Above all, we have been cheerleaders for WA wine since we moved here in 1999. Therefore, we celebrate WA wine every month, but even more so in August, which is Washington Wine Month, aka WAugust! With eight wine-touring regions, 19 AVAs, 1,000+ wineries, and 400+ vineyards, there is something for everyone here. To kick off the month-long festivities, Washington Wine held a Grand Tasting of 116 wineries at the picturesque Chateau Ste. Michelle. Read on for our notes about the wines we tasted and the people we talked to at this great media and trade event. In addition, find out about special wine discounts and promotions throughout WAugust.
Celebrate WA Wine
Most importantly, we celebrate WA Wine every month. And during August’s Washington Wine Month, there are even more reasons to celebrate. For example, many wineries, restaurants, bars and wine shops are holding special “WAugust” promotions and discounts. Find details at the list of WA Wine events throughout the month.
Meanwhile, in preparation for the month of festivities, Washington Wine invited media and trade to the scenic Chateau Ste. Michelle to a “Celebrate WA Wine” Grand Tasting with 116 wineries. It was held outdoors, but even the blistering hot day did not deter from our wonderful experience sipping (and spilling) wines from 20 wineries. Subsequently, we spoke to some of the top winemakers in the state and tasted their outstanding wine.
Here is a summary of the highlights of the exciting day we spent at Chateau Ste. Michelle, tasting the incredible juice of this state.
We initially tasted Trothe’s world-class wine in June, when we experienced their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is magic. It has the WOW factor. Already stunning, we can imagine what it will taste like down the road, with its impressive aging potential. Consequently, we were delighted to taste this magnificent Cab Sauv again and spend time with winemaker Ray McKee and vineyards manager Todd Chapman at the Grand Tasting. We also joined them later for an excellent evening over dinner – details here. They are passionate and dedicated about their goal to make world-class wine that puts the Horse Heaven Hills AVA on the map as one of the world’s best wine-growing regions. And Trothe has since opened a new production facility in the HHH, which is historically known for growing grapes, but not for local wine production. Great news!
Likewise, we stopped by the JM Cellars table to see our old friend John Bigelow and meet Tommy, his son and Cellar Master. We’ve been drinking these standout wines since we moved to Seattle in 1999. For more details, see our previous story. John poured Grenache Blanc 2021, the third vintage of a crisp, lively wine showing lots of lime and other citrus flavors. Next, we tasted 2020 ‘Ancora Imparo’ Grenache, partly fermented and aged in a clay amphora. Ancora Imparo is Italian for “Yet, I learn” – a perfect name to represent his winemaking ideology. This a smooth 100% Grenache with a pretty raspberry nose, made with estate fruit from Shaw Ridge along with Ciel du Cheval Vineyard.
Morgan Lee makes killer wines. And we seem to be drinking a lot of them lately! (More details here.) At Celebrate WA Wine, Morgan introduced us to Two Vintners 2018 Gayle. This 90% Syrah is blended with 10% Roussanne. This is unusual and brings pretty floral scents to the Syrah. As well, aromas of oranges, blackberries, smoke and chocolate echo on the palate, along with honey and and mineral notes. In addition, Morgan’s style of minimal intervention is evident. Gayle is approachable now, particularly after decanting. However, we’d rather put it in the cellar, where it will evolve for a few years and be even more spectacular.
Celebrate WA Wine with Canvasback
It was great to see Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin again at the Grand Tasting. Brian is known for his talent of making terroir-driven, structured wines with an unmistakable sense of place. This is underscored in his 2019 release of Red Mountain Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon, referred to as the pinnacle of their winemaking program. This is one powerhouse wine, in its third release, and the epitome of Red Mountain fruit. Moreover, Grand Passage is sophisticated, concentrated, structured, complex and luxurious. That is to say, this gorgeous wine embodies the essence, and the very best, of Red Mountain.
Back in 2012, we stopped by the fall release party at one of Woodinville’s then-newest wineries, Avennia, and became immediate fans of talented winemaker/partner Chris Peterson and managing partner Marty Taucher. At the time, we wrote that Avennia wines were “classic, complex, balanced, structured, true to varietal, and a showcase of the beauty of Washington grapes.” One of those wines was 2011 Oliane Sauvignon Blanc. Fast-forward ten years, and we tasted this crisp Sauv Blanc again at Celebrate Washington Wine. Barrel-fermented using native yeast and bottled unfined, Chris calls the 2020 vintage of Oliane one of the most age-worthy yet. We also tasted 2021 L’Egerie Rosé. This Provence-style rosé is salmon-colored, with aromas of strawberries, citrus and watermelon mirrored on the palate. Simply delicious.
