Patrick Comiskey—2007 in Washington
Is it Columbia Valley's best vintage ever?


In the case of the reds, it may very well be. They've been beautiful out of the gate—generous, yet refined and elegant—and they possess the sort of natural grace that merits cellaring. If you're not collecting Washington reds, 2007 is the perfect excuse to start. And if your cellar is dominated by Napa and Bordeaux (and your collector's budget has shrunken accordingly), then this is the time to supplement your cellar with some Washington reds.
     Mike Sauer, the longtime grower at Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, says that among all recent vintages, few were more even-tempered than 2007. To explain why, he recently compared 2007's degree-day numbers with other vintages': 2007, at 2,612 units, fell right in between the warmest (2003: 2,997 units) and coolest years (1999: 2,352 units).
     It was the timing of the heat that made the difference in 2007. In most parts of the valley, the hottest days of the season occurred just before veraison, in early and mid-July, which kick-started the final stage of ripening. "I remember waiting for veraison," says Kevin Corliss, director of vineyard operations at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. "And then we got our first heat spike—everything turned purple right after that spike."
     "The magic was after mid-September," says Sauer. "It was cool, sort of overcast, a few showers; no freezes but pretty gradual cooling. Classic fall weather."
     Corliss agrees. "After the heat spike," he says, "I thought maybe we'll get in early and I can get in some steelhead fishing. But we had to wait for flavors to develop—it was the perfect weather for picking."
     And a perfect year for ripening, as well. "In warm years we're always fighting to keep sugars down before the flavors catch up," says Jean-François Pellet of Pepper Bridge Winery in Walla Walla. "That didn't happen in '07. We could pick at a decent Brix, and the flavors were right there."
     For most winemakers, the closest vintage that compares with it is 2005—which happened to have almost the same degree-day numbers as 2007.
     "Two thousand and five is starting to show that its wines are beautiful, well-modulated," says Chris Camarda (left) of Andrew Will Winery. "But in '07, the wines carry more structure. They're generous, but not heavy. That's probably what makes the vintage fly. There's this sense of great promise in these wines. These aren't the sort of wines where we'll have to wait for this to go away or that to go away. Everything's already there."
     With nothing to resolve, with everything "already there" going into the cellar, the aging potential of these wines is exceptional—and your cellar will be incomplete without them.