S. Central Washington Region Provides Wine Grapes for a Number of Wineries

July 16th, 2013

Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills Appellation is one of those wine regions you may not have visited or know little about, but you’ve almost certainly tasted the wines made from the grapes that are grown there.

nullLocated in south central Washington, the appellation is tucked between the Yakima Valley to the north and the Columbia River to the South. According to the Washington Wine Commission, this region is responsible for about 25-percent of the state’s total wine production.

The area is one of the more isolated in Washington and only a handful of wineries are located within its boundaries. But chances are you’ve seen the “Horse Heaven Hills” designation on wines that are produced by several wineries outside the region.

That’s because the federal government requires disclosure of the source of the grapes on the label, regardless of where the wine is produced or what winery makes it. I call it the “truth in labeling law” and it alerts consumers that the grapes used to make the wine inside the bottle came from a particular Washington wine region.

Horse Heaven Hills is home to a number of first-class vineyards including Alder Ridge, Champoux, and Destiny Ridge.

This week I’ll give you a few white wine recommendations sourced from Horse Heaven Hills and next week I’ll focus on the reds.

nullMcKinley Springs Winery 2010 Chenin Blanc (about $14) – One of my all-time favorite varietals shines in this refreshingly tasty release. Crisp Fuji apple and citrus flavors are framed by mineral notes and a lingering, understated trace of honeysuckle that comes through on the finish.

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2011 Viognier (about $14) – Beautiful stone fruits, particularly white peach, predominate in the bouquet and on the palate with a touch of honeydew melon on the side. This delicious medium-bodied wine delivers a bundle at an incredibly reasonable price.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (about $25) – Huge flavors of pineapple and tropical fruit melt into more of a savory, butter-bomb finish. Given that this was a cooler growing year, the heft and full-bodied nature of this wine may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it to be a guilty pleasure.

Mercer Estates 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (about $40) – Rich, without being overwhelming, this exquisite chardonnay starts with a base of baked apple along with nuances of hazelnut, butterscotch and caramel. The flavors flow seamlessly on a silky finish that will leave you happy you decide to take the splurge.

Local Wineries Offer White (and Mostly White) Wine Choices for Summer

June 18th, 2013

It happens every year. We get a stretch of nice weather in early spring and Northwesterners become giddy with excitement that summer is nearly here.

Then we have to deal with June.

But July 5 is just around the corner and the promise of warmer, sun-drenched days are an affirmation of why we live here. So get ready to chill down some white wines and enjoy a glass with friends on the deck, patio or at your next outdoor gathering this summer.

Today I’ll give you some recommendations from a couple of local wineries that have you covered with solid, white wine choices.

First up are two wines from Mount Baker Vineyards. Their 2012 Chasselas (about $16) is sourced from the winery’s estate vineyards near Everson. The chasselas grape can be a bit non-descript, but this wine really impressed me with its fresh-as-a-meadow-of-clover aromatics, splash of bright acidity and lingering notes of honeycomb, green apple and slightly chalky finish. It’s the perfect white wine aperitif.

Also worth a try is the Yakima Valley 2012 Pinot Gris (about $15). There’s a trace of spice and orange zest on the nose, and citrusy flavors tempered with a bit of sweetness. If you like your pinot gris made in more of medium-bodied style, this is the wine for you.

nullSan Juan Vineyards also offers two noteworthy estate-grown white wines.

The tasty 2013 Madeleine Angevine (about $17) displays a faint, straw color, Granny Smith apple flavors, and a trailing note of lemon chiffon with a lip-smacking zing of acidity.

The 2012 Siegerrebe (about $20) is unlike some of the winery’s past vintages in that it’s not quite as lean, with a bit more plump, viscous fruit on the palate. Spicy lychee aromas and flavors lead off, with generous star fruit and key lime and an unmistakable kiss of kiwi on the extreme finish.

Finally, be sure to try the San Juan Vineyards 2012 Afterglow (picutured above, about $17). This is labeled as a pink, rather than a white wine, although it’s comprised of almost two-thirds Madeleine Angevine and chardonnay. The remainder of the wine, from which it derives its iridescent copper color, is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot.

Winemaker Chris Primus co-fermented all the juice in neutral French oak barrels before finishing it in stainless steel. Serve it slightly chilled and you’ve got an incredible, refreshingly unique wine with green watermelon and slightly tangy strawberry flavors and a touch of minerality. I call it summertime in a glass.

Viognier from Washington Offers Plenty of Variety

April 7th, 2009

If you’ve tried viognier you already know it’s a white wine full of surprises – fragrant, fruity, full-bodied, and adaptable to plenty of foods.

