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Another Discovery from Washington State
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Mar 25, 2014
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EFESTE, Yakima Valley (Washington) Sauvignon Blanc “Sauvage” 2012 ($23):  My wine-tasting over the past two weeks has involved Champagnes, Italian wines of every color, fine mountain-grown Cabernets from California, Grand Cru wines from Chablis, and Pessac-Leognan wines from Bordeaux, along with wines from various other places.  But March is Taste Washington Wine month, and therefore I’ve decided to review this lovely white wine from Washington, which is a discovery for me.

The number of wineries in Washington has burgeoned over the past decade.  Today the state boasts more than 750 wineries compared to half as many just ten years ago.  One of these new wineries is EFESTE, pronounced F-S-T, which came into existence in 2005 through the collaboration of three friends whose surnames begin with F, S and T.  Despite being young, the winery has garnered quite a lot of favorable reviews for its reds and whites, which carry playful names such as “Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon,” “Final Final Red Blend” and “Upright Merlot.”  What caught my eye, though, was the mention of Chris Upchurch and Jay Soloff, founders of Washington’s DeLille Cellars -- one of my favorite U.S. wineries -- as consultants in the early stages of EFESTE’s development.

Among its white wines, EFESTE produces a barrel-fermented Chardonnay called “Lola” ($30), a Riesling from the Evergreen Vineyard in the new (2012) Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley AVA ($20), and two Sauvignon Blancs.  Both of the Sauvignon Blancs are barrel-fermented wines made through the action of ambient yeasts and named accordingly -- “Feral” ($20) and “Sauvage.”  The winery has produced Feral since 2007, while Sauvage’s first vintage was 2011.  The success of Feral and the opportunity to work with Sauvignon Blance from a different site inspired the creation of Sauvage.

Feral, like the Riesling, hails from the Evergreen Vineyard, but Sauvage comes from grapes grown in the Golden View block of Boushey Vineyards in Yakima Valley, a warmer site than Evergreen.  Additionally, Sauvage ages in French oak five months longer than Feral -- eight months rather than three -- and 15 percent of its barrels are new.  The winemaking team chose this oak regime because they believed that the extra lees aging and some new French oak would enhance the texture that the Golden View grapes seemed disposed to give.

All this discussion about oak might set you up expect a very different taste in Sauvage than what you actually get.  In fact, the wine exudes fruit and shows almost no oaky aroma or flavor.  It is a crisp, dry, very flavorful medium-bodied white with rich texture and excellent varietal character.  If you like Sauvignon Blanc wines, even if you prefer an un-oaked style, you will probably like Sauvage.

The aromas and flavors of this wine run the gamut of Sauvignon Blanc’s repertoire, from grassy/herbal notes to ripe-fruity notes and mineral accents. Lemongrass, passionfruit, white peach, lime, and stony flavors are pronounced and vibrant.  High acidity gives the wine depth and persistence in your mouth.  Complementing the high acidity is rich, silky texture of the sort that might incline you to roll the wine around in your mouth for the better part of a minute before you swallow.  (The extended lees contact and the new French oak apparently worked exactly as intended.)

This wine is young and delicious now.  I can imagine that it will still be drinking beautifully in three years, but I don’t peg it for cellaring because its youthful and fresh flavors are such a large part of its charm.  I found it terrific with stuffed chicken breast, turkey sausage with Dijon mustard, baked unsweetened yams, bitter leafy greens and Gruyere cheese -- and by that measure, it can complement a great variety of dishes.

90 Points