Twisted Vine

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Pacific Northwest Wine Class

July 25th, 2017

Recently we hosted two wine classes focusing on white wines from the Pacific Northwest. As a longtime admirer of crisp, fresh, and well made white wines, these days I generally turn my attention (and available funds) to Washington and Oregon white wines when the summer weather commands such purchases. Thankfully, as far as we could tell, our wine class guests appreciated to the tasting of weather-appropriate wines. Here are the wines we tasted:

  • 2016 Gramercy Cellars Picpoul “Lois Oidos Vineyard” – Walla Walla, WA
  • 2016 Sineann Grüner Veltliner “Pear Blossom Vineyard”– Columbia Gorge, OR
  • 2016 Willakenzie Estate Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley, OR
  • 2015 Longshadow Poet’s Leap Riesling – Columbia Valley, WA
  • 2015 Sharecropper’s Chardonnay – Yakima Valley, WA
  • 2015 Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé – Willamette Valley, OR

When scheming about what sorts of wines to serve customers for events like wine classes, we usually try to present a decent diversity of grapes, regions, and production methods. One thing to notice about the selections for this class is the inclusion of 6 different wines made from totally different grape varieties. While some of these grapes may be recognizable by name, others (like Picpoul and Gruner Veltliner) are probably less recognizable, and probably don’t make up most of what we regularly drink at home or when we venture out to restaurants or local wine bars.

One other takeaway from this class was the recognition that many different styles of wine can fulfill our cravings for refreshing drinks during these summer months. Whether it is the truly mouth-watering acidity of the Picpoul, the slightly more ripe and herbal notes from the Grüner Veltliner, or even the subtle sweet fruit from the Riesling, appropriate summer beverages come in many forms. I was very pleased to take note of how so many different customers with different tastes appreciated nearly all of the wines for their seasonal appropriateness, as well as simply for how they tasted. Of course, different consumers preferred some wines over others, but no matter their individual preferences, they are all more likely to be just a bit more in-the-know the next time they go wine shopping on their own. During the class I encouraged everyone to understand what each of these wines conveyed in the glass, but also to venture out and try a wine from a different region made from the same variety. Our Wine Director (who was also present for the first class) contributed a helpful point about the Grüner Veltliner, noting that its fruit character was a bit more plump and ripe than one is likely to find in a more traditional Austrian version. Perhaps this relates to a point that is repeatedly made by sommeliers and others in the wine trade concerning the benefit of seeking out “classic” examples of certain grape varieties from around the wine-producing world. I encourage everyone to spend some time with many different varieties, seeking to understand how different producers from different locales may contribute their own expression of a particular grape.

On a final note, these classes also reinforced the quality and dynamic nature of Pacific Northwest wine regions. As I see things, Washington and Oregon are anything but “one trick ponies,” but, rather, viticultural areas deserved of praise and still relatively underexplored. To think that the same areas can produce white, red, and rosé wines of distinguished character and remarkable quality is a testament not only to the vineyard sites themselves, but also to the vintners who produce the product in areas that so often get overshadowed by more acclaimed American Viticultural Areas.

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