So Cabernet Sauvignon is King and Merlot is the Queen and Syrah is the Jack. But what about the numerous other wine grape varieties? Variety is the spice of life, so there is a place for the others. Here's a run down of the most interesting and trendy varietals out there.
Grenache - After Syrah, Grenache is the main variety originating in the Rhone Valley., principally in the south, especially Chateauneuf du Pape and Vacqueras. It has a medium bodied flavor profile, akin to that of Pinot Noir, which is part of its appeal. Wineries making noteworthy Grenaches are àMaurice, The Walls, L'Ecole No. 41, Convergence Zone and Rotie Cellars.
Petit Sirah - This is not a Syrah at all, but Durif which is grown in Southern France. In France, it is somewhat ordinary grape, but it grows well in Washington State. It is typically a full bodied, smoky, spicy red. Milbrandt makes a fine one from the Northridge Vineyard. Dusted Valley and Thurston Wolfe make Peite Sirah as well, and Corvus uses it in a 50/50 blend with Syrah.
Petit Verdot - The name means "little green" which is what the grape looks like until it ripens fully. Only a bit is grown in Bordeaux today. But in Washington, the grape ripens more easily into a lovely crimson-colored, perfumed red. It usually is used as a blending grape in Bordeaux-style reds, but an increasing number of wineries are making it a stand-alone varietal, including Seven Hills, Tero Estates, Tamarack, Corvus and others.
Carmenère - This is called the "lost grape" of Bordeaux. It went mostly out of existence there after the killing frost of 1956. It was resurrected in Chile and then in Washington, producing a chewy textured, aromatic wine with a dash of pepper. It is one of the sexiest varieties out there. A fair number of wineries are making it, including Basel Cellars, Bartholomew, Clearwater Canyon, Otis Kenyon, Tertulia and Beresan.
Primitivo - This is the ancestor of Zinfandel, originating in the Adriatic region of Italy. As the name suggests, it is robust, somewhat rustic, yet flavorful red. The main source for Primitive is the Wahluke Slope where the warm climate is suitable for this grape. Principal producers are Forgeron Cellars (the 2014 vintage to reviewed in April), Wind Rose, and Bartholomew.
For white wines, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are ubiquitous, but there is growing interest in Rhone white varieties. Five years ago, we saw Granache Blanc, Roussanne and Marsanne being planted at Tranche's Blue Mountain Vineyard. Today, the vines, along with others, are producing interesting whites.
Grenache Blanc - This white mutant of Grenache Noir is the subject of growing interest. The rich aromatics, medium full bodied flavors and crisp texture make for a versatile white. The Syncline, Kerloo Cellars and The Walls ("Lip Stinger") wineries make noteworthy ones.
Marsanne - Originating in the North Rhone Valley (Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage), this full bodied white offers notes of minerals and herbal tea, along with fine fruits. Rotie Cellars ("Northern White"), Isenhower Cellars and College Cellars make wines from this variety.
Roussanne - Highly aromatic (peach, apricot, white incense), this white tends toward the tropical. Very fresh and lively, it is an enjoyable varietal. Producers include Otis Kenyon and Balboa ("Mith"). And Isenhower Cellars makes a sparkling wine version.