A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting with Hugh Schiels, owner and winemaker of Côte Bonneville. We were engaged in a conversation about the wines of Washington State and how they compared with those of Napa. He poured a taste of his Dubrul Vineyard Estate Chardonnay as he told his story. Somewhere in between Hugh telling me his transition from doctor to grower to winemaker, I lost focus. All I could concentrate on was this delicious, rounded and complex Chardonnay in front of me. With my best poker face I said, “hmm… okay, what else do you have?” All the while twitching in my seat excitedly wondering what the reds were going to taste like.
Hugh poured the first red, the Carriage House, a blend of Cabernet, Cab Franc and Merlot. Again I stuck my nose in the glass and tried not to show any emotion. Aromas of cocoa, sweet leather, plums and juicy cassis danced about in my brain. Hugh, very confident about his wines just gazed at the skyline and commented on our great view. I took my first sip and wow!! Poker face gone, I spurted out “this is delicious!” The wine was so elegant, plenty of fruit but more importantly a homage to the terroir. And this is where Hugh and I came to an agreement, the main difference between Napa and Washington State is exactly that. The wines of Washington, such as Côte Bonneville, come with a stamp of their terroir. The wines have the beautiful fruits that Napa wines have, but also come with with an intense minerality so
apparent in the mid-palate.
Hugh has been selling his grapes to many wineries such as Leonetti, Owen Roe and Woodward Canyon. They know that the Dubrul Vineyard is the best in the state. Hugh said he is lucky to have such great soil, which he attributes to millions of years ago after the last ice age when the Missoula floods drenched the state with minerals and soils. This is why the wines from Dubrul Vineyard have a beautiful velvetiness with out loosing structure.
Côte Bonneville Chardonnay
Dubrul Vineyard Yakima Valley ‘08
Côte Bonneville Carriage House Red
Dubrul Vineyard Yakima Valley ‘06