If the first peek at the whites and pinks of 2016’s record-setting vintage is any indication of the red wines yet to come, we might be in for a real treat.
THE HARVEST OF 2016 will be remembered as the largest in Washington wine history. If early indications mean anything, it will go down as a memorable vintage.
The white wines being released this spring are showing themselves to be bright, balanced and bursting with fruit. The first peek at the 2016 vintage is a smattering of whites and pinks, and if they are any indication of the reds that will begin showing up a year from now, we might be in for a real treat. One of the beauties of a vintage like 2016 is there is a lot of wine out there.
Like many recent vintages in Washington, 2016 did not have any model for “normal.” The season started hot and early, something that has become typical in Washington. The combination of good weather and new vineyards coming into production led to a harvest that topped a quarter-million tons for the first time and was 50,000 tons more than 2015.
Three to try
Here are three delicious and broadly available wines from last fall’s record harvest.
Barnard Griffin 2016 rosé of sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $14: One of Rob Griffin’s signature wines, this dry pink is loaded with aromas and flavors of ripe Rainier cherry; fresh strawberry; and underlying tones of rich, tropical fruit. Everything is backed by luscious and balanced acidity.
Palencia Winery 2016 albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $20: With this amazing wine, owner/winemaker Victor Palencia makes the argument that this Spanish white is perfectly suited to the Columbia Valley climate. This wine reveals aromas and flavors of green apples, sea breezes and fresh-picked green herbs, backed by clear, crisp acidity. A stunning achievement.
Kiona Vineyards & Winery 2016 chenin blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: The Williams family shows what can be done with this much-maligned grape when you dedicate yourself to coaxing the best from it. This bursts with aromas and flavors of sweet herbs, Mandarin orange and lemon zest, backed by remarkable acidity.
Harvest went smoothly until October brought unseasonable rain. In the normally arid Columbia Valley, nearly 3 inches of rain fell in the heart of harvest. That might not seem like much in Seattle, but rain at the wrong time brings extra challenges to winemakers and grape growers, who do everything they can to dodge raindrops. Rain can be absorbed by the ripe grapes, diluting the flavors and potentially causing mildew.
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When all the grapes were safely in, crushed and happily fermenting, winemakers took a breather and began to evaluate what they had. What they saw was pleasing: wines with fresh-fruit character, seamless acidity and no major problems.
Winemakers were so thrilled with the quality, they were scrambling for extra tank space to accommodate the flood of fruit. That means if the reds live up to expectations, there will be plenty to go around. That, of course, remains to be seen, but we’re off to a promising start.