At Taste Washington, we took advantage of a couple of the
seminars that were available. Not only could we sit and sip
fabulous wines at eleven in the morning but the panelists are
Saturday I attended the Intro to the World of Wine seminar
because Washington vs. the World was sold out. And amazingly after
27 years in the industry, I learned more about what makes
Washington wines so special.
Dr. Kevin Pogue, geology professor at Whitman College has
written a few papers regarding the soils of eastern Washington from
a different perspective. He thinks Washington has a unique place in
the world of wine. And the terrior, which includes soil, has
everything to do with that uniqueness.
There are very few vineyards in the world planted on loess with
basalt bedrock. Pronounced luss, and loosely translated means
loose. This is silt-sized sediment, which is the accumulation of
wind-blown dust left over from the Missoula Floods. Basalt is heavy
and creates a warmer climate. This is what makes Washington wines
so special. And so resistant to phylloxera, the dreaded root
Benches of basalt are now covered in vineyards. Great examples
would be the Wallula Gap or Horse Heaven Hills.
Thomas Price, Master Sommelier at The Metropolitan Grill and
Linda Murphy, author of “American Wine, An Honest Drink” talked
about the deductive process of tasting wine.
“You have to build up the card catalogue in your memory,” Price
said. And to each their own card catalogue.
This was emphasized when they both described the flavors of the
Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2012 hailing from Ancient Lakes AVA’s
Evergreen Vineyards. It’s composed of calcium carbonate that adds
limestone to the soil. That limestone element results in more
mineral than fruit flavors in a wine. It’s also important to note
that the lime flavors Price was describing, Murphy described as
Panelist Thomas Henick-Kling, Washington State University by way
of Australia and Germany, explained how Syrah is the most
expressive grape and the best at revealing the vineyard terrior. As
a result, the flavor range varies by terrior.
Black fruits, smoky, bacon fat, violets, licorice, earth and
black pepper are some of the typical flavor profiles found in a
Syrah depending on the soil and whether it’s a hot or cool
vineyard. The Proper Wines 2010 Syrah had the black fruits and
smoky bacon flavors of the warmer Walla Walla region.
Other wines tasted with panel comments:
Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek 2011 Chardonnay
is from a higher elevation in the Frenchman Hills and a cooler
Obelisco 2009 Merlot was sourced from Red
Mountain AVA where the Missoula Flood cobblestone gravels produce
wines with elevated tannins. Red Mountain is a small AVA with 15
different soil types.
Chateau Ste Michelle Canoe Ridge 2009 Cabernet
Sauvignon was luscious with black fruits, black olive,
baking spices and clove and vanilla from the oak barrels. Canoe
Ridge produces succulent texture to Cabernets accessible when
young, planted in 1992 200 yards from the Columbia River. With 30
to 40 mph winds there, the vines don’t get very big.
Syncline Columbia Valley 2011 Subduction Red is
a blend with a base of Grenache. Grenache in cooler vintages is all
white pepper nose and raspberry with a brilliant purple rim.
The final round was an interesting question about what varietal
the panelists would like to see more of in Washington State. Murphy
had consulted in Washington in the early years when Hogue had four
Chenin Blancs available. Now this grape is hard to find.
Price thought the Picpoul grape has a place in the dry warm
regions of the state. McCrea vineyards Picpoul was mentioned.
Henick-Kling, having spent time in Australia, would like to see
more Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon planted here.
Curious, isn’t it? With total wine production in 2012 at
12 million cases, the ratio of reds to whites is 50.3 percent to
49.7 percent. They all mentioned white grapes. Maybe to even things
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