Winemaker Tim Jones runs the show there, a born-and-bred Pacific North westerner who works the land he knows so well to make some bestpinotgris around. Their winemaker, Burgundy native Stéphane Vizier, cut his teeth working at vineyards all over the globe and lends his distinctly French sensibilities to this organically-farmed wine.
2018 was an ideal year for growing pilot origin grapes, and the folks at Swanson Vineyards are crafty winemakers. Situated in a fair, mild climate atop drained limestone soils in the San Benito AVA, nestled between the Gavilán Mountains range and Diablo Mountain, this California terror allows for just the right conditions to make a wine that’s an aromatic feast for the nose.
Served at this feast: Guava fruit, pear, jasmine and lemon, followed by palate notes of Granny Smith apple and juicy acidity. Panther Creek was founded in 1986 by wine luminary Ken Wright who perfected the art of richly textured, deeply-flavorful Oregon pilot noir.
With the color of a golden sunrise, this bottle has notes of green apple, pear, melon, citrus and orange marmalade. Since it features a pair of wild horses on the label, you’d be forgiven for thinking this wine should be called “8 Hooves.” But that’s just one of the many delightful surprises you get from this Washington -grown bottle.
First off, there’s this lovely bottle from Within, made in the storied northern Frills part of the country, which is a region famous for its white wines. Flavors of under ripe banana, Boss pear, white peach, apple and lemongrass give way to a long, tangy finish.
There are so many excellent pilot origins from that part of the world, but it takes an extra special wine to stand out among them. Scarlett is a love-letter to the region from the creative minds of ex-French Laundry chef Lachlan Patterson and Master Homelier Bobby Turkey.
Tangy citrus fruit is layered with poached pear, giving way to a dazzling white floral finish. Though best known for their prosecco, Villa Sand also knows how to pack a punch with their still pilot origin, romancing the grape by aging only in stainless steel and delivering a low-alcohol rendition that makes it easy to enjoy a couple of bottles without paying for it the next morning.
This wine is heavy on the tree fruit: pear, apple, and peach with pineapple and straw on the backend. If you have a craving for a white wine sangria, your best bet is the Santa Margherita Pilot Origin sourced from the vineyards of Northern Italy’s Alto Adage region.
3 white wine, thanks in large part to a couple of big players: Ste. However, a big boost in production since 2008 has propelled WashingtonPinotGris past Oregon in total tons crushed.
PinotGris has rocketed past Avignon Blanc in Washington state since 2003. Then the winery was sold to Minor in Canada, and a simple marketing move changed everything.
“We’ve tried (lees aging) and didn’t like the results,” Inn told Great Northwest Wine. “Making PinotGris is all about preserving the freshness and the beauty of the fruit we have in Washington, ” he said.
He also brings in a bit of fruit from cool sites in the northern Columbia Valley. Similar to Riesling, PinotGris thrives in somewhat cooler areas, Inn said.
He said PinotGris lends itself to lighter cuisine, including seafood, chicken our poultry prepared in a light-handed manner. “When you look at the last four years, PinotGris has taken a big jump,” Bertha told Great Northwest Wine.
He said PinotGris provides pleasing melon notes, along with generality similar to Riesling. Most of Bertha’s PinotGris also comes from the Yakima Valley, primarily Airport Ranch near Prosper, as well as Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain near Sunnyside.
He likes PinotGris to carry 5 to 5.5 tons per acre, depending on the vintage. “If you have to low of a crop, the grapes ripen faster,” Bertha explained.
Typically, Bertha will bring in his PinotGris at around 23 brig, which is a little higher than sister winery Columbia Crest. For Bertha, crab cakes might be the perfect foil for PinotGris because Chardonnay can be a bit too rich and Riesling could be a little too high in acidity.
Victor Valencia, winemaker for Jones of Washington in Ottawa, makes PinotGris from three American Viticulture Areas, and he sees distinct differences. He will pick Yakima Valley PinotGris around the first week of October, and he loves the brightness of these wines.
Jones has about 50 acres of PinotGris in Ancient Lakes, which is cooler than the Yakima Valley. The longer hang time can bring more maturity and complexity to the flavors, he said.
Hot days cool off dramatically at night, which keeps the natural acidity higher. “With the warmer area, you have higher pH and heavier wine that is not quite as crisp and refreshing,” Valencia said.
He said the backbone of his PinotGris is Granny Smith apple characteristics, along with stone fruit aromas and flavors. Valencia, who was born in Mexico, likes the way PinotGris pairs with Latin food.
No matter what you call them, Pilot Origin wines are crisp and refreshing with appealing flavors of citrus, green apples, and white flowers. The grape was dubbed Pilot Origin (Italian for gray) when it was planted in Northern Italy, where it has become one of the region’s most prominent white wines.
Because of the soil and growing conditions there, Pilot Origin shows beautiful generality and floral aromas, balanced with lively acidity and fruit. Some of the most acclaimed Pilot Origins in the world come from regions including the Vent, Fruit and Alto Adage.
Then the grapes are harvested, and the juice is fermented to create wine, aged, blended, and bottled. The winemaking process starts with picking grapes at the right time when they are sweet and ripe, with enough acidity to make the wine taste refreshing.
White wine can be fermented in stainless steel, concrete, terracotta, or neutral wood barrels to give it more depth and bring out different flavors and aromas without covering up the Pilot Origin’s natural characteristics. Once the fermentation is over, the new wine is transferred to barrels made of oak or stainless steel to age for a short time.
