As the deep freeze continues here in western Washington, it’s time to combat the cold temperatures with their vinous kryptonite: big red wines.
While Washington makes an abundance of high-quality whites, red wines are increasingly the state’s calling card. Eastern Washington’s consistently warm summer temperatures offer an abundance of ripe fruit flavors with the 2012 vintage wines in particular often quite rich and showy.
Below are a few wines guaranteed to make the world around you seem a little warmer, focusing on three of the state’s strengths: Bordeaux-style blends; red blends; and syrah.
In the Bordeaux region of France only five grape varieties—cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, and petit verdot—can be used to produce red wines and are often blended together. Washington winemakers have subsequently emulated these wines and Bordeaux-style blends have become one of the state’s greatest strengths.
Few show a more skilled touch than Ben Smith of Cadence Winery. The 2012 Cadence Coda Red Wine Red Mountain ($25), a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot, offers generous notes of plum, herbs and mineral with a fine sense of acid and tannin balance. Give it a good hour to open up.
The 2012 Owen Roe Red Wine Yakima Valley ($28) flips the script on the wine above with merlot and cabernet franc taking the lead followed by cabernet sauvignon and malbec. This wine offers concentrated flavors of dried herbs, cherry, and blackberry with a framework of firm tannins. Take that, cold weather.
Often indistinguishable in terms of labeling from Bordeaux-style blends (sometimes the front or back label will give you a clue), red blends can and often do include everything under the sun. The 2012 Pendulum Red Wine Columbia Valley ($18) is a kitchen sink-style blend that brings aromas of plum and sweet barrel spices followed by a rich mouthfeel. The 2012 Ryan Patrick Rock Island Red Wahluke Slope ($20) meanwhile combines merlot, syrah, petite sirah, and primitivo. It’s hedonistic in style with notes of coffee, chocolate, and cherry with a winter-warming finish.
Syrah can make a good argument for being Washington’s most distinctive grape variety, creating wines that range from earthy and savory to exuberantly fruit filled. Damsel Cellars is a new winery founded by Mari Womack, assistant winemaker at Darby Winery in Woodinville. The winery’s first release, the 2012 Damsel Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley ($32), offers flavors of brambly fruit and chocolate, showing equal parts power and restraint. J&J Vintners meanwhile is a new Walla Walla Valley winery founded by Jeremy Petty and Jody Middleton. Their 2012 J&J Vintners Syrah Les Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($30) dazzles with aromas and flavors of coffee and sweet spices.