Wines from Horse Heaven Hills region heavenly

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 16, 2013 

Washington's Horse Heaven Hills Appellation is one of those wine regions you might not have visited or know much about, but you've almost certainly tasted wines made from grapes grown there.

Located in north-central Washington, the appellation is tucked between Yakima Valley to the north and the Columbia River to the south. According to the Washington Wine Commission, the region is responsible for about 25 percent of the state's wine production.

The area is one of the more isolated in Washington, and only a handful of wineries are within its boundaries. But chances are you've seen the "Horse Heaven Hills" designation on wines produced by several wineries outside of the region.

That's because the federal government requires disclosure of the source of the grapes on the label, regardless of where the wine is produced or what winery makes it. I call it the "truth in labeling law;" it alerts consumers that grapes used to make the wine inside the bottle came from a particular Washington wine region.

Horse Heaven Hills is home to a number of first-class vineyards, including Alder Ridge, Champoux and Destiny Ridge. This week I'll give you a few white wine recommendations sourced from Horse Heaven Hills. Next week, I'll focus on the reds.

McKinley Springs Winery 2010 Chenin Blanc (about $14) - One of my all-time-favorite varietals shines in this refreshingly tasty release. Crisp Fuji apple and citrus flavors are framed by mineral notes and a lingering, understated trace of honeysuckle that comes through on the finish.

Martinez & Martinez Winery 2011 Viognier (about $14) - Beautiful stone fruits, particularly white peach, predominate in the bouquet and on the palate, with a touch of honeydew melon on the side. This delicious medium-bodied wine delivers a bundle at an incredibly reasonable price.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (about $25) - Huge flavors of pineapple and tropical fruit melt into more of a savory, butter-bomb finish. Given that this was a cooler growing year, the heft and full-bodied nature of this wine might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it to be a guilty pleasure.

Mercer Estates 2011 Reserve Chardonnay (about $40) - Rich without being overwhelming, this exquisite chardonnay starts with a base of baked apple along with nuances of hazelnut, butterscotch and caramel. The flavors flow seamlessly on a silky finish that will leave you happy you decide to take the splurge.

Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at danthewineguy.com.

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