Welcome to Part 2 of my article on the wines of Oregon and Washington that made a visit to Vancouver. In Part 1, I covered the wines from three Oregonian wineries, which you can read here.
There are so many AVA areas in Washington from the coast to the interior. I in particular really like the Walla Walla Valley, Red Mountain, and Horse Heaven Hills. In the interior, the Columbia Valley where many AVAs are located you have the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges to the west which blocks much of the wet weather you get on the coast, plus you get warm continental summer days and cool nights to help maintain the acidity in the grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the top two grape varieties grown in Washington state. WA state also has 1,050 wineries and continues to grow, while in BC we have 284 licensed grape wine wineries. Such a contrast, as we are constrained by the mountain ranges, while WA state wineries can sprawl east of the mountain ranges.
I was fortunate to be invited to the 2021 NORTHWEST WINE EXPEDITION in Vancouver, where several wineries from Oregon and Washington state provided us the opportunity to sample a flight of their wines, in a sit-down, socially distanced manner due to COVID. This was only my second Trade wine tasting in over 18 months. I really appreciated the effort by these wineries to visit BC and show us their wines. Most of the wineries in attendance have a presence in BC with a few that need representation. I tried wines from 3 Oregon wineries and 2 Washington state wineries.
The Washington Wines I Tasted
I sampled wines from these two Washington wineries (I did run out of time and would have tried wines from other wineries as well):
Betz Family Winery: I met Bob Betz at the Taste of Tulalip in 2013 where he was the Festival’s Honorary Winemaker. Bob made a red wine especially for the Taste of Tulalip. Each year a different Washington state winemaker is selected, with the grapes also coming from Washington. In 1974 Bob and his wife Cathy received a year of training in the vineyards of France, Italy and Germany. Bob in the following year is hired by WA state’s Chateau Ste. Michelle winery where he stayed for 28 years. In 1988 Bob received his Master of Wine degree, one of only 278 MW’s in the world. Skipping forward to 1997 Bob and Cathy crushed their first vintage of 150 cases of Betz Family wines in Woodinville. In 2011 Bob and Cathy sold Betz Family Winery to Steve and Bridgit Griessel with Bob remaining as the winery’s “patriarch” and winemaker for the next 5 years. The 5 years have now passed, and Bob is the Consulting Winemaker with Louis Skinner as the Winemaker. I’ve really enjoyed Betz’s wines for many years, and I hope an agent in BC can import their wines.
Gramercy Cellars: If you like Rhone-style wines, then you should look up Gramercy Cellars. I tasted their wines, pre-COVID, at Taste Washington, held every year to celebrate Washington state wines, and have them enjoyed with food made by restaurants in one venue. Quite a special event. From the winery, “The Harrington family <from NYC> moved to Walla Walla in 2005 to make a specific kind of old-world-meets-new Rhône and Bordeaux varietals. Their goal was to utilize the near perfect growing conditions near Walla Walla to create some of the best-reviewed wines from the region. The results are intense, yet restrained; elegant, yet earthy…At the winery, the Gramercy team carefully design the fermentations; sometimes in concrete, sometimes in oak, always with patience and minimalism.”
My Wine Tasting Notes
Betz Family Winery Domaine de Pierres 2018 – Medium intensity, dull garnet colour. Medium-plus nose with a mix of red fruit and red cherries aromas. A sweet fruit edge to the nose. Medium body, dry and lean. Capsicum / vegetal plus red fruit flavours. Light acidity and medium minus tannins. Some sweet spices and sweet cherries on the finish. A bit of a chalky feel as well on the finish. Elegant.
Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2017 – A deeper, dull garnet colour. A light intensity nose with ripe black cherries, candied cherries, and a touch of sweet spices. A medium minus body, roudish, medium acidity and drying tannins. Sweet red cherries, red fruits, and sweet spices followed by red apples mid-palate. Another elegant wine.
Betz Family Winery Pere de Famille 2017 – Deep ruby colour. It has a light intensity, dark fruit nose. Fuller body, dry and round with dark fruit flavours. A firmer tannic finish. Medium length. –
Gramercy Cellars Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – Deep, dull garnet colour. Dark fruit and cassis aromas, with a hint of capsicum and dried meat. Dryish, medium-plus body, with a silky round mouthfeel. Sweet ripe red and black fruit, capsicum, and chocolate with some pepperiness. –
Gramercy Cellars Walla Walla Syrah 2016 – Deep, dull garnet colour as well. A light intensity nose showing red fruits and slate. Medium-minus body with slate, licorice, ripe red fruits, and red cherry flavours, and a hint of mace. Medium acidity and light tannins. Round, but not mouthfilling. –
Gramercy Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – Almost opaque garnet colour. Light aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg, cassis, and a touch of oak. Fuller bodied, very silky to start then firm tannins kick in. Round with a thicker mouthfeel. Ripe sweet red and black fruit with a touch of sweet spices and pepper. Firm tannins and pepperiness on the finish. Medium minus length. –
Thanks to Top Drop Canada for bringing the 2021 NORTHWEST WINE EXPEDITION to Vancouver, and thanks to the Vancouver Club for keeping us all socially distanced and safe from COVID exposure.