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Reviewed Wineries

The March of the 2013 Vintage White Wines

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The pendulum in Washington has been swinging far and wide of late. 2010 saw the coolest vintage since 1999. 2011 was even cooler still, for some growers, their coolest vintage on record. 2012 was then a year that tracked to 20-year heat accumulation averages. 2013 was one of the warmest years on record. 2014 has been warmer still and for many sites, their warmest vintage on record.

The white wines from each of these vintages have been reflective of these differences. 2010 and 2011 brought some thrilling white wines, some of the best I've had from the state, with good intensity of fruit flavors and noticeably higher acid levels (read a summary of 2010 whites and a summary of 2011 whites). The 2012 white wines meanwhile were markedly higher in alcohol than recent years, with many labeled north of 14%. The reasons for this are not entirely clear given how average the year was in terms of heat accumulation. Still, a great many high quality white wines were produced that vintage, with Chardonnay in particular showing well (read a summary of 2012 whites).

The warmth of the 2013 growing season seems to have been a particular challenge for many of the state's white wine makers. The warm summer led into an early September heat wave (read 2013 harvest reports). Some winemakers were left with a difficult dilemma: pick their grapes before optimal flavor development or wait and potentially see their sugars spike due to the heat. These difficult decisions seem to be reflected in a number of the wines. While a number of quality white wines were made, others seem to lack full flavor concentration. Some show the warmth of vintage with alcoholic warmth. Still, a number of winemakers managed to thread the needle.

Below is a look at white wines from Washington's 2013 vintage.

Note: These are reviews for wines received and sampled prior to October 1st when my responsibilities changed for Wine Enthusiast to cover all of Washington.

Waitsburg Cellars The Aromatics Chevray Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $18
 (Excellent/Exceptional) Moderately aromatic with notes of almond, an assortment of barrel spices, and apricot. The palate is off dry, full bodied, rich and viscous in feel, full bore without getting overweighted. 100% Chenin Blanc. Upland Vineyard. Aged in neutral oak. 4g/L Residual Sugar. 15% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Lauren Ashton Cellars Cuvee Meline Columbia Valley 2013 $27
(Excellent) Lightly aromatic with notes of fresh fig, spice, and light tropical notes. The palate is medium-plus bodied with a textured, seamless feel to the fruit flavors and a lot of hang time on the finish. As much about feel as flavor. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Semillon. Dineen Family and Sagemoor vineyards. Aged in equal parts new and neutral French oak and stainless steel. 14.0% alcohol. 180 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Lauren Ashton Cellars Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $18
 (Excellent) An aromatic offering with fresh peach, pear, jasmine, and touches of tropical fruit. The palate is medium bodied and drinks off-dry with mouthwatering stone fruit flavors. 100% Riesling. Dineen Family Vineyard. 0.4% Residual Sugar. 13.1% alcohol. 180 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $20
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with intriguing notes of lime, white peach, basil, mineral, and allspice. The palate drinks off dry with good richness of flavors and a pleasing interplay between the fruit and acid that leads to a lingering finish. Best after 2014. 100% Riesling. Sonnet Vineyard at The Benches (43%), Phil Church (27%), and Sagemoor vineyards. 1.29 g/100ml Residual Sugar. 12.9% alcohol. 4,125 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 7, 2014

Waitsburg Cellars The Aromatics Cheninières Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $18
(Excellent) Unique, intriguing aromas of wet sea shell, mineral, apple skins, and dried flowers. The palate is medium-plus bodied with a textured, rich feel and a lingering finish. Equal parts intellectual interest and hedonistic enjoyment. 100% Chenin Blanc. Upland Vineyard. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Alexandria Nicole Crawford Viognier Columbia Valley 2013 $NA
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with notes of apricot, honeysuckle, and wild flowers. The palate drinks a hair off dry with full bodied fruit flavors and a textured feel. 13.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Winery Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2013 $18
 (Good/Excellent) Very lightly aromatic with notes of wet stone, tropical fruit (passion fruit, guava), and herbs. The palate is full bodied and textured in feel with tart citrus notes that linger on the finish. 82% Sauvignon Blanc co-fermented with 18% Semillon. Artz Vineyard. 33% barrel fermented in neutral French oak. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 7, 2014

Lauren Ashton Cellars Roussanne Columbia Valley 2013 $25
(Good/Excellent) Moderately aromatic with notes of toasty barrel spices, candy corn, and pear. The palate is full bodied and rich, showing a touch of warmth on the finish. 100% Roussanne. Dineen Family Vineyard. Aged in equal parts new and neutral French oak and stainless steel. 14.0% alcohol. 112 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Old Vines Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $14
 Coming all from 1978 and 1979 plantings, it’s moderately aromatic with notes of red apple, passion fruit, and guava. The palate is medium bodied, very lightly spritzy, textured in feel with good acid balance, just a touch of residual sugar, and a lingering finish. Drinking young. Give it time to open up. 100% Chenin Blanc. Willard Farms, Phil Church, Upland, and Rothrock vineyards. 0.5% Residual Sugar. 13.5% alcohol. 4,220 cases produced. Reviewed August 7, 2014

