Veranda Beach Cellars, Washington State
Jim Hammond, developer and principal behind the concept of Veranda Beach, Oroville, Washington, remembers growing up on the great plains of Saskatchewan. Specifically, he reminisces on those eternal Summer evenings where lazy melded with moonlight and decks became festooned with hammocks, sleeping bags and air-mattresses in an attempt to beat the heat. Childhood talks, carried by breezes, spoke of new bicycles, where the fishing would be good, and who was a better swimmer.
I remember those nights too.
Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, I had a great-uncle who had a farm in the (then) small community of Fort Saskatchewan. My parents would drive us out in the heat of the day and we kids would pick strawberries and Saskatoons for dessert, eating as much as we put in our buckets. Then we’ld slump on the wrap-around deck with gallons of lemonade whilst the fruits of our labor (literally) were turned into pies, tarts, or simply covered in cream in deep bowls to be devoured.
That was a good time to be a kid; riding my bike along the highway in the morning (I was only 6 or 7) on Brave Adventures… coming home only to eat, and then back out again to Forage in the Wilderness. We were scamps, we were feckless, we were a force without reckoning.
And now, many years later, I watch my two-year old growing up in land where she will perhaps never know such wild abandon, such freedom to discover. And I thought of this even more as I tasted the wines from Jim Hammond’s development.
Styled as a throwback to the 50’s and showcasing over a mile of private beach on what must be the warmest lake in Canada, Veranda Beach is a beacon to that lifestyle. Today though, let me tell you more about the wines then about the resort… For as much as the place itself deserves to be advocated, the wines are articulate and well-crafted, meriting a champion. (insert Kristof as said Champion)
I first came across the wines of Veranda Beach on a decidedly far too warm private coach ride from Lake Chelan, Washington to Penticton, British Columbia and the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference. It was June and the bus had failing air conditioning and yet on-board came our brave adventures from the resort with beach balls, bottles of chilled wine, and unfailing joie-du-vie. They laughed as they poured and we wine-writers responded with good manners and more then a cursory interest in the wine.
How could we not? Crisp, clean, great concentration and yet refreshingly easy to enjoy on their own – but I digress. For to tell the story of the wines of Veranda Beach, one first needs to tell the story of Katy Perry.
Yes, friends, Katy Perry. Just not that Katy Perry. The one I speak of is a tenured winemaking professional, with a pedigree that would do any cellar proud:
This uber-professional has not only a degree in viticulture from famed UC Davis, but also in eonology. This means the lady has smarts – real smarts. But there are many types of smart, right? Katy knows this as well, so she went to Australia and worked with the former winemaker from Penfold’s before going to world-class Yalumba on a stint. But even Aus wasn’t big enough to hold Katy and so she flew back to America to work with the pantheon known as Stag’s Leap, and then a foray into boutique production in Carneros AVA.
But we all know that there’s no place like home, and home beckoned to Katy one fateful day when she was asked to speak at an event in Lake Chelan, Washington. She fell in love with the area, and then that minxy mistress Fate dropped in and Katy was being asked to take on the role of winemaker at Woodville for Chateau St Michelle. This is a dream-job for many, and so on forged our brave Katy, working alongside Eric Olsen and Ernst Loosen to create the first iconic vintages of “Eroica“.
Now Katy and her husband have their own vineyard and winery in Lake Chelan; Tildio Winery ( http://www.tildio.com/ ) and Katy is firmly in-place driving the wines of Veranda Beach to greater heights with the able assistance of vineyard manager Finis Hale.
We all know that winemakers agree; 80% of the work done with wine is done in the vineyard, so Finis has a lot on his plate if he’s going to keep the vineyard matching the pace of Katy – right? One small (potential) hitch: the vineyard is in the development. Yup – that’s right, your cottage at Veranda Beach may in fact be one of those that’s surrounded by Sangiovese or Cabernet Franc. A nice way to wake up, if you ask me, but I could see challenges getting the picking equipment between the parked station-wagons (lol).
Actually, vehicles aren’t allowed at the cottages, which means the kids can run as free as they want to – which brings me back to how I started this article: I started tasting these wines and remembering what it was like to be filled with the freedom that (seemingly) only children possess. I wanted to ensure that my daughter had that as she grows up.
Perhaps, just like smarts, there are many types of freedom. What is Freedom if it isn’t a young Paleontology assistant becoming winemaker in her own winery and at the same time in another World-Class resort just down the road? What is Freedom if it isn’t a boy from Saskatchewan growing up to build a resort where kids can run free and parents can relax on wrap-around decks whilst sipping sinfully seductive Riesling?
