During a recent stopover in downtown Spokane, I made certain to visit what are arguably two of the best wineries in the city.
Robert Karl Cellars has been a longtime favorite of mine. Winemaker Joe Gunselman and his wife, Rebecca, were on hand the day I dropped by and even though they were in the middle of the 2012 crush, the always-personable Rebecca took time to meet and chat about their wines.
The winery specializes in red wines, but now also serves a sauvignon blanc. (Rebecca recalled on a warm summer day her desire for this crisp white wine, so Joe said, "I'll make you one." We should all be so lucky.)
Current releases include the 2009 Claret (about $20), an overachieving cabernet sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend with red berry and cherry flavors, nuances of toasted oak and just a bit of grip for perfect balance.
The 2009 Merlot (about $22) is also excellent, with chocolaty coffee notes and a nice dense, chewy quality; and the huge cellar-worthy 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $30) is a must-try with fragrant violet aromatics, understated black currant flavors, firm tannins and a finish with a burst of blackberry.
At nearby Barrister Winery, Greg Lipsker and Michael White offer 10-plus years of quality winemaking and show no signs of letting up. Red wines are again the specialty here, but recently they've turned out a bit of white wine as well.
Their current effort, a beautiful 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (about $19) begins with everything lemon: lemon zest, lemon chiffon, Limoncello ... but it's much more complex than that. There's also a lovely layer of white peach and honeydew, a lengthy finish with a touch of residual sugar, and brisk acidity for balance that makes this a standout wine.
Red wine choices include the Rough Justice VII Red Blend (about $21), a well-priced non-vintage combination of cabernet, merlot, syrah and cabernet franc that features a mouthful of dark berry and plum flavors and supple tannins.
Another blend, the gorgeous, five-varietal Barrister's Block (about $32), is sourced from Pepper Bridge, Bacchus and Seven Hills vineyards. This stunning wine, which spans three vintages, is jammy without being overly fruity and melts into a long, plush finish.
Next week, I'll review Barrister's signature wine, Cabernet Franc, along with other recommendations of this varietal from Washington wineries.
For more information including ordering, tasting room hours and locations, visit each winery's website: robertkarl.com and barristerwinery.com.
Reach DEAN KAHN at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.