The grapes survived record snow and smoky skies to produce delicate, fresh new releases.
WEATHER CONDITIONS during a vintage’s growing season are not always the indicator of quality. White wines from the 2017 vintage — wines that are just now showing up in tasting rooms and on wine merchants’ shelves — are a case in point.
Most folks in the Columbia Valley will remember the winter of 2017 for the record amount of snow they shoveled. What that snow did for the grapes was vital. Because the ground had more water than usual, the vines grew denser canopy (leaves, etc.).
This was key because, when the summer heat came on in June and July, the grapes’ natural acidity and delicate fruit flavors were protected and preserved until harvest in August. That freshness is now showing up in the finished white wines being released.
Four fresh whites to try
These four white wines from Washington’s 2017 harvest are now in the marketplace. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant, or order them directly from the winery.
Thurston Wolfe 2017 PGV, Columbia Valley, $15: This blend of pinot gris and viognier is loaded with aromas of fresh white flowers, fresh linen and lime zest, followed by flavors of lemon, grapefruit and star fruit, all backed with zesty acidity. A perfect beach wine to pair with seared scallops or pasta with white sauce. Tastes like summer.
Kiona Vineyards 2017 chenin blanc, Columbia Valley, $17: Aromas of Golden Delicious apples and orange zest are backed by flavors of ripe peach, Asian pear and ginger gold apples. Bright acidity provides the perfect tension. Pair this underappreciated variety with halibut, chowder, or grilled or smoked salmon.
Smasne Cellars 2017 Otis Vineyard Albariño, Yakima Valley, $18: This vibrant white wine from a Prosser winery uses fruit from one of the state’s oldest vineyards. It’s wonderfully fragrant, with notes of citrus and green apple leading to flavors of plush ripeness. Spot-on acidity makes this a medium-bodied, easy drinker.
Palencia Winery 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $18: This racy white wine unveils aromas of lemon-meringue pie, lime zest and fresh peaches, all backed by acidity with pinpoint precision.
The 2017 vintage also will be remembered for several regional wildfires: in British Columbia, in the Columbia Gorge and in the Cascades. Smoke from these fires settled into the Columbia Valley and Columbia Basin, leaving them in a smoky haze for much of the summer. Many worried that the smoke could taint the wine by infusing itself in the fruit. Between Washington State University researchers and the Washington Grapegrowers Association, many hours were spent studying the issue. Fortunately, the smoke did not end up dramatically affecting the crop or the ensuing wines.
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In typical Columbia Valley fashion, September and October were warm with perpetually sunny skies, leading to a harvest that started on time and provided little drama to growers or winemakers.
The 2017 whites are just now coming into the marketplace, and you will find them delicious and vibrant, perfect for summer and fall enjoyment.