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It’s Day 2 of my group’s tasting tour of Washington State’s Yakima Valley. The sun was our constant companion, making conditions less than ideal for detailed tasting notes, but I did write down some overall impressions.
After our walk through the vines at DuBrul Vineyard we hopped back on the bus and headed to Vintner’s Village, a group of wineries and tasting rooms located in Prosser, a town just down Highway 82 that looks toward the Horse Heaven Hills AVA—a sub appellation of the Yakima Valley.
There were some full-bodied and rich red wines from the usual suspects—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and blends thereof. I found them more finessed than their California counterparts—with a dose of acidity to balance the red and black fruits. I tasted a couple of Merlot wines that were full, textural and layered with minerals—the antithesis of what some think of this oft-maligned grape.
There were a few red “guest appearances” from grapes like Petit Sirah, Malbec, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. I was told to be on the lookout for more good things to come from these grapes and others—Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional, and Lemberger to name only a few.
Two rosés that crossed my lips, one from Cabernet Franc, the other from Sangiovese, had great acidity and savory notes mixed in with their red berry fruit.
The popular whites—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling were all in attendance along with a couple of Pinot Gris bottlings and a Pinot Gris/Viognier blend. The Sauvignon Blanc wines I tasted were fuller than their Loire Valley counterparts but still had great acidity, citrus flavors, and a touch of herbaceousness.
A Rhone-style blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne (the Kana Winery Masterpiece 2007) was layered and rich with a smoky finish. A taste of the Chinook Wines Yakima Valley Semillon 2008 with subtle marzipan mixed into citrus and baked apples told me to be on the lookout for other wines made from this grape.
Most of the wineries in the Yakima Valley are small, family-run operations. In the past six years, their number has increased some 75 percent. New vineyards are being planted with an ever-growing list of grapes—offering plenty of opportunity for Washington State wines to make it onto our East Coast radar screens.
To see a slide show of our day in the Yakima Valley with pictures taken by Martin Olsen of Olsen Estates, click this link.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.