In 15 years of writing about wines, I don’t believe I’ve dedicated an entire column to Barnard Griffin Winery, one of Washington’s oldest wineries.
I not quite sure what I’ve been thinking, because it’s fair to say that if there were such a thing as royalty among Washington winemakers, Rob Griffin would be on the short list for coronation. Together with his wife, Deborah Barnard, he has been producing consistently good wine since the winery was established in Richland in 1983.
To get an idea of how consistently good Barnard Griffin wines have been, consider their Rosé of Sangiovese. This wine has earned gold medal honors or better from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for an amazing eight consecutive years.
Griffin also produces a number of solid red wines, with current releases including merlot, pinot noir, syrah, and a cabernet sauvignon/merlot blend. Bottled under the “signature series” designation, these wines are incredibly well-priced at under $20 each.
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But today’s focus is on two white wines from the 2013 vintage that I recently tried and felt deserved special notice. As an added bonus, they’re currently available at prices that almost seem too good to be true.
First up is the 2013 Fumé blanc (about $12). This blend of 76 percent sauvignon blanc and 24 percent semillon drinks like a world-class white Bordeaux with an unmistakable Washington pedigree.
There’s a lovely layered flavor profile to this wine, with an herbal note to lead off and then a suggestion of luscious tropical fruits with melonlike flavors on the second tier. The finish hints at ripe peach, with plenty of steely acidity to complete the package. This is a completely over-the-top white wine that practically demands a case purchase.
Also worth considering is the 2013 Chardonnay (about $14), sourced from six Washington vineyards, including Crawford, Gunkel and Conner Lee.
Despite the warm vintage, this chardonnay leans a bit toward the lighter side with pleasant citrus and green pear flavors. Surprisingly bright and vibrant, a gentle touch of French oak beautifully softens the edges near the finish.
One final note: The Fumé blanc was bottled with the iconic red and yellow tulip label with which well-seasoned Washington wine drinkers have long been familiar. But the Chardonnay comes with a new label that only features an enlarged griffin with dark copper and gold accents. It’s regal, tastefully done and exactly what you’d expect from Barnard Griffin.
Barnard Griffin wines are well-distributed throughout Washington in wine shops and grocers and can also be enjoyed at the Richland facility that now includes a tasting room, wine bar, restaurant and studio gallery. For more information, visit barnardgriffin.com.