This summer, more than any in recent memory, promises to be a season for the outdoors. And that is where we’ll focus our summer wines: on bottles appropriate for campground picnic tables, all-day barbecues or plain old patio pounding.
2014 L’Ecole No. 41 Sémillon, ($14). Marty Clubb of Walla Walla-based L’Ecole No. 41 has long been a champion of Washington sémillon. His version is the standard bearer, coming from a sextet of vineyards across the state and mixing pear, melon and lime fruit on a balanced, medium-body frame. The waxy texture, the figgy subtleties: unmistakably sémillon.
2014 Tempus Cellars Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard ($18). Cool, chalky Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA has built a sterling reputation for growing some of the best white grapes in the state, and none more so than riesling. A number of wineries work with Evergreen Vineyard riesling, but one of the most consistently successful versions is winemaker Joe Forest’s bottling for Walla Walla-based Tempus Cellars. It is also one of the driest rieslings made from Evergreen fruit, with just a kiss of residual sugar to the white peach and blood orange fruit, perfectly balanced by bright acid and stony minerality.
2015 Tranche Cellars Pink Pape, Blackrock Vineyard ($18). Andrew Trio of Walla Walla’s Tranche Cellars produces this gorgeous rosé from a blend of Rhône varieties: grenache (46 percent), cinsault (31 percent) and counoise (23 percent). The wine, made from grapes that come entirely from the winery’s estate Blackrock Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, pours into the glass pale pink and offers a mix of fruits (watermelon, strawberry), minerals and green tones (cucumber). This is the promise of summer in a glass.
2014 Two Vintners Zinfandel, StoneTree Vineyard ($30). Zinfandel is much more frequently seen in California than in Washington. That’s because it’s a highly thermophilic (heat-loving) variety, requiring an awful lot of sunshine to ripen properly. Few vineyards in our northern clime fit the bill. The most suitable site may be StoneTree Vineyard, which sits at the top of the Wahluke Slope AVA with a perfect south-facing slant that catches every possible ray of sun all summer long. Woodinville-based Two Vintners winemaker Morgan Lee lets zin be zin. That means eye-popping alcohol levels (16.9 percent) and a brambly, savory palate that comfortably carries the alcohol without excessive heat.