Brenda (Palencia) Armenta

Taste Washington Wine!

Taste Washington Wine at Purple Star

One week removed from our Las Vegas escapades, Aaron’s Wine Chronicles hit the road to taste Washington wine!  The target for our first tasting room was Purple Star Winery.  We hadn’t visited for over a year, so it was certainly time for another visit.  Kyle Johnson (winemaker) and his wife Amy Johnson own the winery.  They produce wine using three different labels – Purple Star, Muret-Gaston and Native Sun.  The first two we had the opportunity to taste, and the Native Sun wines are for club members only.  Located in North Benton City, this tasting room is expansive.

The Wines

The tasting room team was congenial, inviting and very helpful.  Before we started tasting we had the opportunity to tour the barrel room.  This is where Kyle performs his magic.  I took time to look at the Barrel cooperages and check out the concrete “eggs” as well.  The tasting started with the 2019 Columbia Valley Rosé.  This Mourvèdre-Syrah based Rosé offered flavors of red fruit and medium acidity that left you wanting more.  Perfect for a hot summer day.  Next was the 2014 Purple Star Columbia Valley Syrah.  I enjoyed the dark fruit on this wine.

The 2015 Purple Star Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was more medium bodied and very approachable.  It was crafted with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot as well.  The non-vintage Muret-Gaston Red Blend from Red Mountain was nicely balanced.  It is a blend of both Bordeaux and Rhône varietals, consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah.  Our final taste of the day was actually the most impressive of the line-up!  We both fell in love with the 2015 Muret-Gaston Syrah from Edythe Mae Vineyard.  This vineyard lies on Olsen Brothers land in the Yakima Valley AVA.  We ended up buying a bottle of this delicious and beautiful Syrah.  What a great way to start our Saturday tastings!

Sleeping Dog

As we prepared to leave Purple Star, my wife suggested we visit a smaller winery from our past that was nearby.  She fell in love with this next tasting room many years ago, and we hadn’t visited for a few years.  So our next stop was Sleeping Dog Winery, about 4 miles or so, down the road.  Larry Oates, (owner, and self-proclaimed “alpha” winemaker) has been following his wine passion since the early 90’s.  The winery theme is all about their canine companions.  It’s always a treat to taste such a diverse array of wines.  For a small production winery (≈500 cases per year), Larry essentially crafts whatever he wants, whenever he wants!  Using what I would consider some unconventional approaches, he crafts some very delicious wines.   Today, we were able to chat directly with Larry about his winemaking philosophy as we tasted his creations.

Typically focusing on 100% varietal wines, Larry shared two red blends with us for this tasting.  None of his wines are aged in oak barrels.  Instead he ages them in steel tanks and sometimes adds oak to the tanks when he feels the need.  In addition, he bottle ages his wines for much longer than other tasting rooms.  This allows them to mature prior to making them available to his customers.  Some of the wines we tasted were 2008 and 2009 vintages!  Finally, he enjoys experimenting, and uses some lesser known varietals as well.  Today, we would taste a wine crafted from Montepulciano!

The Wines

One of the tasting room associates literally mixed two different wines together (50-50 by volume) in the glass.  I had never seen this done before, but when I tasted the concoction, I was blown away!  Their mindset is to be adventurous, be curious, break old traditions and enjoy wine any way you desire!  Our tasting included 9 different wines.  Not including the two mixed-wine tastes we were offered!  It was an educational and very fun experience.  We absolutely live to taste Washington wine!

We started with a 2013 Montepulciano.  Crafted from an Italian varietal, it was unique and very approachable.  The 2008 Yakima Valley Merlot and 2009 Ciel de Chien Red Wine were also both very enjoyable.  The 2009 vintage Malbec and Syrah were next.  Surprisingly nice for no barrel aging!  The 2012 “Tail Wagger” Red was a wine that could be paired with pizza, burgers, or any backyard BBQ.  My wife enjoyed the 2014 Yakima Valley Carménère while I fell in love with 2012 Petite Sirah.  As a parting bonus, we were treated to their 2017 Sirius (Proprietor’s Blend) Port-style wine!  This was an essential purchase that will pair perfectly with a nice cigar.  At the end of the tasting we left with 2 bottles of the Petite Sirah and 2 bottles of the Port.  Thank you Larry for an awesome experience!  AWC will certainly be back to visit again!

