Wine trip – Yakima / Zillah

By | April 30, 2009

Went to Yakima a week and a half ago to taste wine. For those who don’t know, it’s a wine region in south central Washington. We were in Zillah, a bit south of Yakima proper, where we visited six different wineries and tasted about 30 wines.

Grape hyacinths are the closest I got to taking any photos of grapes

Before talking about the wine, here’s my rating scheme. Each wine gets between one and four marks, meaning:

  • Four: “Great, I’ll look for this one”,
  • Three: “Nice, I’ll buy this if I see it”
  • Two: “OK, well, I wouldn’t turn it down”
  • One: “Hmm, yeah, maybe I’ll just have water”

This scheme is purely subjective and quite simple, mostly because I’m not terribly good at the descriptive element of wine tasting yet. Nonetheless, it forces me to think a bit and make some sort of judgement, which is really the whole point.

Anyway, on to the wines – here’s what caught my attention:

  • 2008 Two Mountain Riesling: Nice and light, comparatively dry in that it didn’t have a lot of residual sugar, but with sweet honey and floral flavours to make up for it. They noted peach, apricot, and overripe grapefruit in their description, but I could only get peach. They also mention minerality, but I can’t actually distinguish that. Slightly higher acid than normal, too, making for an interesting variation on the riesling theme. Of all the wines we tried, this was probably the best suited for warm summer nights because it was so refreshing. Three summer parasols.
  • 2005 Two Mountain Vinho Vermelho port: This was a find; 100% Touriga Nacional grapes, but with a lot less of the deep musty flavours that some ports wallow in. It was very similar to thick dessert wines and muscats in that it was almost like drinking honey or nectar except, unlike them, it had the complexity and length that makes port worth savouring. Despite being a very young port (only 2005!), it tasted as if it had been in the barrel for at least 10 years. Unfortunately, though, it was fairly expensive ($47), so I wasn’t able to afford any.Four drunken bishops.
  • 2007 Hyatt Black Muscat: Normally, muscat grapes are normally used to make dessert wine; in this case, they were used to make a rosè. Most wines also don’t taste a lot like the grapes from which they’re made; unfortunately, this one did. This doesn’t mean it was boring – in fact, muscatelle grapes have a very interesting flavour that is reminiscent of wine even when fresh, and when my father used to grow these at home, my sister always referred to them as the ‘gross grapes that taste like wine’ and refused to touch them. I, however, loved them, and stole them whenever I had the chance. So, while I was underwhelmed by this wine, I can’t say I didn’t like it. It just wasn’t what I expected from a muscat. Two splodges.
  • 2006 Hyatt Winter Harvest White Wine. Ice wine, divine. With a relatively high amount of residual sugar at 315 g/L, this was as thick and rich as anything else I’ve tried, and, with lots of stonefruit flavours, it was just what I like in an ice wine. Unfortunately, at about $28 for a 375ml bottle, it was too expensive for me. Three fruit salads.
  • Wineglass Cellars. Unfortunately, I lost my sheet of notes from here, which is a pity, because the staff here were some of the most friendly and talkative of the whole trip, and I recall liking several of their wines quite a lot. There were a couple of interesting ones, too; a Sangiovese Rosè, and a Cabernet Franc, both of which I’ve not really tried before. They also had a barrel tasting of 2008 Pinot Noir or Zinfandel that was quite divine. Kicking myself about the lost notes, but will be looking out.
  • 2005 Bonair Grand Reserve Merlot. We tried merlots at each of the wineries we visited, but at Bonair, you got a limited number of tastings, and I didn’t choose this one. However, I stole a sip from someone else’s glass, and learned enough to know this was probably the best merlot of the day, and I missed out. Pity, that. No rating.
  • Paradisos del Sol Angelica G. This was a charming and strange winery complete with random animals and eccentric owner who was really passionate about explaining the tasting of his wines, right down to providing appropriate things to eat with each one. Angelica G was code for a Gewürztraminer dessert wine served with brandied pears. Quite wonderful. Three pears.

Of the wineries, Paradisos del Sol had the most character, Wineglass the best wine-conversation, while Silverlake and Hyatt tied for both most commercial winery and cheapest wine.