Dr. Wade Wolfe, a geologist who started his legendary career as a winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1978, is as much of a grower as a winemaker and still has his roots firmly planted in the vineyards.
Founding his own winery nine years later in the valley, last year he and his wife Becky celebrated their 30-year anniversary as owners of Thurston Wolfe Winery. They are not the new kids on the block obviously, and frankly, have been one of the most consistent and reliable wines from Yakima for a very long time
I am sure Dr. Wolfe would appreciate it that I refer to him as old school, which also means that he still makes wine the old fashioned way, without any coloring components or modern additives that a lot of the hot new young winemakers secretly embrace to make their flashy wines taste more appealing.
That’s why I was so impressed with the Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red – I know it’s ONLY grapes, made in barrels, no tricks up the sleeve. And for a wine under $20 these days that is becoming harder and harder to find. His 2017 signature red blend is 62% Zinfandel, 29% Petite Sirah for depth, and a little splash of Lemberger which added light spicy hints and elevated the entirety of the blend.
The 2017 vintage could have not been any better, and this wine has a nice deep red color and dark fruit aromatics. It’s balanced and has notes of dried dark cherry and mocha and coffee bean
I’m always on the look out for a good Chardonnay that is what
Chardonnay lovers want – a good textured, creamy wine with a nice
buttery soft texture without a ton of oak. And while you can find these
for $35-50 pretty easily, it’s almost impossible to find a good one
that’s under $20. Most in that price category are “unoaked” or lightly
oaked – which is fine, but they tend to be light and crisp and lack that
creamy texture people want.
I can’t tell you why we were able to get such a screaming deal on this
delicious Chardonnay, but I can tell you it’s exactly what I was looking
for. This wine from a tiny Washington producer is hand crafted and
sourced from two vineyards in Yakima, then aged “sur lie” which means
they leave the yeast sediment in the barrel while it’s aging to add
layers of flavor.
And while 50% of this wine aged in new French Oak and the rest in
previously used barrels, the wine gets its creaminess without being
overly oaky at the same time. Most wine at this price would be lucky if
it was “oaked” with wood chips rather than new $1000 barrels.
Expect that buttery popcorn flavor with hints of pear and melon, and a subtle Meyer lemon finish with a good rich texture without going overboard. For this price I bought a case for myself at what was a one time winery direct deal!
In 2011 after conducting extensive blind tastings between Napa Valley and Washington Cabernet Sauvignons, Duckhorn Vineyards was so excited about the quality and character of the wines from Washington State, and in particular the exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons from Red Mountain, they decided to invest in Washington.
Working with legendary Washington vineyard manager Dick Boushey, they began cultivating relationships with the growers who farm some of the appellation’s most esteemed vineyards, as well as planting their own vineyards. This was one of the first ever serious investments in Washington from a well respected Napa winery. As with all Duckhorn wines, they needed to name the wine after a duck, so they came up with Canvasback, a duck native to the Pacific Flyway.
This wine has received some pretty lofty scores, with 4 esteemed publications all giving it 90+ points, as it has notable presence and depth with a creamy fine-grained texture and gorgeous flavors of black plum, marionberry, with notes of nutmeg and hazelnut. Yet it’s the restranied nature of this wine that had the critics impressed, as it drinks more like a French Bordeaux than a big juicy Washington Cab.
The balance comes in part to it’s Bordeaux style makeup, with 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc with 20 months in barrel 98% French oak barrels. Duckhorn is going all in on Washington Cabernet. And if you want to see what Napa is up to in Washington, give this a try!
With over 900 active wineries in Washington State, and another 600+ in Oregon, there’s plenty to keep wine lovers busy! Yet for those who have been to Yakima, Walla Walla, Woodinville of course, and maybe Willamette Valley, what’s next to visit? Okanagan of course!
Western Canada has a decent wine producing region? Beyond what you may think. Okanagan Valley has hundreds of wineries and most are not only producing wine, but unlike Washington, most grow their own grapes too. And while I love the ease of visiting wineries in Woodinville, Okanagan Valley has an abundance of gorgeous wineries surrounded by lush green vineyards in one of the most scenic wine regions in North America.
To American’s, Okanagan Valley is North and thus must be cold. To Canadian’s, Okanagan Valley is as South as you can go, and this their warmest region and great for Canadian tourists. And Okanagan has some pockets that are warm enough, especially those with SW exposure to get sun all day, to ripen Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, and Syrah. However, the red grape getting the most attention in BC is Cabernet Franc, which ripens a little easier and earlier.
