With most vineyards located on the sunny side of the state, great care goes into trucking the grapes to westside wineries.
IN THE WORLD of wine, Washington is unusual. In no other place must so many wineries bring their grapes from so far away.
Sure, it happens elsewhere, but not like it does here. A large number of winemakers choose to make their homes on the misty side of the Cascades — where almost no wine grapes are grown.
That means those precious juice-filled globes need to find their way through the mountains so they can become wine. And therein lies an issue: How much can the time and travel of trucking the fruit for a few hours across Snoqualmie Pass affect the final product?
Three to try
These three King County wineries haul grapes for their wines from the sunny side of Washington. Getting their fruit to arrive in good shape is the first important step to crafting a top wine.
Lauren Ashton Cellars 2012 Proprietor’s Cuvée, Columbia Valley, $65: Bing cherry and dark chocolate greet the nose, followed by hints of cedar and plum. This is a beautifully balanced cabernet-based red blend with dark flavors, fine-grained tannins and notes of ripe cherry and coffee.
Convergence Zone Cellars 2013 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Mistral grenache, Red Mountain, $29: The Woodinville winery uses grapes from the eastern Yakima Valley for this gorgeous grenache that unveils aromas of huckleberry, vanilla and red currant, followed by juicy flavors of blueberry and a hint of cranberry.
Cloudlift Cellars 2013 Ascent cabernet franc, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Georgetown winemaker Tom Stangeland has crafted a classic Washington cab franc with aromas of violet, plum and espresso, as well as sleek flavors of black cherry and chocolate. It’s all backed by elegant, approachable tannins.
A lot, as it turns out. So grape growers and winemakers do everything possible to mitigate potential problems.
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Kit Singh, owner and winemaker of Lauren Ashton Cellars, says one of his primary goals is to protect his grapes until they arrive at his Woodinville winery, in the hope of preserving the resulting wine’s elegance and complexity. He works closely with his grape growers in the Columbia Valley to accomplish this.
For example, Kent Waliser, general manager of Sagemoor Vineyards north of Pasco, will arrange for Singh’s white wine grapes to be picked early in the morning, then quickly loaded onto a truck for the 220-mile trek to Woodinville. This ensures the grapes stay as cool and as fresh as possible.
Each fall, Waliser spends at least as much time scheduling harvest for more than 80 wineries that purchase his grapes as he does amid his vines.
In August and September, daytime temperatures in the arid Columbia Valley can reach into the 90s on a regular basis. But as September slips into October, daytime temperatures cool into the 60s and 70s, and timing becomes less critical.
This is all part of the balancing act winemakers face if they hope to craft the delicious and vibrant wines that are expected from Washington.