60+ wines reviewed below, including the latest from Andrew Januik, Bear Barton, Betz Family, Cairdeas, Col Solare, Devison, Diffraction, Dineen, Dobbes Family, Enodav, GPR by Devison, Januik, King Estate, Novelty Hill, Seven Hills, and Wine by Joe.
Recently, I wrote about the strength of Rhône-style red blends in Washington. There’s plenty more of those reviewed in this article, including standouts from Cairdeas, Devison, and Betz. Today, though, it’s time to give some love to white Rhône varieties and blends, with a handful reviewed below.
White Rhône grapes have been grown in Washington for a long time, with McCrea Cellars and others making varietally labeled Viognier more than 25 years ago. However, It’s only been in the last 10-15 years that a larger number of wineries has been working with these varieties.
Viognier has certainly shown success in the state but is also notoriously finicky, where nailing the pick date is essential. Otherwise, the fruit becomes overripe and smells like a package of Jolly Rancher candy. That is particularly a challenge in a warming climate. However, Cayuse, Liminal, Mark Ryan, Prospice, Gramercy, and others produce high quality examples.
Grenache Blanc has shown that it too can excel in the state, with producers such as Two Vintners, Syncline, Reynvaan, Cairdeas, and Kerloo consistently making standout bottles. Much of the fruit for these wines comes from Boushey Vineyard.
Marsanne has been harder to nail in Washington as a varietal wine, but has performed well in blends. Roussanne has fared better, with producers like Novelty Hill, Sparkman, and Latta making delicious offerings.
Picpoul, meanwhile, is a true insider’s variety in Washington. Gramercy has started to produce its Picpoul at enough scale that it isn’t all consumed by tasting room visitors and the wine club. Syncline also makes a bottling that is a consistent standout, with fruit coming from Boushey. Acreage, however, remains scarce and limiting, though there are recent plantings. Other varieties like Clairette Blanche and Picardan are still in the experimental stages, with Lake Chelan’s Cairdeas pioneering those two.
In terms of blends, winemakers have used most every combination, though Viognier-driven wines and Marsanne/Roussanne-focused wines are the most common. Rôtie Cellars, Cairdeas, Avennia, Gård, and many others are showing the way there.
Overall, Washington can make white Rhône varieties and blends at a high level. Winemaker interest in these wines also seems to be waxing. The next question is whether enough consumers will follow to move these wines more toward the mainstream. That seems like a tall task until you realize that Syrah doesn’t even have a 40 year history in the state and today in the third most planted red variety.
NB: Subscribers can use the Advanced Filter function to search for reviews of each of the varieties listed above or Rhône-style White Blends.
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At Northwest Wine Report, all scores come from blind tastings in varietal/style sets. Read more about this site’s process for rating and reviewing wines. Read about the Northwest Wine Report rating system and special designations. Read about how to interpret scores. See a list of recently reviewed producers.
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