- visual: clear; medium solid raspberry/cherry core with watery rim and silver highlights
- nose: clean; medium+ intense and youthful aromas bursting with fresh red berries; strawberries, cherries, red raspberries and currants abound followed by a savory/muskiness and a clean, precise line of minerality
- palate: clean; medium+ red raspberry acid, light+ body, medium+ alcohol (13.1% ABV), medium intense and youthful flavors perfectly inline with the bouquet; a stunningly bright/fresh mineral note washes through with a kaleidoscope of red berries, a light savory tinge completes.Very good to excellent balance, very good to excellent structure, medium- concentration.
- conclusion: drink now, drink slightly chilled, drink often. This wine will not develop with time but will last in the cellar for a few years with ease; enjoy 2013-2016
- FOOD PAIRING: so crisp, so clean, I really want to serve this to start a meal and open the palate~! Consider prosciutto wrapped spot prawns, mesquite grilled, with Okanagan peach-heirloom tomato-basil salsa… the salt of the prosciutto will love the berry tones in the wine, and the sweet/salty prawn will do the same… the basil enhances the natural herbaceous qualities and brings them forward to balance
100% stainless steel
- visual: clear; pale straw core with watery rim, silvery/golden highlights
- nose: clean; medium+ intense and youthful bouquet; intoxicating (forgive the pun) layers of honeyed raisins, warm apricot compote, little white Summer flowers dripping with pollen… so sweet it smells like there must be Muscat in the glass
- palate: clean; off-dry, medium- white grape acid, medium- body, medium- alcohol (12.4% ABV), medium+ intense and youthful flavors perfectly inline with the aromas; lusciously ripe stonefruit is cut by an almost Burgundian (read: Masterful) wet-slate minerality, floral notes are diverse like warm-climate Viognier and the finish is crisp, semi-sweet. Excellent balance, excellent structure, medium+ length
- conclusion: I would love to watch this wine develop it’s aged characteristics, but is sheer pleasure to drink now! Enjoy 2013-2020 and possibly beyond
- FOOD PAIRING: I want to drink this whilst on a boat – a yacht… I want a loaf of fresh French bread, baguette, even a green-olive ficelle, with soft brie, smoked chicken (or turkey, or duck) thinly sliced, some pickled purple onions and a dab of Rainier-cherry relish…. don’t be deceived~! This wine has dimension and depth to handle complicated dishes (Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese foods will adore this wine) but I will savor it’s nuances with simple foods, as rich with flavor as it is.
- visual: clear; full garnet core with slightest cherry rim, no bricking
- nose: clean; fully intense youthful bouquet of buttery/creamy wood tones, ripe red fruit at the height of Summer, nuanced sous-bois (forest growth) and woody/musky sandalwood, slight eucalyptus/menthol finish
- palate: clean; dry, full red raspberry/currant acid, medium+ fine tannin, medium- body, medium alcohol (13.8% ABV), medium+ youthful expressions that match the aromas brilliantly! Crisp/tight red berry/fruit tones cavort with a herbaceous undergrowth, whilst a musky backdrop reveals itself. This wine has layers upon layers. Very good balance, stunning structure and medium+ to long length.
- conclusion: almost a tragedy to drink now – if you must, then decant a minimum 1 hour or double-aerate. Enjoy 2015-2020
- FOOD PAIRING: this is a wine suited for a prince. Live like a prince for one meal! Chorizo and roasted walnut stuffed partridge breast, cranberry Manitoba wild rice, chevre-stuffed fresh figs torched with “Fireweed” honey, cranberry and fresh thyme essence… yes, perhaps a little overboard, but, don’t you deserve it?? This wine needs a little fat to balance those overactive acids and the chorizo will provide just that – but the wild red berry tones will cosy to wild meats and partridge is gamey without being “too” gamey. Cranberry tones enhance the bright red berry tones already there and the fig is a dark fruit which balances. Chevre balances with fat, but a savory fat, and the wild thyme enhances the slight herbaceous tones. Delightful~!
And that, as they say, is that. There are plans to develop the property, and expand the vineyard. But plans are just that: plans. They sometimes go astray and oft lead us to places we never expected. I sincerely hope that your plans, well-laid or not, lead you to Oroville, Washington soon so you can tell me your thoughts on these brilliant wines. The proof is in the glass!