2020 results

Williamson Vineyards young Albariño rises to top of 2020 Idaho Wine Competition

2020 results
Mike Williamson, his sister, Beverly Williamson-Mack, and cousin Patrick Williamson co-own and operate Williamson Vineyards in the Sunnyslope Wine District in Caldwell, Idaho. (Photo courtesy of Williamson Vineyards)

CALDWELL, Idaho — The Williamson family has been looking for a distinctively different dry white wine to pour in their tasting room on Idaho’s historic Sunnyslope in the Snake River Valley.

Judges at the 2020 Idaho Wine Competition believe the Williamsons made a delicious decision when they planted the brilliant Spanish white grape Albariño. The Williamson Vineyards 2019 Albariño was voted as best of show, topping a field of 160 entries.

“We’ve found more people are looking for drier white wines, and we were looking to diversify our portfolio,” said Beverly Williamson-Mack, who owns Williamson Vineyards with her grape-growing brother, Mike, and viticulturist cousin Patrick. “Viognier has always been a consistent seller in our tasting room, and we didn’t want to go with Chardonnay because there’s a bit of a glut of it in Idaho.”

The Williamsons released their inaugural bottling of Albariño ($23) — just 120 cases — to wine club members in June. Tasting room sales have been brisk since the family was allowed to reopen its tasting room in the wake of the pandemic. The buzz surrounding news of the best-of-show wine provides them with a talking point when introducing their Albariño to customers traveling along Highway 55 near the Snake River.

“It’s super light and fresh and delicate and almost exotic with a bit of jasmine on it,” Williamson-Mack said. “I tell people, ‘If you stop sniffing and tasting it too soon, you will miss some amazing elements.’ ”

Telaya’s Syrah-based Turas tops field of red wine again

2020 results
Carrie and Earl Sullivan of Telaya Wine Co., in Garden City, Idaho, used their Syrah-based Turas Journey Red Wine to win the award for Best Red Wine at the Idaho Wine Competition for the second time in three years. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Earl and Carrie Sullivan at Telaya Wine Co., can make a claim for their Syrah-based Turas Journey as the Snake River Valley’s top red wine project, using their expression from the 2018 vintage to win the award for Best Red Wine at the Idaho Wine Competition for the second time in three years. It was one of three gold medals this year for Telaya, which was recognized for its 2018 Scoria Vineyard Malbec and 2019 Carrie’s Select Chardonnay.

Garden City winemaker Melanie Krause of Cinder Wines and Krause & Schnerr Family Cellars amassed six gold medals at this year’s Idaho Wine Competition. She used her 2019 46 Brix Riesling Ice Wine to win the award for Best Sweet Wine. Earlier this summer, that same wine won the same award at the eighth annual Cascadia International Wine Competition.

For the second straight year, Idaho’s top sparkling wine came from young 3100 Cellars and Hailey Minder, who also makes wine for the Sullivans at Telaya.

Also winning multiple gold medals were Camas Prairie Winery, Clearwater Canyon Cellars, Koenig Vineyards, Huston Vineyards/Chicken Dinner Wines, young Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery in the Lewis-Clark Valley, Roghani Vineyards and Hat Ranch Winery/Vale Wine Co. Williamson Vineyards also won a gold medal for its 2018 Harvest Moon Red Wine – a Mourvèdre-based blend produced by Greg Koenig.

Koenig Vineyards cellar continues to showcase talent

2020 results
Greg Koenig stands in Lanae Ridge Vineyard on the Sunnyslope of Idaho, established in 2016 by longtime Micron executive Jay Hawkins. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

For the fourth time in five years, the winemaking talent in the cellar at Koenig Vineyards — which shares a dusty road on the Sunnyslope with the Williamsons — produced the top wine in the Idaho Wine Competition.

In 2016, Greg Koenig’s 2014 Botrytis Single Berry Select Riesling, a late-harvest Riesling made in the style of a German trockenbeerenauslese, stole the show.

In 2018, Martin Fujishin, Koenig’s longtime assistant winemaker, came out on top with his Lost West Winery 2017 Riesling.

Last year, Koenig sold his showpiece winery to James and Sydney Nederend, who later saw their Koenig Vineyards 2018 Riesling Ice Wine wow judges.

This week, the Williamsons gave credit to James Nederend and Fujishin as the winemaking team behind their rising star Albariño.

