Sineann Champoux Vineyard Petit Verdot 2010
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
Producing full-bodied, rustic and deeply colored reds, Petit Verdot is one of the original Bordeaux varieties. Its bold structure, color and aromatics allow it to make a significant difference in blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc—even in modest amounts. While it isn’t planted in Bordeaux in great quantities anymore, it is showing a small revival in well-tended vineyards there. Petit Verdot can also produce phenomenal single-varietal wines in the hotter and drier subregions of Australia, South America, California and Washington State.
In the Glass
Petit Verdot makes an intriguing wine with qualities of blackberry, plum, blueberry or black cherry as well as violets and dried sage. Its thick skins result in a highly structured wine with tannins ranging from smooth to grainy, which take well to oak aging.
Roasted pork or grilled lamb kabobs, as well as barbeque and Mole dishes are wonderful. Hard and salty cheeses such as Pecorino, Manchego or aged cheddar can make fun pairings alongside Petit Verdot.
Petit Verdot finds a happy home also in some regions of Spain and Portugal. It is well regarded in Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha and Catalunya as well as in in Portugal’s Alentejo where it blends well with the regions' indigenous varieties.