Terra Blanca

By this time, we had worked up an appetite.  As we headed East back to Red Mountain it hit us.  Why not sample some wines from our old “stomping ground”?  Terra Blanca has a wide range of wines to taste and their Vineyard Grill offers some great food options as well!  So off we went.  Keith Pilgrim (winemaker) and his wife ReNae Pilgrim own this beautiful tasting room and facility.  Terra Blanca was the first winery we ever became club members at.  We had many memories here.  It was nice to get back to the Estate Winery where the landscaping, facilities and views are amazing.  It was also nice to visit with Daryl Baker (tasting room manager) again, as we hadn’t seen him for quite some time.  Their tasting menu provides samples of both their Arch Terrace and Signature Series wine listings.  All varietals are sourced from their Estate Vineyards.  This includes whites, reds and dessert wines.

The Wines

Our first 2 wines were the 2018 Signature Series Roussanne and 2018 Arch Terrace Rosé.  Both were crisp and delicious with fresh fruit.  Perfect for summer.  The 2016 Arch Terrace Merlot and the 2016 Arch Terrace Cabernet Franc were both very approachable and both come with nice price points under $30 retail.  Next was the 2017 Arch Terrace Malbec.  It offered sweet red fruit on the nose with some spice and moderate acidity.  Then came the Signature Series wines, known as Keith’s “big boys”.  In sequence we tasted the 2016 Merlot and Petit Verdot,  and the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Batholith and Block 8 Syrah.  The Batholith is a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend.  All are full-bodied, beautiful wines with unique tasting profiles.  Then we tasted the Terra Blanca flagship wine.  The 2016 Onyx – a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux-style blend that includes Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

Now it was time for dessert.  We were excited for this part of the tasting.  Terra Blanca dessert wines are always special.  Our first sample was the 2005 Reserve Chenin Blanc Ice Wine.  It was absolutely decadent!  Our final taste was of the 2016 Signature Series Botrytized Chenin Blanc.  Again, simply delicious.  We really loved both of these after-dinner wines and decided to purchase two bottles of each.  They will most certainly pair exquisitely with a fine cigar!

The Food

Next was grub time.  The Vineyard Grill offers an assortment of great appetizers and cuisine that pair very well when you taste Washington wine.  It is located inside the Terra Blanca tasting room.  We decided to order a small glass of the 2016 Botrytized Chenin Blanc.  For an appetizer we ordered of the Caprese.  This included sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and a balsamic reduction.  Then we added two house salads.  The Insalata di Casa consists of mixed greens, candied walnuts, cranraisins, gorgonzola cheese, and raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.  This combination was really delicious, and it was a fantastic way to end our Terra Blanca experience!

Taste Washington Wine at Bodega Palencia

With our hunger cravings satisfied, we weren’t quite ready to go home.  So, our final stop of the day was Bodega Palencia.  We are wine club members here, and for good reason.  This is owner/winemaker Victor Palencia’s newest wine tasting establishment that focuses on his Palencia and El Viñador wine labels.  If you haven’t heard of Victor Palencia, and if you consider yourself a “wine person”….you should take up badminton instead!  Victor is Washington State’s quintessential winemaker.  Located off the beaten path in West Richland, the Bodega offers an intimate setting for experiencing Victor’s higher-end wine offerings.  On this day, we were greeted by Victor’s sister Brenda (Palencia) Armenta.  Brenda always does a fantastic job of taking us through the wines and providing an amazing wine experience.  Before we started tasting, it was fun engaging in a photo op, sitting on Victor’s “wine-throne” of the Gods!

The Wine

Today, our tasting included 1 white wine and 4 red wines.  The first taste was of the 2018 El Viñador Albariño.  This Spanish varietal offers amazing summer fruit flavors that is crisp, delicious and perfect for the warm days ahead of us.  Our first red was the 2016 Palencia Grenache.  With a lighter color and a medium body, this delicious varietal wine is perfect for pairing with pasta in a white cream sauce, pork dishes, and more.  The 2016 Palencia Casa Amarilla was next on the list.  This wine is a Rhône style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, known as a GSM.  Both have a nice retail price point of $36 per bottle.

Next, we tasted the 2016 El Viñador Syrah.  It is a full-bodied Syrah with a beautiful deep purple color that is layered with dark fruit.  Finally, we enjoyed the 2017 El Viñador Tempranillo.  Another Spanish varietal that is delicious, approachable, and pairs nicely with many types of food.  This wine can bottle age for additional maturity for years to come.  I really enjoyed this wine, and because it’s so delicious and from the Motherland, I had to buy a bottle!  Thank you Brenda for the outstanding tasting experience.  Aaron’s Wine Chronicles will be sure to return!

Aaron Diaz