Consumers are concerned with health and wellness more today than ever before, which is creating a heightened interest in lower-alcohol wines. As a result, winemakers are recognizing the demand for high-quality wine without high levels of alcohol.
Woodinville-based Savage Grace Wines meets consumer interest in both style and taste while leading the trend of lower-alcohol wines. Following a trend is not the goal of owner-winemaker Michael Savage. Rather, he is following his love of the Loire Valley region in France. When launching his winery in 2011, Savage wanted to produce wines inspired by those from the Loire Valley — low-alcohol, high-acid and food-friendly.
Standout wines in Washington state are historically big, jammy, plush wines with an alcohol by volume, or ABV, of 14 to 15 percent. Savage’s high-quality wines with lower alcohol are breaking these big-wine stereotypes with a long list of awards and sold-out wines.
Accolades include 2016 Winemaker to Watch by San Francisco Chronicle, 2016 Best Emerging Winery by Seattle Magazine, 2015 Top 10 Hot Brands by Wine Business Monthly, and 2015 Winery of the Year by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to name just a few.
As a trendsetter, Savage has had to blaze the trail of securing fruit that best serves his style of wine. In doing so, he’s had to find and develop a relationship with a wine grape grower who will listen and adjust for his specific style of wine. Patrick Rawn, co-owner and grower for Two Mountain Winery in Zillah, is that guy.
The two have developed an excellent working relationship.
“We purposely farm for big canopy, more shade, and dappled light to create more red fruit flavors than black fruit flavors,” Rawn said. “In order to achieve these flavor profiles, the fruit needs less direct exposure. We farm differently for Savage Grace Wines than we do for any other winery we grow for.”
Rawn understands what it takes to grow grapes for the style of wine Savage produces.
“Mike’s wines are out of the box, in a good way,” he said. “They fit the trend of lower-alcohol, more- balanced wines. His wines are well-made and food-friendly, which is a much harder style of wine to make. He has a very clear vision of what he wants to achieve. He works hard to make fruit choices that fit that vision.”
Success is contagious, and we will most likely be seeing more wines that fit this profile in the future. Rawn has been approached by two more winemakers asking him to grow wine grapes that fit this profile for their own projects.
The following Savage Grace Wines are grown by Rawn, who in addition to growing for his own winery manages several vineyards in and around the Rattlesnake Hills AVA:
■ 2017 Savage Grace Cabernet Franc, Copeland Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills: A lighter-bodied wine with red fruit and soft earthy notes on the palate. This food-friendly red will pair with a large variety of foods. 11.9 percent ABV, $30.
■ 2017 Savage Grace Cabernet Franc, Two Blondes Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills: The second cabernet franc produced by Savage. Aromas of red fruit (raspberry) and orange peel. Excellent fruit-forward flavors with great balance on the palate. 12.7 percent ABV, $32.
■ 2017 Côt Red Wine (pronounced “Coh”), Dineen Vineyard, Rattlesnake Hills: A pinot noir-like, food-friendly wine with aromas of red berries and spice. Delicate fruit flavors with great acidity. 11.2 percent ABV, $26.
Savage Grace Wines are not readily available in the Yakima Valley. They can be purchased online at www.savagegracewines.com or ordered through Stems wine shop in downtown Yakima.
• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.