Washington State. The young American wine territory where anything and everything goes as long as it works with the terroir and the microclimate. This is the way they’ve been doing things since winemaking began in Washington State sometime during the 1970s.
The absence of rules might make Washington State sound like the “Wild West” of wine, but it’s not as haphazard as all that.
Winemakers here simply let the natural landscape be their guide when it comes to determining the kind of wine to produce. They plant what is best both from and for the soil and the environment, and frankly, isn’t that the way it’s suppose to be? Not surprisingly, sustainable winemaking is top of mind for Washington State winegrowers, and upwards of 40 producers and other wine industry professionals in a collaboration between the Washington Winegrowers, the Washington State Wine Commission, the Washington Wine Industry Foundation, and the Washington Wine Institute, collectively launched the Sustainable WA certification program for Washington State vineyards.
Sustainable WA is borne out of the Vinewise®\Winerywise™ educational sustainability program by the Washington wine industry. Over the course of two decades, it laid the groundwork for the current Sustainable WA certification program for wines produced in Washington State.
The Sustainable WA Winegrape Standard for vineyards consists of nine chapters including:
1 Business Practices and Risk Management
2 Human Resources
3 Vineyard Establishment and Acquisition
5 Water Management
6 Soil Management
7 Pest Management
8 Materials Handling
9. Whole Farm Ecosystem and Community
Vineyards seeking certification must achieve a minimum score of 70% for each of the nine chapters, and meet at least 18 of the 83 established sustainability requirements. These requirements range from pest and disease management and sustainable water initiatives, to environmentally sound agricultural practices, and protocols surrounding staff health and safety.
Meet three wineries at the forefront of sustainability.
The tale of Grosgrain Vineyards is basically a love story. Kelly, a fashion designer, falls for Matt, a punk rocker turned tax attorney, and they both fall for the Pacific Northwest during a 2014 tour of the region. The couple eventually established Grosgrain on five acres of vineyard located on Walla Walla’s Southside. This vineyard was planted with grapes not typically found in these parts. In many ways, this was emblematic of the focus at Grosgrain Vineyards. The winery employs sustainable farming practices to produce sparkling, white, rose’, and red wines from uncommon varietals. In terms of wine styles, Grosgrain sparkling, whites, and rose’ tend to be crisp, delicate, and fruit-driven, and their reds elegant and restrained.
The first plantings on the current 80 acres of property began in 2019. The Grosgrain vineyard stands at 1400 feet, reaching the south-facing peak of the Vansycle basalt ridge. The soils consist of shallow, wind-blown loess overlying fractured basalt.
The hilltop Old Milton vineyard standing 785 feet above Walla Walla Valley is the site of the winery, tasting room, and Casa Grosgrain. Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Grenache, and Carignan are cultivated in the vineyard’s well-ventilated, dense silt loam soil.
2158 Half Acre Ln, Walla Walla, WA 99362
You can say Seven Hills Winery owner Casey McClellan has agriculture in his blood. After all, he comes from a long line of Eastern Washington farmers ( a century-old, or four generations to be exact). In the 1980s, The McClellans decided to combine their agricultural expertise with their love of wine when they began cultivating Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on 21 acres of vineyard as a first step to converting the family farm to winegrowing. The dense, silt loam and sediment soil of this Founding Seven Hills Winery Estate Vineyard stands above 1,000 feet above sea level. It has produced more than 30 Merlot vintages to date.
Seven Hills Winery was established roughly a decade after this initial planting.
Seven Hills is one of the state’s oldest wineries. Through the decades, the McClellans have remained committed to the Walla Walla community and to creating wines that showcase the area’s distinctive terroir.
Seven Hills Winery
212 North 3rd Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362
The almost thirty-year-old Matthews Winery is located in Woodinville Wine Country. It’s been under the ownership of the Otis family since 2008, and they, along with winemakers Alex Stewart, Hal Iverson, and Jesse Schmidt craft innovative takes on Bordeaux-inspired wines using grapes they believe represent the best expressions of the terroir in their Royal Slope, Red Mountain, and Horse Heaven Hills AVA vineyards stretching across Columbia Valley. Matthews Winery values the interconnectivity that exists between the vines, the land, the winegrowers, and the winemakers. Every step in the production process reflects the winery’s understanding of this relationship.
16116 140TH PL NE
Woodinville, WA 98072
Matt and Kelly Austin of Grosgrain Vineyards, vineyard manager and viticulturist Sadie Drury of Seven Hills Vineyard, and Alex Stewart and Hal Iverson of Matthews Winery presented some of their knockout vintages at Manhatta Restaurant rising some 60 floors above Liberty Street in New York City’s Financial District. The wines paired perfectly with the well-executed menu, and the city skyline views were unparalleled.
Here’s the list of wines:
Grosgrain Les Collines Vineyard Sémillon Pétillant Naturel 2020 100% Sémillon. Crisp and fresh, with a balanced acidity and salinity, and a lively and persistent effervescence. Aromas of citrus and orchard fruits, and roasted almonds. Notes of lemon peels, apples, and toast.
Grosgrain Philips Vineyard Albariño 2021 100% Albarino.
Matured on its lees in concrete egg vessels (42%),
neutral barrels(30%), and stainless
steel tanks (28%).
Pale straw in color, with a refreshing
acidity, aromas of white and yellow flowers, and fresh citrus and orchard fruits, and notes of lemons, oranges, pears, and honeysuckle.
Grosgrain Los Rocosos Vineyard Grenache 2018 100% Grenache. Aged 11 months in neutral oak barrels. Limpid and light-bodied, with aromas of crushed flower petals, red berries and stone fruits, and dried herbs, and notes of cherries, plums, and tea leaves.
Grosgrain Seven Hills Vineyard Syrah 2019 100% Syrah. Aged 17 months in neutral oak barrels. Bright, with a good acidity and structure, and refined tannins. Aromas of dark flowers, mixed berries, and slate. Notes of violets, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and stone.
Matthews Winery 2021 Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Sample 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in 100% French oak, and aged eight months in 75% new French oak. Crisp, and medium-bodied, with a balanced minerality and salinity, a bright acidity, and a long finish. Pale straw in color with aromas of citrus, white and red berries, cream, and dried vegetation, and notes of juicy lemon and grapefruit, and slate.
Matthews Winery 2021 Merlot based Barrel Sample Blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc.
Primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Secondary fermentation in oak barrels.
Aged eight months in 90% New French oak barriques. Full-bodied and structured, with aromas of mixed dark berries, dried flowers, zesty spices, and scented wood, and notes of black cherries, plums, dark chocolate, and garrigue.
Matthews Winery 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon based Barrel Sample 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Secondary fermentation in oak barrels.
Aged eight months in 90% new French oak barriques. Well-structured and balanced, with a long finish. Aromas of cherries, dark currants, and warm spices, and notes of red and black berries and stone fruits, figs, caramel, and sandalwood.
L’Ecole No. 41 Perigee, 2019 Syrah, Estate Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley 100% Syrah. Fermented in stainless steel tanks. Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barriques. Full-bodied, well-balanced, and bold, with silky tannins. Aromas of mixed berries, dark fruits, black olives, and wild herbs. Notes of violets, plums, cherries, and black pepper.
Pepper Bridge Seven Hills Vineyard Bordeaux blend 2019 Blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 9% Malbec, and 9% Petit Verdot.
Aged in 100% French oak (44% new, 56% neutral). Lush, with a bright acidity and minerality, refined tannins, and a long finish. Aromas of ripe red berries and stone fruit, exotic spices, and scented wood. Notes of orange zest, raspberries, cherries, and cedar.