NW Food & Wine Fest 2008: The year of the Viogner

benke1 cubanismoet-fillefive-starmt-baker1

I’m finally getting a moment to say a few things about the 2008 NW food and wine fest at Memorial Coliseum this last Saturday.  This was the 2nd year I have attended, and what an event it was!  Lat year was heavy on Eastern Washington wineries pouring their wonderful Syrah’s, and Southern Oregon Wineries pouring Syrah, Cab, and Merlot, and a lot of very young 2006 Pinot Noir (at least that’s how I remember it…things were a bit fuzzy…

This year was quite different.  More Wilammette Valley representation, many more wines under $20 (thank you economy!), and, well, the same 2006 Pinot’s, but this year they were so much better.  Also, I have dubbed this the year of the Viogner.  Nearly every winery seemed to be pouting Viogner.  Now, I don’t mind,a s Viogner is one of my favorite white variatels, but this was incredible.  Apparently Voigner is the new black.  Or the new 30.  Or something. Anyway, on to some reviews:

We started at Mt. Baker Vineyards.  My younger brother went to WWU in Bellingham, WA, and always raved about their wines.  Naturally, we started with a 2005 Barrel Select Viogner ($11/bottle).  It was nice, a bit on the sweet side, but good honey and lots of floral notes.  For the price, it was a very nice wine.  The 2005 Malbec ($15/bottle) was a nice, light red, good earth on the nose, light cherry and a hint of clay on the tongue, and a hint of spice to finish.  We closed with a 2004 Late Harvest Viogner ($15/375ML).  I’ve had a number of late harvest and Ice Wines, and generally enjoy them in moderation.  The residual sugars in these wines generally keep me from a second glass, and this fit into that category, though it was excellent.  The nose was huge floral and honeysuckle, and it tasted very much like is smelled, but with a surprising citrus peel zest.  It was a very unique and enjoyable wine, and overall I was impressed with Mt. Baker’s wines, especially for the prices.

We made a stop at Five Star Cellars for a couple red wines.  First was the 2006 Merlot ($32/bottle).  It got my Blue Ribbon for best Merlot of the night.  For an ’06 Merlot, it had already come to be quite drinkable.  The first note was a wonderful mouthful of cedar and earth along with big fruit.  The finish was quite nice, with a surprising spice that lingered nicely, but didn’t overpower the earth and cedar that held on longer than expected.  A bit more than I like to spend on wine, certainly a Merlot, I rather enjoyed this wine.  Following the Merlot was their 2006 Cabernet ($34/bottle).  It was light on the tannins, heavy on the fruit, velvety, and a pleasant leathery finish.  Although not as good as the Merlot, this wine was enjoyable and felt like it would improve for a handful of years.

I popped in on the Cubanismo Vineyards booth, as I know the family and always enjoy their wines.  I only stayed for the 2006 Pinot Noir ($34/bottle).  They poured the ’06 Pinot last year, and I remember the winemaker, Mauricio, leaning over his table and quietly recommending me not to drink the wine for at least a year, preferably 3-5 years.  Well, he was spot on!  In just a year, the wine had grown up beautifully!  Round fruit, complex lingering spice, and a wonderfully lite finish makes this my Blue Ribbon Pinot of the Night!

Moving on to Et Fille Wines, we were back to the Viogner!  This was their 2007, and it was the dryiest of the evening.  It had very light honey notes, more crisp fruit, and a bit of dry acidity.  I enjoyed it, but at $26/bottle, there were much better wines for the value (and in my world, value & quality go hand in hand).  They poured 2 Pinot Noir’s.  The first was an ’06 from Elton Vineyards, for $45/bottle.  It was quite velvety and soft on the mouth, with a very lite, but lingering spice.  Not overly commplex, it didn’t make me reach my cup out for more.  Then was the ’06 from Kalita Vineyards ($38/bottle).  This had almost no distinguishable spice up front, and just a touch on the finish.  It had a bit more ripe fruit, and just a hint of pine.  Perhaps a few more years will do these wines some good; they didn’t make an impression on me.

And now for my winery of the evening: Benke Cellars.  They only make 3 wines: Viogner, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir.  They source their grapes from Underwood Mountian Vineyards on the Columbia River, and all 3 varietals are $15/bottle.  The Viogner was first, and it was the best of the evening.  Sweet honey and floral, but the sweetness felt subtle and natural, as opposeed to the sickly residual sugar taste of so many wines.  This was one of the few Viogner’s I could enjoy for more than 1 glass.  Next was the Sangiovese, and for my money, it was the blue ribbon winner for overall wine of the night!  In fact, I ordered a half-case today.  It was a perfect food wine; just enough spice, just enough fruit, perfectly balanced, and a great subtle earthiness.  Wonderful!  The Pinot held it’s own with the (often overpriced) Wilammette Valley Pinot’s, and had it not been for Cubanismo, this would have been my Pinot Pick!  Do check out their wines…you have to buy direct, as they currently only produce a few hundred cased total.  Even if you can’t try these wines in advance, you won’t be disappointed!


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Cheers to Viognier, one of the most fabulous aromatic wine varietals in the world. If it has acidity it can be great and if it lacks acid then at least it still smells brilliant.

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