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Touring & Tasting Magazine Explores Washington Reds

In the words of one esteemed winemaker, "I don't think there is very good agreement on what 'big' is." Touring & Tasting asked 5 Washington State winemakers, including Marie-Eve Gilla, Forgeron Cellars, to shed some light on the subject.


Washington's Complex Reds

How do we describe a red wine from Washington? 

Food friendly. Elegant. Approachable. Soft. We thought perhaps "big" as well, but in the words of one esteemed winemaker, "I don't think there is very good agreement on what 'big' is." We've asked 5 Washington winemakers (Brian Carter, Brian Carter Cellars; Marie-Eve Gilla, Forgeron Cellars; John Bookwalter, Bookwalter Winery; Joshua Maloney, Milbrandt Vineyards; and Ned Morris, Basel Cellars Estate Winery) if they could shed some light on the subject for us.

T&T: In general, how would you describe the fruit character of a red wine from Washington State?

Brian Carter: Washington is blessed with a range of quality growing areas that differ significantly in their climate and affect a resulting wine's fruit character. Other factors such as soil, vintage, crop level, canopy management, and maturity levels also have a profound effect. As a result, I have tasted everything from big, ripe, rich, soft reds from Washington, as well as delicate wines with bright acidity and finesse. All that being said, Washington wines tend toward the more food friendly, complex, and elegant style. 

Marie-Eve Gilla: Because our growing season is more compressed, we tend to grow lower yields and very concentrated reds with bright acids. 

John Bookwalter: I believe that Washington reds capture the entire red fruit spectrum and dip into the darker blue fruits, yet avoid jammy characteristics. Savory herbs, minerality, and a bit of dustiness can be present. 

Joshua Maloney: Washington State reds have a very wide variety of fruit characters, depending on where and how they are grown, as well as their vintage. It is very common for a Washington State red to have both strong red and black fruit aromas, accompanied by a pronounced herbal element. It is the balance of the fruit with the herbal that is somewhat unique to Washington.

Ned Morris: Red wines from Washington State exude fully ripened fruit qualities with layers of depth and flavor that are accented by big tannins and great acidity. 

T&T: How are Washington red wines similar or different from the same varietal from French Bordeaux and other regions?

Brian Carter: I often say that Washington wines are somewhere between the biggest, ripest examples of wines exemplified by Australia and the more balanced food friendly styles from Europe. On that continuum, I would describe the wines of these areas as Australia-Napa Valley-Washington State-Bordeaux. 

Marie-Eve Gilla: Our red wines are big and bold with great texture and a nice framework of tannins and acids.

John Bookwalter: I think we differ from the Old World by showcasing a little more new world fruit. We differ from other new-world regions by not producing overripe jammy wines. I also believe our tannin structure is finer grained and more integrated than many other old and new-world regions.

Joshua Maloney: Washington Bordeaux varieties have a very pronounced fruit profile, similar to wines from Napa or Sonoma, although not quite as ripe. They also have a very complex spicy/herbal component, similar to wines from French Bordeaux. The wines from Washington also have a very dense and full tannic structure similar to French Bordeaux wines, although Washington Bordeaux wines tend to be more approachable when they are young.

Ned Morris: Here in Washington we get two more hours of sunlight a day than California, so we have a longer growing season and the grapes have a better chance of fully ripening. We also have the diurnal fluctuation of daytime high temperatures and nighttime low temperatures of an average of 40 degrees. The grapes get lots of heat and sunshine which raises sugars and ripening, and then the nighttime lows lock in the flavors and, most importantly, allow the acids in the grape to flourish. We also enjoy a lot of wind, a lack of rainfall, and gravelly soils that result in very compact and concentrated grapes. In short, it's all about the climate and the soils.

GREAT REDS FROM EACH OF THE WINEMAKERS' PORTFOLIOS...

2009 Forgeron Cellars ANVIL

The 2009 ANVIL is a solid, classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It exhibits a seldom-encountered perfection of style and balance. Although this blend is easy to drink now with its complex flavors, purity of fruit, and density of structure, additional cellaring will allow it to gain complexity over the next decade. APPELLATION Columbia Valley RETAIL PRICE $56

 

Touring & Tasting Magazine, Spring 2014