Ancient Lakes wineries worth the drive to visit

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 6, 2013 

Today I'll wrap up my two-part series on Washington's Ancient Lakes Appellation with a closer look at two of the wineries in the region.

If you've been anywhere in or around Gorge Amphitheater, it's likely you've come across nearby Cave B Estate Winery. I'm going to date myself here by recalling a few visits to Cave B when it used to be known as Champs de Brionne back in the 1980s. Owners Vince and Carol Bryan have done a terrific job over the years creating a destination winery that now also includes an inn, spa and restaurant.

Since my last visit about seven years ago, they've expanded their tasting room and hired Freddy Arrendondo as winemaker. Things have definitely changed for the better, and the wines, which, quite frankly, were only so-so back then, have improved markedly.

If you want variety, Cave B has it. I counted over 20 wines on the tasting room's current release sheet.

My favorites include the aromatic, lip-smacking, ruby grapefruit and kiwi 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (about $20); the unique, well-structured 2011 Semillon (about $20), with stone fruit flavors and hints of nutmeg and spice on a lengthy finish; and the 2009 Merlot (about $25), with dark berry flavors, a trace of earthiness and plenty of grippy tannins.

North of Cave B and just a few miles off of Highway 28 west of Quincy is Beaumont Cellars. Let me cut to the chase on this winery: Visit, and you will not be disappointed.

This is truly a diamond in the rough that is worth the drive. Discovering and spending time at wineries like this is easily the most satisfying part of my job.

Fruit and cattle farmer Pete Beaumont first tried his hand at winemaking four years ago. While he'll be the first to admit he made a few rookie mistakes along the way, I couldn't come up with a single fault among the current releases I sampled.

Even more impressive is the fact that he's taken grapes from the cooler, challenging 2011 vintage and created wines with the flavors and character one would expect from a well-seasoned winemaker.

At the top of my list are his 2012 Chardonnay (about $17), made from Ancient Lakes grapes that display a bit of semi-sweet Fuji apple with oaky nuances; the five red varietal 2011 Babcock Ridge Red (about $23); and a gorgeous 2011 Cabernet Franc (about $24), with mouthwatering red cherry flavors and a touch of herbaceousness.

For more information and ordering, go to beaumontcellars.com.

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

Reach DEAN KAHN at dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2291.

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