Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Charlie Hoppes Wine Country

Charlie Hoppes grew up in the wine country. In the valley southeast of Red Mountain, virtually all the wineries consult with Charlie. He is responsible first and foremost for making wine at Fidelitas which he owns with his brother. They are building a new winery on Red Mountain and are borrowing space from Sandhill right now. Charlie consults with his high school buddy Victor Cruz at Canon de Sol. He also consults at Gamache and at Goose Ridge.

Goose Ridge is one of the largest vineyards in the state of Washington contracting many of its grapes to Ste Michelle winery. We were fortunate to be visiting the wine country during harvest and had a chance to see the grapes being destemmed, crushed and pumped into fermentation tanks. Virtually all of the Goose Ridge wines were clean, pure and fresh. The 2005 Riesling is a classic example of what the varietal can and should be. Light, crisp with typical fruit and floral aromas and flavor. The 2005 Pinot Gris is fresh and crisp, a little lighter than many Oregon Pinot Gris. I prefer the purity and freshness of this wine to most of the fuller bodied Oregon Pinot Gris and to the mostly flat Italian or California Pinot Grigios. The 2003 Red Wine is a good all around everyday table wine, while the 2002 Syrah is spicy with hints of tar and pepper in the nose. The 2004 Merlot is a medium bodied classic. There really wasn't a bad wine in the bunch. The Goose Ridge wines tend to be medium bodied, balanced wine sticking close to the flavor and aroma profile of each varietal and they are reasonably priced. They are not as big as many Walla Walla wines, nor are they as light as some of the wines made near Yakima. In fact, it appears that as you move east through the Columbia Valley the wines get bigger as the climate gets hotter.

Gamache Vintners wine were bigger and rougher than the Goose Ridge. Made from grape grown at the estate owned vineyard thirty miles to the northeast, these wines were in an entirely different style from Goose Ridge. The 2004 Boulder Red ($16) was medium to big bodied with berries and spice. The 2003 Estate Syrah ($28) was fruit forward with hints of spice. the 2004 Estate Merlot ($22) had good fruit and cedar flavors with some tannin in the background.

Ah, Canon de Sol! Victor Cruz is an absolutely charming man and so are his wines. Whether it be the 2003 Columbia Valley Merlot, the 2002 Columbia Valley Meritage, or the 2004 Columbia Valley Syrah, they have character, umph, pizazz! While not monsters, these wines have a little hair on the muscle and bones. If Charlie is consulting on all of these wines, how can they be so different? Is it terroir? Is each vineyard so different? Is Charlie emphasizing these differences or are they just there in each place.?


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