“We’re really pleased with how it’s been received in the tasting room and pleased with how it’s performed in the vineyard,” Williamson-Mack said. “It’s been a pretty easy learning curve up to this point.”

Albariño planting inspired by Abacela, Fujishin

2020 results
Earl Jones was working as an immunology researcher in the Gulf Coast when he purchased land in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley in 1992. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Somewhere, Earl Jones of iconic Abacela in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley is smiling. The man responsible for pioneering and promoting Tempranillo in the U.S., also is seen as the country’s leading producer of Albariño. 

However, the Williamsons credit Fujishin for helping to lead them down the path of Albariño. In 2018, the Williamsons established 2 acres of Albariño, and one of those acres is farmed on a contract with Fujishin, who owns Fujishin Family Cellars and young Free Dog Wines with Teresa Moye.

“Martin talked about Abacela quite a bit, and we got glowing reviews of their work from anyone I talked to about Albariño,” Patrick Williamson said. “We wanted to find a white that can handle our winters that wasn’t Chardonnay or Riesling.”

Patrick, who graduated from Washington State University’s integrated plant science program and College Cellars at Walla Walla Community College, came across a bit of Albariño during his 2012 internship with E. & J. Gallo. However, he’s been amazed with the early success of the variety at his family’s expanding Hoskins Road site.

“To get such an award for a wine made with second-leaf fruit is just nuts,” Patrick said. “Last year, Mike and I were blown away with the early estimates. We told the crew, ‘You need to drop half the fruit to get it to 3.5 tons per acre.’ It was wanting to throw 7 tons (per acre).”

So far, the 2020 vintage in the Snake River Valley is tracking similar to those of 2013 or 2014. If everything plays out, Williamson figures to harvest Albariño in the second half of September at around 23 Brix — along the lines of the 2020 Idaho Wine Competition’s top wine.

“We’ve decided that this wine is a vegetarian’s dream,” Williamson-Mack said. “Veggies off the grill is what I’ve been enjoying it with. Seafood, too. And it can handle a cream sauce that’s not too heavy.”

Patrick recently returned from a salmon fishing trip in Alaska. 

“They made a paella, and that Albariño did very well with it,” he said. “Any Spanish dish or anything with spices.”

This year’s judges were Lane Hoss, wine buyer and Vice-President of operations for Anthony’s Restaurants, which is headquartered in Kirkland, Wash.; Ellen Landis, certified sommelier/journalist, St. Petersburg, Fla., Tim Norris, wine buyer, Seattle; Ilene Dudunake, owner of A New Vintage Wine Shop, Meridian, Idaho; Kathryn House, a Master of Wine candidate and a wine educator via her House of Wine program in Boise, Idaho; and Jeff Ritchey, owner of California-based Winerat Consulting who now lives in the Snake River Valley. Ironically, Anthony’s recently restarted construction on a new restaurant in downtown Boise.

Ken Robertson, a columnist for Wine Press Northwest magazine in Kennewick, Wash., served as a moderator. The Idaho Wine Competition is a collaboration between the Idaho Wine Commission, led by executive director Moya Dolsby, and Great Northwest Wine LLC. The judging was staged using social distancing safety guidelines at Koenig Vineyards near Caldwell, Idaho.

