In 2008, Chris Figgins, a second generation Washington winegrower, converted a 32-acre dry-land wheat field to a vineyard filled with Bordeaux varieties. The sloped site, in the northeastern section of Walla Walla Valley, lies between 1,500 and 1,750 feet of elevation, making it among the highest in the state.
It also backs up to the Blue Mountains, which visit their weather on the neighborhood. (You can see them lolling in the mist in that photo above.) “Seventeen minutes after sunset,” Figgins says, “—not fifteen, not twenty, but seventeen (I’ve measured it)—the winds come out of the mountains, and it’ll drop thirty degrees within forty-five minutes. An hour after sunset, you smell pine trees.”
Such vast diurnal temperature swings give the wines spirited freshness. “I get great acid and amazing color up here,” he adds.
Still, hard winters are a big obstacle, sometimes severely damaging or even killing all exposed vines. “It’s our Achilles heel in Washington,” he says. Fortunately, almost all vines in the state are own-rooted, so winegrowers can simply trim the dead wood back to the ground and let the vines root-sprout. Within a few years, they’ll be yielding ample fruit again.
2013 Figgins Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley
The Figgins Estate Red Wine is a blend of the site’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot that was treated to about 60 percent new French oak for 20 months. It shines with brilliant red berry fruit, its body smooth and high-toned with pronounced acidity. The tannins are fine-grained, and the wine finishes with a breeze of juniper and crushed juniper berry. It’s fresh like mountain air. And now we know why.
14.7% abv | $85 (sample tasted with the winemaker in Walla Walla)
2,700 cases made
Many thanks to Wine Business for recommending this article to their readers.
I’m grateful to Washington State Wine for sponsoring my travel.