Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wenatchee's Saint Laurent Winery
Not long ago, I found myself in Wenatchee for the 10th Annual Wenatchee Omnium and some bicycle racing. If I’m not mistaken, “omnium” is Latin for "pure suffering in warm weather." The scenery and rolling hills - and in some places obscenely steep hills - make for some beautiful and challenging cycling in the Spring and Autumn when the West Side is a bit soggy. Wenatchee, Washington is still most known for it's apples and for good reason; people love apples. However, a few winemakers have set up shop in Wenatchee and they hope that folks will come to think of Wenatchee as a Washington wine destination. Of the wineries that have set up shop in Wenatchee, one of the best known is Saint Laurent Winery. Sarah, the head honcho for marketing and publicity over at Saint Laurent, invited me to come by if I was in the neighborhood for some samples of Saint Laurent's wares.
Saint Laurent is perched upon a hillside in what is technically Malaga, WA, and the view from Saint Laurent over the river valley is incredible. While there, I met up with Emily, who asked if I was interested in some barrel tasting. The answer to this question should be perpetually yes, but in this case I had a bike race later in the day, so I had to pass. A pity, that.
Emily gave me a tour around the incredible grounds, which include a beautiful garden, a gazebo, and some white wine grapes, including Riesling, that have been planted in on-site vineyards. Sarah thinks that Wenatchee has a serious future as a wine travel destination. Given its close proximity to Leavenworth and Lake Chelan, some top-notch wineries, and its beautiful terrain, it's quite probable. New wineries are opening each year in Wenatchee and while it's young, it's growing. For now, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, Saint Laurent's breathtaking location will be the crown jewel for this burgeoning wine region.
The Saint Laurent wines themselves are very good. The winemaker is Craig Mitrakul, who you may remember from the piece I did on his own label, Crayelle Cellars. Craig was chosen to make the wines at Saint Laurent based on his background, as well as his ability to make "classic approachable wines."
Sarah sent me home with a number of Saint Laurent wines to sample but I want to take the time to hone in on a two: the Riesling and the Wahluke Cabernet. I think these two wines are fantastic examples of the range of wines that Saint Laurent is producing, and the quality of all their wines. The 2009 Riesling is slightly sweet at 2.4% residual sugar; very nicely balanced and beautiful to drink. The fruit elements of the wine are on display and the resulting nose is full of floral elements, with rich tropical fruit character on the palate.
The 2006 Wahluke Cabernet is a gorgeous wine and a smooth and well balanced example of the varietal. The wine is well integrated, showing the tannins, and highlighting the interesting oak program used on this wine. Craig uses a mix of Hungarian, American and French oak that results in a very approachable wine loaded with dark fruit character and excellent rounded mouthfeel.
All the wines Craig makes have an elegance to them and are not in the least bit bullying. The Saint Laurent Wines beautifully balanced and very smooth and ripe in character. Craig credits the vineyard sites on the Wahluke, and the vineyard management of Michael Mrachek for helping create such approachable wines. The fruit comes from two different vineyard sites in Wahluke Slope that when blended create the perfect harmony and approachability that Saint Laurent is aiming for in the Cabernet.
While we can look for Wenatchee to grow as a wine destination, its a great place to pay a visit sooner than later. Its dry climate is a great escape in a soggy Autumn or Spring for us west-siders, and Saint Laurent is worth the visit.