Friday, December 21, 2018

Celebrate the Holidays With New Washington Grape Varieties

Looking for a rare and unusual wine to sip with Christmas dinner or on New Year's Eve? It's easy to throw cash at a well-known bottle, but why not take the savvy route and buy a well-price wine featuring a lesser-known, up-and-coming grape variety? I interviewed several of my favorite Washington wineries to find out which new grapes they're watching emerge in 2018 and 2019.

As you might expect when Washington wine is involved, the majority of the grape varieties are big reds; however, some winemakers reported exciting whites, including Alberino and Piquepoul.

This is the second part of my series on the best new grape varieties in the Pacific Northwest. See what's on the move in Oregon in part one.

Without further ado, here are the Washington grapes varieties to look for now and in 2019.

JJ Williams, Kiona Vineyards and Winery

Three generations of the Williams family—JJ, John, and Scott—owners of Kiona Vineyards. [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

"Carmenère and Mourvédre are what first come to mind. Carmenère on Red Mountain has really nice color—it’s violet/blue. It's got a nice pyrazine profile without being downright vegetal as the grape can be in other regions. Here it’s herbal and spicy, with blueberry fruit notes."

"Mourvèdre is producing stellar wines in Washington but perpetually flies under the radar. These wines have a high 'yum' factor and tend to be tasting-room superstars. The grape is fairly common in the greater wine scene but for whatever reason has not gained mainstream recognition from the US wine-drinking population. Look for Mourvédre from Syncline, Mark Ryan, and Helioterra."

"I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lemberger as well, although we’ve been growing it for 40+ years. It’s really a delight. Not a new grape but certainly obscure."

Brad Binko, Eternal Wines

Eternal Wine's Carmenere [Photo: Mattie J. Bamman]
"Carmenere is #1, then Roussanne and Pinot Noir. We make all three and the Carmenere is a huge hit. Subtle tannins smooth acidity and a nice spicy finish."

Nina Buty, Buty Winery

In Washington State, we are seeing growth in Rhone varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. Also, we are seeing more experimentation planting new grapevine clones in new locations. We are learning about new sites with huge potential, new methods of growing from tip to tail. It's a very exciting time in the Pacific Northwest."

Paul Beveridge, Wilridge Winery

"Sagrantino, Zweigelt, and Touriga Nacional. We're growing them all at our certified Organic and Biodynamic Vineyard and Winery on Naches Heights."

Rachel Horn, Aniche Cellars

"Albarino, Mourvédre, and more obscure Rhones, like Cinsault, Piquepoul, Counoise, and Carignan."

Inland Desert Nursery, via DavenLore Winery

Davenlore winemaker, Gordon Taylor [Photo: Mattie J. Bamman]
"Aglianico, Albarino, Graciano, Gruner Veltliner, and Zweigelt."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Photos: Driving Across the U.S., Oregon to Maine

I think every American should drive across the United States at least once. My dad's stories of hitchhiking across the country with long hair in the 70s hooked me. The sheer beauty and expanse of our fair distinguished country keeps me coming back.

Three days after Thanksgiving, my wife and I drove from Portland, Oregon, to Belfast, Maine, via Knoxville. We crushed it: 4K miles in five nights, with one day off with friends. We snuck between snowstorms, and, when wind closed the Wyoming highway, we found an alternative route with help from the local DOT. The photos below feature Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine—a tiny glimpse at the experience of actually covering those miles.

Some people think it's uncomfortable to sit in a vehicle for five days, and they're right. But flying sucks even more, and people do it all the time. The reward for seeing the diversity of the United States is worth it. People in this country live a bazillion ways, like that travel center in Kansas selling magnets with the cast of the Wizard of Oz bearing guns and a flag saying "Homeland Security."

I don't care if you drive, bike, walk, or skip. The important thing is putting in the miles so you can actually see America unfold.

On past trips, I've been able to tuck into killer trucker food at mom-and-pop stops. They must still exist. Maybe we were driving too fast. Every truck stop we saw, from the West to the East, featured the same fast-food spots: McDonald's, Subway, Popeye's, Taco Bell. We've got to stop eating this crap so we can get some soul back.

Another huge benefit of driving across the U.S. is the opportunity to reconnect with long-lost friends. I saw two great, great buds I hadn't seen in 10 years. Seeing them for just a few hours one night was like a dream.

We also got to see our good friend, author Kelly Luce, at her new digs, a historic mill where soldiers were quartered during the Civil War.

Our kitty did better than expected, especially when you consider she adamantly refused to swallow the very pills designed to soothe her. We made sure to give her plenty of bathroom breaks—all of which she refused—and we fed her anything she liked—mostly Nashville hot chicken (psych: It was Temptations Classic Tasty Chicken). She liked sitting on our laps the most, and it was super cute watching her watch the tractor-trailer trucks slithering by with endless wonder.

The last night, we arrived at my aunt's house outside of Boston around midnight. My aunt and uncle both waited up for us. We only slept a few hours and then hit the final leg of our trip. My aunt made us three breakfast sandwiches for the road at 5 a.m. What the hell did I do right?

My dad often says, when traveling, it takes your mind three days to catch up with your body. Arriving at our new home, the dreaminess of what we were doing clogged my being. I felt like morning fog. The house we were standing in was supposedly ours. The truck we'd called home for the past week was long gone. We put on bathrobes and rain boots and explored the enshrouding mist.

Celebrate the Holidays With New Washington Grape Varieties

Looking for a rare and unusual wine to sip with Christmas dinner or on New Year's Eve? It's easy to throw cash at a well-known bottl...