Leavenworth, the state’s Bavarian-themed town on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, is a perfect example of wineries taking advantage of an existing tourism base to creating a wine culture that didn’t exist.
A century ago, Leavenworth was just another Cascade logging town. A half-century ago, its economy was struggling, and the community reinvented itself with a German theme, a move that sparked tourism from both sides of the state.
A decade ago, the town received national media attention for its Christmastime theme, and the combination of snow, holiday lights and decorations make visits nothing short of magical.
More than 20 wineries now operate tasting rooms in Leavenworth. A few cider and beer producers have joined in.
It is about 100 miles from Everett, so if you are planning a visit to Leavenworth to get into the holiday spirit, here are a few gold-medal-winning wines from Leavenworth tasting rooms that will make excellent Christmas gifts or for accompanying those holiday meals.
Boudreaux Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington, $75: The talented Rob Newsom wisely looked to the future with this work from some of the most historic and regarded cabernet sauvignon vineyards in the Columbia and Walla Walla valleys. Complex aromas of smoky oak, blueberry, white pepper, lavender and vanilla extract lead to flavors of plum sauce and boysenberry jam, finished by elderberry and plum-skin tannins. Its broad shoulders and sinewy structure show there’s plenty in store for the road ahead.
Chateau Faire Le Pont Winery 2014 Petit Verdot, Yakima Valley, $40: Wenatchee winemaker Doug Brazil has been producing a standalone petit verdot for a number of years, and the retired Navy helicopter pilot continues to reach higher with this lesser-known Bordeaux variety. It’s loaded with blackcurrant, plums and cedary notes, and his job of managing the substantial tannins is superb. This fall, he and his wife, Debé, opened a satellite tasting room on Front Street in downtown Leavenworth.
Silvara Vineyards 2016 Woodland Goddess Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $42: This Leavenworth winery held back four of its best barrels for this age-worthy cab. It opens with aromas of deep, ripe dark fruit, followed by flavors of dark chocolate, ripe plum and blackberry.
Ryan Patrick Wines 2015 Reserve Red Heaven Vineyard Syrah, Red Mountain, $35: Here is a classic Washington syrah from atop Red Mountain vineyard. On the palate, it’s fully integrated, with notes of mint, spice and ripe plum, and flavors that remind us of fresh-out-the-oven chocolate chip cookies.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2014 The Estates Malbec, Wahluke Slope, $26: Emily Haines now works in California for the famed Trinchero family, yet the Eastern Washington University grad left a delicious legacy in the cellar for Butch and Buck Milbrandt. It’s a malbec rich and bright with black cherry and blueberry jam flavors that lead to silky tannins and a finish of blackcurrant and white pepper.
Bergdorf Cellars 2013 Flagship Malbec, Columbia Valley, $40: Jack Delvo expertly crafts the wines for this small producer, and this example of malbec is spectacular, thanks to tones of pie cherries, black pepper and dark chocolate. It’s big and ripe with a sensual texture; notes of graphite add complexity in the finish.
Goose Ridge Vineyards 2015 Cellar Select Artist Series Lavender Wind Poppies Reserve Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $48: Just outside Richland, Goose Ridge is home to the largest vineyard in Washington. With four tasting rooms, including one in Leavenworth, the wines are quite accessible. This grenache-based blend offers alluring aromas of rose petals, followed by lively earthy flavors of blueberry and raspberry that pull you in for sip after sip.
Sigillo Cellars 2016 Relativity, Columbia Valley, $28: This Snoqualmie-based winery with a Leavenworth tasting room has crafted a Southern Rhône-inspired blend that leads with grenache. The result is a sensual red with aromas and flavors of raspberry jam on toast, plum and blueberry. It’s easy to imagine this with barbecued ribs or other grilled meats.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman operate Great Northwest Wine, an award-winning media company. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.