Yakima Valley & Red Mountain Wine Country

Our day began with a visit to Jerry’s family in Prosser and we were welcomed with coffee & donuts!  Jerry’s uncle handles the vineyards for Eroica, a joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr Loosen.  Eroica is a sublimal Riesling, dry in style, has 12% alcohol with natural integrated acidity.  The diurnal temperatures provide hot days with cold nights, perfect for retaining acidity in the grapes.

After our family visit and viticultural chat, we headed to Desert Wind Winery where we did a tasting of white and red wines.  The wines that stood out were the reds with Barbera and Syrah leading.  We had lunch here too and I was told that they were known for their hamburgers, so I figured that since it was Friday, best I try.  Yes, a great hamburger which went very well with the Barbera ordered!

Winemaker Wade Wolfe, a contemporary of Dr Carol Meredith, UC Davis

After lunch we visited Thurston Wolfe and here I tasted an interesting blend of Pinot Gris and Viognier or PGV as its known.  An uncomplicated, easy drinking lifestyle wine which may just do well in South Africa – no oaking, just balanced acidity with hints of lemon drops and soft spice.  The Dr Wolfe’s Family red 2009 was an inteeresting blend of Primitivo, Lemberger and Petite Sirah.  The Howling Wolfe Zinfandel 2009, a 100% Zin from Zephr Ridge was delicious and noteworthy.

Our next stop was the Airfield Winery,where the expected limousines made an appearance – a clear heads-up that this tasting stop would be more about entertainment than serious wine tasting!  How many tasting rooms offer live performances?

The next two winery visits were in the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area).  The

Larry Pearson, owner and winemaker at Tapteil

first stop was at Tapteil Winery, home to seriously good Syrah.  We tasted the 2008 & 2009, having previously tasted their 2007 at home.  Their Syrah clearly is comfortable in the prevailing terroir - light coloured, high calcium soils with an average rainfall of 6 -8 inches.

Our final stop at Col Solare was perfectly timed - with dusk approaching, the view from high up above Benton City offered spectacular views of silhouette vineyards and stars.  This winery is undoubtedly a shining star in the Red Mountain AVA, a joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Piero Antinori, well-known SuperTuscan genius.  The wines are indeed

Col Solare tasting room

as impressive as the winery itself with Antinori committing to Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style wines, thus no inclusion of Sangiovese.  I do think, however, that the terroir would offer great wines from Italian cultivars such as the Sangiovese, Barbera or Nebbiolo.  The stand out vintages of Col Solare for me were the 1999 and 2004.  They do a lifestyle wine too, Shining Hill, its name derived from the Italian Col Solare.

The tasting room manager, Christine, gave an impressive tour of the facility, including ringing the bell, which I believe is done on special occasions only – well this was special.  We were taken on a full tour of the cellar and enjoyed tank tastings of the 2011 vintage – still undergoing MLF.  Christine, your professionalism, friendliness and knowledge were first-class so thank you!
Tomorrow we head to Walla Walla AVA…

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