Four off-beat wines perfect for summer

The days of walking through the white wine section of your local grocery store or wine shop and choosing between two flavors — Chardonnay and Riesling — are gone.  Wine diversity in the U.S. is at an all-time high, and Washington winemakers are doing their part by crafting a full spectrum of lesser known wines.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of drinking wine is expanding your knowledge and developing your palate.  Living in wine country makes it easy to do both.  The ever growing list of wine grape varieties coming out of the Yakima Valley allows access to wines, that due to low production, many outside the region will never have the opportunity to enjoy.

The wines highlighted here are gaining popularity with consumers and wine professionals alike, and all were grown in the Yakima Valley.  It’s worth noting that these wines taste lovely all year long, but summer is a great time to build your palate and enjoy experimenting with wines produced from these up-and-coming grape varieties.

Grenache Blanc (pronounced “greh-nash blonk”) is a white wine mostly found in Rhône wine blends. Its versatility allows winemakers to produce dry, off-dry, sparkling, and even oak aged styles similar to Chardonnay.  Two Vintners 2018 Grenache Blanc, Boushey/Olsen Vineyards, Yakima Valley $25 has been recognized as one of the best examples of this variety from the state. This medium bodied wine is a nice sipping wine, but it will also pair well with food that has a bit of spice, but be careful not to over-do the spice.

Picpoul (pronounced “pick-pool”) is a light-skinned, full body white wine that is gaining popularity as a trendy upstart. Translated, Picpoul means “lip stinger”, named for its bold and zingy acidity (brightness).  It’s not easy to find, but it is definitely a fun wine to seek out.  An excellent sample of this wine is the Syncline 2018 Picpoul, Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley $25. This wine is upbeat, fresh, and very dry.  It would be impeccable with fresh oysters and shellfish.

Albariño (pronounced “ahl vah REE nyoh”) is a white grape grown predominantly in northwest Spain and Portugal. This grape produces an aromatic and bright full-bodied wine. An excellent example is Thurston Wolfe 2018 Albariño, Crawford Vineyard, Yakima Valley $18.  This is the perfect summer wine; it can be enjoyed on its own or paired with seafood.  This wine will steal the show at a summer gathering, just as it has when shared with wine professionals and media. Buy now, this wine sells out.

Chenin Blanc (pronounced “shen-nin blonk”) is produced in boutique quantities. These wines are round and fruit-forward, often aged in oak. Its floral overtones are reined in by the variety’s inherent brightness.  A locally grown Chenin Blanc is L’Ecole No 41 Chenin Blanc, Upland Vineyard, Rothrock, Williard Rams, & Phil Church vineyards, Yakima Valley  $18.   This off dry wine is bright and ready for summer.  Try it with soft or semi-firm cheese such as a brie, cream cheese or even cheddar.


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