Okanogan Valley Winery Produces a Nice Pinot Grigio

March 27th, 2006

The Okanogan Valley extends from Eastern British Columbia into North Central Washington. Although there are dozens of wineries on the Canadian side of the Valley, there is only one that I’m aware of on the US side – Gold Digger Cellars, located just minutes from the border in Oroville, Washington.

nullGold Digger has recently released it’s wines under a second label; Okanogan Estate & Vineyards. The vineyards are located on the slopes surrounding Lake Osoyoos, which also straddles the US/Canadian border. If you’ve ever traveled to this part of the state you know that the summers are generally characterized by intensely hot days and cool evenings, a climate that is ideal for growing many varieties of wine producing grapes.

I recently tried the Okanogan Estate & Vineyards 2004 Pinot Grigio (about $13) earlier this month and was really impressed with the way this wine is drinking right now.

It begins with fragrant melon and floral aromas and is loaded with pear, apple and citrus flavors. Crisp acidity, the signature of the Pinot Grigio grape, is topped by the bonus of a super-long, faintly sweet finish that adds to the complexity and character of the wine. Extremely complimentary with food, you could pair this with a number of medium cheeses, seafood such as crab, snapper or halibut, or poultry. This is just a nice, versatile white wine that I really think you’re going to enjoy.

For more information on Okanogan Estate & Vineyards go to www.okanoganwine.com or phone (509) 476-3646.

Red Table Wine

March 25th, 2006

Canoe Ridge 2001 (about $15): This is no ordinary table wine. It was a little austere when I first tried it, but I revisited it the nextnull day and it really opened up nicely. Beautiful nose of fresh berries and loads of raspberry and red cherry flavors. This blend of Columbia Valley Cabernet and Merlot is really a well priced, very enjoyable wine.

Riesling

March 25th, 2006

OS Winery 2005 (about $21): From red wine gurus Owen Sullivan comes this tasty white wine from Champoux Vineyards in nullWashington’s Horse Heaven Hills. Lots of lush pear and citrus flavors with a lengthy, creamy finish. With only about 3% residual sugar on finish, this wine is unlike many other overpoweringly syrupy-sweet Rieslings.

At 9% alcohol you can drink a lot of this, if not for the slightly high price tag. However in this case, I think it’s worth every penny. I picked up my bottle at Compass Wines in Anacortes. Limited production so don’t wait to buy this one!

Reininger Winery’s Helix is a Great Second Label

March 20th, 2006

I’ve always wanted to do a feature on Walla Walla’s Reininger Winery, but never seemed to have gotten around to it. The sticking point I’ve frequently had with these wines is that they’re almost all $30 a bottle or more. Make no mistake, these are great wines, but at that price most of us can’t afford to pop open a bottle every time we’d like to serve one with dinner or get together with friends.

Then after a visit to the Reininger tasting room last fall, a couple of their newer releases grabbed my attention and made me realize that I needed to get the word out. The wines are bottled under a second label called Helix, a reference to the owner’s grandparent’s high school and farming community near where the current tasting room opened in 2003.

nullFour Reininger wines carry the Helix label and the two I recently tried – which are interestingly named for English and French snails – are particularly good. Here are my tasting notes:

2004 Helix Aspersa (about $16) – A beautiful blend of 75 percent Chardonnay and 25 percent Viognier. The wine has a lovely floral aroma with luscious pear and peach flavors, balanced by just the right amount of acidity and a slightly spicy/oaky finish. The Viognier gives the wine a bit more density and complexity and it all adds up to a terrific value.

2002 Helix Pomatia (about $20) – A blend primarily consisting of Merlot plus three other red varietals. There’s a touch of coffee in the nose followed by plenty of savory herb and plum flavors. Another wonderfully complex wine you can really sink your teeth into.

If you’re unable to find these wines locally, try Compass Wines in Anacortes or Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle. They can also be ordered online at www.reiningerwinery.com.

The Latest on the 2005 Harvest

March 13th, 2006

The more I chat with Washington winemakers, the better things sound for the 2005 harvest.

Initial reactions during the harvest were guardedly optimistic. Then as the calendar year came to a close, word began to circulate that it was going to be a banner year.

Now that the grapes have had a bit more time to progress, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the 2005 crop. At a recent dinner at the Oyster Creek Inn on Chuckanut Drive, I spoke with Basel Cellars winemaker Trey Busch. He feels that the 2005 reds are going to rival those produced in 1998 and 2002 – considered by some to be two of the best years in Washington red wine production.

nullCaleb Foster, winemaker for Buty Winery in Walla Walla agrees. “The 2005 vintage was a smash hit, especially for Cabernet Sauvignons. It is a vintage for the pop-charts of the numbers magazines,” meaning you can expect to see some highly rated 2005 Washington wines when they’re reviewed by publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Press Northwest.

With predictions like these, it appears that we should look for the 2005 vintages with high expectations. The only problem is that it will probably be another two to three years before we see any of these wines on the shelves. So make a mental note of 2005 releases, eagerly anticipate their arrival and remember that in the world of wine, good things come to those who wait.

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