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"A Pacific Coast Shootout"
Northwest Versus California

  by Fred McMillin

Prologue

Duck Pond Cellars  
On October 4, 1988 I asked the Dean of American Enology, Maynard Amerine (U.C.-Davis) whether the wines of the Pacific Northwest might some day match those of California? He replied that their potential was great, but that the right varietals would have to be planted in the right places.

 

The Rest of the Story

In the following decade, Oregon and Washington vintners have found some of those right places (the Willamette Valley, the Columbia River Valley, etc.) and some of those "right varietals" (primarily Bordeaux and Burgundy types). To see if they are gaining on California, we matched a number of Northwest wines against their California counterparts... same vintage, same price, same varietal. Here are the results.

 

Pacific Northwest Versus California

Winner Winning Margin (votes) Price Year The Wine
7th - Cal. 3 $10 '97 Chardonnay by Charles Michell, El Dorado
6th - Cal. 8 $14 '95 Chardonnay by Buena Vista, Carneros
5th - NW. 9 $10 '98 Pinot Noir Vin Gris (pink) by King Estate, Oregon
4th - NW. 10 $10 '96 Pinot Noir by Lorane Valley Winery, Oregon
3rd - Cal. 13 $12 '95 Cabernet Sauvignon by Pedroncelli, Three Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley
2nd - NW. 16 $9 '98 Chardonnay by Duck Pond, Columbia Valley, Wash. (pictured)
1st - Cal. 34 $9 '98 Gewurztraminer by Chateau St. Jean, Sonoma County
 

Comment

The Northwest doesn't look bad, winning three of seven matches. As Professor Amerine said, the potential is there.

Note—This was a small tasting, with only two reds, and no wine above $14. Since the situation looks pretty competitive, we'll put together a larger program, including plenty of pricier reds. Stay tuned.

 

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