Oregon & Washington State Wines – Part 2

Oregon & Washington State Wines – Part 2

Rather belated, this is the second part of our review from the latest annual tasting of wines from the Pacific North West. This second part focuses on a small round up of new winery and selected wine discoveries from Washington State. As I mentioned in the Oregon review the wines from these wineries will be included in the next editions of Wine behind the label and a new guide, West Coast Wines, which I am working on with our California based contributor Ilona Thompson.


Walla Walla Valley

Washington State offers a wide and diverse range of wine styles. Red Bordeaux and Rhône style varietals and blends are the main feature, however some excellent whites and other reds are also very successful. The giant Columbia Valley AVA dominates the vineyard area to the east of the Cascade Mountains, with three main sub AVAs, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley. The region also encompasses a number of additional small more recently established appellations. As mentioned in part one of the review the Columbia and Walla Walla Valleys and Columbia Gorge straddle the border with Oregon. Check out further details here including a list of wineries profiled in Wine behind the label.

Dunham Cellars is a family owned Washington State winery producing a small range of wines from their Walla Walla Valley base and fruit is also sourced from the Yakima and Columbia Valleys as well as from estate owned vineyards. The line up includes Chardonnay, a white blend the Four Legged White along with reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as well as the Bordeaux styled blend Trutina and the well-priced Three Legged Red, which comes from an assortment of varieties. The Lewis Estate Vineyard in the Columbia Valley is an important source for the winery and as well as a fine 2014 Riesling, the winery vinifies a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a premium red the Founders Blend from Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. The Riesling is one of the States better examples, with a hint of green fruits and a fresh citrus quality, there is a hint of residual sugar.

Abeja Estate produces a small range of wines from both their own Heather Hill and Mill Creek Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley as well as from other sources in the Columbia Valley. Estate wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Chardonnay.

Abeja Vineyard

The 2015 Chardonnay Washington State, comes from a number of sources. Elegant and finely crafted the wine offers attractive citrus fruit with a restrained creamy lees quality and well-judged oak. The 2014 Merlot is sourced from the Columbia Valley and is medium, full with hints of dark plum and berry fruits in an easy, supple and approachable style. Readers visiting the winery should note the luxury cottage accommodation at the Inn at Abeja.

Lauren Ashton Cellars are based in Woodinville just outside Seattle, from where they make an extensive range of generally well priced reds and whites from the Bordeaux and Rhône grapes as well as Riesling and Malbec. The winery supports sustainable farming practices and fruit is sourced from a number of vineyards in the Columbia Valley, Yakima Valley and Red Mountain AVAs. Freshly harvested grapes are transported in refrigerated trucks to the winemaking base in Woodinville. The 2016 Cuvée Méline from the Columbia Valley is a Bordeaux White blend comprising three quarters Sauvignon Blanc with the balance Semillon. Vinified in a combination of stainless steel and barrel, it has a fresh combination of white fruits and citrus with impressive depth and intensity. The 2013 Cuvée Arlette is also a Bordeaux style, Right Bank, from Red Mountain. A blend of Merlot, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc along with Petit Verdot, the wine offers an impressive depth of spicy, blackcurrant and berry fruits with a hint of cocoa.

Figgins Estate is the personal label of Chris Figgins whose family also owns Leonetti Cellar. The wines here are made from his own 32 acre vineyard in the eastern stretches of the Walla Walla Valley. His primary objective is to make a world class Bordeaux styled red from a single vineyard site. Two wines are now made, a Riesling and the very impressive Estate Red. 


Figgins Estate Vineyard

The higher altitude vineyards here provide a really elegant and fresh edge in the 2013 Estate Red. It comes from an assemblage dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon along with Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are restrained black fruits, as well as underlying notes of cassis, underpinned by a fresh acidity and very polished tannins. Ageing is for a touch less than two years in around two-thirds new wood, which is seamlessly integrated. It is a wine with a real stamp of terroir.

At Gramercy Cellars a number of wines have been made with a focus on both The Rhône Valley and Bordeaux. In addition a Tempranillo Inigo Montoya from the Walla Walla Valley has also been released. It includes a touch of both Mourvèdre and Syrah. A Columbia Valley GSM red (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) is labelled Third Man. A Walla Walla Pepper Bridge blend combines Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, while the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley has a hint of the Left Bank about it. A third, more economically priced, Bordeaux style red Lower East Cabernet Sauvignon is also made. Columbia Valley Grenache comes from the Horse Heaven Hills area and is blended with around 20% Syrah. A peppery Syrah Lagniappe comes from some of the cooler sites in the Columbia Valley. A Columbia Valley Syrah is also made, a Walla Walla blend Deuce and there is a pricier Reserve example John Lewis. The 2014 L’Idiot du Village Mourvèdre from the Columbia Valley is full of ripe red berry and cherry fruits with a complex smoked, savoury character and a spicy edge. The 2014 Forgotten Hills Syrah from the Walla Walla Valley offers a pure black fruit, pepper spice and a mineral quality from a distinctly cool site in the foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Two Vintners are also based in Woodinville. They make a small range of reds focussing on the Bordeaux varieties, Syrah and unusually Cinsault. The other relatively rare red for Washington State is a 2014 Zinfandel, which comes from the Stone Tree Vineyard at Wahluke Slope, which is to the north of the Yakima Valley in the centre of the extensive Columbia Valley.

Wahluke Slope

Originally intended as a one off it is now produced every vintage. Vibrant, full and forward, the wine is full of dark brambly fruit, a hint of spice and is nicely balanced with supple tannins. The wines here are all made in relatively small lots, this Zinfandel vintage just 530 cases.

Seattle based Cadence Winery is now well established as a leading producer of some of Washington States finest Bordeaux style reds. A rosé, Coda Rosã is also made, which again comes from the Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Of the reds Bel Canto is Cabernet Franc and Merlot, while Camerata combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Tapteil, is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, with small proportions of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 2013 Ciel de Cheval from the Red Mountain vineyard of the same name combines Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. It is very elegant and stylish with layers of flavour. Restrained black fruits, cassis, plum as well as a hint of cedar are all apparent. Long and complex the wine will age and evolve very well for a decade and longer.

Wine Searcher shopping links:

Dunham Cellars

Abeja Estate

Lauren Ashton Cellars

Figgins Estate

Gramercy Cellars

Two Vintners

Cadence Winery


Landscape photos courtesy – Washington State Wine Commission


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