When REININGER was starting out, Chuck wanted the winery to be Bordeaux-centric.
“Those are the wines I was really first introduced to as far as red wines go. They have a bold character, and Bordeaux grapes grow very well here. I’m a provincial person; I’m proud of where I live and where we’re from, and these grapes really express themselves beautifully here. Not that these grapes are indigenous to Walla Walla, but the Bordeaux red grapes are the ones that have really landed a home here in the Valley. They really are the founding core of the Walla Walla Valley.”
For REININGER’S inaugural vintage, Chuck’s wine portfolio included a 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Over the years, Chuck has become known for his REININGER Cabernet Sauvignon and in 2016, Chuck was asked to sit on a Cabernet Sauvignon winemaker’s panel with five other world-class international winemakers, where our 2012 vintage was featured. Although almost 20 years has passed since our first vintage, Chuck’s winemaking style and elevage, or the progression of wine from fermentation to bottling, hasn’t changed.
2016 has been interesting, to say the least. As my first full year in Walla Walla comes to a close, all I can really say is “Abbie, you’re not in New England anymore.”
By the end of March temperatures were starting to reach into the mid-70s. On average, those temperatures are a good 20 degrees warmer than where I lived in Maine and Vermont, and 2016 was the first year I’d say I experienced Spring instead of Mud Season. Wheat and trees were blooming every day, which my allergies didn’t like, and bud break out in the vineyards was about a week early this past March. Vermont can sometimes still have snow on the ground in April, delaying bud break until mid-May and we’d be lucky to have temperatures in the mid-70s at the beginning of June.
As temperatures rose over the next couple months here in Walla Walla, harvest looked like a repeat of last year, with fruit ripening quickly and coming in wicked fast. My first day at Reininger was the first day fruit hit the crush pad and the Production Crew was trying to juggle that with a bottling session. Grapes were coming in so fast that the winery quickly ran out of space; new barrels were arriving and wines were being pressed sooner than planned because we needed the open top fermenters.
Every June, the Walla Walla Wine Alliance coordinates Celebrate Walla Walla, a weekend exploration of one of the Valley’s most popular grape varieties. For 2016, the focus was on the King of Grapes—Cabernet Sauvignon.
Because of its vigor, Cabernet Sauvignon is planted in just about every wine region around the world; but for its popularity, the grape is comparatively one of the younger varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon is a hybrid between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc that ampelographers (botanists who specialize in the classification and identification of grapevines) believe naturally occurred sometime during the 17th Century.
verb. to have moved or transferred (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval.
One of my favorite grape varietals is Carmenere, the “Lost Bordeaux grape.” Believed to be one of the ancient grapes, Carmenere once thrived in the Bordeaux region of France. During the 1860s, Carmenere, along with much of France’s vines, were infested by phylloxera, a tiny little aphid that came over from America. Already a difficult grape to grow, the Carmenere vines were pulled up after the phylloxera epidemic and the grape was thought to be lost forever.
During this same time period, French vine cuttings of what was believed to be Merlot were sent to Chile. The grapes thrived in Chilean soil, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when scientists tested the vines that they discovered it was the long-lost Carmenere grape. Today, Carmenere is primarily produced in Chile. But outside of Chile, Carmenere is found in Italy, California and the Walla Walla Valley.
The long and storied transplanted history of Carmenere spans three continents and arguably thousands of years. Although my story is not quite so long, it spans three states and ends in the Walla Walla Valley.
Meet Abbie, our Marketing & Events gal. A self-described foodie and oenophile, this East Coast transplant has been exploring Walla Walla and learning about our winemaking processes. Read about her adventures at the winery and throughout Washington’s wine industry.