Palencia Wine Company Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $18
 Still settling into the bottle with tiny bubbles apparent, it shows abundant notes of ripe pear, the underside of a pineapple, and honeydew melon. It’s just about dry, round in feel, and fruit filled with a tart finish. 12.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed July 30, 2014

Waitsburg Cellars The Aromatics Old Vine Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $15
(Good/Excellent) A perfumed wine with notes of lavender, jasmine, peach, and pear. The palate drinks off dry with spice accents that run throughout the abundant apricot flavors which show good richness and depth of flavor with floral notes lingering on the finish. Sample provided by winery.

Abeja Estate Grown Viognier Walla Walla Valley 2013 $30
(Good) A richly aromatic wine with notes of peach, sliced pear, and fresh flowers. The palate is medium-plus bodied, lightly creamy in feel with the alcohol bringing some heat to the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Winery 96 Cedars White Wine Columbia Valley 2013 $18
(Good) A lightly aromatic wine with notes of herbs, a whiff of tropical fruit, and fig. The palate is medium-plus bodied with a creamy, rich texture and sense of weight without becoming overburdened. Loses just a bit of its rhythm toward the finish. 60% Sauvignon Blanc co-fermented with 40% Semillon in 100% used French oak barrels. Artz Vineyard. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 7, 2014

Boomtown by Dusted Valley Chardonnay Washington State 2013 $16
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine that focuses squarely on the fruit with notes of pear, apple, apricot, and light oak spices. It’s on the lighter side of medium bodied with a fresh, bright, clean feel. 100% Chardonnay. 85% fermented in neutral French oak, 15% in stainless steel. 12.9% alcohol. 2,000 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 7, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Cold Fiddle White Blend Columbia Valley 2013 $NA
 (Good) An aromatic and appealing white with abundant notes of apricot and white flowers. The palate is spritzy in feel, drinking a hair off dry with abundant stone fruit flavors. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Chateau Ste Michelle Midsummer’s White Limited Release White Wine Columbia Valley 2013 $NA
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with notes of grass, spice, apple, and white peach. The palate drinks just off dry with light fruit flavors. Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Chateau Ste Michelle Dry Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $10
 (Good) An aromatic wine redolent with ripe peaches and nectarine. The palate drinks dry with abundant stone fruit flavors, narrowing a bit toward the finish. 100% Riesling. 12.5% alcohol. 0.72g/100 ml Residual Sugar. 0.66 g/100 ml Total Acidity. 100,000 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended. Reviewed August 31, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $10
(Good)Lightly aromatic with notes of pear and apricot. The palate is sweet with abundant apricot flavors. 10.5% alcohol. 4.30g/100 ml Residual Sugar. 0.67 g/100 ml Total Acidity. Sample provided by winery. Recommended. Reviewed August 31, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris Columbia Valley 2013 $11
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with notes of melon, apple, and light floral notes. The palate is medium bodied and brings an assortment of tropical fruit – star fruit and papaya – and pear flavors with a creamy, lingering finish. 100% Pinot Gris. 13.5% alcohol. 29,450 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended Reviewed August 31, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $10
(Good) A lightly aromatic wine with notes of stone fruit, red apple, and mineral. The palate is off dry with peach flavors. 12.0% alcohol. 2.01g/100 ml Residual Sugar. 0.69 g/100 ml Total Acidity. 716,700 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 31, 2014

Chateau Ste Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $11
(Good) A moderately aromatic and appealing wine with notes of kiwi and citrus. The palate is medium bodied with a tart zing of acidity. The concentration isn’t all there but it still provides a lot of enjoyment for the price. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. RecommendedReviewed August 31, 2014

Nine Hats Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $12
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine that starts out a bit reduced before opening up to reveal notes of wildflowers, spice, and white peach. The palate drinks medium sweet with abundant stone fruit flavors and well balanced acidity. 12.9% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Recommended

Orr Old Vine Chenin Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $NA
 (Good) A first release from long-time winemaking consultant Erica Orr, it’s native yeast fermented using fruit from 40 year old vines and brings notes of honeycomb, ripe red apple, and pear. It drinks dry with a creamy, drawn out feel and tart acidity. Described as crafted to pair particularly well with oysters and shellfish, it more than meets the mark. 100% Chenin Blanc. Aged in neutral French oak and stainless steel. 12.4% alcohol. 116 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

San Juan Vineyards Estate Grown Siegerrebe Puget Sound 2013 $20
(Good) An aromatic wine redolent with rose water, floral notes, papaya, and pear. The palate is off-dry with a medium bodied, very textured feel. 100% Siegerrebe. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 0.87% Residual Sugar. 12.0% alcohol. 333 cases produced.