In April 2021, we visited Caprio Cellars for the first time. Caprio has a winning combination: elegant wines, tasty food, a spacious tasting room, welcoming hospitality and a 360° view of the Walla Walla Valley. Customer Experience Director Emily Kiefer and her staff have a goal to find creative ways to give you a five-star visit. Consequently, we reconnected with Emily at the event. She poured 2019 Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon for us – what a treat. It’s a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, topped with 18% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. An intense, structured, balanced wine with aromas and flavors of black cherries and other dark fruit, laced with minerality and good acidity.
All three of the wines poured by Sleight of Hand Cellars at Celebrate Washington Wine are stellar. Yes, that is Neil Patrick Harris on the label of The Conjurer 2019 Red Blend. See our previous article for the background story. It’s a good one! The 2019 Conjurer is a luscious blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot. The 2021 Magician Riesling is one of the best Rieslings we have ever tasted. Finally, Enchantress 2020 is 100% Chardonnay that is built for aging. It is not a big, buttery, oaky Chard. Rather, it is clean, elegant and the style of Chardonnay that we prefer.
Celebrate WA Wine with Succession
Two years ago, we decided that Succession is a winery to watch, and we still feel the same way. We’ve been by the Lake Chelan winery several times, so it was wonderful to catch up with winemaker/co-owner Brock Lindsay at the Grand Tasting. We’ve always been impressed with Brock’s wine, and the 2021 Succession Rosé that he poured for us is no exception. Moreover, it was super refreshing during the toasty weather. This Syrah-Grenache Rosé opens with peach and melon aromas, leading into strawberry flavors with citrus notes. In the same vein, we’ve adored previous vintages too.
We were happy to see Lauren Ashton winemaker/co-owner Kit Singh again. We caught up with him and extolled his recent releases of 2021 Rosé and 2017 Cuvée Arlette. Certainly, these two wines demonstrate the versatility and quality of Kit’s wine. In short, we’ve enjoyed every vintage of both and recommend them. Think seafood or salads for Rosé and BBQ for Cuvée Arlette. Or you can drink them without food, because they both have enough body to stand alone.
At Chateau Ste. Michelle, we also celebrated WA wine with Thea Upchurch of Upchurch Vineyard. Thea poured us this gorgeous 2020 Southwest Facing Sauvignon Blanc, which was perfect for the hot summer day. The 2020, sourced from Boushey Vineyard, features rich yet refreshing flavors of peaches, cashews and citrus, backed by salinity and minerality. We tasted previous vintages of this beauty last year when we visited the scenic winery at Red Mountain. It’s one of many impressive Upchurch wines that we appreciate.
At Celebrate WA Wine, we were delighted to meet Damsel winemaker Mari Womack and taste three of her wines. First, 2021 Marsanne perfectly paired with the high temps that day. Decanter recently named this lovely white among its top bottles to buy, describing it as bright and silky. Next, we tasted 2019 “The Fates” GSM. This is a complex, savory red blend – 40% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 40% Mourvèdre. Further, Mari poured 2019 Boushey Vineyard 100% Cabernet Franc. This is a powerful, smooth Cab Franc that is approachable now or can be cellared.
We visited Rocky Pond Estate Winery’s new tasting room at Woodin Creek a few months ago and became big fans of their wines. So, it was no surprise when we discovered how much we liked 2019 Proprietary Rock, when we tasted it at the Grand Tasting. This big red blends 40% each of Merlot and Malbec with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aromas of licorice, plums and blueberries lead into flavors of dark cherries, cola, smoked meat and a hint of chocolate, laced with minerality. Rocky Pond is one of many wineries offering WAugust special discounts.
Other Celebrate WA Wine
As well, we enjoyed quick sips of the following wines:
- From the Walla Walla table: Pepper Bridge 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, The Walls 2019 Bellamy and Spring Valley 2019 Cabernet Franc
- Betz Family 2017 Père de Famille
- Woodward Canyon Old Vines 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Mercer Bros. 2019 Edge of Heaven Red Blend and 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Latta Kind Stranger 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2021 KoS Rosé, 2018 GSM
- SMAK Rosés: Sangiovese, Pinot Gris and Syrah
Summary: Celebrate WA Wine
In conclusion, it’s Washington wine month and time to celebrate WA wine! Of course, we do the honors every month. We hope you do too!
Margot and Dave