In a land where almost every guy wears Carhartt (I didn’t know what it was til I went there either), they’re making some good wine. We tried a ton when we visited Walla Walla and Red Mountain AVAs during the week. Then we headed to Seattle for the weekend to hit up Taste Washington, a huge event full of great seminars, delicious food from local restaurants, and – of course – an overwhelming amount of wine. My favorites from all of that exhausting research:
1999 Hedges Three Vineyards
Hedges started out when there were only 30 wineries in the state (now there are over 800). They originally planted Bordeaux varietals although now their Syrah is also “magic,” as they told us (though I agree). All of the wines are also way less punch-you-in-the-mouth than most powerful Red Mountain reds, much more restrained and elegant. This Three Vineyards was an old Bordeaux blend ($70) full of blackberry and cocoa powder, but I also liked the newer releases we tasted like this earthy, blackberry, baking spicy DLD Syrah ($25). The Three Vineyards was probably my favorite of the whole trip, and Hedges also had an awesome half-outdoors room where we had appetizers and some Taittinger Champagne (one of the owners was born in Champagne) at sunset.
2013 Côte Bonneville rosé
Hugh Shiels runs DuBrul Vineyard and was one of the grape growers we had dinner with (see yesterday’s post). His Syrah is great too, but this was my favorite rosé at Taste. Made from all Cab Franc (I tend to always love Cab Franc rosés), it had great ripe strawberry and some raspberry. $30 here
2011 No Girls
This is a Grenache from Cayuse’s Paciencia Vineyard, full of roasted strawberry, dirty, heavy purple floral, and a touch of salinity. It’s name comes from a story about a brothel that used to be in the town of Walla Walla in the 1800’s. When it got shut down, they posted a “No Girls” sign painted on the wall that was still up when Cayuse’s owner bought it in 2002. I sort of liked the story more than the wine but it is a good story… (You can read even more about it here.) $65
2000 Leonetti Reserve & 2005 L’Ecole No. 41 “Apogee”
As Walla Walla’s first commercial winery, Leonetti is old school and the wines hold up. This Reserve was spicy but lush blackberry and cedar made from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Cab Frank and 10% Petit Verdot. $99 here
We had this L’Ecole at the same dinner, which had been one of my favorite Washington wineries before my trip. A blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 7% Malbec, and 3% Cabernet Franc, and was named after trying to reach the highest level of quality from the vineyard. The rich blackberry fruit and mellow tobacco at least point to how well Walla Walla wine can age. $49 here
2012 Novelty Hill Roussanne
Roussanne is a white grape that’s from the Rhone Valley in France, but Washington actually grows a lot of Rhone varietals (as does Paso Robles in California). This waxy, yellow apple Roussanne was really refreshing after so many reds. And with a little Viognier blended in, this makes an awesome wine for spring. $23 here
2010 Reynvaan Stonessence
I tried the Reynvaan during a seminar where we blind tasted Washington wines against wines from other places in the world to see if we could guess which was which. (You’d think it would be easy but blinding is HARD, dude. I got 3 out of the five matchups right.) This Reynvaan Syrah was up against the Cornas. Both had a similar (and interesting for Syrah) blood orange sorbet thing going on, both were good, and no, I didn’t get this matchup right. Arrrrg! The 2011 is available here, $70
2013 Two Vintners Grenache Blanc
We tried this right out of the tank, where it often tastes more like fruit juice than dry wine. But this was deeeeelicious! The 2013 is still working its magic in the tank but you can get the 2012 here for about $25.
Some great wines and great values here – let me know if you try any!