Wedding season means buying wedding presents, and if you’re like me, that means buying lots of Pacific Northwest wine to give as gifts. Not all wines and weddings are created equal of course, but here are a few suggestions when it comes to finding the right local wine to give.
There’s nothing wrong with sticking to the classics: great Willamette Valley Pinot Noir or Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon will almost certainly do the trick in most situations. Especially if you want the happy couple to save the wine for a future anniversary, picking wines of proven quality and age-worthiness is probably a good idea. That means looking for wines with higher levels of acidity and/or tannins, though curiously it does not necessarily mean wines that have been aged for a long time in new oak barrels.
With Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, vintage can be a huge factor in the age-ability of a given wine. Hot vintages (like 2014/2015) tend to produce ripe, powerful wines that drink really well young… and tend to fade quickly. Cooler vintages like 2011 and 2013 are harder to enjoy in their youth because they’re so reserved, but offer more nuance and complexity as they age. If you can find them, Pinot Noirs from the northern parts of the Okanagan Valley can also be real winners.
Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is in many ways easier, because there’s far less vintage variation — it’s always freaking hot! That said, I’d look at producers that do what they can to keep the grapes from getting over-ripe, and don’t rely on aggressive amounts of oak, as really bold wines like that tend to taste disjointed in time.
Beyond those two standards, I’d encourage you to consider a few other red grapes: Syrah from Walla Walla and the Yakima Valley; Tempranillo from both Southern Oregon and from parts of Washington; and Cabernet Franc from Southern Oregon, the Columbia Gorge and the Yakima Valley. All of these wines, if well-chosen, can offer a really interesting tasting experience when they’re enjoyed after a bit of time.
You shouldn’t automatically take white wines out of consideration, though picking the right ones can be a bit trickier. Here, acidity is your benchmark, which would largely steer me towards Riesling and cooler climate Chardonnay, like from the Willamette Valley, Columbia Gorge, Ancient Lakes and Okanagan Valley. With Chardonnay, you’ll definitely want to make sure it’s leaner, citrus-driven wine. Oak-aging is fine in smaller quantities, but the tropical fruit/new oak combo just doesn’t tend to hold up well over time.
Last of all, you can turn towards sparkling wine, which never seems to go out of style. If you can find the Extended Tirage bottlings from Argyle, they’re always a wise choice, as are some extended-age wines from Blue Mountain and Summerhill Pyramid in British Columbia. Washington’s Treveri Cellars also makes a nice range of bubbly, with extended aging wines nearing release.
Whatever the case, few gifts are appreciated quite as much as a nice bottle of wine, and if you can connect that to our region and growing industry, all the better.
Writer Zach Geballe is a sommelier at the Dahlia Lounge and the host of Disgorged, a weekly podcast and pop-up wine bar in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. He lives in Seattle, where he owns more wine than he can reasonably drink, but loves to share. You can find him at @zgeballe or vinetrainings.com.