For the 10th edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, Alice's White Pinot I wanted something special, truly different from the run of the mill Pinot Gris popping up at wine merchant shelves everywhere.
Instead of opening a bottle from the cellar--something decidedly Alsatian or from our neighbor to the south, Oregon (well known for their Pinot Gris) I went looking for a wine not only a little bit more my style--a dessert wine, a late harvest White Pinot to be precise--but a Washington wine if at all possible.
I got lucky at Champion Wine Cellars where owner Emile Ninaud himself recommended 2002 Mount Baker Vineyards Crawford's Late Harvest Pinot Gris
The fact that Randy Finley (that is him and his wife Pat on the label, gathering the grapes in the field) happens to be the owner of the winery and the winemaker is not only quite serendipitous but a happy coincidence of sorts.
As a cinéphile I was glad--and amazed--to learn that Mr. Finley's passion for wine is right on par with his love of cinema. I read about his long relationship with Seattle's independent art houses, that he used to be the city's "leading art film exhibitor".
In a city known for its love of cinema, and host of SIFF, one of the top film festivals in the world, Mr. Finley, a Washington native, was the man--in the early 70's--behind both Seven Gables and Grand Illusion movie houses--later sold to Landmark Theaters.
He was a force to be reckon with when bringing to Seattle and marketing around the country rare and obscure foreign films that nobody else would buy the rights of, wished to distribute or wanted to play.
After selling his movie houses and moving to France with his family, Finley, with a latent passion to make wine, purchased the Mount Baker Vineyards in 1989. This property, located in the Nooksack Valley-- north of Bellingham-- (part of the Puget Sound AVA) is said to be the "northernmost vineyard in the contiguous United States".
It is there that Finley started producing wines from rare varietals such as Chasselas, Madeline Angevine, Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe (they also produce, depending on the yields and the weather a bit of Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, Cab/Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, Merlot and Pinot Noir).
We had the wine tonight for dessert after a quick dinner of Penne with everything but the kitchen sink. It was my way of cleaning out the refrigerator just in time for a trip back to Bellevue Farmers Market tomorrow (I'm craving those Juliet tomatoes).
I wanted to use up the last of the sorrel, garlic spears and Walla Walla onions left from last week's farmers markets basket and finish up some breast of chicken tenderloins that were in the freezer. A little bit of garlic, tomatoes, basil, preserved red, yellow and orange bell peppers with the obligatory grating of Parmiggiano Reggiano and dinner was served in less than 30 minutes.
About an hour later Mr. C and I sat down to open the bottle, have a little wine and share our impressions. The first thought that came to mind was how a grape like Pinot Gris, that produces very light (even bland) and refreshing wines in places such as Italy (Pinot Grigio), Germany (under the name Ruländer) and Oregon could be in this particular glass.
This wine was pure Alsace (even Napa BA style) late harvest. A beautiful light golden color, plush and silky texture, with slightly tropical aromas. Its sweet albeit crisp finish lingered just enough to make Mr. C request a second glass, just to "see what else he could find", a mere excuse to have a second helping of this lovely nectar.
Upon a second tasting the wine was now all peaches and candied Australian apricots, pinneapple and mango. Unlike other Late Harvests that we have tasted in trips to Napa Valley, Sonoma, Mendocino and Oregon and that we've brought home to cellar, this is a Late Harvest that begs to be had as soon as possible because, let's be honest here, it is very easy to drink (14.5% res. sugar and 9% alcohol).
The Crawford is a wine that not only would make a great dessert for a casual evening at home any day of the week but would go great with anything from pork medallions with peaches to Madeleines as it does not have that inherent seriousness and cloying character of other far more honeyed, heavier, and much more expensive dessert wines.
The addition of the 5% Siegerrebe must be the key. Mr. Finley certainly knows what he is doing and his passion for winemaking and exploring lesser known grapes and approaches to winemaking have certainly made a new fan out of me.
This is a very small release, less than 250 cases of this wine were made. I think I paid around $22-$23 dollars at the shop. Considering the quality of this effort and the small release, that is a very, very good price indeed.
Mount Baker Vineyards also released a 2003 Late Harvest Viognier (83.3% Viognier, 16.7% Siegerrebe) that has just won the Gold Medal at the 2005 Northwest Wine Summit.
I highly recomend this Late Harvest Pinot Gris and look forward to tasting other Mount Baker wines in the future but especially that Viognier.
Mount Baker Vineyards
4298 Mount Baker Highway
Deming, WA 98244
The winery does not have a website but they do offer tours and have a picnic area and tasting room available to the public.