By Andy Purdue And Eric Degerman / Great Northwest Wine

CLOVERDALE, CALIFORNIA — The 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition generated more critical acclaim for the Pacific Northwest, and much of it stems from College Cellars of Walla Walla and alumni of the community college’s vaunted winemaking program.

The judging took place two weeks ago in this town in northern Sonoma County.

Leading the Northwest highlights at the largest wine competition in North America was Aaron Peet, winemaker for Cellardoor Winery in Lincolnville, Maine.

Peet, who graduated from Walla Walla Community College’s Institute for Enology and Viticulture in 2008, earned best of class for the Cellardoor Winery 2017 Riesling and Cellardoor Winery 2017 Chenin Blanc. His work also was awarded an impressive trio of unanimous double gold medals for his 2015 Pinot Noir, 2017 Syrah and 2017 The Buoy Red Blend. There were five gold medals, too.

Students and graduates from Walla Walla Community College’s Institute of Enology and Viticulture produce some of the top wines in the country, according to the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which is the largest wine judging in the nation.

Peet’s winemaking amassed 10 gold medals for the Maine winery, and he relied on Washington grapes for most of his awards.

Two months ago, College Cellars went back-to-back at the Tri-Cities Wine Festival, earning best of show at both the 2018 and 2017 competitions in the Columbia Valley city of Kennewick. Instructors and their students turned the 2016 Cockburn Vineyard Syrah into a best-of-class winner in Sonoma, while the 2016 Seven Hills Vineyard Sangiovese earned a double gold and the 2016 Merlot picked up a gold. (That same Syrah received a double gold and BOC acclaim in Cloverdale.)

The V&E program spearheaded at the two-year school by Walla Walla Vintners co-founder Myles Anderson proved its mettle throughout the four-day judging on the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds. More than two dozen gold medals were earned by wines bottled at College Cellars or by its graduates.

This year, the San Francisco Chronicle recruited 64 judges from across the country to judge 6,835 entries, which included Canada and Mexico for the first time. Eyebrows were raised when the sweepstakes award for best sparkling wine led to a tie between the Goose Watch Winery Brut Rosé from New York’s Finger Lakes region and the Trump Winery 2014 Monticello Blanc de Blanc out of Virginia.

While no Pacific Northwest wine received a 2019 sweepstakes award, Washington, Oregon and Idaho combined for 18 best-of-class awards, 53 double golds and 137 gold medals.

A year ago, Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland, used its 2017 Rosé of Sangiovese to capture the Chronicle sweepstakes for a record sixth time. This week, a panel of judges in Sonoma County deemed Rob Griffin’s fresh 2018 vintage just as delicious, awarding it a unanimous double gold.

It marked the 13th time in 14 years that Barnard Griffin’s pink has merited a gold medal or better at the nation’s largest wine judging. A bottle retails for $14 and is scheduled to be released at the Richland winery on Valentine’s Day.

Idaho producers were paced by Coco Umiker of Clearwater Canyon Cellars in Lewiston, who earned a double gold for her 2016 Malbec and golds for her 2016 Merlot, 2016 Renaissance Red and 2016 Coco’s Reserve Blend No. 5.

In total, the Gem State combined for 15 gold medals, doubling its total from the previous year as part of the Idaho Wine Commission’s Going Beyond Gold program seeded by results from the Idaho Wine Competition. Gregg Alger’s work under his Huston Vineyards brand led to best-of-class recognition for his 2017 Chicken Dinner White, a double gold for his 2017 Chicken Dinner Rosé and a gold for his 2016 Malbec from the Snake River Valley.

Indian Creek near Boise, founded by the late Bill Stowe, won three gold medals – all for red wines crafted with Snake River Valley fruit by son-in-law Mike McClure. Greg Koenig of Koenig Vineyards also produced three gold medals, two with Riesling for Bitner Vineyards and a Syrah for neighboring Williamson Vineyards.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at