For those of you still sitting on the sidelines, what are you waiting for? The pronunciation isn’t too tricky (vee-ohn-yay) and if you’ve tried chardonnay and enjoyed it, then viognier is just a baby step away.

nullWashington wineries provide a great place to begin your viognier tasting, and a few selections that I’ve recently enjoyed include the Kestrel Vintners 2007 Estate Viognier (about $22) from Prosser. This versatile wine has a pleasant aroma of honeysuckle and citrus, peach and melon flavors, a spritz of acidity and a lightly oaky, yet creamy finish. It’s a natural to pair with fish, poultry or cream-based pasta dishes.

I’ve also been extremely impressed with winemaker Paul Portteus’ current releases and his Portteus Vineyards 2007 Viognier (about $24) is no exception. Although he’s been in the wine industry for almost 30 years, this is Portteus’ first vintage of viognier – and it’s a grand slam. It features a bouquet of tropical fruits, plenty of fresh peach and apricot flavors and a lingering, yet dry finish capped by a touch of vanilla. Outstanding!

Start with a subtle fragrance of peaches and sweet alfalfa, and then dive into a glass of Zefina 2007 Viognier (about $20) from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills appellation. It’s loaded with nectarine and honeydew melon flavors, along with a finish that’s both creamy and textured with a bit of a spicy edge. This big, well structured viognier is powerful, yet elegant and it’s indicative of the terrific wines of this varietal being produced in the Pacific Northwest.

For more information on these and other wines visit each winery’s web site at www.kestrelwines.com, www.portteus.com, and www.zefina.com.

Riesling Makes A Comeback

December 17th, 2007

Like clothing and hairstyles, wines seem to fall in and out of fashion. Pinot noir has been a popular choice as of late. A decade ago, merlot was the “in” wine to be drinking, and in the 80’s chardonnay was the undisputed favorite of any wine fashionista.

Now it’s rieslings turn.

Back in the 70’s, sweeter, fruity wines were the order of the day and Washington riesling was a perfect fit. Then as wine drinkers tastes matured and moved towards drier white and red wines, riesling was viewed by many as too one-dimensional and fell out of favor.

But today’s riesling is much more diverse in terms of style and taste. While it is sometimes still made with a fairly high sugar content, more often it’s produced in a dry to off-dry (slightly sweet) style. This transformation has made the wine attractive to many who are rediscovering it as well as a new generation of wine drinkers trying it for the first time.

Riesling is also an incredibly versatile food wine. It provides a nice contrast to well-aged cheeses and spicy Asian cuisine and complements a wide range of foods from salmon to roasted chicken to fresh fruit. It’s also a great starter wine, served chilled for sipping before the first course.

Here are some Washington rieslings I’ve tried as of late and think you might enjoy:

Columbia Winery 2006 Cellarmasters Riesling (about $11) – Bursting with peach and apricot flavors and backed by a surprising but pleasant touch of spice; this wine is reminiscent of a Gewurztraminer. The finish is also fairly sweet, but not overwhelming.

Nefarious Cellars 2006 Riesling (about $18) – Gentle flavors of baked apple, pear and tangerine melt into an off-dry finish. This elegant wine is a fine effort from the relatively new Chelan winery.

nullMilbrandt Vineyards 2006 Traditions Riesling (about $12) – Lovely orange blossom aromas are followed by delicate orange flavors, and an underlying mineral quality with a faintly sweet finish. This unique riesling is indicative of just how far the varietal has evolved over the past 30 years.

Two Whatcom County Winery White Wines That Should Sell Out Quickly

September 10th, 2007

Let me premise today’s column by saying this – go buy these wines now.

Two local wineries are currently offering a newly released white wine, each of which provides consumers with even more good choices from an already impressive portfolio of wines.

Mount Baker Vineyards features its first ever 2006 Roussanne (about $20). I like to think of this wine as somewhat of an upgraded chenin blanc without the high acidity. With a fragrant nose, gentle flavors of honeysuckle, and a soft, lingering finish, it makes an excellent aperitif and also pairs well with a variety of mild cheeses. It’s unique, delicious, and first class in every respect.

nullAt Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company, the much-anticipated 2006 Bunny LeBlanc (about $15) is, quite simply, off the charts.

It starts with a base of 80 percent chardonnay, with the balance consisting of equal parts viognier and pinot gris. The viognier provides the wine with a fragrant aroma and a nice, well-rounded mouth feel while the pinot gris adds just a touch of bright acidity. Lovely flavors of lychee nut and subtle peach are capped by a lengthy finish. This wine truly is the complete package and, in my opinion, sets a very high bar for Washington white wine blends.

Production for the Roussanne was only 106 cases while the LeBlanc topped out at about 100 cases. Sources have told me that a good portion of these wines have already been accounted for and the remaining quantity – no one is saying exactly how much – is going to go fast.

In other words, go buy these wines now.

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