Do you know that just south of the Canada / USA border in Washington State, there is the Whatcom Wine Trail? Most people when they think of WA state wineries think of Woodinville with wineries like Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia, or Covey Run. But there are some wineries closer, such as:
- Glacial Lake Missoula Wine Co.
- Dakota Creek Winery
- Samson Estates
- Mount Baker Vineyards
- Vartanyan Estate Winery
- Chuckanut Ridge Wine Company
- Dynasty Cellars
- Legoe Bay Winery
Here is a Google Map of the Whatcom Wine Trail wineries.
View Whatcom Wine Trail in a larger map
I would like to tell you about my experience this week at Samson Estates and Mount Baker Vineyards.
Samson Estates Winery
Samson Estates Winery is located a few miles southeast of Lynden, WA surrounded by berry and vegetable fields. Not a place you would expect to find a winery. This is a small family owned winery producing wine from grapes sourced in the Columbia and Yakima Valleys. They also produce a selection of fruit wines. The owner of this winery is “Sam” and produces wines with his sons, thus the name “Samson Estate Winery”. I tried both their grape and their fruit wines. On the grape side I sampled their Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.
- Samson Estates Winery Chardonnay 2008 (US$14). Medium lemon in colour. Very citrusy with some vanilla on the nose. Lighter body and round on the palate with some acidity to keep it fresh. Tropical fruits and vanilla on the palate. Medium length.
- Samson Estates Winery Merlot 2004(US$15). Deep ruby in the glass. Juicy ripe black fruit, vanilla, kirsch cherry and licorice aromas. Medium body with dark jammy fruit, black and kirsch cherry flavours. Medium length with some leafiness on the finish. A nice wine.
- Samson Estates Winery Cabernet Franc 2004 (US$17). Light garnet coloured. Gamey, black cherry and cedar aromas. Medium body with soft tannins and medium length. Cedar, red cherries and vanilla. A nice smooth wine.
I did get a chance to try one of their fruit wine; the Samson Estates Winery Blackberry Delilah. Why Delilah? Nothing to do with Tom Jones. Rather, a play off of Samson (According to Wikipedia , the movie Samson and Delilah is a 1949 film made by Paramount Pictures, produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr as the title characters. Angela Lansbury, George Sanders and Henry Wilcoxon are also featured.) This wine was quite nice. Light cherry in colour. Sweet ripe blackberry and raspberry aromas. Medium body with an acidic prickle. Off-dry with a restrained, not over the top, blackberry flavour. Could be mixed with sparkling water or sparkling wine.
Mount Baker Vineyards
This winery located near Everson, WA, has been in business over 25 years. For most of those years the winery has been run by Randy Finley, a very friendly and knowledgeable wine maker. I spent almost 2 hours with Randy. We talked about his 28 different varietals and blends produced by his winery. Grapes for the winery come from the Prosser area, along with Red Mountain, at the Estate, and a few other locations in WA state. His wines have won numerous medals from around the world, and all the wines I tasted with Randy were all very well made and enjoyable.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Chardonnay Barrel Select 2009 (US$13). Medium lemon colour with tropical fruit, peaches, oak and ginger aromas. Medium body smooth with between light to medium acidity. Pears, spice, vanilla and green apple flavours. Long spicy apples to finish. Nice.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Chasselas Dore’ Estate 2010 (US$12). Chasselas is a grape more widely known in Switzerland than here in North America. Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in West Kelowna is the only other North American winery I know that produces wine from the Chasselas grape. This wine comes from Estate grown grapes. Bright lemon in colour. Herbal, apple, vanilla, lemon and spice on the nose. Medium body, off-dry with light herbal and lemon flavours. Medium acidity to give it a crisp feeling on your palate. My favourite white of the tasting.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Madeleine Angevine Estate 2009 (US $12). A cross between the Madeleine Royale and Precoce de Malingre grapes, this grape can be found in the Loire Valley, France, the United Kingdom, as well as in Puget Sound. It is an early ripening grape, which is great for our Pacific Northwest climate. This wine was pale lemon with a slight greenish tint in the glass. Nice herbal, flowery, sweet ginger spice nose. Very fruit on the palate with lemon, melon and ginger. Medium body with crisp flavours.
Mount Baker Vineyards Dolcetto Proprietor’s Reserve 2008 . Here is a prime example of Randy’s spirit of experimentation with grapes in the vineyard. How many Dolcetto’s can you name in WA state or in BC? Dolcetto, or little sweet one, is an Italian grape. It is grown typically around the Sangiovese grape, where I am told that the birds prefer the Dolcetto grape and leave the Sangiovese for us to enjoy as wine. This wine was deep ruby in colour. Smoky, pencil leads, licorice and dark fruit on the nose. Medium body, smooth with ripe cherries and vanilla. Long length. A very nice wine. Try it if you can.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2009 (US$24). Light cherry colour in the glass. Violets, light spice and strawberry aromas. Light body with raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of cedar and vanilla. Low tannins and smooth on the palate. Nice.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Sangiovese Barrel Select 2008 (US$14). Grapes for this wine come from three vineyards; Red Mountain, Prosser, and an area half way between these two vineyard locations. Light ruby in colour with a light flowery nose. Medium body with flower, spicy, smoky, cedary, and cherry aromas. Round with medium acidity. Long length with some minerality on the finish. An elegant wine.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Cabernet Franc Proprietor’s Limited Release 2008 (US$18). Similar to to their Sangiovese, the Cab Franc grapes for this wine come from three different vineyards. Medium garnet in colour. Capsicum, plum and cherry nose. Medium body, smooth with plums and cedar flavours. Fine tannins with a nice ripe cherry finish. Long length. Another elegant wine!
- Mount Baker Vineyards Malbec Limited Release 2008 (US$20). Their Malbec started recently in 2002. Deep purple ruby in colour. A nice dark fruit nose complemented by vanilla and milk chocolate notes. Round mouth feel, with soft tannins and bright acidity. Cherries up front with milk chocolate coming in mid-palate and a bit of coriander. Medium length. Another nice wine to try. It would be interesting to compare this Malbec with one from Argentina.
- Mount Baker Vineyards Tempranillo Limited Release 2009 (US$15). Another grape that you will not commonly find in North America, Tempranillo is a native of Spain. This wine was deep ruby in the glass. Earthy with dark fruit and ripe plum on the nose. Nice legs in the glass. 15.3% alcohol but not hot. Full body with licorice, dark plum, ripe cherries and vanilla. Slight spice on the mid palate. Nice round mouth feel. Spicy dark cherries and some leafiness on the finish. Long length. My favourite red wine of this tasting.
One last wine for this tasting was the Mount Baker Vineyards Late Harvest Viognier 2007 (US$20 for a half bottle). Deep lemon in colour. Pretty nose with peaches, oranges and honey. Unctus in your mouth. Sweet with honey, honeydew melon, and peach flavours. Good acidity to balance this wine. A wonderful wine. Highly recommended to top off a nice meal with family or friends.
If you would like to find out more about Whatcom County Wineries visit their website.