Washington's Rise of the Rhônes

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Beyond Syrah

Try these standout wines made from other Rhône varieties.


Cinsault (sometimes spelled Cinsaut) is generally used as a blending grape in Washington, but varietal bottlings do exist.
“Our first Cinsault from StoneTree Vineyard was one of the most aromatically seductive wines we’ve ever made,” says Chad Johnson of Dusted Valley. “It was so beautiful—like blueberry, floral bubble gum.”

92 Dusted Valley 2011 Stone Tree Vineyard Cinsaut (Wahluke Slope). This rare (72-case) bottling of Cinsault is silky, with ­dazzling freshness and purity. —S.S.
abv: 14.7%       Price: $32


The profile ranges from full-­bodied wines with abundant strawberry notes in warmer sites to lighter-bodied offerings with notes of white pepper and truffle in cooler locations.

“Grenache, for me, is a lot like Pinot Noir in terms of how it pulls out its terroir,” says Jon Meuret, winemaker for Maison Bleue.

94 Maison Bleue 2011 La Montagnette Upland Vineyard Grenache (Snipes Mountain). Complex, vivid and focused, with elegance and delicacy that evolves over time. Cellar Selection. —S.S.
abv: 14.3%        Price: $40

Grenache Blanc

Plantings are currently limited, but that could be changing.

“I think it’s a sleeper grape for us,” says grower Dick Boushey, who has helped pioneer Rhône varieties in the state. “It’s taken me a while to figure it out—what cropping level and when to pick it—but I think it’s the perfect oyster and seafood wine because it retains its acidity.”

91 Syncline 2012 Boushey Vineyard Grenache Blanc (Yakima Valley). Rich without being thick, fresh through the long and satisfying finish. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 14.1%      Price: $24


The amount of Marsanne remains limited, although some attention-grabbing wines exist.

“Marsanne exhibits razor-sharp minerality that masks all fruit until six-plus months after its fermented to dryness,” says Sean Boyd, winemaker for Rôtie Cellars. “Up until bottling, you really don’t know what you’ve got.”

92 Rôtie Cellars 2012 Northern White (Washington). A racy, textural wine, tangy without turning sour, with a generous foundation of wet stone. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 13.5%      Price: $28


Plantings of this variety—Washington’s third most common Rhône red grape—have doubled since 2006, although total acreage remains small. White pepper, meat and herb notes mark many examples.

“More and more, I love wines that have a savory aspect, and Mourvèdre definitely has that,” says Mantone.

93 Mark Ryan 2010 Crazy Mary Mourvèdre (Red Mountain). Flint, plum, boysenberry and spice accented by light whiffs of barnyard, earth and rock. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 15.1%       Price: $48


Most frequently used in white blends, Roussanne remains an under-the-radar variety in the state.

“The majority of people visiting the tasting room haven’t even heard of the grape,” says Kit Singh of Lauren Ashton Cellars, who says the variety displays notes of tea, pear and lavender.

92 Lauren Ashton Cellars 2012 Roussanne (Columbia Valley). An elegant, precise wine with a refreshing baseline of wet stone. Editors’ Choice. —P.G.
abv: 13.5%      Price: $25


Styles of Washington’s most planted Rhône white variety vary from lean, stainless-steel-fermented offerings to full-bodied, oak-aged wines.

In the vineyard, says Mike MacMorran of Mark Ryan Winery, “you have to walk that very fine line between retaining those beautiful floral and citrus aromatics, but not waiting until you start getting into tropical fruit punch.”

90 William Church 2012 Viognier (Yakima Valley). The lemon and lime, peach and apricot fruit really shines. —P.G.
abv: 14.2%     Price: $23

Southern Rhône-Style Blends

In terms of reds, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre take the lead. Blueberry and strawberry fruit and peppery spices are common.
Whites tend to be full-bodied, with notes of flowers, stone fruit and pear. Blends of Roussanne and Viognier are most common.

94 Force Majeure 2010 Collaboration Series VI (Red Mountain). A spice rack of aromas, with flavors of boysenberry and raspberry over crushed rocks. —P.G.
abv: 14.8%      Price: $50

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Washington's Rise of the Rhônes

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