From the Grapevine: Two outstanding Washington wines

September 20, 2013

Shannon Borg

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White Wine of the Year

Lullaby Viognier 2010, Walla Walla Valley, $35

Virginie Bourgue understood the concept of wines of place from an early age. In college, she studied viticulture and enology in her native France, ultimately earning a masters degree in enology in Champagne. She made wine for Bergevin Lane and at Cadaretta in Walla Walla, and had the chance to oversee the planting of new vineyards south of town for Cadaretta before starting her own label, Lullaby Winery. Now she works with winegrowers in the Walla Walla American Viticultural Area to source the best fruit and make sure it is grown, pruned and harvested to her specifications. The results are in: Her wines have a restrained elegance that lets the fruit and minerality shine without being too fruity or too lean. This Viognier charmed our judges with its rounded balance and long finish, suggesting notes of lemon curd and white peachall characteristics of a well-made Walla Walla Viognier. Once a Seattle magazine Winemaker to Watch, Bourgue is now at her best.

Red Wine of the Year

Avennia 2010 Arnaut Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard, $45

This wine rose to the top of its flight for its beautiful nose of ripe raspberry, cherry and spice, with a vivacious brightness and long finish. Although it is winemaker Chris Petersons first vintage for the Avennia label, which is based in Woodinville, he made the right choice in working with fruit from Boushey Vineyard of Yakima Valley. Peterson, who made wine at DeLille Cellars for seven years, chose to use native airborne yeasts rather than adding yeast to the wine, and bottled it without fining (adding an agent to make the wine clearer) or filtering, thus preserving more of the tiny bits of grape skins and lees that will continue to add body and flavor to the wine as it ages. Peterson feels this method of minimal manipulation lets the signature of place shine through and creates wine with a voice. We hear it singing!