Red wines from Washington’s 2012 vintage are hitting the shelves. If the early returns are any indication, it looks to be a stellar vintage for the state.
Most releases thus far has been value-priced and Rhone-style wines. Both often see less time in new oak barrels than varieties like cabernet sauvignon and merlot and are subsequently released more quickly. Though many of the higher-tier wines are just coming out, we are already seeing some spectacular wines and also some superb values.
Following two cool, challenging growing seasons, 2012 was a year that tracked nearly perfectly to 20-year historical averages in terms of heat accumulation. The results are wines that are very true to type for Washington—full of ripe fruit flavors but with well-balanced acidity. Notably, many of these wines have also shown good staying power, drinking well even after several days open. That bodes well for their ageability.
On the value side, the 2012 Waterbrook Syrah Columbia Valley ($14) is a bullseye, with rich raspberry and berry flavors with a vanilla top note. Marching up the price ladder, the 2012 Gordon Estate Syrah Columbia Valley ($20) brings a mixture of sweet plum and cranberry flavors with vanilla accents. The Dumas Station Cowcatcher Red Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2012 ($25) meanwhile brings a whole lot of wine for the money. It’s full of plush vanilla, cherry, and mocha flavors with a captivating sense of texture and beautifully balanced acidity.
At the high end, the 2012 Walla Walla Vintners Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley ($40) is a hedonistically rich wine with concentrated raspberry and Red Vine flavors. It's highly enjoyable. The Avennia Arnaut Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012 ($50) is easily one of the best wines I’ve had all year. Coming from one of the state’s best syrah vineyards, it’s intensely flavored with smoked meat, earth, mineral and blue fruit.
Washington is blessed with an ideal climate for growing grapes. Even in cool years like 2010 and 2011, the quality remains high. But from what I’ve tasted thus far, 2012 is looking like a vintage to be remembered. Stock up.