11th Idaho Wine Competition results

2020 results
The Williamson Vineyards 2019 Albariño, produced from second-leaf fruit grown by Williamson family on the Sunnyslope Wine District in the Snake River Valley, was voted best of show at the 2020 Idaho Wine Competition. (Photo by Traci Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Best of show, best white wine, double gold medal
Williamson Vineyards 2019 Albariño, Snake River Valley $23
Best red wine
Telaya Wine Co. 2018 Turas Journey Red Wine, Snake River Valley $34
Best sparkling wine
3100 Cellars 2016 Whitewater Sparkling Wine, Snake River Valley $36
Best rosé, double gold medal
Koenig Vineyards 2019 Dry Rosé, Snake River Valley $18
Best sweet wine, double gold medal
Cinder Wines 2019 46 Brix Riesling Ice Wine, Snake River Valley $25
Double gold medal
Camas Prairie Winery 2019 Strawberry Mead, Idaho $14
Cinder Wines 2019 Rosé of Cinsault, Snake River Valley $23
Hat Ranch Winery 2019 Estate Dry Moscato, Snake River Valley $18
Koenig Vineyards 2018 Lanae Ridge Vineyard Sangiovese, Snake River Valley $28
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc, Washington $28
Snake River Winery 2014 Arena Valley Vineyard Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley $17
Williamson Vineyards 2018 Harvest Moon Red, Snake River Valley $20
Gold medal
Bitner Vineyards 2019 Reserve Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $24
Camas Prairie Winery 2019 Raspberry Mead, Idaho $14
Chicken Dinner Wines 2019 White Wine, Snake River Valley $16
Cinder Wines 2019 Small Lot Series Ville de Jardin, Snake River Valley $30
Cinder Wines 2018 Valentina Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot – Malbec, Snake River Valley $30
Cinder Wines 2019 Off-Dry Riesling, Snake River Valley $23
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2018 Roosevelt Ridge Vineyard Coco’s Reserve Petite Sirah, Washington $38
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2017 Coco’s Reserve Selway, Washington $45
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2018 Umiker Vineyard Estate Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley $28
Domaine Holesinsky 2019 Gertschen Vineyard Buhljolais Rosé of Syrah, Idaho $12
Huston Vineyards 2016 Syrah, Snake River Valley $31
Indian Creek Winery 2018 Viognier, Snake River Valley $16
Jovinea Cellars 2018 Petit Verdot, Washington $30
Koenig Vineyards 2016 Cuvée Alden Private Reserve Red Wine, Snake River Valley $50
Krause & Schnerr Family Cellars 2019 Laissez Faire Red Wine, Snake River Valley $19
Parma Ridge Winery 2017 Carménère, Washington $39
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2018 Estate Vineyards Grenache, Lewis-Clark Valley $38
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2018 Estate Vineyards Syrah, Lewis-Clark Valley $36
Roghani Vineyards 2014 Riesling, Snake River Valley $30
Roghani Vineyards 2014 Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley $27
Telaya Wine Co. 2019 Carrie’s Select Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $25
Telaya Wine Co. 2018 Scoria Vineyard Malbec, Snake River Valley $40
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Lewis-Clark Valley $17
Vale Wine Co. 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $28
Vale Wine Co. 2019 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $21
Veer Wine Project 2017 Avignon Red Wine, Washington $29
Silver medal
Bitner Vineyards 2016 Barbera, Snake River Valley $55
Bitner Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Franc, Snake River Valley $40
Bitner Vineyards 2016 Merlot, Snake River Valley $35
Bitner Vineyards 2016 Terrosa Red Wine, Snake River Valley $35
Castaway Cellars 2017 Cabernet Franc, Washington $48
Castaway Cellars 2016 Malbec, Washington $45
Cinder Wines 2019 Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $23
Cinder Wines 2019 Dry Gewürztraminer, Snake River Valley $23
Cinder Wines 2018 Malbec, Snake River Valley $30
Cinder Wines 2018 Vera Red Wine, Snake River Valley $45
Cinder Wines 2018 Syrah, Snake River Valley $30
Cinder Wines 2019 Emerald Slope Vineyard Verdejo, Snake River Valley $30
Cinder Wines 2019 Dry Viognier, Snake River Valley $25
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2019 Crawford Vineyard Albariño, Washington $22
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2018 Phinny Hill Vineyard Carménère, Washington $32
Clearwater Canyon Cellars 2018 Renaissance Red, Lewis-Clark Valley $23
Free Dog Wines 2019 Albariño, Snake River Valley $18
Fujishin Family Cellars 2018 Late Harvest Riesling, Snake River Valley $20
Hat Ranch Winery 2019 Estate Rosé of Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $18
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 100% Oaked Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $22
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 100% Malbec, Snake River Valley $32
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 100% Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $25
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 Idawine Red Wine, Snake River Valley $12
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2019 Idapeach, Snake River Valley $14