My last visit this spring was truly a quest to find good, solid reds. It’s well established they can do whites, and whites well, as they need less heat and a shorter growing season. But with so many wineries and such a big region, and a limited amount of time, our search party contained our search to the area just across the US Border, starting with Osoyoos and heading up about 20 minutes to Oliver. So to be fair, there’s a plethora of wineries we didn’t visit in the regions we were in, as well as further north into Kelowna, Okanagan Falls, & Penticton.
But what we did discover was a rich landscape of cool, locally owned wineries, with incredibly friendly staffs and incredibly friendly pricing. Most tasting fees are still $5 to $10 and waived with purchase, and we found something at every winery except one to bring something home! And how does that work? Bringing wine from Canada to the US does require you declare it at the border. And then they have you go inside if more than 2 bottles each, and pay a huge tax of about 14 cents per bottle. If they’re sticklers, they might make you fill out a form for Washington State who wants to collect tax on it. So for 2 cases it added up to $4 for the Feds and $4 for the State!
Our favorite reds from this trip in June 2018:
Platinum Bench Merlot 2016
Nk’Mip “Talon” Red Blend 2015
Nk’Mip Pinot Noir 2015
Maverick “Provenance” Pinot Noir 2016
LaStella “Fortissimo” Red Blend 2016
Kismet “Karma” Red Blend 2016
Desert Hills Merlot 2013 And of course, a couple great whites and rose’s:
Fairview Cellars Gruner Veltliner 2017
Kismet “Infinity” Rose’ 2017
Nk’Mip Rose’ 2017
Want a great spot to stay? Check out Hawk Heaven Lodge for an incredible vista north, gazing over the Okanagan Valley perched high up in the hills outside Oroville! We loved the quiet and amazing surroundings in a cabin-esque setting with a few rustic elements. It’s private, affordable for a few couples to all pitch in, and you’re only 20 minutes from wine country!
Red Mountain has become famous for being one of the premier vineyard regions in Washington State, which establishes it as the most expensive fruit for winery’s to buy. With that notoriety comes tourism, and the last few years has seen a huge surge of interest in wine enthusiasts wanting to visit. The problem – almost no where to stay! So I was thrilled to learn of a new vacation rental that’s available, and was honored to be the first overnight guest to enjoy the experience!
Red Mountain Villa is a gorgeous, old classic farm house built over a century ago, originally as a train station and converted to a home about 50 years later. This is the perfect place for 3 couples to rent, with 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms ( 2 Kings & 1 Queen) and plenty of room to relax and hang out together before or after wine tasting. It’s rustic and elegant at the same time.
The Villa interior really has old world charm, with stone floors in some areas and amazing wide plank gorgeous pine floors in others, with exposed wood beams and brick arched doorways. The furnishings are a nice blend of old and new, with antique chairs, lamps, and cabinets balanced with brand new beds, couches, and an amazing dining room table perfect for big groups.
We loved cooking in the huge kitchen, which is a great feature since there’s not much for dining in the area. And the new high-end grill outside is a BBQ lovers dream as well, especially if like cooking at 625 degrees!
And the lower level of the home has it’s own kitchen as well, and with a bedroom, bath, and large living room with a huge new flat screen TV, it’s an apartment in itself for the couple who really wants privacy. And of course the home is equipped with free wi-fi and air conditioning, a necessity in Washington’s hottest growing region.
One of Red Mountains best attributes is 300 days of sunshine a year. We loved the private, 4 acre back yard where the sprawling lawn leads you past small orchards, grape vines, or various fruit trees (peaches, plums, cherries which you are free to pick and enjoy during your stay.) Pull up an Adirondack chair by the lazy Yakima river under the soothing shade canopy of the massive 100 year old Black Walnut trees. If you’re lucky you’ll get to meet the family of wild white kittens or the 4 baby owls that seem to enjoy the property as much as you will.
The two best places in the area to get married are within 2 minutes down the road, with a gorgeous new barn/event center at Tucannon Winery and a spectacular facility at Terra Blanca. The Red Mountain Villa is the perfect place for the wedding party to stay before and after the ceremony!
As the first guests to stay at the Villa, we enjoyed the quiet, peaceful surroundings and not having to drive far after a day of tasting wines, as there’s wineries within blocks and the remainder only 5 minutes away. This undiscovered gem in Red Mountain will soon be hard to book once the word gets out. You can rent it by CLICKING HERE!