I have to admit; it feels strange to be writing about the 2016 vintage. Usually, I have a few years to taste and think about the wines before writing about them. We don’t have that luxury with whites and rose. The 2016 vintage was warm. It is the latest in a string of warm vintages 2013-2016. However, we were fully prepared for a warm vintage and managed the vineyards accordingly. One important aspect of 2016 is that we reached flavor maturity early in the season. The resultant wines are fresh and vibrant, perfect for summer.
2016 Viognier “Antoine Creek Vineyard”
In 2012, we first entertained the idea of making Gramercy white wines. However, we wanted the wine to be unique and different from many of the white wines sourced from the Walla Walla Valley. An interesting opportunity presented itself to us to source fruit from a beautiful vineyard called Antoine Creek, just east of Lake Chelan along the banks of the Columbia River. The Lake Chelan AVA is a much cooler region of Washington and is ideal for white wines, especially Viognier.
Viognier is a tricky grape to grow in the vineyard. In hot sites, the grapes tend to get fully mature on the sun side of the cluster and completely under-ripe on the shade side of the cluster. In Condrieu, some producers are known to rotate the clusters to get the backside ripe. We have found that the grapes coming from Antoine Creek Vineyard have consistent ripeness throughout the cluster, most likely a product of being grown in a cooler area. The 2016 is a perfect balance of texture and elegance. The nose is floral, tropical and mineral. This wine has a very long mouthfeel with intense acid structure but remains balanced.
We fermented 75% of the wine in stainless steel to give the wine freshness and 25% in neutral wood with battonage to add texture.
Tasting notes: Fresh ginger, jasmine, honeysuckle, lemongrass, fresh ripe pear, nectarine, honeydew melon and lemon candy. Overall very fresh and light with an intense mid-palate. Totally dry with a slight hint of oak.
2016 Picpoul “Los Oidos Vineyard”
Walla Walla Valley
The Picpoul was supposed to be a one-time-only project for Gramercy. In 2013, we approached Leif Olsen, vineyard manager extraordinaire at Olsen Vineyards, asking him to plant head-trained Grenache for us. Head trained is a trellising method used in Southern France for the best Grenache. He agreed but asked us to take some Picpoul. He would replace the Picpoul with our Grenache but wanted to find out how the Picpoul tasted. We agreed. Little did we know how well the Picpoul would turn out and it took some months for it to reveal itself. Around March, we called Leif to see if he had already ripped out the amazing Picpoul vines. Yeah, too late. So, our dreams of being the new world, Instagram, Picpoul kings of the USA were crushed, or so we thought. . .
That summer, John Abbott, winemaker for Abeja winery and now Devona, stopped by the winery to taste and left with a full case of the Picpoul. He spread the good word about the wine and shared a bottle with famed Walla Walla grower Ken Hart, who manages Los Oidos Vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Ken had a small Picpoul block at the vineyard and offered it to Gramercy. Back in the Picpoul business with dreams of Instagram fame.
In 2016, the results are stunning. We never thought Picpoul could be even more acid-driven than our first vintage in 2013, but it is. Fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation, the wine is racy. Think Pinot Grigio with attitude. This wine evokes thoughts of summer and craves bivalves and shellfish.
Tasting Notes: Lemon, lime, wet stone, white flower, peach, apricot, tarragon, lean, fresh, crisp minerality. Acid, acid and more acid.
2016 Rosé “Olsen Vineyard”
The 2016 Rosé is groundbreaking for us. First, this is a single vineyard rosé -Olsen Vineyard. We love Olsen Vineyard for Rhone varieties and want to showcase the vineyard with this rosé. Secondly, for years, we have wanted to co-ferment all the varieties together. Usually, the Syrah ripens before the Cinsault and Grenache, so we have two different ferments. We would ferment Syrah alone and then co-ferment Cinsault and Grenache. In 2016, in very early September, we realized that all three grapes were on the verge of being ready. This was mostly the result of farming Syrah a bit differently given the warmer vintages of recent years. The Cinsault and Grenache were a bit less ripe than we had picked in recent years, but we liked the flavors. We called Leif Olsen to harvest all our blocks.
We macerated the rosé on skins for about 6 hours total. We gently pressed the wine when it hit a beautiful Pacific Northwest Sockeye Salmon color. The wine was fermented cold for about 18 days in stainless steel. We favor stainless steel for this fermentation to preserve freshness and acidity.
The 2016 Rosé is a blend of 52% Cinsault, 24% Grenache and 24% Syrah. The wine is racier and citrus dominate than years past, but retains intense minerality. Truly refreshing for the warm summer days ahead.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of fresh strawberry, ruby red grapefruit, cantaloupe, mandarin orange. Stone, mineral, Parmesan rind. Medium bodied with moderate-plus acid.