The 2017 harvest has all but wrapped up. Walk into any winery in the Pacific Northwest, and in the cellar red and white wines are bubbling away, yeast happily converting the sugar to alcohol.
It takes a few weeks for white grape juice to complete the magical process of becoming wine. That typically happens in stainless steel tanks, vessels that can be used repeatedly for years, seriously cutting the cost of winemaking when using $1,000 oak barrels.
By spring, winemakers will be thinking about bottling these new white and pink wines. Unlike reds, they don’t gain a lot of complexity by aging, except in the rare cases of riesling, semillon and whites blends from Bordeaux and the spectacular chardonnays of Chablis.
Here are a few white and pink wines, all priced at $15 and under, that we’ve tasted.
Milbrandt Vineyards 2016 Rosé, Columbia Valley, $13: Even though Emily Haines left Milbrandt Vineyards last summer for the Sierra foothills, wines that she produced continue to win plaudits from judges. One of first wines released from her final harvest was this stunning pink blend of syrah and tempranillo off six vineyards, all picked around Brix 21. Aromas of nectarine, freesia and pear are followed by a light-bodied, fruit-forward drink reminiscent of fresh strawberries and watermelon.
Duck Pond Fries Family Cellars 2016 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, $14: The Fries family owns large vineyards in Washington and Oregon, but its St. Jory Vineyard north of Salem is the foundation for this charmer that starts remarkably tropical yet packs a nice punch in the finish. Papaya, mango, tutti frutti, mint and white pepper aromas lead to flavors of white peach, backed by Granny Smith apple and gooseberry acidity. Enjoy with shellfish and light salads.
Martin-Scott Winery 2016 The Peddler’s White, Columbia Valley, $14: The Martin family in East Wenatchee produces this popular white blend of chardonnay, pinot gris and muscat that reveals fresh, fantastic aromas and flavors of buttered toast, honeysuckle, peaches and tropical fruit. A hint of apricot and lime add complexity to the finish.
Columbia Winery 2014 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $14: Sean Hails’ production facility for Columbia Winery sits in the heart of Washington’s Yakima Valley near Sunnyside, and the string of hot vintages prompted him to target the cooler portions of the Valley for this chardonnay. Some oak and eight months of surlie aging help create aromas of pear butter, light honeyed toast and lemon custard that transcend into a flavors hinting at a spoonful of lemon chiffon pie.
Tall Sage 2015 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $13: In 1997, Walter Clore’s planting advice for orchardist/rancher Arvid Monson was “find a tall sage,” and that led to Goose Ridge Vineyards — a 2,500-acre planting near Richland. Monson died in 2014 at age 73, and this consumer-minded second label adds to his legacy. It opens with a garden full of flowers, lemon, apple, river rock and coriander. Those notes make their way to the palate with a beautiful mouth feel of Asian pear and nectarine that’s capped by lemony acidity.
Nine Hats Wines 2016 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $14: The sister label of Walla Walla’s Long Shadows Vintners program is spearheaded by the brilliant Gilles Nicault, who doubled production of this riesling over the 2015 vintage. And yet, there’s no drop-off.