White wines like Pilot Origin have delicate flavors and aromas, and winemakers don’t want to cover those up with extended aging in oak. When the winemaker decides the wine has aged long enough, they perfect the final blend and then bottle the Pilot Origin for sale.
Some flavors you’ll find in a typical Pilot Origin include green or golden apple, white pineapple, lemon, lime, and kiwi with aromas of honey, straw, and subtle vanilla. PinotGris wines from the Alsace region of France are made differently, so they taste more like tropical fruits, melons, golden apples, and baking spices, and they may have a hint of sweetness.
With their 2017 vintage, production director Rick Small and winemaker Kevin Mott have added to that legacy with a brilliant Chard sourced from their usual two sites: Cello Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, and their own Woodward Canyon estate vineyard in the Wall Wall Valley. Not so for winemaker Michael Savage, whose Cello Chard is a fine value, offering nervy acidity and a dry flavor profile that combines lemon curd, mineral and subtle spice notes.
Whether the wine’s insistent generality comes from those rocks or is inherent to the grapes seems not to matter once it’s in the glass. Pink debuted with the 2015 vintage, and in four short years has captured the imagination of Satellites and become one of the fuzziest roses released each spring.
The fruit purity is exceptional here (strawberries and raspberries abound), and the texture is seamless and polished. Vintners 2015 Rhone Blend Brushed Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $40 Winemaker Jeff Lindsay-Thorsen splits his time between W.T.
Here he has crafted a blend of about one-third each of Grenade, Sarah and Mourned, all from a single hillside of Brushed Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. This beautifully balances elements both fruity (blackberry) and savory (smoky bacon, briny olive), all on a supple, easy-drinking frame.
Fermented with 50% whole clusters (stems and all) and then aged in a mix of large puncheons and small barrels, this wine revels in the funky, savory side of Sarah, with meaty smoked sausages and brackish seaweed complementing a core of blueberry fruit. It’s a pan- Washington Sarah, featuring seven different vineyards across five of Washington’s Ava, and it features a core of marionberry fruit lifted by floral top notes and complicated by savory threads of bacon fat and sanguine generality.
Vintners 2015 Gorgeous Sarah, Destiny Ridge Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, $30 The blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged entirely in new French oak, and it offers an appealing nose combining plummy fruit with dusty earth notes, mocha and rosemary.
Dark fruits (plums, huckleberries) commingle with high-cacao chocolate in this delightful truffle of a wine. This Merlot includes 13% Cabernet Franc, and all the grapes come from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.
Aged in French oak (60% new) for just shy of two years, this wine displays a pair of the characteristics that make Washington Merlot so compelling: complexity (in the form of earth and tomato-paste savory notes overlaying a core of cherry fruit) and structure (in the form of toothsome finishing tannins). The BEST OTHER RED BLENDS Underground Wine Project 2015 Idle Hands Red Mountain, $30 Trey Busch and Mark McNally’s Underground Wine Project takes home a second prize this year (their Mr.
That new American oak adds appealing notes of vanilla bean and cocoa powder to a wine bursting with cherry and raspberry richness. Classic Cabernet notes of crème de cassis and cedar coexist with subtleties of beetroot and rhubarb, all on a supple, polished frame.
BEST SPLURGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Canvasback (by Duck horn) 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain, $40 In 2013, Napa Valley stalwart Duck horn purchased a 20-acre parcel of land on Red Mountain and launched Canvasback, its first foray into Washington state. Industry veteran Brian Ruin is the local winemaker for Canvasback, and this is his first Cab that includes a portion of fruit from the estate vineyard, called Long winds.
In total, this wine includes 13 Red Mountain vineyards, so it is a fine representative of the AVA as a whole, offering chewy, black-tea-flavored tannins aplenty as structural underpinnings for a wine bursting with black currant fruit and rose petal nuance. BEST SPECIAL-OCCASION CABERNET SAUVIGNON Passing Time 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills, $80 Washington native Damon Hard partnered with fellow quarterback Dan Marino to launch Woodinville-based Passing Time four years ago with the 2012 vintage.
Their winemaker from the beginning has been Chris Peterson (Ravenna), and he works wonders with this Cabernet, primarily from a pair of special Horse Heaven Hills sites: Campus and Discovery. The wine sees 21 months in French oak (80% new) and offers wonderful pencil-lead generality to complement a core of black currant fruit and smoky baking spice.
Nominees that received the most votes in the categories of wineries, winemaker, vineyard and homelier were selected as winners. The approximately 90 wines receiving the most votes in the varietal categories qualified as finalists for a blind tasting held on March 18.
That tasting was conducted by a panel of three industry professionals (Paul Literally of Full Pull Wines, Mark Sakai of Metropolitan Market and Chris Horn of Heavy Restaurant Group) who evaluated the wines on the basis of appeal in regard to sight, smell and taste in order to come to a consensus on the winners within each category. Also, a minimum of 95% of the grapes used in the production of the wine must be from a vineyard located within Washington state, or from one of the three federally recognized interstate Ava that include acreage in Washington state (Columbia Valley, Wall Wall Valley and the Columbia Gorge Ava).
Winners in categories involving people, places and wine experiences also must be located in Washington. For a varietal to be considered in its category, it must be made with at least 75% of the grape variety that is grown in Washington state.