10 Up-And-Coming Washington Wines
Tim and Tracy Nodland are partners in marriage and winemaking. At Nodland Cellars, just East of Spokane, they keep things simple, making just one white wine and one red. Their first release is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carménère. The blends change each year, depending on what the Nodlands deem to be the best grapes available, and the wine is an Old World–style gem with Washington intensity.
Must try: 2005 Private Blend ($35)
11616 E Montgomery Drive, Spokane Valley; nodlandcellars.com
Seattle magazine’s 2010 Most Outstanding Wine of the Year from Corliss Estates winery in Walla Walla is the sister to this new label. Tranche, or “slice” in French, refers to the system in Bordeaux of releasing wines in small lots, but here it could mean a prime little slice of the Washington wine world. Affordable, with quality that exceeds their price points, Tranche’s Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Barbera are some of the best values around; the wines are elegant, balanced and lively.
Must try: 2006 Chardonnay ($30)
705 Berney Drive, Walla Walla; tranchecellars.com
Around since 2006 but still a young winery, Memaloose is a family affair. Winemaker Brian McCormick, his wife, Maria, and his father and mother, Rob and Barbara McCormick, own a farm in Mosier, Oregon, as well as a vineyard near Lyle in the Columbia River Gorge, where the grapes for Memaloose wines are grown. The wines are food friendly and balanced, and they are made by a family that has passion for interesting, balanced wines that strive for elegance.
Must try: 2007 Idiot’s Grace Cabernet Franc ($25)
101 Lyle Snowden Road, Lyle; winesofthegorge.com
Joe Forest, who makes outstanding wines for Patit Creek Cellars in Walla Walla, has struck out on his own with Tempus (Latin for “time”). Forest and his wife started the new winery, bought a house, got a dog and had a baby all in the same year. If these well-made, varietally correct, delicious wines are any indication, the future bodes well for this ambitious couple.
Must try: 2007 Syrah/
Grenache Blend ($25)
Tasting by appointment, Walla Walla; tempuscellars.com
For years, Robert Smasne has been consulting under the radar for award-winning wineries. He currently makes wine for about 20 wineries, including his labels Alma Terra and Farm Boy. In the past few years he has brought his own name into the open with the Smasne label and a tasting room in the Woodinville Warehouse District. Smasne Cellars features seamlessly made red blends and bright, tasty whites using grapes from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain near Prosser, the second-oldest vineyard in the state.
Must try: 2007 Upland Vineyard Chardonnay ($25)
19495 144th Ave. NE, Suite B240, Woodinville; smasnecellars.com
El Corazon Winery
One of the newest wineries in our lineup comes from a friendship between veteran cellarmaster Raul Morfin and winemaker Spencer Sievers, both of whom learned the ropes at Reininger Winery and have now produced a very limited amount of what they call “fruit-forward, terroir-driven” wines. The luscious Malbec sold out in a flash, but watch for it next year. In the meantime, visit the winery to taste whatever is being poured.
Must try: 2009 PHINNEY HILL SYRAH ($21)
37 S Palouse St., Walla Walla; elcorazonwinery.com
Virginie Bourgue, former winemaker for Cadaretta winery, says Lullaby is her new baby, evoking the “delicacy and feminine” style she seeks in her wines. Her Viognier is a lush, rich white with layers of spice, peach and apricot, and the Rosé of Grenache is pale salmon in color and delicately fruity, perfect with light fish or poultry, or by itself in a glass on the patio.
Must try: 2009 Rosé of Grenache ($16)
Tastings by apointment, walla walla; lullabywinery.com
Masquerade Wine Company
Making sparkling wine, especially in small lots in the traditional, labor-intensive méthode Champenoise of France, is a labor of love. Fortunately, Bill and Jennifer Kimmerly love sparkling wine, and at their Benton City winery they take no shortcuts in creating rich, complex sparkling wine with fresh apple, pear and brioche aromas and a backbone of acidity that will lend this special wine considerable aging potential.
Must try: Effervescing Elephant Sparkling Wine ($35)
28719 E SR 224, Benton CitY; masqueradewines.com
The Gilbert family has owned orchards and farmland in the Yakima Valley for five generations, and now the younger generation, specifically Sean Gilbert, is coming home after learning the wine biz in New York City. Sean has worked crush at Novelty Hill/Januik and is now the general manager for Gilbert Cellars. His brother, Nate, and his uncle, Curt, made the first few vintages and helped create some delicious, well-balanced wines. “Strong root, great fruit” is a family saying that is making Gilbert a winery to watch.
Must try: Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc ($32)
5 N Front St., Yakima; gilbertcellars.com
Cartel Wine Group
Small-scale wine moguls Josh Klakring and Jason Baldwin have an unusual business model—you might call them modern-day “négociants.” They buy left-over barrels and tanks of excellent wine from established Washington wineries, then do the blending themselves. The resulting wines are well-aged, balanced and extremely affordable. The Surveyor is a Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend with a good backbone of mature tannins, deep rich fruit and no rough edges. The Seeing Red and Seeing White blends are a surprising value for quality everyday wines.
Must try: The Surveyor
No tasting room, Walla Walla; cartelwinegroup.com
Originally published in August 2010