Savage Grace Sauvignon Blanc Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $NA
 (Good) Made from eight different clones of this variety and fermented in stainless steel, it comes out of the gate a bit reduced needing a few swirls to get going. It has notes of wet seashells, mineral, and citrus with tropical tones lurking in the background. The palate is dry, medium bodied with tart, racy acidity. Pair with food to see it at its best. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Les Vignes de Marcoux. Tank fermented (80%) and neutral French oak. Aged four months in stainless steel. 12.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Vino La Monarca Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 2013 $15
(Good) Moderately aromatic with abundant notes of red apple and cantaloupe. It’s full bodied and drinks just off dry with a textured, rich feel and enough acidity to keep it all together. Still needs some time to settle in but has all the stuffing. 12.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Recommended. Reviewed July 30, 2014

Waitsburg Cellars Three White Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2013 $18
 (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with abundant toasty spices, almond, peach, and pear. It’s dry with a creamy feel but with the intensity and alcohol feeling quite restrained. 52% Grenache Blanc, 40% Marsanne, and 7% Picpoul. Aged five months in neutral barrels. 12% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

14 Hands Moscato Columbia Valley 2013 $10
(Decent/Good) A fairly aromatic wine with notes of lychee and spice. The palate is lightly spritzy and sweet with honeyed fruit flavors. An enjoyable quaffer or perfect as an aperitif. 10.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 31, 2014

14 Hands Pinot Grigio Washington State 2013 $10
(Decent) A lightly aromatic wine with notes of apple and pear. The palate is dry, medium bodied, straight forward and easy drinking with abundant red apple flavors and a clipped finish. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 31, 2014

14 Hands Riesling Washington State 2013 $10
(Decent) Very lightly aromatic with notes of pear and ripe red apple. The palate is medium sweet with stone fruit flavors and a lightly spritzy feel. Straightforward drinking enjoyment. 100% Riesling. 11.5% alcohol. 3.05 g/100 ml Residual Sugar. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed August 31, 2014

Elevation Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2013 $NA
(Decent) Moderately aromatic with notes of lees and fig, seeming a bit more advanced than its aged would indicate. The palate is medium bodied with citrus flavors. Tasted twice with consistent notes. 82% Sauvignon Blanc, 18% Semillon. Rosebud Vineyard. Aged in 30% new French oak, 15% Acacia. 13.9% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

San Juan Vineyards Les Vignes de Marcoux Riesling Yakima Valley 2013 $14
(Decent) A lightly aromatic wine with notes of stone fruit. It drinks medium sweet with abundant apricot flavors. 100% Riesling. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.2% alcohol. 2.69% Residual Sugar. 207 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Select Wine Enthusiast Reviews (see others, freely available here)

Gramercy Cellars Viognier Antoine Creek Lake Chelan 2013 $25 91 points

Tempus Cellars Riesling Evegreen Vineyard Ancient Lakes 2013 $18 91 points

Dowsett Family Gewurztraminer Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2013 $22
An intensely aromatic wine with notes of lychee and rose petals. It drinks dry, on the lighter side of medium bodied with a pronounced, flower filled finish. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)

L’Ecole No 41 Estate Grown Luminesce Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2013 $21
An aromatically appealing wine with notes of fig, pineapple, kiwi, and herbs. It’s full bodied with a creamy texture and an extended, lingering finish. 60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc. 14.5% alcohol. 1,260 cases produced (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)

Savage Grace Riesling Underwood Mountain Columbia Gorge 2013 $21
An aromatically appealing wine with notes of slate, apricot, and mineral. The palate drinks off dry with a lot of richness to the fruit flavors but with exquisitely well balanced acidity. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)

Savage Grace Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2013 $26
Pops like a champagne cork when you open it. It's lightly aromatic with notes of biscuit, lees, apple, and spice. The palate is medium bodied with a somewhat thick, textured feel with good weight and intensity and a steely core of acid. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)

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2 comments

  1. Wow, that is a very thorough report on the white wines of Washington! I think the whites in this State are getting better and better, with the Rhone varietals (Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and blends thereof) taking over the front of the pack. Sean, do you happen to know how many acres under vine there are of these varietals and is it increasing?

     
  2. Thanks Chris and my apologies for the delay in responding. I agree that the Rhone whites show great promise in the state, although most of them have very limitied plantings. Viognier is in the lead at 328 acres. Roussanne 71. Marsanne 10 (Mostly Boushey), Grenache Blanc (Not tracked), Picpoul (Not tracked). It will be interesting to see how those numbers change in the years to come.

     

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