Washington’s 11th and newest AVA – the Lake Chelan viticultural area – was officially approved just three weeks ago. Occupying the far northwest corner of the sprawling Columbia valley AVA, Lake Chelan currently includes just 15 wineries and 265 acres of vineyard. The first modern-day vineyard plantings went into the ground in 1998, and a number of growers recall that as recently as 2001 they were advised by a U.S. government official that they were “wasting their money” on wine grapes – the vines would never survive the winters.
When I visited Lake Chelan five years ago, I am reminded by a quick look through my iPhoto files, the two wineries I stopped at were Vin du Lac (http://www.vindulac.com) and Tsillan Cellars (http://www.tsillancellars.com), both just recently opened, neither selling wine from estate grown grapes. This week, in the course of a whirlwind day, I flew over/drove through/stopped at 14 of the region’s 15 wineries, several vineyards, and tasted through some 50 wines from 10 different producers – all of them estate-grown.
The discussion of Washington wine terroir – the what, where, how and if of it – lies a bit outside the constraints of a blog; in fact, it’s a significant part of my upcoming book. But Dr. Alan Busacca and winemaker Robert Smasne have taken the terroir bull by the horns and stuffed it into a project dubbed AlmaTerra.
An old friend got married on Saturday – beautiful ceremony, gorgeous surroundings, flowers everywhere, lots of good food, music and wine. The wines fit the occasion – not too fancy, just right for an outdoor summer setting, a nice mix of sparkling, white and red. But… as long as you are buying wine in case quantities, why not mix it up?
A week ago I had the pleasure of moderating a seminar on Washington syrah, with four winemakers who know their way around a grape. The question I intended to pose was “how do these Washington syrahs age?”, and each winemaker was kind enough to bring a bottle of their most recent as well as an older syrah. Eric Dunham brought his 2002 and 2005 Frenchtown Vineyard Syrahs; Caleb Foster brought the Buty 2002 Rediviva of the Stones and the 2006 Buty Peter Canlis Syrah; Chuck Reininger brought a 2003 Syrah and a 2006 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Syrah; and Ron Coleman brought the 2002 Columbia Valley and the 2006 Ciel du Cheval Vineyard bottlings from Tamarack.
“Hey Mister G,
I just want to say thank you for all your replies and terrific columns and blogs. I think the number one reason I follow you is that while you are very knowledgeable about the world's wines, you know so well that this region's wines, while still considered "emerging" in many circles, are not just a stud value but also stud quality. Stud-ilicious.
The number of gadgets, gizmos, tchtchotkes, add-ons, stoppers, cork poppers, aerators, chillers, and so on inspired by the simple enjoyment of wine is equaled only by the similar profusion of golf paraphernalia. But the dream of actually making world-class wine has – until now – not been available to the average consumer. Take heart, oh would-be wine barons of the world; your gadget has arrived!
Washington’s newest AVA is Lake Chelan, a unique region tucked into the northwest corner of the Columbia valley, in the eastern shadow of the Cascade mountains, and ringing a large lake, somewhat reminiscent of the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Wineries are new to this area, which has traditionally relied upon tourism and apple growing for its economy. The rise of the Washington wine industry, coupled with the vicissitudes of the apple industry, and prompted by the fact that wine grapes seem to thrive where apples do also, has initiated the region’s rapid growth – both wineries and vineyards – but it has all happened in the last ten years.
The Eyrie Vineyards was the featured winery at a landmark winemaker dinner last night at the Steelhead Diner in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. A joint production of winemaker Jason Lett and chef Kevin Davis, it marked the end of an era, and a very promising new beginning. The genesis of the dinner, Jason Lett explains, came about this way.
Back when I was making my first trips into Willamette valley wine country, some 25 years ago, I soon discovered that the Oregon Wine Tasting Room, at the Lawrence Art Gallery on Highway 18, 9 miles southwest of McMinnville, was the most essential stop. It was the brainchild of Amity Vineyards owner and founder Myron Redford, and it spoke to the needs and the zeitgeist of the day – it was a co-op, run more for education and pleasure than profit, and it gave a public face to the young, upstart Oregon wine industry.
Yesterday’s Tri City Herald reported on two bills that just cleared the Washington state legislature and will become law on July 26th (http://www.tri-cityherald.com/915/story/596554.html). They untangle a few of the many twisted and tangled threads that have been ruining – oops, make that running – this state’s liquor laws since Prohibition.