We're on the Air for Washington Wine

David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio has basically taken over the state of California. His radio show has a similar format to what we're doing here at TOWB: he approaches wine without pretense, focusing on the experience, and he has a top secret location. Every time I check in with David there's a bevy of new stations that are carrying him all over California. One of the things I appreciate about David is that he looks at wine from every perspective: envelopes are pushed, corks are popped (and screwcaps are twisted, perhaps begrudgingly) and a general good time is had on Grape Encounters. If you're not currently listening, check them out on the interwebs or on iTunes. One of his biggest markets is actually Seattle, which is fortunate for me because it allows me to work a Northwest angle when I appear on his show, as I did recently to talk about Forgeron Cellars and our all too fleeting youth.

David recently invited me back to talk about millenials and wine and to give the wines of Forgeron Cellars a whirl. If you spend time talking with new wine drinkers you'll encounter a lot of "I only drink reds" or "I only drink whites." You'll also encounter a steadfast unwillingness to spend more than $15 on a bottle of wine. The result is often the safe $8-15 blend that has some nice oak elements and red fruit notes. The wines are comfortable, simple, and in many cases they even score pretty well according to the fancy magazine people. At that price point you "can't go wrong," and there's nothing wrong with that. What got us down the road towards Walla Walla's Forgeron Cellars is the idea that there are wines available for twenty to thirty dollars that will give younger wine drinkers a look at what the world of wine can really hold for them.

David and I spent some time talking about going a bit outside the comfort zone, and maybe spending just a little bit more, closer to the $25 dollar neighborhood and really opening yourself and your palate up to a new experience. In an effort to illustrate that, David and I tasted through three brilliant wines from Forgeron Cellars priced between $19 and $26.

I first encountered the wines of Forgeron Cellars in the spring and met the charming winemaker, Marie-Eve Gilles. Her wines, particularly the Zinfandel and Chardonnay, are, in my opinion, among Washington state's finest examples of each. Marie Eve marries her old world education in Dijon with the fruit and potential of Washington wine in away that gives her wine personality, elegance, and in many cases, grace.

I have said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: her Zinfandel is one of my top two wine discoveries of 2010. You may have picked up on this, but I get to try a lot of wine; this Zin is excellent. David was a big fan of the Zinfandel and found it to be a big bold wine, spicy and not raisiny, and well-integrated with an alcohol percentages hovering in the mid-14s.

Where Marie Eve may have won David's heart ,and what may be described as her wheelhouse, were the two whites we tasted, a Chardonnay ($19), and Marsanne ($26). What I love about the Chardonnay and where I feel Marie Eve hits the mark is on the mouthfeel of this wine, it's full and rounded. You get a lot of well-rounded Chardonnays in California, but they're usually so buttered over with oak that you don't get to enjoy any of the fruit elements. David said it best: this Chardonnay is indeed beautiful. It's crisp and bright and even a bit floral but it really fills the mouth well with a great finish. The Marsanne furthered David's appreciation for Marie Eve's winemaking. The floral elements and the bright fruit flavors had us both muttering compliments between tastes that included "absolutely beautiful” and “fantastic." There were only three barrels of the Marsanne, so if you’re able to get your hands on this beauty, you definitely should.

The point that David allowed me to make is that spending a bit more on wine allows you to really begin to see what the fuss is all about. So I encourage young people skip a few of those $5 lattes, pool your money with a friend or two and drop a bit more coin on a small production bottle of wine. In a perfect world, I'd prefer it be from Washington so you get a glimpse as to why those of us in the secret location of TOWB are so enamored with Northwest grape juice.

Listen to the show here.


Joe said...

Not a lot of Zinfandel grown in Washington, though, right?

Have only tried one from Ch. Ste. Michelle, and it was smuggled back home by neighbors. Would like to see WA Zin on shelfs in Atlanta.

Unknown said...

Zinfandel is starting to get more popular in Washington, however, you are correct not a lot of vineyards growing Zin. Forgeron Cellars I believe was the first to make a Zin out of the Walla Walla Valley, with fruit from Alder Ridge Vineyard in Horse Heaven Hills.