For Washington wine enthusiasts like me who want to get out and explore, discovering a smaller winery with quality wines feels similar to finding buried treasure.
To be honest, I first encountered Scott Southard of Southard Winery a few years ago at a Taste Washington event in Seattle. I recall that he made an awesome syrah, and I filed his name in the back of my memory just in case our paths crossed again.
That happened last month when I paid him a visit and then scheduled another follow-up tasting at his winery in Selah, located a stone's throw northwest of Yakima.
Southard has been a one-man operation since his inaugural 2007 vintage. His annual production runs about 1,200 cases with a focus primarily on Rhone varietals from outside sources, plus the acre or so of riesling he grows next to his production facility and tasting room.
Let me cut to the chase. I loved these wines. They're true to their European roots by displaying understated fruits, expressive acids, true-to-the-varietal characteristics and pinpoint balance.
Southard has obviously done his homework and nurtured these wines from start to finish like a doting parent. Then he has enlightened wine lovers by sharing his best efforts and offering them at incredibly reasonable prices. I left the winery feeling both spoiled and almost a tad guilty.
Here are my tasting notes on some of Southard's current releases:
2011 Columbia Valley White Wine (about $16) - This roussanne/viognier blend features green tea and dried apricot aromas, and gentle flavors of green pear and almond. The finish is clean, yet lingering. For a food pairing, Southard says, "scrambled eggs go remarkably well." Breakfast wine, perhaps?
2010 Columbia Valley Syrah (about $16) - This Old World-style syrah displays spicy berries and cherries on the nose and the palate, with a dusting of structured, chalky tannins. This wine is insanely underpriced and worth stocking up on for the cellar.
2011 Estate Riesling (about $18) - Lemongrass and Granny Smith apple aromatics, steely notes of slate and citrus and a splash of minerality highlight this mouthwatering riesling. Fermented to dryness, the finish is crisp, clean and laser sharp.
2010 Sugarloaf Vineyard Red Wine (about $20) - This Rhone-style blend of about 60 percent grenache along with mourvèdre, cinsault and counoise has a heady, earthy quality to lead off, followed by red berry fruits and a spritz of black pepper. With great structure and acidity, it flexes its muscle a bit before settling in with a touch of elegance.
You'll find Southard wines locally at both Bellingham Community Food Co-op locations.
Reach DEAN KAHN at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.