Crossbred grapes bring their best to make unique whites
The Puget Sound area is a major promised land for a particular few mutt grapes. These grapes have been crossed once, some twice, to ensure that the best properties of each grape are tapped into and carried on.
Special to The Seattle Times
Lopez Island Vineyards
THE DOODLE: a cadre of dogs that crosses beloved favorites like retrievers and spaniels with the poodle for the purpose of creating cuddly, quirky and hypoallergenic beings, taking Seattle by . . . drool. The wine world has its very own doodles by way of 19th-century tinkering. And the Puget Sound area is a major promised land for a particular few mutt grapes.
These grapes have been crossed once, some even twice, to ensure that the very best properties of each grape are tapped into and carried on. These weird and wonderful wines also make a very smart choice for the deck.
Grapevines can vary in heartiness, fruit yield, aromas and flavors. Certain vines and their grapes don’t have the same abilities to ripen in marginal climates such as the not-so-hot Puget Sound or the occasional Eastern Washington freeze, for example. In the late 1800s, viticulturists in Europe led the charge in crossbreeding with grapes such as riesling and gewürztraminer. The resulting grapes might have the aromatics of one parent and the early-ripening characteristics of the other.
Müller-Thurgau ranks as the most successful cross; the grape still counts for nearly 20 percent of the vines growing in Germany. A mix of riesling and Madeline Royale, Müller-Thurgau wines have crisp, tangy fruit — like tart green apple. Mike Lempriere of Perennial Vintners on Bainbridge Island makes a charming version if the growing season is right. You can find him at the West Seattle farmers market on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Get some cheese and cured meat while you’re at it; this wine likes to chew the fat. Lempriere also makes a mean Madeline Angevine and Siegerrebe. Gesundheit.
The Madeline Angevine grape is a cross between two never-heard-of varietals, the Madeleine Royale and Précoce de Malingre. Forget them, there won’t be a test. Madeline has had success in Germany, the UK and in Washington state because she ripens very early and smells like flowers. The fruit is such that it almost seems sweet, but it’s just the expression of ripeness — like that one day a year when doughnut peaches are perfect. That makes these wines great with antipasti, simple grilled meats and outside. Lopez Island Vineyards has a Madeline Angevine wine that sells out nearly as quickly as a Macklemore concert. The winery has a tasting room on the island, but try to make it to the photogenic vineyards for one of its many events. You’ll see what you smell in the wine.
Siegerrebe crosses Madeline Angevine with gewürztraminer, the most aromatic wine grape of them all. If you make any end-of-summer visits to Western Washington wineries growing this grape, ask to sample it off the vine. Rarely do wine grapes taste so much like the wine they make. Both Perennial Vintners and Lopez Island Vineyards offer Siegerrebe in limited quantities.
Maybe I’m stretching the potential of these weird whites to grab any meaningful mind share amid the chardonnays and sauvignons of the irrigated lands east, but eight years ago the goldendoodle was a fringe fascination. Now in Seattle they nearly count as a voting block.
Maggie Savarino is a Seattle-based freelance writer.