WE’VE JUST begun to think about the 2014 vintage as tiny grape clusters start to form on vineyards throughout Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. Just as importantly, white and pink wines from Washington’s weird 2013 vintage have started to arrive in tasting rooms and on retailers’ shelves.
So far, so good.
Unlike 2010 and 2011, the 2013 vintage was warm early and didn’t let up through a blistering summer. Harvest began 10 days early, and winemakers were picking cabernet sauvignon on Red Mountain the first week of September — at least three weeks sooner than expected.
Then it got strange. The Northwest was hit with the tail of Typhoon Pabuk. This soaked Oregon’s Willamette Valley and quickly halted Washington’s wine-grape harvest when it became too soggy to pick.
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But when October arrived, blue skies returned, and Mother Nature blessed the Columbia Valley with a gloriously long, dry fall, and harvest wrapped up around Halloween. It went in the record books as the largest harvest in state history. At 210,000 tons crushed, it easily surpassed the 188,000 tons from 2012. For the second consecutive year, red-wine grapes outpaced white, and for the first time, chardonnay or riesling were not the No. 1 wine grape (cabernet sauvignon was).
My first look at 2013 Washington whites and rosés reveals a lot to be excited about. Many are bigger than the previous few vintages, with slightly higher alcohols resulting from one of the warmest vintages on record.
Here are four 2013 wines that are easy to recommend:
Barnard Griffin 2013 rosé of sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $13: Year in and year out, Rob Griffin makes one of the most beautiful dry rosés on the West Coast. This gem is no exception, thanks to aromas and flavors of strawberry, cranberry and pomegranate. It’s visually beautiful, bone dry and perfect with pork, chicken or pasta tossed with grilled vegetables.
Jones of Washington 2013 pinot gris, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $13: Young Victor Palencia has a masterful touch with pinot gris, and this example reveals notes of Asian pear, star fruit, nectarine and grapefruit. It is perfect with crab, scallops, salmon or oysters.
Kyra Wines 2013 chenin blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: Chenin blanc has long been out of favor with American wine drinkers. That wouldn’t be the case if they were as delicious as this example from a Moses Lake winery. Intriguing notes of melon, pear and sweet herbs are beautifully balanced with a touch of sweetness. Try it with smoked salmon, portobello panini or Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack.
Hogue Cellars 2013 Genesis riesling, Columbia Valley, $16: Hogue’s new winemaker, Greg Winter from Sonoma County, has a hit on his hands with his first Washington release. This stunning riesling is rich in aromas of jasmine, peach and clove, followed by bright flavors of pear and honeydew melon. This cries out for pho, bold Indian curries or Tex-Mex.
Andy Perdue is a wine author, journalist and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.