As they are released this summer, drink them up, because they are delicious now.
NOW THAT WE are well into the 2015 growing season, we are seeing a number of 2014 whites and rosés being released. This is an early indication of the quality of the vintage — and at first glance, we have plenty to be thrilled with.
By any measurement, the 2014 vintage was historically warm throughout the Northwest. In Washington, the year
started early, and the heat didn’t let up until October, when temperatures finally relented into perfect conditions for a glorious autumn — a perfect ending to a great vintage.
Three fresh wines
Barnard Griffin 2014 rosé of sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $12: Combining bright crispness with stunning flavors, this rosé is loaded with strawberry, cherry, peaches, cream and mint. If this doesn’t say “summer” to you, nothing can.
Elk Cove Vineyards 2014 pinot gris, Willamette Valley, $19: Adam Campbell makes the best pinot gris in the Northwest, and this example is loaded with aromas and flavors of stone fruit, lemon and a hint of spearmint.
Thurston Wolfe 2014 PGV, Columbia Valley, $16: Winemaker Wade Wolfe annually crafts this delicious blend of pinot gris and viognier and for this wine added a bit of orange muscat. It’s as beautiful as it is refreshing, perfect for summer enjoyment.
In Oregon, winemakers were coming off a 2013 vintage that was at times miserable, thanks to the arrival of the tail of Typhoon Pabuk. That event dumped record levels of water on the Willamette Valley. No such drama occurred in 2014, and winemakers enjoyed what some described as Sonoma-like weather. In other words, it was an atypical year for northern Oregon because of the warm conditions. Thus, we should expect the 2014 Oregon reds (when we start to see them in another year or so) to be more ripe, not unlike what we often see in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.
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Meanwhile, the early 2014 white wines from British Columbia and Idaho are nothing short of spectacular, particularly with viognier, riesling and sauvignon blanc.
One white that gets released later that others is Chardonnay, often because it is aged longer for more complexity.
Because of the ultra-warm conditions throughout the Northwest last year, it was vitally important for winemakers to find the perfect time to bring in grapes, that fine line between retaining all-important acidity and gaining luscious flavors. Some attained this by picking some of their grapes early and blending them with fruit they harvested later.
In the case of winemakers such as Rob Griffin of Barnard Griffin in Richland, Benton County, they left more grapes on the vines so everything ripened more slowly. Griffin, who began making Washington wine in 1977, is able to achieve perfect balance with his rosé of sangiovese by directing his grape growers to carry higher tonnage. That’s the only way he’s able to achieve impeccable balance year after year.
As 2014 whites and rosés are released this summer, drink them up because they are delicious now.