flavor, and the ‘09 Airlie Winery Gewürztraminer was interesting with an exotic fruit forward nose with good balance and sweetness. Also impressive was the ‘08 Amity Vineyards Pinot Blanc with its flavors of tangerine, zippy lemon and apple.  The Sauvignon Blanc category was small but the ’09 Dry Hollow Vineyards was interesting – it had a touch of unexpected sweetness but very likeable.

If you haven’t tried some of the wines listed above, I’d recommend giving them a try.

On the flip side, I was a little disappointed in the quality of the ’08 and ’09 Pinot Gris represented – I expected this category to shine, but only a few made an impression. Another disappointment was the lack of entries for the Müller-Thurgau and sparkler category. I think Oregon makes good examples at reasonable prices, yet there weren’t many entries to judge. Hopefully, they’ll have more entries in this category for next year’s event.

…and if you happen to be in Salem on Friday, August 27, you’ll have an opportunity to taste some of the medal winners and be the first in the know on who wins “Best of White” and “Best of Red”. If you can’t wait, I take bribes. Just kidding. For ticket information, visit The Oregon Wine Competition.