Trust 2012 Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla- trustcellars.com
If you like light red wines like Merlot and Pinot Noir, you might enjoy a dive into the deeper, bolder flavor of a Cabernet Franc. The makers of Trust Cabernet Franc describe it as having “refined tannins, spicy aromas, vanilla with peppery accents, violet nuances and an understated elegance of some serious red and black berry, blueberry, and plum flavor.” Basically, it’s a great red wine without being too heavy. Established by Cardinal Richlieu in France in the 17th century, Cabernet Franc is happiest in sandy, fast-draining soil and the grapes ripen earlier than other reds. According to DNA testing from the 1990s, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc is planted widely throughout Europe. The first Cabernet Franc was cultivated in the 1970s, and the first varietal was produced in 1990. Though it was slow to catch on, it is now the fourth most widely planted grape in Washington State
La Chanterelle 2012 Syrah, Bellingham- lachanterellewine.com
Syrah (also known as Shiraz) is a rich, deep red wine that has lots of strong tannins and peppery notes. La Chanterelle creates a powerful Syrah with great balance. This charmer hails from Bellingham’s own Lettered Streets Neighborhood. Donatas Pocus and Lotte Freeman have created a distinctive red of superior quality. Their description of their Syrah: “La Chanterelle 2012 SYRAH is full-in-proportion Washington State red. The nose is filled with earth, wild flowers and a fruit labored palate. The back lingers with leather, red currants and tobacco tones that amuse your throat without you realizing what’s happened. It’s fresh. It’s naughty. Drink 2015-2024 possibly with some upside.” We like our wines naughty.
Gramercy Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Lower East”, Walla Walla- gramercycellars.com
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the great reds. Strong, complex, deep, a great Cabernet can make or break a good dinner. Because the tannins are strong, Cabs make excellent wines for collecting. Born in the 17th Century as a combination of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker Greg Harrington passed the Master Sommelier test in 1996 at the age of 26, then went on to serve as the head of wine programs all over the country. In 2005, he founded Gramercy Cellars to create wines of depth and character. His Cabernet Sauvignon “Lower East” is certainly a lovely, complex wine.
Long Shadows 2013 Chardonnay “Dance”, Walla Walla- longshadows.com
Chardonnay is one of the most popular wines in the U.S., and the primary component of champagne. It’s the most widely planted grape in the world, with an affinity for chalky soil, like its native Burgundy in France. It’s considered one of the easier wine grapes to cultivate, as it is relatively flexible about conditions. A fairly mutable grape, Chardonnay gets a lot of flavor from processing. When produced in steel, it’s a crisp, light wine. When aged in oak, it deepens and becomes richer, denser, creamier. Chardonnay Dance is a complex Chardonnay from the team at Long Shadows, a consortium of vintners in Walla Walla that was casked in 50 percent new, 50 percent year-old oak barrels to draw out the wine’s intrinsic complexity. The richer, deeper Chardonnay is bottled as “Dance,” while the lighter version is bottled as “Nine Hats.”
Savage Grace 2014 Gruner Veltiner, Walla Walla- savagegracewines.com
The winemakers at Savage Grace describe the Gruner Veltiner as: “Our first release of this Austrian varietal. This Grüner Veltliner is made from grapes grown at Underwood Mountain Vineyards, located alongside the Columbia River Gorge in WA. The grapes were whole cluster pressed and then fermented in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel, with 50 percent undergoing native fermentation to enhance complexity. This is a great food pairing wine, offering flavors of citrus fruit, honey, and wet stone.” Though we can’t vouch for the wet stone (it’s been a while since we’ve sucked on gravel) this is a warm, creamy white.
Buty 2012 White, Walla Walla Valley- butywinery.com
White blends are on the ascendancy as winemakers sort through the right combination of grapes to make a truly fine wine. Buty’s 2012 White is a clean, crisp wine that has a great balance between acid and creamy tones. The winemaker describes says of it: “Sémillon dominates our classic white blend. The sand, silt-loam filled soils and cooler temperatures of Spring Creek Vineyard in the Yakima Valley nurture our sauvignon bringing bright acidity to the blend. Muscadelle from Lonesome Spring River Ranch is responsible for the florals in this verve-filled wine. A portion of the wine is lees aged in mature oak and the balance aged in a concrete tank. Forty barrels produced.” White blends used to be considered the leftover grapes from better wines, but they are gaining in both reputation and popularity.
Atavus Vineyard Analemma Sparkling Blanc de Noir, Columbia Gorge
Blanc de Noirs are white wines made from black grapes, and Blanc de Noir wines are made the same way champagne is created in France. So basically, they’re French champagne without actually being from the designated champagne region. And, as with their sister rosé, they are being taken seriously these days by contest judges, collectors, and consumers. This one also happens to have great tasting notes: “The nose has just a hint of strawberries, cherry blossoms, and citrus peel. The palate immediately fills your mouth with bubbles and has a smooth creamy texture. There are hints of almond flavors, along with toasty warm notes freshly baked biscuits.” Biscuits!
Tranche 2014 Pink Pape Rosé, Walla Walla- tranchecellars.com
Don’t call it a comeback, rosé has been here for years. But it seems that with a little crafting and some focus and attention, rosé has gone from marginalized and ridiculed to the centerpiece of the wine industry. Pretty in pink, rosé has been mansplained at and condescended to for decades, but she is finding her voice and earning serious respect for her complexity. This particular rosé is a Chateauneuf de Pape blend that the winemakers describe as having “delicate aromas of rose petal, white peach and nectarine, with lifted notes of sweet pink grapefruit and lemon zest. The wine is fresh and lively upon entry, with bright mountain berry flavors complemented by wet river rock minerality. Driving acidity and citrus qualities provide focus and direction, drawing out the palate to a mouthwatering finish.” Vintners are getting serious about a wine when they mention stones and river rocks and moss. Well done, rosé.
Samson Estates Oro, Whatcom County- samsonestates.com
Dessert wines can be overly sweet, cloying, over powering, or just plain perfumy. Samson Estates managed to create a dessert wine that is worthy of sipping on its own, or poured over your favorite dessert. Oro is Italian for gold, and the experience of drinking the Samson Oro is that of sipping liquid gold. Bright, delicious, mellow, and balanced, the Oro complements fruits, cheeses, and chocolate in equal measure. It’s not a surprise that this nutty, rich wine has won so many awards.
Lost River 2012 Lake Harvest Semillon, Mazama- lostriverwinery.com
As with Chardonnay, Semillon is relatively easy to cultivate, making it a popular introductory grape for wineries that are getting established. The Semillon is a key grape in making dessert wines like sauternes. Primarily grown in California to blend with Sauvignon to make Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon stands on its own as a slightly sweet dry dessert wine. According to the winemaker: “This wine exhibits notes of honey, blood orange and toasted oak. This is an excellent wine paired with mushroom appetizers and rich seafood like sea scallops and crab.”