In March 2021 the Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring the wines of Yakima Valley, Washington, USA. For a primer on Yakima Valley wines, see the overview in host Robin's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #WinePW on Saturday, 13 March 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Yakima Valley wine.
YAKIMA VALLEY AVA
Spanning approximately 70 miles east to west, it lies within the valley of the Yakima River. The AVA has over 18,000 acres of grapevines and has formally been an AVA since 1983, making it WA's oldest AVA. 1983 - not that long ago, right? I know! But grapes have been grown here since the 1860s.
Today, 40-50% of WA state's wine grapes come from the Yakima Valley AVA, a fertile area that, prior to sharing space with grapevines, was full of fruit orchards and other cash crops. Even today, 80% of the US' hops production is in this area. The volcanic soil and temperate climate is ideal for high acidity in grapes. Cool but also warm enough to allow the grapes to ripen without turning jammy. The majority of grapes here are Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Merlot although as you'll read below, other varietals are also grown here. It's definitely an underrated wine region, one to keep an eye on!
I have been focussed on small wineries with a personal touch for a while now, and the fact that I was sent two wine samples from two small wineries with a personal story couldn't be more perfect. Athough the wines were complimentary, as always, all opinions are mine.
Côte Bonneville is the very definition of a family run winery. Hugh Shiels planted the DuBrul vineyard on a 45 acre in 1992 and established Côte Bonneville in 2001. Hugh, a former orthpædic surgeon and still a part-time doctor, his wife Kathy, formerly a physical therapist, and daughter Kerry who is the winemaker, together run the estate. Hugh and Kathy turned their love for wine into a winery, and Kerry left engineering to study oenology at UC Davis before bearing the mantle of winemaker. Here are three professionals who made an impact on people first through their professions and now through their stellar wines!
At DuBrul vineyard, from where the grapes for Côte Bonneville's vineyard designated wines come, the rocky terrain, poor soil, and deficit irrigation regimen coax small yields of small berries in small clusters from the vines. The vineyard was awarded Vineyard of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and the wines continue to be acclaimed by critics and sought after by consumers.
100% Cabernet Franc14.1% ABV | SRP $30 | SAMPLE
Sourced from a mere 26 rows of Cabernet Franc with own-rooted vines (not grafted onto different rootstock), this estate-bottled Cab Franc is a special one because there's only so much grape to go around from such few rows. As it turned out, in 2018 there was enough to set aside a small chunk to make a single varietal wine.
Ripe red fruit - especially raspberry and strawberry, white flowers, vanilla, black pepper at the finish
This is a wine full of gaeity - it will immediately put you in a good mood. With a layered aromatic complexity and a rounded mouthfeel, it has the same notes on the palate as on the nose, and a whiff of dried violets. Medium body, balanced acidity, balanced tannins, medium finish. Despite the 14.1% ABV, it definitely doesn't feel like it. A fruity and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for up to 3 years.
You don't have to know Co of Co Dinn Cellars long to know how passionate he is about wine making. I was already agreeing with him on everything I'd read in his introduction on his website, and then I had a phone conversation with him. His matter-of-fact intensity shows in everything he says, and the love for the craft of wine-making is more than evident in everything he says. Co will readily tell you that he is not a farmer and does not grow his grapes, but he will also tell you in depth that he is very particular about the grapes he sources and it clearly shows in his wine. Even though I have only tasted exactly one of his wines, I don't doubt for a second that all his wines are elegant and worth seeking out.
Although Co Dinn wines aren't on shelves in the Bay Area, they can be shipped directly to consumers and I highly recommend you take advantage of that.
2016 GSM Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard
41% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre14.7% ABV | SRP $45 | SAMPLE
The Lonesome Spring Ranch (LSR) vineyard is one of the "jewels" Co mentions in his intro. In its previous life the LSR vineyard was pasture and an apricot orchard. Established in 1996, this 109+ acre property is now a vineyard farmed using Vinewise management practices. But really, the talent is not just in the vineyard or growing the grapes, but in what the winemaker does with the grapes to make superior wine. And that is just what this wine is... superior in all aspects.
Black fruit, a hint of cooked red fruit, dried savoury herbs, tobacco, black pepper, leather, faint baking spice
The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also black cherry and lingering tobacco and coffee on the finish. Medium body, balanced acidity, soft tannins, long finish. This is a beautifully structured wine that really shines when paired with meaty food.
THE WINE + FOOD
As soon as I tasted each wine I knew what I wanted to pair with it. Here in N. CA we're going into spring but with some typical last minute weather vacillations, so I took advantage of the rain and cold and decided to pair the wines with pasta and meat courses at dinner. Farfalle with rapini, olio nuovo, and pecorino with the Cab Franc, and a compound salt-crusted ribeye with braised fennel and potatoes with the GSM.
Pasta, 1st course: The garlic and slight bitter notes of the rapini toned down by the al dente pasta, olio nuovo drizzle, and the salty edge of the pecorino were incredible with the juicy, ripe, fresh, acidity of the Cab Franc. The next day the wine had gone from a juicy wine to a more sombre one that would definitely be excellent with a dish that incorporates tomato sauce... something like meatballs with ricotta and a tomato sauce, bread on the side. Either way, this is a delicious wine and we couldn't have asked for a better pairing!
Steak, 2nd course: The herbed compound salt-crusted steak along with the fennel and potatoes stood up nicely to the wine. At first, the wine was a bit closed and rather serious wine even after a 60 min. decant. Nevertheless, the complexity of the wine highlighted the slight sweetness and anise of the fennel and of course, was wonderful with the steak. And the potatoes, well, can't ever go wrong with get steak and potatoes! All in all, we really enjoyed the wine together with the food and if I had to summarise this wine in one sentence it would be: This wine needs food, and make it red meat!
As Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, said, "Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit." And so, the first day the wine was quite tightly wound although still terrific with our steak, but when we revisited this the next day, it had opened up to a most delightful wine full of primary fruit aromas leading into greater depth. The structure and mouthfeel did not change drastically but every aroma was deeper, more pronounced, more present, lingered longer. We had it with charcuterie (no bread, cheese, etc.) and it was splendid! I love what Co at Co Dinn Cellars is doing and his passion for his craft is obvious in his wine!
So that was me, but the possibilities are endless so check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and paired with our Yakima Valley wines:
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles leads the way with “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”
- Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
- Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
- Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
- Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
- Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
- Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
- David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
- Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
- Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
- Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
- Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
- Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”