Paul Gregutt recommends wines from some of Washington's new and old wineries.
When I moved to wine country three years ago, determined to split my time equally between big city Seattle and small town Waitsburg (just north of Walla Walla), I was under the charming delusion that by living in Eastern Washington I could keep up with the explosive growth of the wine industry.
It has certainly helped. I’ve walked many a vineyard row, shoveled out fermentation tanks, visited dozens and dozens of wineries, and spent a lot of time chatting with winemakers from every corner of the state. Still, at times I feel like the fellow who set out some years ago to drink a cup of coffee in every Starbucks in America, until he found that they were building them faster than he could drink.
Winemakers Greg Lipsker and Michael White of Spokane’s Barrister Winery stopped in the other day to show me their new releases, and during the conversation I realized that just in the years since they were bonded in 2001, the number of wineries in Washington has tripled. It’s now quickly closing in on 600. With so many new wineries, it is more important than ever to put them all in perspective, to help you discover those that are most deserving of your attention and support.
So here we go … recommended releases from a few of the newcomers and some of the old hands.
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Adamant Cellars 2006 Red Blend; $23. Adamant is one of a small group of new wineries in the northeast corner of the Walla Walla airport, and I found this blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot especially good. It’s a spicy, slightly resinous wine, with scents of leaf, clove and licorice, along with tangy cassis fruit.
Barrister NV Rough Justice Red; $20. The Rough Justice Red is always a mix of merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and cab franc in varying proportions. It’s a very tasty, big-boned, chunky red blend, with plenty of cherry fruit flavor, a substantial tannic bite, and a chewy, drying finish.
Bergevin Lane 2007 Calico White; $16. Bergevin’s popular white blend includes roughly equal proportions of chardonnay, roussanne and viognier. The grapes were half stainless and half barrel fermented, and deliver crisp, racy flavors of lemon cucumber, pineapple, citrus rind and a hint of pepper.
Cadaretta 2006 Merlot; $33. Bergevin Lane’s former winemaker, Virginie Bourgue, is now at Cadaretta, and her elegant, European touch is much in evidence. This new merlot is nicely styled, showing lots of licorice in the nose and in the flavors, along with blackberry and plum, cedar and spice.
Flying Trout NV Malbec; $35. Winemaker Ashley Trout is a Whitman grad who interned at Reininger, then set out to make her own wines with a focus on malbec. She makes wine in Argentina as well, and operates a tiny tasting room in downtown Walla Walla. Well worth seeking out is this non-vintage (mostly 2006) malbec, just released. Supple, dark, earthy and flavorful, it’s got nicely integrated bones of acid and polished tannins, blending in luscious dark fruits and accents of leaf and stem.
JLC 2004 Palette Red Table Wine; $22. Palette is a sensational value from one of Walla Walla’s best vineyards, Spofford Station. This cab/merlot blend is saturated with lush red fruits and beautifully crafted, with hints of compost, earth, mushroom and other pleasing herbal elements.
Nefarious Cellars 2007 Stone’s Throw Vineyard Riesling; $18. A new producer in the Chelan region, Nefarious does a splendid job for the second vintage running with this excellent riesling. Heather Neff is a winemaker who understands the grape, and brings out scents of honeycomb, beeswax and a mix of citrus blossoms in this lively wine. It’s rich without being tiring, off-dry but not sweet or sugary, and delicately balanced.
Zerba Cellars 2007 Viognier; $18. In 2006, the blend included 12 percent semillon; this year the blend grape is chardonnay, and it’s an improvement. There is a pleasing creaminess to the mouthfeel, yet the wine retains well-defined green apple and citrus fruit flavors. Where some viogniers can be bitter and hot at the finish line, this one is like sucking on a Creamsicle.
Free riesling booklet
Washington’s Pacific Rim winery, which specializes in a wide variety of rieslings, has published a wonderful little booklet called Riesling Rules. It’s an invaluable guide to the pleasures and mysteries of the grape, packed with useful advice in a lively, thumb-through format. Besides being a quick, fact-filled study, it’s loaded with quirky little tidbits of information that will make you the instant expert at your next dinner party. There are lists galore, including the top 10 movies to enjoy with riesling. For a free copy, visit www.rieslingrules.com.
Paul Gregutt is the author of “Washington Wines and Wineries The Essential Guide.” His column appears weekly in the Wine section. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.