The lessons of 2013 and 2014 served growers and winemakers well during the record-hot 2015 season.
WASHINGTON’S 2015 VINTAGE will be remembered as the warmest on record, from a heat-inspired jump-start to the growing season through a historically early harvest.
That June, the average high temperature in the heart of the Columbia Valley was 104. That’s hot even by Eastern Washington standards.
Now we’re getting a first glimpse of 2015 reds, which followed two vintages that also were hotter than usual, and I’m liking what I see so far.
Three to try
Here are three delicious and broadly available reds from the 2015 vintage:
Nine Hats 2015 Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $20: This playful blend of Bordeaux and Rhône varieties from Long Shadows Vintners opens with aromas of shaved dark chocolate, ripe raspberry and black pepper, followed by flavors of intense black fruit, including plum, blackberry and black cherry. It’s all backed by supple tannins that lead to a long finish.
Drumheller Wines 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $12: This value-minded label from Ste. Michelle is available primarily in restaurants and online. It’s a deep, dark, intense wine with aromas of black currant, cocoa powder and vanilla, followed by flavors of ripe plum, strawberry jam and huckleberry pie, all backed with bright acidity and mellow tannins.
Saviah Cellars 2015 The Jack Syrah, Columbia Valley, $18: Walla Walla winemaker Richard Funk has crafted an astounding wine with smoky aromas of cured meats, ripe plum and white pepper, followed by supple flavors of blackberry pie, vanilla, forest floor and boysenberry syrup. Perfect for barbecued ribs.
The 2015 reds I’ve tasted have been filled with ripe fruit without being over the top. They have balanced acidity and supple, approachable tannins. The promise we saw a year ago when the young white wines were released is holding true with young reds from 2015.
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Winemakers — who are putting final touches on their 2015 reds as they prepare to bottle and send them into distribution — report they also are pleased with what they are seeing. While consumers have to be a little wary, as the best wine a winemaker has ever produced typically is the one he is trying to sell, the 2015s poured into my glass have been delicious.
And we probably have the 2013 and 2014 vintages to thank for that. Growers and winemakers learned how to deal with hot vintages those years, and the lessons served them well during the extraordinary 2015 season, when everything was so warm and so much more challenging: everything from managing water, canopy, grape load and when to bring in the grapes. It was like the entire winemaking calendar shifted forward by two weeks. It was weird, but it worked.