Indian Creek Winery 2018 Stowe Vineyard Estate Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $24
Indian Creek Winery 2019 White Iris Sweet Gewürztraminer, Snake River Valley $18
Indian Creek Winery 2018 Caliche Reserve Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $32
Indian Creek Winery 2018 Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $24
Indian Creek WInery 2017 Gild the Dahlia Reserve Petit Verdot, Snake River Valley $30
Kerry Hill Winery 2018 Pollinator Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley $45
Kerry Hill Winery 2018 Monarch Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $32
Kindred Vineyards 2018 Into the Mystic Idaho Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $39
Kindred Vineyards 2019 Love Letter French Oak Pinot Noir Rosé, Yamhill-Carlton $19
Kindred Vineyards & Winery 2018 Summer Silhouette Sangiovese, Snake River Valley $32
Koenig Vineyards 2018 Lanae Ridge Vineyard Nebbiolo, Snake River Valley $30
Koenig Vineyards 2019 Williamson Vineyard Dry Riesling, Snake River Valley $16
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2016 Merlot, Washington $24
Lindsay Creek Vineyards NV Rosé Wine, Washington $15
Par Terre Winery 2019 Viognier, Snake River Valley $20
Parma Ridge Winery 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley $38
Pend d’Oreille Winery 2018 Merlot, Washington $22
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2018 Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Lewis-Clark Valley $50
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2018 Estate Vineyards River Ranch Red Blend, Lewis-Clark Valley $48
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2019 Estate Vineyards Rosé, Lewis-Clark Valley $19
Rivaura Estate Vineyards & Winery 2018 Estate Vineyards Viognier, Lewis-Clark Valley $26
Roghani Vineyards 2016 Late Harvest Blush Rosé, Snake River Valley $30
Rolling Hills Vineyard 2019 Cabernet Franc, Snake River Valley $24
Sawtooth Winery 2019 Classic Fly Series Albariño, Washington State $22
Sawtooth Winery 2018 Classic Fly Series Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton $32
SCORIA Vineyards 2018 Malbec, Snake River Valley $32
Snake River Winery 2019 Estate Arneis, Snake River Valley $15
Ste. Chapelle 2018 Panoramic Sangiovese, Washington State $30
Ste. Chapelle 2019 Open Air Sauvignon Blanc, Snake River Valley $20
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Chardonnay, Lewis-Clark Valley $18
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Fumé Blanc, Lewis-Clark Valley $19
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Summer White, Lewis-Clark Valley $17
Vale Wine Co. 2019 Moscato, Snake River Valley $15
Vale Wine Co. 2017 Syrah, Snake River Valley $29
Vale Wine Co. 2019 Viognier, Snake River Valley $20
Vizcaya Winery 2015 Tempranillo, Idaho 30%/Washington 70% $29
Bronze medal
Bitner Vineyards 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $50
Domaine Holesinsky 2019 Buhljolais Syrah Nouveau Carbonic, Idaho $12
Dude DeWalt Cellars 2018 Villa Mori Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $42
Free Dog Wines 2018 Merlot, Snake River Valley $24
Hat Ranch Winery 2017 Hat Trick Red Red Wine, Snake River Valley $27
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 Unicorn Pail Fizz Rosé, Snake River Valley $6
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2018 100% JH Syrah, Snake River Valley $22
Holesinsky Winery and Vineyard 2019 Dellas Ghost Riesling, Snake River Valley $12
Indian Creek Winery 2019 Rosé of Tempranillo, Snake River Valley $16
Indian Creek Winery 2019 White Pinot Noir, Snake River Valley $18
Kerry Hill Winery 2018 Domaine House Red Blend, Snake River Valley $33
Kindred Vineyards 2018 Into the Mystic Oregon Pinot Noir, Yamhill-Carlton $39
Kindred Vineyards & Winery 2019 Glasswing Butterfly French Oak Chardonnay, Snake River Valley $19
Lindsay Creek Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington $24
Lindsay Creek Vineyards NV Irresponsibility Red Wine, Washington $20
Par Terre Winery 2018 En L’air Red Wine, Snake River Valley $24
Parma Ridge Winery 2019 Rhubarb, Snake River Valley $30
Roghani Vineyards 2014 Love and Passion Red Blend, Snake River Valley $38
Roghani Vineyards 2015 Love and Passion Red Blend, Snake River Valley $38
Roghani Vineyards 2014 Platinumè White Blend, Snake River Valley $30
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Cabernet Franc, Snake River Valley $21
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Snake River Valley $16
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Malbec, Snake River Valley $19
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Mourvèdre, Snake River Valley $21
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Syrah, Snake River Valley $19
Snake River Winery 2018 Estate Bourbon Barrel Aged Syrah, Snake River Valley $25
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Riesling, Lewis-Clark Valley $17
Two Bad Labs Vineyard 2019 Sèmillon, Lewis-Clark Valley $20
Vizcaya Winery 2016 Malbec, Snake River Valley $27
Williamson Vineyards 2018 Henry’s Red, Snake River Valley $20
Williamson Vineyards 2019 Blossom Rosé of Malbec, Snake River Valley $16