Washington Wine of the Week – Selections for Summer, 2017
For the week of September 24, 2017: Vartanyan Estate Winery 2014 Melange – This is a true Bordeaux blend in that it includes all six of the varietals permitted within the appellation: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere. Spicy aromatics start you off, with layers of black currant, berries, and a slightly earthy finish. Good tannic structure balances out the fruit and there’s also a nice splash of acidity along with oaky nuances from 30 months in French and American barrels. The crazy, only-$21-a-bottle price tag should be the capper on at least a case purchase. A fine effort from owner Margarita Vartanyan, who’s showing why she may be one of the most underrated winemakers in Whatcom County.
For the week of September 17, 2017: Hamilton Cellars 2010 Bona Vita Red Wine – The 2010 vintage for Washington State is holding up beautifully, and this selection from the Red Mountain winery and winemaker Charlie Hoppes is a prime example of what you can expect. A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, it opens with reserved blackberry and black cherry flavors, followed by a hint of licorice on the finish and finely integrated tannins. With good acidity and less emphasis on the fruit, it demonstrates that Washington is perfectly capable of producing excellent, food-friendly wines in cooler growing years with outstanding results.
For the week of September 10, 2017: Maryhill Winery 2016 Proprietor’s Reserve Albarino – This newer-to-Washington varietal is being produced in tiny quantities but with great results. Wine consumers might be pleased to know that it’s easier to find the wine in a stand-alone, 100% bottling rather than for blending purposes, so you’re certain to get the real deal. This selection displays aromas of pear, melon and white flowers, flavors of honeydew, white peach and orange zest and a finish of crisp citrus and pineapple. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, chances are you’ll enjoy this complex, tasty, up-and-coming varietal.
For the week of September 3, 2017: Portlandia Vintners 2016 Rose – This week’s selection isn’t from Washington at all but rather our neighbors from Oregon. Sourced primarily from the Willamette Valley, it includes two of the grapes Oregon does best: Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir…along with a splash of Grenache. This high-acid trifecta gives you exactly what you’d expect in terms of a crisp, dry finish, preceded by generous flavors of strawberry, watermelon, white plum and red cherry. Delicious flavor profile + eye-catching coral color = a sensory delight on all fronts.
For the week of August 27, 2017: Mercer Canyons 2015 Red Blend – This “second label/everday wine” from Prosser-based Mercer Estates is hardly a step down in quality. In fact, this five-varietal blend provides plenty of complexity and flavor with a highly affordable $17-or-so price tag. The base of Merlot and Syrah gives you ample blackberry, black cherry and plum flavors to begin, with hints of milk chocolate, ginger spice, black tea and gentle tannins on the finish. It’s fresh, fruity and perfect for everything from grilled meats to a crown roast.
For the week of August 20, 2017: Structure Cellars 2015 “Piloti” Cabernet Franc – Seattle’s Brian Grasso and Brandee Slosar may be two of the hardest working husband-and-wife winemaking teams in the business. They’ve expanded Structure Cellars from it’s 2011 origins based in their Ballard home into a thriving, state-of-the-art tasting room in South Seattle’s Sodo District. This gold medalist from the 2017 Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival is a beautiful interpretation of Cab Franc: fresh herbs on the nose, dark blueberry, black olive and fig flavors, and a soft, lengthy finish that’s slightly earthy with a touch of toasted oak. Set your expectations high for this young winery; and prepare to have those expectations both met and exceeded.
For the week of August 13, 2017: Dynasty Cellars 2014 Tempranillo – Although it’s still used primarily for blending purposes, Tempranillo is gradually finding its way onto the Washington wine scene as a stand-alone varietal with great results.
Bellingham Winemaker Peter Osvaldik (pictured at left) scores with this Walla Walla-sourced red, which opens with a base of dark berry fruits and lovely, complex finishing notes of coffee, caramel, toasted hazelnut and vanilla bean. It’s surprisingly soft with finely integrated tannins, making it an instantly enjoyable choice. Only available at the tasting room; 90 cases produced.
For the week of August 6, 2017: Lost River Winery 2013 Merlot – Winthrop winemaker John Morgan shows why Washington is still a force in the world of Merlot with this exceptional release. Dark berry fruit, black licorice, hints of chocolate and a plush, juicy finish with a touch of minerality highlight this gem of a wine. Lost River cleaned up at the 2nd Annual Bellingham Northwest Wine Festival, winning a silver and two golds in addition to the double gold and Best in Show honors it earned for this Merlot.
For the week of July 30, 2017: DeLille Cellars Four Flags 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – Sourced from four Red Mountain vineyards, this blockbuster red has everything you’d expect from a Washington Cab: blackberry, dried herbs, roasted coffee and big tannins. Easily cellar-worthy for another 10 years, but if you must open it now, enjoy it with a juicy, charbroiled steak. Normally $68 a bottle, the wine is on sale during the month of August, 2017 via the winery web site for only $48.
For the week of July 23, 2017: Lost River Winery 2015 Rain Shadow – Here’s an excellent white wine blend that pairs beautifully with seafood and shellfish. A combination of 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from four different vineyards, the wine was aged six months in a combination of stainless steel and French oak. The base of pineapple and pear flavors is accentuated with a tangy lemon/citrus finish and should benefit from just a brief bit of chilling time prior to serving. Well priced and highly affordable at around $16 a bottle.
For the week of July 16, 2017: William Church Winery 2014 Cabernet Franc – This stunning wine from the Woodinville winery is a grand slam from start to finish. Blackberry jam, ripe raspberry, coffee, toasted hazelnut and a silky finish that’s borderline decadent. Complex and layered, there’s still plenty of structure to balance out the fruit along with a spritz of black pepper. Sourced from Dineen Vineyards.
For the week of July 9, 2017: Eternal Wines 2016 Grenache Blanc – Walla Walla’s Brad Binko is indicative of a number of younger, up-and-coming Washington winemakers who are doing a terrific job with non-mainstream varietals such as this Grenache Blanc. This standout wine shows lovely aromatics of honeysuckle and field flowers, with apricot and honeydew melon flavors that are nicely balanced with a bit of brisk acidity. It’s a delicious interpretation of a Rhone varietal that’s catching on with both Washington winemakers and wine drinkers.
For the week of July 2, 2017: Gravel Bar Winery 2015 Riesling – One of the great things about Washington Riesling is how it’s evolved over the years from essentially a one-dimensional sweet wine to a more versatile, food-friendly white wine without the heavy residual sugar. This Columbia Valley-sourced Riesling is a great example of the latter, with nice stone fruit flavors to start, key lime on the mid-palate, and a streak of minerality on the crisp, dry finish.
For the week of June 25, 2017: Van Arnam Vineyards 2015 Riesling – This beautiful Riesling opens with plenty of peach flavors that develop into more of a citrusy/crisp Fuji apple finish. A faint bit of sweetness puts the wine squarely in the “off-dry” category and makes it a natural to pair with salmon or spicy Asian Foods. Husband-and-wife Kent and Allison Van Arnam do an excellent job of keeping their Zillah tasting room guests happy by offering great wines at a great location in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA just east of Yakima.