Albariño, an acidic white wine that’s perfect with seafood, didn’t come to the Northwest until 1980 and has only recently become popular in Washington.
ONE OF THE more interesting up-and-coming white wine varieties in the Pacific Northwest is Albariño, a Spanish variety that is showing to have a good fit in Washington and Oregon vineyards and also happens to be a superb fit for our regional cuisine.
Albariño is native to Spain’s Galicia region on the northwest coast. The first known Albariño planted in the Northwest was likely in 1980 by Earl Jones, owner of Abacela Wine Cellars near Roseburg in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, also known for leading the charge with Oregon Tempranillo. In his study of Spanish grapes, Jones became fascinated with Albariño and decided to plant some at his estate, making a few cases two years later. Jones quickly discovered he had something special: a white wine loaded with orchard fruit backed by searing food-friendly acidity. I first tasted Albariño about 15 years ago and found it to be astonishing.
In Washington, we’re seeing plantings of Albariño in areas such as the Yakima Valley and the Ancient Lakes, two cooler areas of the Columbia Valley. The resulting wines are everything you could hope for, and have replaced sauvignon blanc as my favorite white wine to pair with seafood, particularly shellfish, crabcakes, chowder and grilled fish.
Four to try
Here are four great examples of Northwest Albariños. The two 2017s were tasted before bottling and are slated for release this spring.
Abacela 2016 Albariño, Umpqua Valley, $21: Aromas reminiscent of a sea breeze, this reveals notes of star fruit, minerality, tropical fruit and a faint hint of smoke. The bright acidity gives way to an exceptionally long finish.
Barnard Griffin 2017 Albariño, Yakima Valley, $16: Bright and tart right out of the gate, with notes of pink grapefruit and juicy Honeycrisp apple with hints of lemon zest, apple peel and ripe pear. (A sparkling Albariño is available only in the Barnard Griffin restaurant).
Palencia Wine Co. 2017 Albariño, Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley, $22: Loaded with aromas of ripe orchard fruit, especially apple, pear and nectarine, as well as hints of lime zest, backed by bright acidity and underlying gravelliness of minerality and a bit of brininess.
Coyote Canyon Winery 2015 Coyote Canyon Vineyard El Chispear Sparkling Albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, $32: Built in a dry brut style, this bubbly provides precise flavors of Meyer lemon, pear, apple and spices. Wonderfully complex.
If you like white wines with a lot of acidity, such as riesling and sauvignon blanc, I suspect you’ll find Albariño to be right in your wheelhouse. Fortunately, more Northwest wineries are adding it to their lineups.
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Abacela is adding to its Albariño acreage to increase production because sales are as brisk as its wines’ acidity.