Thursday, October 27, 2011

Treveri Cellars: Crafting Tradition in Yakima

Downtown Yakima's newest and perhaps most exciting new wine development got its start in the ancient city of Trier in Germany's Mosel Valley.

Juergen Grieb began his winemaking education in his home country of Germany with degrees in winemaking and sparkling wine. While he earned his degrees, Jurgen worked at two German stalwarts; Kartheuserhof in Ruwer (just outside of Trier) and Duhr Sektkellerei, a sparkling wine producer in Trier. At Kartheuserhof, where they have an excellent reputation for their Riesling, he worked under the tutelage of the winemaker Breiling and owner Christoph Tyrell.

After earning his degrees, Juergen became the went on to work at Langguth Winery in Traben-Trarbach. The Langguth family had also established a winery in the Wahluke Slope area of Washington and Juergen was soon sent to Mattawa to make wines over here. In 1987 the Langguth facility in Mattawa was purchased by Snoqualmie Winery and Mike Januik was installed as the winemaker, replacing Juergen. Having married Julie, whom he had met at Langguth, Juergen stayed in Washington, spending nearly 20 years working largely with an enormous bulk wine producer in Grandview as the winemaker.

Three years ago Juergen and Julie seized an opportunity to craft sparkling wines in Washington state in the traditional "Sekt" style of Germany. In my opinion, we should all be grateful that they did. Juergen's long career here has given him time to get to know the vineyard sites and the growers he most likes to work with, enabling him to source fruit that will set up best in the variety of sparkling styles. The fruit from the Mueller Thurgau, for example, comes from a four acre site near Prosser. (There are only a handful of Washington vineyards producing this varietal.)

I first encountered the Treveri Cellars wines at Taste Washington in March. As I thumbed through my guide, they stood out for two reasons: they were a Washington sparkling wine producer that I was unfamiliar with and all of the wines they were pouring were under $20. Tasting their wines, I found a style and value unique to Washington. These aren't the yeasty rounded kinds of sparkling wine, though I like those, too. These are crisp, have a nice touch of sweetness and the fruit really comes through. All the wines are individually bottle fermented and there's an element of quality and character that's a result of these traditional methods of sparkling winemaking.

Much of the sparkling wine created here in the States and in the Northwest is a blend. What sets Treveri apart stylistically is that in the "sekt" style, the wines are varietally true. (Treveri also makes Brut, Extra Brut and Extra Sec, thereby running almost the complete gamut.) The resulting sparkling wine is a varietal expression: the Riesling tastes like Riesling, the Gewurztraminer tastes like Gewurztraminer and the snozzberries taste like snozzberries. Where many sparkling wines provide creamy mouth feel of yeasty Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blends, the Treveri wines give you bubbles, a touch of yeasty aromatics and the wine's fruit character as well as a hint of residual sugar, a unique sparkling experience for Northwest wine drinkers. Juergen finds that Washington fruit sets up very well for the single varietal, "fruit forward" Sekt style because of the quality and health of the grapes grown here. He's quick to point out, though, that it's not quite the Mosel.

The result of Juergen's cumulative knowledge and experience in the vineyards and cellars of both Germany and Washington is a wine that is classically German and also positively Washington.

Sparkling Riesling
This Riesling brings a lot to the table and at the $16-17 price point, it's silly how good it is. Aromatics of cut tropical fruit and melons mix pleasantly with floral notes. The palate of the wine reveals a a beautiful sweetness at 3.4% residual sugar but the acidity and yeasty elements of a well made sparkler make this an excellent combination. The Riesling is made in the Demi-Sec style, with 33-35 grams of sugar per liter, considered a sweet style.

Sparkling Mueller Thurgau
Definitely a less common Washington varietal, Mueller Thurgau is a hybrid varietal created by a German scientist aiming to achieve the fruity complexity of Riesling with a little more ease of planting and ripening. The result is a fruit forward wine with that yeasty bottle fermented signature, apricots, peaches and grapefruit and lemon zest on the finish. Made in the Sec style at 2.3% residual sugar it's carrying a nice hint of sweetness. $16

Sparkling Gerwurztraminer
One of my favorite varietals shows up in the sparkling version, and it's the sweetest of the three wines that Treveri sent my way. A touch of the spice that is signature Gewurztraminer, melons and peaches. The Gewurtz is done in the Demi-Sec style with 3.5% residual sugar, and the sweetness balances that spicy varietal character in a way that is textbook Gewurtz only with bubbles.

These wines were provided as samples


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