The joy of wine was celebrated in style when the Walla Walla Wine Association hosted an industry tasting at Pure Space in NW Portland. With 50 winemakers offering a 150 wines, we knew we had to approach with caution. Better to focus on one or two wines for this story, or spend the afternoon sleeping in the backseat of the car.
Everyone in the know knows that the Walla Walla Valley produces big red wines that have challenged Napa’s preeminence in Bordeaux style varietals. Their cabernet sauvignons and merlots have really made the grade over the past 20 years, putting Washington wines firmly on the map. Perhaps less well known is that some producers in the valley have stepped up their game with grapes of more humble stature. We therefore decided to spend most of our time with the Cabernet Francs and Carmeneres, and we were not disappointed.
First stop was Adamant Cellars and their 100% Cabernet Franc from 2013. A smooth and delicious example of a grape associated more commonly with the tasty little 5-10% on the labels of Bordeaux-style blends. The Spring Valley and Tero Estates offerings, both from 2012, rounded out the exploration of this wonderful ‘little brother’ varietal. Explore the cabernet franc and you will be glad you did.
Next, we were drawn to the 2013 Carmenere from Beresan Winery. With the first nose, we were transported to Chile, where we spent a spring break some years ago. This hearty and fruity grape lived on in South America after being wiped out by disease in Europe in the 19th century. That it has found a home in the Pacific Northwest is a happy and timely celebration of the Western Hemisphere.
We moved on to sample Terulia Cellars and Skylite Cellars carmeneres from 2012. In each case, the wines are characteristic and delicious versions of a wine that should grace more dinner tables as Walla Walla continues its ascent to the summit of fine winemaking. Please get some carmenere and enjoy with grilled meat, like a Chilean cowboy or cowgirl would. Hats and boots are optional. – by Jeff Thomas, RFT Contributor; Photos courtesy WWVWA/Duval Images