Blog posts for the month of March have focused primarily on the cataclysmic events that created a special geology and soil composition in the Yakima Valley AVA. These events allow the vineyards of the Yakima Valley AVA to grow wine grapes of such quality that they stand up to grapes from any region in the world.
In the terms of wine quality, these historic occurrences translate into grapes and wines that are completely true to their varietal character, or typicity.
Typicity is used to describe the degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins, and thus demonstrate the signature characteristics of the grape from which it was produced. It is the standard of the varietal.
Following are three popular wine varietals grown in the Yakima Valley, and the standard tasting profile of each. The next time you drink a Yakima Valley wine, think of the characteristics listed below and consider how the wine reflects these elements.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON (cab-air-NAY so-veen-YOWN) 2,784 acres or 27% of Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown in the Yakima Valley*.
When choosing a Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon expect a fruity character from this complex grape. In its youth, the wine appears more subtle and restrained; this wine ages beautifully. Its character can emerge as black currants, cherry, berry, chocolate, leather, mint, herbs, bell pepper or any combination of these. Many Yakima Valley vintners employ traditional blending practices, adding Merlot or Cabernet Franc to the wine.
SYRAH (sear-AH) 1,055 acres or 34% of Washington state’s Syrah grapes are grown in the Yakima Valley*.
The first Syrah grapes in Washington were planted in the Yakima Valley in 1986. Syrah is just one of the Rhône varieties sparking great interest in the Valley. A spicy, rich, complex varietal, Syrah grapes turn into big, dark, intensely concentrated wines with aromas and flavors of blackberries, black currants, roasted coffee and leather.
RIESLING (REES-ling) 3,379 acres or 53% of Washington state’s Riesling grapes are grown in the Yakima Valley*.
Yakima Valley Riesling is one of the original grape varieties grown in Washington, and one of the first to bring national attention to Washington wines. The Valley’s Rieslings tend to be very floral in the nose, with vivid apricot-peach flavors. Most Rieslings are vinted in an off-dry to slightly sweet style - all balanced with typically good acidity. Occasionally, “noble rot” works its magic on Riesling, concentrating the sugars and flavors to produce a late-harvest or ice wine of incomparable intensity.
* Washington Vineyard Acreage Report 2011, USDA.