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Steele Shooting Star Aligote 1999
Often considered to be the heart of Washington wine country, the Yakima Valley is a sub-AVA of the vast Columbia Valley. The first AVA established in Washington, it is home to some of the state’s most established wineries, and contains three smaller sub-regions: Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain, and Snipes Mountain. The climate here is cooler than the rest of the Columbia Valley, making the Yakima Valley ideal for growing white varieties.
Chardonnay is the most planted grape here, followed closely by Riesling—both made in a wide range of styles depending on the warmth of the vineyard site. Because of the cooler climate, Merlot outnumbers darker-fruited, more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon here—an anomaly for Washington viticulture—and takes on characteristics of sweet red fruit with a supple texture, and sometimes notes of chocolate and mint. Yakima Valley Syrah is earthy and savory, complemented by a wide range of berry flavors from red to black.
Perfect ripeness balanced with a characteristic acidity make Aligoté a unique white grape in Burgundy. But since Chardonnay reigns supreme across the appellation, Aligoté almost always ends up unfairly lost in its shadow—though not always! In Côte Chalonnaise, in a quaint village named Bouzeron, just south of the Côte de Beaune, Aligoté has its very own appellation where yields are limited in order to enhance the grape’s flavors and aromas. Some of the world’s very best come from there. And curiously, the famous producer, Domaine Ponsot, bottles a 100% Aligoté from its Premier Cru in Morey-Ste-Denis, Les Monts Luisants, made from Aligoté vines planted in 1911. Vignerons in the New World experiment with the grape but it is really most popular outside of Burgundy in the Eastern European countries of Romania, Burlgaria, Ukraine, and Moldova. What makes Aligoté unique is its intense citrus fruit flavors balanced by a floral character of honeysuckle blossom and a supple texture.