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The wines from Structure Cellars at the Seattle Wine Awards' Gold Medal Experience. (Image: Frank Guanco)

The Seattle Wine Awards' Gold Medal Experience

After my 'Cheap Date' showing at the Seattle Wine Awards' Celebrity Wine Challenge a few weeks ago, I was ready to exorcise those demons and drink in the wine at the Gold Medal Experience this past weekend.

The Seattle Wine Awards' Gold Medal Experience is a wine tasting event benefitting the West Seattle Food Bank that features wineries that were awarded by the Wine Awards' tasting panel with various distinctions of Double Gold and Gold medal winners. What I was excited about with the Gold Medal Experience is that the wineries in attendance brought their very best, but mostly a lot of these wines were new to me and up-and-comers on the Washington wine scene. And there were a few of the tried-and-true wineries that are crowd pleasers. Here's my recap of the wines and wineries that stood out to me at the Gold Medal Experience.

Alexandria Nicole Cellars - Alexandria Nicole Cellars had a number of wines they were pouring at the event ranging from Pinot Gris to vineyard-designate red wines. I wasn't very familiar with Alexandria Nicole Cellars and they were a refreshing find. In particular, their 2012 Gravity Merlot (Double Gold winner) displayed the silky and plum characteristics this Bordeaux varietal should display. And after talking with their team at the event, I'd love to visit their tiny houses on their estate.

Brian Carter Cellars - Brian Carter Cellars has long been known for their wines, and for good reason. At the Gold Medal Experience, their two Double Gold winners, 2011 Byzance Rhone-style blend and 2010 Solesce Bordeaux-style blend, were excellent and reaffirmed their position to wine drinkers. In particular, the Solesce was muscular and powerful, but not too much so that it's austere. An excellent wine.

L'Ecole No 41 - L'Ecole No 41 consistently puts out a refined, elegant, and enjoyable suite of wines and those poured at the tasting event were no exception. Amongst their wines poured were four Double Golds and one Gold medal winner. L'Ecole's two estate red wines at the event, their 2012 Merlot and 2012 Syrah, were great examples of their type and were standouts for me. The merlot's midpalate was luch and inviting, silken and brooding; a great wine. The syrah was hedonistic and lifted, a balance of savory and acidity. Next time I'm out to Walla Walla, I'm definitely going to visit their winery,

Major Creek Cellars - Major Creek Cellars is completely new to me. Located in White Salmon, on the other side of the Columbia River from Hood River, Major Creek Cellars is a boutique winery in the truest sense of the word. Their production is less than 300 cases; so if you can find their wines, try them. Especially their 2012 Cabernet Franc from the Dineen Vineyard in Columbia Valley. Cabernet Franc is having its moment as a darling amongst wine nerds, and with good reason. When they're good, they're food-friendly, bright, and fresh. The Major Creek Cab Franc checks these boxes.

Structure Cellars - I first discovered Structure Cellars during the Celebrity Wine Challenge and their 2012 Cloister Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite wine of the day. With the Gold Medal Experience, I was looking forward to trying more of their wines. Their 2012 Merlot was drinking well; inviting and fine-grained tannins coupled with bright acidity, backed a midpalate of black cherry and cloves. Another great SoDo winery to add to this budding wine neighborhood.

Woodinville Wine Cellars - I first learned of Woodinville Wine Cellars when I sat with winemaker Sean Boyd at a tasting with wine critic Stephen Tanzer a few years ago. Woodinville Wine Cellars' OMO blend was one of my standouts at that tasting and I was excited to try a few of Sean's other wines at this tasting. His 2014 Chardonnay from the Connor Lee vineyard in the Columbia Valley was a revelation. Unoaked and fermented in stainless steel, this Chardonnay was fresh, lean, and unencumbered of any oak or tropical notes that I dislike in Chardonnay. I'm adding a visit to the Woodinville Wine Cellars tasting room for later this fall.

There you have it. A handful of wineries that stood out to me at this weekend's Seattle Wine Awards' Gold Medal Experience. Dozen upon dozens of gold medal wines were being poured to the revelers in attendance. Washington wine is always growing and evolving and it's exciting to see what wineries are capable of doing with the fruit our state produces.