Hey Hey USA!
Eyrie, Amity, Eroica, Boom Boom, and Kung Fu Girl…not ringing any bells?
They’re only some of the top wineries/wines from two of the best winemaking regions in North America, that’s all!
Last month I had the pleasure of receiving an invitation to the Oregon and Washington trade tasting. Having been a champion for USA wines in the UK for a few years now (and not just for patriotic reasons, but because I think American wines are bloody good and get too little recognition over here), I was thrilled to hear about a tasting fair exclusively for these two fabulous winemaking regions. Within the United States, Washington and Oregon winemakers have carved out a very good reputation for themselves, and even non-winos can name a few wines from both states. However because production remains small, and American remains big, little of this precious stuff makes it to Britain’s shores. But after half a day spent in the beautiful halls of the Institute of Civil Engineers, I discovered that there were many distributors and agencies who were passionate about sharing the wines of America’s Northwest with the British public. And that made me hopeful.
The day started with a seminar called ‘Oregon Wine Through the Ages’ hosted by Harry Peterson-Nedry, owner of Chehalem Winery. We were treated to a tasting of 8 Chardonnays and 16 Pinot Noirs from 1974 until 2006. Apparently, Harry had gone knocking on his winemaking neighbours’ doors to ask them to dig around in their cellars to find some aged wines for our tasting! So this was a very special opportunity indeed. I don’t want to make you too jealous and go into how delicious some of these wines were, and how well some of them had aged–except to say that the 1974 Eyrie Chardonnay, though not exactly an ‘every day drinking’ wine, was a stunning deep gold in colour, and was like a butterscotch/toffee sweet in liquid form. Amazingly it still retained a nice level of acidity and a long finish. Imagine the length of oak contact it must’ve had to have lasted this long! Other than Eyrie, a few of the wineries that stood out for me as being consistently good were: Chehalem, Argyle, Domaine Serene, and Amity.
So after a very speedy tasting of 24 great wines, I could’ve gone home a happy gal. However there was much more to come. I spent the next few hours tasting MANY wines from both states, and still didn’t manage to come close to tasting everything.
Of the wines I did try, here’s some that stood out for me:
• Chateau Ste. Michelle: All of their whites are nice, but particularly their Riesling. They are the oldest winery in Washington, and one of the biggest. They also co-produce one of my favourite Rieslings in the world, Eroica (see ‘In My Cellar’ page for tasting notes).
• The lovely ladies of A to Z: Their Chardonnay and Pinot Gris both went down particularly easily.
• Charles Smith wines: A garage winemaker with ‘big hair and a kick ass attitude’ who used to manage rock bands in Scandinavia. He makes ‘drink now wines’ with funky labels and his motto is ‘it’s just booze—drink it!’ I found that though his wines weren’t hugely complex, they were incredibly drinkable. (And ok, I am a sucker for fun labelling and a rock star image!) His ‘Kung-Fu Girl’ Riesling, ‘Boom Boom’ Syrah, ‘Steakhouse’ red, and a big blend house white were all the kind of wines I would happily serve at a summer BBQ with friends or for a Friday night in.
• Amity Vineyards: I loved their Pinot Noir in the morning tasting, so I was thrilled that I was equally fond of their Pinot Blanc (which was far more interesting than many I’ve tried) and their dry Gewurztraminer.
• Bethel Heights Estate: Like a slightly fruitier Burgundy, their Chardonnay showed restraint and fine craftsmanship. Their Pinot Gris wasn’t bad either.
• Andrew Will: A boutique Washington winery making Bordeaux blends. The Two Blonds was the easiest to drink now, but there was great potential in the Campoux and Ciel du Cheval to age into very complex wines. And you’ll pay for that privilege too.
It warmed my wine loving heart to see such a great representation of Oregon and Washington wines here in Ol’ Blighty. If you’ve never tried a wine from either state, go out and get one now! Now I said! Ok, just read this last sentence: The wines I mentioned should all be available either through shops, distributors or agencies in the UK, just give them a search in Google, and if you’re struggling, drop me a line and I’m happy to help a fellow wino! Happy Drinking!