The 2021 Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival Judged Competition was one for the record books. It featured a record number of entries, participating wineries, and Gold and Double Gold medalists. It was also capped with a pleasant surprise: the Best in Show award for the top point-receiving wine ended in a tie.
The sixth annual event, organized by the Whatcom Beer and Wine Foundation, took place at the Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel and Conference Center on July 3, 9, and 10, 2021. 351 wines from Oregon and Washington were blind tasted by a panel of seven judges over the three-day period.
Best in Show honors were shared by a Washington red and a Washington white wine; the Callan Cellars 2019 GSM from Woodinville winemaker Lisa Callan, and the Longship Cellars 2020 Mind and Memory Sauvignon Blanc from winemaker Kyle Welch in Richland.
Both wines originated from the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area. Callan’s blend of 84% syrah, 14% grenache, and 3% mourvèdre came from Boushey Vineyards, while Welch’s first-ever sauvignon blanc was sourced from the Valley’s Sugarloaf Vineyard.
There were plenty of other notable award winners, with seven wineries earning three or more Double Golds (unanimous gold scores) from the judges.
In addition to Callan Cellars’ three Double Golds, four other Washington wineries scored triple doubles: Lake Chelan’s Tsillan Cellars, Wit Cellars in Prosser, Quincy-based Jones of Washington, and Van Arnam Vineyards in Zillah.
Two wineries also earned an event-record four Double Gold medals: Zerba Cellars, based in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and Thurston Wolfe Winery in Prosser, Washington.
Participating wineries from the Whatcom and Skagit County areas also fared exceptionally well in the competition.
Vartanyan Estate Winery in Bellingham had a standout performance as one of the judging favorites; winemaker and owner Margarita Vartanyan entered 14 wines and came away with 14 medals. Her 2018 Cabernet Franc Reserve and 2017 Tempranillo aged in American, French, and Russian oak barrels scored Double Golds, while seven of her other entered wines received Gold medals.
Other honored Whatcom County wineries included Dynasty Cellars, which received three golds for its 2016 DCQ, 2017 Riesling, and Irresponsible Red Wine Blend; Samson Estates Winery, recipient of a Double Gold for its Oro Hazelnut Wine plus three Silvers; and GLM Wine Co., which scored a Silver for its 2020 Pinot Noir Nouveau.
Skagit County wineries were also recognized for several medal-worthy wines including Double Gold awards to the Eagle Haven Winery 2017 Sangiovese, Skagit Cellars 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Skagit Crest Vineyard & Winery 2018 Pinot Noir, and Tulip Valley Winery 2019 Gewurztraminer. Gold medals also went to Bertelsen Winery’s 2017 Merlot and 2019 Cabernet Franc.
A complete list of all 2021 medal winners along with individual wine point scores is available at whatcombeerandwinefoundation.org/wine-festival.