Sips

The maverick

All over Red Mountain, the vines are heavy with foliage. But among the lush greens of the Kiona, Hedges, and Seth Ryan properties, one vineyard stands in sharp contrast—a broad swath overlooking the Yakima River, some of its vines withered and brown, the grapes exposed to the searing desert sun. But nothing here at the Blackwood Canyon vineyard is like anything at other Red Mountain wineries. Proprietor Michael Moore makes wines like no one else's, by methods no one else uses, according to principles diametrically opposed to standard notions about how wine should be made, aged, handled, and even taste. In a close-knit business in which you'll rarely hear a winemaker say a disparaging word about a competitor, Moore is a maverick, a Jeremiah, vociferously contemptuous of the dominant paradigm of American winemaking as articulated by graduates of the University of California's world famous oenology school at Davis. To Moore, Davis grads have betrayed a 2,500-year tradition of European winemaking in favor of methods producing cheap, characterless mass-market beverages. Davisites, for example, think most white wine should be bottled and drunk betimes; Moore maintains his in barrel, sediments and all, for three, six, even eight years, and even believes exposure to oxygen, anathema in the Davis Bible, actually helps some wines develop. Any visitor to Moore's vineyard-side tasting room can hear this and many other heretical notions about winemaking from Moore himself, as he pours generous samples, explaining each wild divagation from the conventional wine wisdom. This column usually tries to avoid wine-tasting jargon, but it's the only way to convey the impact of Moore's 11-, 12-, 13-year-old chardonnays, their original golden color tinged to shades of peach and auburn, their bouquets rich with tangs of overripe fruit, caramel, balsamic vinegar, and a myriad of less identifiable aromas. Moore's reds taste like the varieties they're made from, but only in comparison to the wild originality of the whites. So hypnotic and relentless is Moore's presentation that few visitors leave without one or more examples of his unique (and startlingly expensive) contribution to Washington's wine spectrum. Davis may command the hearts and minds of the kinds of winemakers who huddle with others in trade associations, marketing groups, quality-control consortia. Moore is not of their ilk. He and his Blackwood Canyon stand proudly alone. E-mail us at sips@seattleweekly.com.

 
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