Rusty Grape Vineyard is located in Battle Ground, Washington about thirty miles north of Portland, OR. In describing the name for the winery, winemaker Jeremy Brown who owns the winery with his wife Heather writes “We had thought of many different names for our winery, but ended up choosing this one. I guess we liked the sound of it.” Rusty Grape makes Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir. The winery, which also makes strawberry and blackberry wine, produces approximately 1,200 cases annually.
While Pinot Noir has flourished in Oregon, the grape is one of the few that has struggled to date in Washington. While many Washington vineyards and wineries have experimented with Pinot, few have had success. Many wineries that do produce Pinot Noir currently source their grapes from Oregon. Several wineries in the Lake Chelan AVA, Washington’s newest, are hopeful about the grape’s prospects in the area. Time will tell.
Why has Pinot struggled in Washington? As the character Miles famously describes in the movie Sideways “It’s a hard grape to grow. It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s…not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention…And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really.” Washington has more than its fair share of patient, nurturing growers and winemakers. Rather Washington’s struggles seem to be climatic. No doubt having an abundance of exceptional Pinots produced in Oregon dissuades some from trying to find the key that will unlock the grape’s charms here.
Rusty Grape’s Pinot Noir fruit is 100% from Clark County where the winery is located. The wine shows both some of the promise as well as the problems of Pinot Noir in Washington. The wine has an engaging nose but a palate that is heavier than expected for a Pinot. Still, there are enough good things going on that it will be interesting to see the results as the vineyard matures and Brown gains additional experience nurturing this finicky grape.
Rusty Grape Vineyard Pinot Noir Washington State 2007 $22 Rating: +
A lively nose with red currant, raspberries, Mandarin oranges, cranberry relish, and stewed plums. Tart and fairly acidic on the palate with some herbal notes showing through late. A bit heavy with fruit. Citrus emerges over time. 13.0% alcohol.
Sample sent by winery