Friday, August 28, 2020

Italy's Greatest Grapes Shine in Washington with Wilridge Winery

On my continued search in discovering Italian grapes grown around the world I was introduced to Wilridge Winery.  Wilridge Winery is based in the AVA of Naches Heights near Yakima in the eastern part of Washington state, about 2 hours outside of Seattle.  They are the first and only winery in the Naches Heights AVA (American Viticultural Area).  I have yet to visit Washington other than flying through on my way to Alaska.  Many of the wines from this state that I’ve tried in the past have left a favorable impression and Wilridge was no exception. 

The winery began in 1988 by current owner and winemaker, Paul Beveridge.  The name, Wilridge, developed from both his wife’s maiden name “Wilhemi” and his own name “Beveridge”.  Interesting name for someone in this industry.  Paul’s preference for growing European grapes stem from his upbringing in his family’s church influenced by one of the parishioners whom was studying European grapes growing in Washington at the time.  His deeper love for winemaking developed through his college years attending Whitman College close by to the Walla Walla wine region.  He established relationships with local wineries and later began making his own wine while practicing law.  He was selling his wine at a restaurant he owned until it closed.   

The reason Paul chose Italian grapes is mostly because of his love for Italian wines and Italian food.  “We also like the fact that Italian wines are typically made without the use of new oak, so they have a purity of grape fruit flavors not found in most French and Spanish wines that rely heavily on new oak barrels”, says Paul.  The terroir at Wilridge Winery is very similar to northern Italy.  They are located at the same latitude as Piemonte, Friuli and the Veneto regions of Italy.  The local vines are protected by the Cascade Mountains just as the vines of Northern Italy are protected by the Alps.  A similar climate and a longer growing season. 

Wilridge consists of about 80 acres with 14 acres dedicated to vines home to 22 grape varieties.  Four acres are dedicated to pears and apples used to make brandy at their distillery.  They also make grappa from their Italian grapes as well.  About one-third of their grapes are Italian with another third dedicated to French grapes and one third Portuguese, Spanish, Austrian and German grapes. In 2007 they became organic and biodynamic certified and were the first ones of Washington state per their website.   

Paul shared a unique piece of information about the area in which they grow grapes.  They are located on a one million year old Andesite lava flow, the largest in the world.  The rest of the Eastern Washington wine country is on basalt bedrock and was subject to catastrophic floods.  They were above the floods and therefore have some of the best soil for viticulture in the state.  

The Wines 

I enjoyed a number of Wilridge's wines based on Italian grapes, but here were some of my favorites.  

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio Acadia Vineyard– Pale straw colored.  Crisp and bright with good acidity and  lemon citrus with a touch of tropical fruit ending with a lingering finish.  An enjoyable, clean crisp white.  ABV 13.2% SRP $22 

2018 Wilridge Winery Pinot Grigio
2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese – One of the better Sangiovese I have tried outside of Italy.  Medium bodied and rather light in color.  Tart cherry with a hint of tobacco and spice.  Good acid and tannin.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40. 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sangiovese
2016 Wilridge Winery Nebbiolo – Ruby red with brick hues on the rim.  A nose rich in cherries with spice and licorice notes.  Black fruits on the palette with solid acidity and silky tannins on the finish.  ABV 13.4% SRP $35 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Nebbiolo

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino – Ruby red in color.  Rather lighter on the palette than I expected for a Sagrantino, but not lacking in flavor by any means.  Notes of green peppers, white pepper and cherries.  Tannins lingering on the finish with vanilla notes.  ABV 13.6% SRP $40 

2016 Wilridge Winery Estate Sagrantino

The future plans for Wilridge Winery include opening a new tasting room in the Woodinville wine tourism area this year.  There will be an additional 40 more acres to plant on Naches Heights.  The next Italian grape variety they plan to plant is Pignolo from the Friuli wine region in Italy.  They are also going to be the first Washington State winery included in the Italian Slow Wine Guide this year.  


*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own. 

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