A week has gone by now and I’m still mulling over everything I learned at Taste Washington. One of those things, though, was the unusual direction some Washington wineries are taking on whites. Here are a few discoveries.
Grenache Blanc: Two Vintners
Few (like three) Washington wineries are making grenache blanc and Two Vintners—the “passion project” of Morgan Lee and Donavon Claflin, Covington Cellars’ winemaker and assistant winemaker, respectively—merits a serious look. The wine was showcased at the Boushey Vineyards table, where Dick Boushey was pouring it because, he says, he “wants people to know he grows other stuff besides syrah.” Truthfully, I think Boushey was also pouring it because he likes the wine.
For good reason. This grenache blanc had a bright, green crispness on the nose—one that makes you think you’re about to taste a sauvignon blanc—while on the palate it’s full of ripe fruit. There’s citrus there, and perhaps a hint of peach. Grenache blanc is a high-acid grape, and while this wine has enough acidity to balance the aromatic fruit, there’s not so much as to make you drool. Plus, the wine is 10 percent roussane, which Lee added to round out the mid-palate.
Two Vintners made just 150 cases of the 2011 grenache blanc, which is being bottled today. It releases at the end of April, and should be available at the Woodinville tasting room and at Seattle wine shops including Esquin, Picnic, and Wine World Warehouse, for $25.
About grenache blanc in Washington: it’s not grown widely. Boushey has just seven acres of it planted. McRea Vintners has a grenache blanc, which Lee admits he admired when he began making his wine, releasing around Labor Day. Rulo will release a 2011 later in the year.
A Viognier Blend: Smasne Cellars
Also being poured at a vineyard tasting table was Smasne Cellars’ Konner Ray White, which I confess I’d never heard of until I stumbled upon it at Upland Vineyards. As such, I wasn’t expecting what I put in my mouth. The wine was full of bright fruit and nice acidity, and the neutral oak it had been resting in brought more complexity to the wine. This is a Rhone-style blend with a preponderance of viognier grapes, as well as another unusual Washington grape or two: aligote, which gives the wine some of its backbone and morio muscat, which adds a floral, perfumy note.
The real selling point to the Konner Ray however, might be its price. At less than $20, it delivers more than expected from a Washington white. There were 275 cases produced of the 2010 Smasne Cellars Konner Ray White, which releases in early May; it should be available at most wine shops in Seattle, as well as at QFC, for $16
The talk of Taste may well have been Syncline’s sparkly Scintillation. Bubbly isn’t always high on my priority list (I know, I’m the only woman in America not falling all over herself for Champagne; heck, it took me years to accept sparkling water). But I do appreciate good Champagne, and bubbles as a whole are growing on me. And this sparkling sure was growing on the crowd. Not one but at least three winemakers sent me in search of it.
Make no mistake: This is no sweet, sparkly, American wine designed to satisfy the sorority girl graduation crowd. The Scintillation was crisp and clean, full of lemon and lemon curd, and this very slightest hint of hay on the nose.
Scintillation is another labor of love. The blanc de blanc spent two years in tirage, and all the riddling and disgorging was done by hand, in house. If you’ve never seen this sparkling white on the shelf before, that’s because although Syncline has been making a sparkling since 2001, this is the first year enough has been made (200 cases) to wholesale.
The 2009 Syncline Scintillation releases next week, with 60 cases allocated to Seattle. It’s expected to be available at shops like Pike and Western, McCarthy and Schiering, and PCC, as well as several restaurants, and should retail for $40.