Arista Wine Cellars
320 5th Avenue South
Edmonds, WA 98020 [MAP]
425-771-7009 or
1-866-430-WINE (9463)


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28-Apr-2018 Join us as we welcome Katie from Unique featuring perfect wines to celebrate Mother's Day. We'll have a great selec..Read More...

 Podere Rugeri Corsini - Saturday, 05MAY, 1-4:30 pm

05-May-2018 This exceptional producer from the Piedmont region of Italy always seems to fly under the radar. Stop by and taste ..Read More...

 Domaine Drouhin - Thursday, 10MAY 5:00-7:00pm

10-May-2018 This special THURSDAY EVENING tasting is not-to-be-missed. We will highlight fabulous wines from the Burgundy regio..Read More...

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12-May-2018 The beautiful and exotic Ilse de Corse is actually under French authority, but is much closer to Italy. Come and di..Read More...

Open Every Day:
Sunday 12pm - 5pm
Mon - Fri 10am - 7pm
Thursday 10am - 8pm
Saturday 10am - 5pm

Arista News Blog

Trading Nail Biting for Purple Hands

Arista Wine Cellars - Wednesday, October 19, 2011

      Winemaker John Bigelow grinned with relief when he told us he was going to put us to work sorting Merlot from Margarets' Vineyard. As part of a wine-professionals tour put together by the Washington Wine Commission, 4 of us were joining John at his JM Cellars Winery, on the crush pad. The date was Thursday, September 29th. During much of a 5 day tour beginning in the Walla Walla AVA (American Viticultural Area) and working our way west through Red Mountain, Yakima and  Woodinville, winemakers and growers were talking about harvest but not showing harvest. The grapes just weren't ready.

   "We are two weeks behind last year" Kelly Hightower said, standing in her "Out of Line" Vineyard on Red Mountain a day before. "And last year we were 2 weeks behind normal".  Biting into deep purple-black cabernet sauvignon grapes gushed flavors of sweet sugary juice, and soft bitter tannins from the skins. Spiting the pips or seeds into our palms, we saw small gel-like flesh still clinging to the seeds and each seed had lime green edges.

     Reaching into the bins at JM Cellars with John, the bites into his Merlot grapes showed seeds missing the clinging gel-grape flesh and now colored in brown tones like a piece of toasted bread. Clean, brown-toned pips are a clue to ripe grapes. These grapes came from a completely different part of Washington State, a site that, this year anyway, ripened by the end of September. His site, in the Walla Walla Valley AVA, out by Seven Hills and at higher altitude, came through at a time when many winemakers are passing each other on the highways, driving from site to site, checking for phenolic ripeness of the grapes in the vineyard.  They look at the clusters, hoping for the green stems to be thinning and turning brown. They walk rows with the growers, picking a grape from random bunches all along the way, biting, chewing, checking seeds and flavors. For these other sites it has still been a waiting game.

     The 2011 growing season in Washington State had a cool start, making bud break late, and flower set late and ripening....well you get the trend. Now people are decorating their porches for Halloween and John is driving his big dusty pickup back and forth across the mountains to fill the big trailer with the bins full of fruit from his other vineyard sources.  The Kelly and Tim Hightower are harvesting now too.  Waiting this long isn't easy as the threat of frost or rain increases later in the month. But the weather is being kind this late in the season, allowing good hang time and truly mature grape character.

     The waiting game in the vineyard may have made this a nail biter of a crush, but the purple hands of the winemakers are proof that the patience is paying off. Several tired-out winemakers have said the fruit that is coming in now is gorgeous...just late.

      One great website to see, originally set up for winemakers to check remotely on the ripening process in the vineyards, was created by John Vitalich and Kent Walisers' team at Sagemoor Farms. This group own Bacchus, Dionusus, Weinbau, and Sagemoor Vineyards. Visit the website, select "Grape Data" and you can choose a block in a certain vineyard, to see it's current ripeness data, compared to past years for that block. For us Washington wine-geeks, it is a window into harvest trends in one corner of our terrific wine country.

Archive Posts 2009 - 2010

joel reinke - Monday, November 29, 2010
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