Taste Test: Avennia Winery's Grand Debut
A notable new winery struts its stuff with two reds and a white in its first release ever.
It seems rare for a winery to be so well received in its first release, but that’s what has happened with Avennia, the brain child of Chris Peterson, most recently of DeLille Cellars, and Marty Taucher. The two formed a partnership in June of 2010, crushed their first fruit in September of 2010, and released their first wines just about a week ago.
Somehow, before the wines had even been released to the public, the winery's member mailing list had soared to 1,000 and they’d begun garnering acclaim, including two slots on Seattle Met's 2012 Top 100 Washington Wines list.
Here’s a look at the winery's new—shoot, their first—releases.
Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, Boushey Vineyards
How does a brand new winery go about scoring grapes from the likes of Dick Boushey? Peterson will say it’s dumb luck, but the truth is he’d been hanging around the vineyard for a while, all the way back when he was in school at Walla Walla Community College’s enology and viticulture program. Avennia is one of a handful of wineries making sauvignon blanc with Boushey grapes. Efeste, for example, will release its version in November.
This is a pricier sauvignon blanc than many, and there may be some unwilling to part with the $25 it costs, which is too bad. Make no mistake, this is no New Zealand sauvignon blanc but instead is much more aligned with a Sancerre-style, and with oak. In fact, the wine was barrel fermented in 10 percent new French oak—with native yeasts—for eight months. The result is a joyful expression of fruit on the nose and palate.
On the Nose: Bright fruits, including candied lemon, are layered over zesty grapefruit. There’s a slight yeasty note here from the time the wine spent sur lie, and event a hint of beeswax buried under the juicy fruit notes.
On the Palate: The juicy, fruitiness of this wine—candied lemon, nectarine, a bit of green apple at the far back of the palate—is perfectly balanced with some serious acidity. There’s a hint of honeycomb in here, while the oak treatment is apparent not in layers of caramel or toast but rather in how it lends a weight and round mouthfeel to the wine.
Drink This Wine If: You want to discover a Washington take on sauvignon blanc. Of you lean more towards Sancerre-style than New Zealand-style sauvignon blanc or, if you love the zippy acidity of sauvignon blanc, but want a softer balance, and lots of bright, fresh fruit.
Parapine Syrah, 2010, Yakima Valley
Avennia released two syrahs this time around; a single vineyard syrah and this, the Parapine, which comes from Boushey Vineyard and Force Majeure Vineyard, both in the Yakima Valley. It also scored slot 68 on our Top 100 Wines list.
On the Nose: Black cherry, bright red cherry, black raspberry and just the faintest whiff of alder smoke merge with some serious minerality that comes in the form of wet rock, as well as a hint of flowers.
On the Palate: This wine has pretty high acid for a syrah, and that’s not a bad thing as it makes for a fresh, balanced approach. The fruits—black raspberry, black cherry, even a little blueberry—overlay a meaty, beef jerky note. There’s tons of minerality on the palate, as well as some wildflowers, too.
Drink This Wine If: You want a super fresh take on Washington syrah.
Arnaut Boushey Vineyard Syrah, 2010, Yakima Valley
If you thought the Parapine was good (and you should) you’ll be wowed at what just another $10 gets you. That’s likely why it scored the No. 16 spot on this year's list.
On the Nose: Hello black pepper, smoked meat, busted black fruit—black cherries, blackberries, even some blueberries—and violets. I put my nose in the glass and a sudden image of purple flowers floating overhead as someone grilled dark fruit was conjured. Go figure.
On the Palate: The wine is dense with fruit. It has flowers and violets and jasmine, blackberries and black cherries and super ripe red cherries, as well as serious minerality, some smokiness. Both acidity, which is medium-plus, and oak tannins, from the 16 months it spent in 20 percent new French oak, come into play here.
Drink If: You’re looking for an elegant and refined, yet juicy, chubby (but not fat and not boozy, sweet, or extracted), fresh, Washington state syrah.
All three wines released last weekend and are currently making there way to such retailers as McCarthy and Schiering, Wine World Warehouse and Esquin, as well as to the Barking Frog, Purple and RN74 wine lists.