On the Trail

On the Trail in Washington

David Driscoll
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While I was hoping to sneak up to Washington this month to check out the landscape this month, I got bogged down with management duties and various other retail tasks and wasn't able to free up the time. Actor Kyle MacLachlan had told me he was planning to be in Yakima to check in on the harvest for his Pursued by Bear wines, so I was thinking of joining him, but when reality set in and the buying duties piled up, I told him to send me some photos so I could at least post something on the OTL blog. He obliged me earlier this week with a number of snapshots from Washington wine country, including a lovely sunrise shot from the area near his winery. Kyle is from Yakima originally and he's really become a savant on the growing regions and vineyard sites in the region: a subject I've become quite interested in over the last few years as I've continued to taste impressive Washington Cabernets and red blends that hold their own with Napa's finest. 

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For those of you who weren't able to make it down to the Hollywood store last month to meet Kyle in person, he proved immediately that his knowledge of the Washington landscape was as vast as the vineyards themselves. He talked about sourcing fruit from new sites like Champoux, Sagemoor, Heather Hill—a vineyard turned onto him by friends in the area. Acting much like a vineyard negociant, Kyle has been putting together blends of different parcels for the last decade and has become keenly aware of the various characteristics of each location. He mentioned that the quality is getting better as more people are figuring it out, not only with the winemaking, but also with the growing. "The growers have learned pretty quickly which varietals make good wine and which ones don’t," he told the group. "Prior to grapes, it was all apples and cherries up there and in that world of farming more is better. If you’re growing apples, you want to grow as many as you possibly can, so the idea of planting grapes and then thinning down the crop on behalf of better quality wasn’t inherent. Then there’s the question of what are the best sites; where do the vines work best and with what varietal?" There's a lot of talk about terroir in Washington right now and I'm dying to get up there and learn more.  

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This morning Kyle sent me a shot of a vineyard called Benches situated along the Columbia River where he's hoping to source some Cabernet for his next vintage. What a beautiful spot! While I'm bummed I couldn't make the trip, I'm following along with Kyle and living vicariously through his wines at the moment. For those of you who think Washington is just a Cabernet state, I'd try a bottle of the Blushing Bear rosé—a Bandol style blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault from the Columbia Valley that we bought directly from Kyle last month. It was after tasting this wine that I knew I needed to get up to Washington and fast. There are many under the radar gems like the Blushing bear that I fear we're missing out on.

-David Driscoll