Tim Sampson, Owner/Winemaker for Walla Walla’s Yellow Hawk Cellar has a mantra that appears on every label: “Wine should taste like fruit.” The first time I heard this, an alarm went off inside my head warning me that I might be trying a high-priced knockoff of a Boone’s Farm fruit salad.
But in this case, nothing could be further from the truth, and Sampson has done an excellent job of producing handcrafted wines that display just the right balance of fruit, acidity, structure and taste – all at reasonable prices.
Yellow Hawk specializes in wines with an Italian flair, using grapes from the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys. And while the fruit flavors in Sampson’s wines are prevalent, they’re equal to their Italian made counterparts in that they all make excellent food wines.
Current releases include the 2006 Muscat Canelli (about $14), a nearly bone dry white wine with floral aromas and flavors that suggest pear and citrus. The 2004 Sangiovese (about $18) is perfect for tomato-based dishes with plenty of bright cherry flavors backed by brisk acidity.
The 2005 Barbera (about $20, pictured at left) is loaded with dark fruit and herbaceous flavors with a slightly spicy finish. It’s complex, tasty and versatile and I think it’s an absolute gem of a red wine. And if you like blends, the 2003 Mescolanza di Rosso Riserva (about $28) is a must try. Dark berry flavors, hints of black licorice and a polished finish add up to what Sampson feels is his best effort to date.
Yellow Hawk Cellar wines can be purchased or ordered at Gateway Wines, The Vines, Purple Smile Wines, the Community Food Co-Op and most Haggen stores.