Designating the vineyard source for a wine — a practice that was once virtually unheard of — has become an increasingly important part of the wine label.
As Washington wine production has increased, so has the knowledge and sophistication level of wine consumers. Not content to know only what they’re drinking, they want access to other information, such as production notes, varietal composition, barrel aging and vineyard designation.
Knowing where the grapes are grown can be extremely important because, simply stated, each vineyard produces wines with unique characteristics, aromas and flavors.
McKinley Springs is a vineyard you’re likely to see on the label of several Washington wineries. Their current portfolio of 22 clients includes such wineries as Columbia Crest and Chateau Ste. Michelle, and 14 of those clients now produce wines that provide consumers with the vineyard designation on the label.
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With more than 2,000 planted acres, McKinley Spring Vineyards represents about 5 percent of all the state’s plantings. The first vineyard was planted in 1980, and 22 varieties of grapes are now grown there. Another 600 acres of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah will be added over the next three years, according to Vineyard Manager Rob Andrews.
The vineyard also produces 18 percent of the wine grapes grown within the Horse Heaven Hills Appellation, where it is located. That includes wines bottled under their own estate label, McKinley Springs Winery, in Prosser, which turns out around 6,000 cases of wine annually.
Here are my tasting notes on three McKinley Springs Winery wines I recently enjoyed:
2011 Viognier (about $16) — Peach and vanilla cream flavors hit the palate, with a big, round quality to begin. On the finish, more of a crisp, edgy texture comes through, with touches of lemon zest. This wine paired perfectly with an entrée of roasted fingerling potatoes and poached salmon.
2010 Malbec (about $24) — Wonderfully complex and evolving aromas of ultra-dark plum, toasted almond, caramel and sage lead off. Reserved wild blackberry flavors predominate, nicely balanced with gentle acidity and mineral notes on a soft finish. The wine was aged 18 months in 20 percent new French oak barrels.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (about $24) — The 2010 vintage, which some predicted would be an off year for Washington, is turning out some gorgeous wines, and this true-to-the-varietal cabernet is a perfect example. Caramel and baking spice on the nose, bright notes of red currant, and underlying layers of Ligurian cherry and boysenberry highlight this excellent wine. The finish hints at toasted oak with perfectly integrated tannins.
For more information on the McKinley Springs Vineyard and Winery, including ordering wines, go to mckinleysprings.com.