YAKIMA, Wash. -- It is said that wine is made in the vineyard. Grapes are the raw material that determine the final quality of a wine. Wine grapes are significantly influenced by climate, topography and soil, which are often expressed by a wine region.
We know of many great wine regions throughout the world. Getting beyond the basic wine-growing area and into the finer details of a specific vineyard can make a remarkable impact on the final wine. The best vineyards grow the best wine. In the Yakima Valley those vineyards are typically on a south-facing hillside with very rocky soil and little water.
“Single vineyard,” also referred to as “vineyard designate,” is a term used in the wine industry to indicate that the wine in the bottle comes from a single vineyard site. U.S. law dictates that at least 95 percent of the grapes used to make a single-vineyard wine must come from that site.
Vineyard designate wines are the best expressions of the vineyard and typically the highest quality wine from the winemaker. The fruit is grown in elements best suited to the grape variety, and is often farmed separately, receiving additional care during the growing season. All of these elements are in balance and harmony for growing the best grapes. Using the best grapes from one vineyard allows the vineyard characteristics to shine through, giving the wine another exclusive aspect.
In Washington state, winemakers don’t have to own vineyards to make delicious wine. By relying on trusted growers, vintners procure grapes to craft pours that are uniquely theirs. If you travel through a Yakima Valley vineyard, you are likely to see markers with the name of the winery receiving grapes from the identified vineyard row. This helps create consistency in the wine year after year. As you sip appetizing pours from the following wines, it’s easy to see that these winemakers and growers share a common passion: a love of the vineyard and good wine.
Avennia 2014 Arnaut, Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $50: Chris Peterson hails from Yakima and often uses grapes from the Yakima Valley AVA for his wines. According to Peterson, no one grows finer Syrah in the state than Dick Boushey. This Syrah shows red and black fruit balanced with perfect tannins. 92 points Wine Enthusiast, editor’s choice.
Owen Roe 2014 Chapel Block, Red Willow Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley, $55: Yakima Valley’s Red Willow Vineyard is responsible for bringing Syrah to Washington state, and the vines surrounding the chapel deliver exceptional quality and purity of fruit. This wine expresses tobacco and blueberry with a touch of sweet oak. 93 points Wine Enthusiast, editor’s choice.
These are both well-made wines that exhibit true characteristics of Syrah but showcase different attributes. This is caused by the individuality of each winemaker and the expressions of each vineyard.
Yakima Valley vineyards are named on many outstanding wines. When you look through the shelves at your local wine shop, keep an eye out for vineyard designate wines, a sure sign of quality.
• Barbara Glover is executive director of Wine Yakima Valley, an industry group representing member wineries.