Monday, March 12, 2012

SunRiver Vintners Features Fantastic Angelica and More

My friends Sean McGrath and Frazier Brown contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me about a new wine centered development that they were working on here in the Tri Cities area. The development, which will be near Badger Canyon will house boutique wineries, fine eateries, and bed and breakfasts. It will be both a destination, and a jumping off place for winofiles of all types. Set in a Tuscan Village theme, it will be an oasis out here in the desert of Eastern Washington.

One of the first wineries to jump on board with this concept locally is SunRiver Vintners. SunRiver is the first official winery located in Kennewick. Several Wineries have set up tasting rooms in Kennewick over the years, but SunRiver is the town’s first bonded winery located in the city limits.

I was invited to visit and taste through SunRiver’s wines this week. How can a guy turn down a personal invitation to taste good wine and meet new people? We were excited to go and give the a try.

Currently located at the corner of 10th and Clodfelter road, the winery shares a parking lot, and is located directly between Sun River Electric and Quality Signs. As I arrived, they had one of the winery’s big bay doors open. Just past the tasting table there was an extremely unusual sight. Some super HUGE oak barrels!

These huge barrels are called Port Pipes. Unlike the usual 60 gallon barrel that we see in most wineries in this region, the Port Pipe is much larger, containing as much as 171 gallons of juice depending on the maker and exact style.

Port Pipes are generally used for making, you guessed it, Port. Daniel Washam, one of the owners, explained how he and Glenn Washam, the other owner, and Greg Vogtritter, the winemaker were able to pick up an exclusive use of these Port Pipes here in the U.S.. Their concept was to make wines using these pipes.

The larger the barrel, the less that the ether phenols from the oak will infuse into the wine. The concept is that the wine will have the benefits of oak without the headaches associated with oaked wine. Whether that hypothesis holds true or not, it is pretty cool to see wine being stored in these gargantuan barrels.

We tasted through a few of the winery’s wines. I found them all to be quite enjoyable, but here are a few of my favorite outtakes from our adventure:

The winery’s Gewurztraminer is available either in the bottle or on tap. The establishment purchases two cases of the wine and the winery places it in a stainless steel keg. It can be served right on the tap line this way, making it affordable to sell by the glass. The Gewurztraminer has 2.8 residual sugar so it is both spicy, as well as a little sweet. A great wine to serve with hot and spicy foods or on a hot day.

Next we enjoyed the 2008 Long Shadows Vineyard Merlot. This wine has a huge nose of cherries an cassis. On the palate the tannins are long and velvety.

The 2007 Phinny Hill Petit Verdot is a 100% Petit Verdot that offers a nose and flavors of blackberry, smoke, leather, and cassis. This wine would be great with a grilled ribeye or by itself. Fantastic!

After enjoying those wines we went around with Greg, the winemaker, as he theifed various Angelicas (Ports) from the big barrels. The Malbec, Sauzo, and Cabernet Franc Angelicas were all fabulous, with each featuring their own awesome flavor profiles. They will be going to bottle from the barrel in the next few weeks.

I suggest visiting the winery and giving their wines a try. Their website is and they have a great Facebook page as well.


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