NW sparklers start to shine
Wine columnist Paul Gregutt says that in the past couple of years not one but two boutique wineries have debuted in Washington committed to making méthode champenoise (traditional method) bubbly in both standard and not-so-standard styles.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
Treveri Cellars Brut Chardonnay; $14. A chardonnay-based sparkler, this rich, concentrated wine has a luscious mix of apricot, peach and papaya flavors in a creamy, textural setting. Exceptional length and development in the glass, which keeps bringing in nuances such as vanilla and pepper. (Distributed by Cordon)
TRADITIONAL-METHOD sparkling wines are notoriously difficult and costly to produce, which is why so few commercial wineries have been dedicated to such bubbly here in the Pacific Northwest. An early attempt was Newton & Newton, long ago reinvented as DiStefano and out of the fizz biz. Mountain Dome has a long history in the Spokane area, with occasional breakthrough successes.
In Oregon, Argyle has become an institution, and its best wines — such as the 2001 'Extended Tirage,' released a decade after the vintage — can compete with real Champagne. Soter Vineyards, priced at the high end for domestic bubbly, makes limited amounts of a very well-regarded brut and brut rosé.
For everyday enjoyment, there are the Domaine Ste. Michelle wines, a competent and relatively cheap lineup, with a vintage-dated tête de cuvée called Luxe. But in the past couple of years not one but two boutique wineries have debuted in Washington committed to making méthode champenoise (traditional method) bubbly in both standard and not-so-standard styles.
Tru Cellars opened on Main Street in downtown Walla Walla a little more than two years ago, boasting that it is the only American sparkling-wine producer using actual Champagne barrels from France. Whether or not that is true, Tru has made some respectable sparklers, notably its blanc de blanc and single-vineyard (Celilo) blanc de blanc. The wines are priced comparably to French Champagne and sold primarily through the wine club (http://trucellars.com) and at the tasting room.
Yakima-based Treveri Cellars (www.trevericellars.com) is the newest on the scene and off to an excellent start (the wines were served at a White House reception last fall). Winemaker Juergen Grieb has been working with Washington grapes since the early 1980s, when he was hired shortly after taking his enology degree to work with the Langguth winery, an early riesling project on the Wahluke Slope.
I first encountered the Treveri Brut as part of a lineup in a blind tasting of vintage Champagnes. Someone had slipped it in as a ringer, so there was no clue that it was neither vintage nor Champagne. Amazingly, it showed very well, better than several of the pricier bottles in the flight.
In my own tasting, I put the more traditional Treveri wines in a mixed flight of sparkling wines from a number of New World producers. Once again the brut was the standout, a rich and creamy wine, elegantly styled. Made from chardonnay grapes, it retails for $14. The extra brut (drier still) was quite well made, in a crisp, lightly melony style well-suited to oyster-slurping.
But that's just the beginning.
Grieb makes sparkling wine out of a wide range of grapes, including riesling, gewurztraminer, pinot gris, Müller-Thurgau and syrah. They run up the sweetness scale from extra brut through brut, extra-sec, sec and demi-sec, but all are soundly made and attractively priced. Perhaps I am biased, but I don't find that any sparkling wine from nonstandard grapes can match the elegance and depth of those made from chardonnay and/or the black grapes — pinot noir and pinot meunier. But if I had to choose a favorite from the rest of the Treveri offerings, it would be the Gewurztraminer Demi-Sec Blanc de Blanc, a sweetly floral, intensely perfumed sparkler.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.