2013 harvest promises future crop of full-bodied Washington wines

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 24, 2013 

I'm down to my last two columns of 2013. So I ask myself, "Do I feature sparkling wines and Champagne the week before New Year's, or do I wait until New Year's Eve?"

Then I remember, this is Bellingham and nobody plans for New Year's until a day or two beforehand.

That settles it ... year in review this week, sparkling wines next week.

A look back at the 2013 vintage brings a one-word response from many Washington winemakers ... hot.

Randy Tucker at Tucker Cellars notes, "The growing season (included) temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s for five weeks straight. There was some incredible fruit out there that yielded high sugars and strong flavors."

Washington wine enthusiasts will likely find the wines of 2013 to be in stark contrast to the cooler 2010 and 2011 vintages and, to a much lesser degree, the more "normal" 2012 vintage.

The keys will be just how long the grapes were allowed to hang prior to harvest, and the winemaker's ability to curb the temptation of high-sugar, high-alcohol wines.

My feeling is that you'll see your share of big, full-bodied wines from 2013, with the majority of winemakers savvy enough not to encroach on the more heavy-handed "fruit bomb" status. This isn't Southern Australia, after all.

My annual trek to the Tri-Cities Wine Festival in Kennewick last month provided some great insight on what's coming up, and a retrospect on recent past vintages.

My first thought: Where do these new wineries keep coming from? Richland's Market Cellars, in only its second year of operation, scored a perfect 12 medals for their 12 wines entered. Monte Scarlatto Winery, which I passed by without even noticing during a visit to Red Mountain, also had a number of wines with great potential.

Varietals newer to Washington continue to grow in popularity at the festival, with the Smasne Cellars 2010 Mourvèdre earning best of show honors.

Still, my personal favorites included Washington's more tried-and-true reds and whites; a gorgeous Cooper Wine Company 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley, and the delicious Apex Cellars 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Finally, let me offer a few recommendations from a couple of well-established wineries that really hit their stride this year.

Two Mountain Winery continues to impress and their 2010 Syrah has it all; a fragrant bouquet of berries and sweet cedar, spicy raspberry and red cherry flavors, and silky tannins with an undertone of minerality.

Lost River Winery also has a bevy of current releases worth trying. My top two: the 2010 Nebbiolo, a yummy, pinot-esque red with bright red currant, cranberry and pomegranate flavors; and the 2010 Cedarosa, a merlot/cabernet franc blend with spicy berry aromas, crabapple and cassis flavors, and excellent depth with tannic structure for additional cellaring.

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

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