We delved deep into the bustling Western wine scene for this year's Wine Awards, and in the process uncovered some of the top trends in the industry. Here's what's happening right now in the West's thriving wine regions.
Trend: Greener wine
Natural Process Alliance is delivering wine to restaurants in two Earth-friendly ways: reusable, bottle-size stainless-steel canisters (which get picked up and re-filled); and kegs to serve on tap (left).
No bottles to make, transport, and recycle. And these reusable containers save the environment big-time on the waste and carbon-footprint fronts.
J. Bookwalter Winery and Wine Lounge in Richland, Washington, is a hub for great wine, cheese, charcuterie, and live music. Since owner and winemaker John Bookwalter opens thousands of bottles a year, we turned to him for the best tools for pouring and storing.
You can minimize drips by twisting the bottle as you finish pouring. But you can avoid them altogether with a thin Mylar disk that rolls up into the neck of the bottle for a clean finish. DropStop pour spout, $5.99/pair; amazon.com
Spray Private Preserve into open bottles, then recork them. A wine-friendly inert gas replaces oxidizing oxygen, and stoppering the bottles keeps more air from getting in. $12 for a 120-use bottle; wineenthusiast.com
Freebie advice: Bookwalter recommends storing bottles cool or cold—reds at 54°, whites in the fridge.
A new winery is licensed every week or so in Washington. Swirl and sip through these intense-fruit, great-acidity reds to understand what all the fuss is about.
- Rôtie Cellars 2008 “Southern Blend” (Horse Heaven Hills; $35)
- Rulo 2007 Syrah (Columbia Valley; $20)
- Northstar 2006 Merlot (Walla Walla Valley; $50)
Pictured: A mini wine country escape in Walla Walla
The French have been blending varieties for centuries; now more and more vintners here are making better wines this way. These three Bordeaux blends will convince you that mixing it up is a good thing.
- Waterbrook 2007 Merlot-Cabernet (Columbia Valley; $11)
56% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon
- Townshend Non-vintage “Vortex Red” (Columbia Valley; $15)
47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc
- Justin 2007 “Isosceles” (Paso Robles; $62)
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot
Palate Food + Wine, our new favorite wine bar in Glendale, California, is an epicenter for wine lovers. Wine director Steve Goldun gives us a peek into what his customers are drinking.
What’s hot: Goldun says Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Rhône varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Viognier)—from both Europe and the West, as long as the wines are value-oriented. Younger drinkers tend to be more adventurous and less likely to drink the same wine twice; they graduate from Trader Joe’s when they realize that $2 or $3 more per bottle makes a big difference.
Exploding trend Goldun loves: Sustainably farmed wines, which tend to be handmade, with a noticeable uptick in character. These natural wines are becoming a big part of the Palate business.
Bottle that recently blew him away: Donkey & Goat 413 Rhône blend ($32) from El Dorado County. Elegant, balanced, concentrated … and natural.
The ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement’s catching on. Introduce yourself to one of these special alternatives.
The lighter-white flight:
- Thistle 2009 Pinot Blanc (Dundee Hills; $15)
- A to Z 2008 Pinot Gris (Oregon; $13)
- Fidélitas 2008 “Optu” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (Columbia Valley; $30)
The richer-white flight:
- Saxon Brown 2007 Casa Santinamaria Vineyards Semillon (Sonoma Valley; $30)
- Jorian Hill 2008 Viognier (Santa Ynez Valley; $30)
- Donelan Family 2008 “Venus” Roussanne/Viognier (Sonoma; $50)