Wenatchee and its wines

February 16, 2011 

Wenatchee is known throughout Washington and even globally as the apple capital of the world. Thanks to Doug and Debe Brazil, it is gaining a reputation for wine, too.

The couple launched Chateau Faire le Pont with the 2002 vintage in a 1920s-era warehouse that they’ve converted to a state-of-the-art facility. The tasting room opened in 2004, and Faire le Pont was one of the first wineries in the state to open an on-premise restaurant. They also offer live jazz one night a week and cooking classes monthly, and they take advantage of their picturesque surroundings by renting out their facility for weddings.

The name comes from Debe’s background. She grew up in Montreal, and “faire le pont” is a French phrase that means “bridging the gap” and describes when a midweek holiday is so much fun, it just extends to the weekend.

Doug, a retired Navy man, is the winemaker, and Debe runs the business side of the operation. They bring in most of their grapes from the warm Wahluke Slope, which is a bit downriver from Wenatchee, as well as the Horse Heaven Hills south of the Yakima Valley.

Faire le Pont produces more than a dozen wines across the spectrum, and the focus is on reds. Doug’s signature wine is called Confluence, aptly named for a winery located near Confluence State Park along the Columbia River.

Here are a few we’ve tasted recently.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Merlot, Wahluke Slope, $22: One of the hidden treasures of Faire le Pont is the basement barrel room. Fanciers of oak will most enjoy this wine most. Chocolate-covered cherries aromas and flavors are married in an easy structure on the palate with nicely integrated tannins.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Syrah, Wahluke Slope, $25: Doug long has been going downstream on the Columbia River to Mattawa, for his succulent Syrah. It’s sizzling in the nose with bacon fat and blackberry, backed by strawberry, cedar and whiff of menthol. Juicy blackberries and strawberries ply their way onto the palate with a smooth backing of milk chocolate. Accents of cherries and lively acidity will help this pair nicely with ribs or pork.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, $40: The aromatics on this bold red lead you down a trail to boysenberry, bell pepper, cigarette tobacco, dark toast and cocoa powder. There’s a persistent delivery on the palate of blackberry, blueberry and marionberry, surrounded by lingering acidity, smooth tannins and anise.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Confluence, Washington, $43: This red blend is all Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet sauvignon (46 percent), merlot (23 percent), malbec (8 percent) and petit verdot (7 percent) and cab franc. A dense nose features black cherry, cinnamon, coffee, chocolate and green peppercorns. On the palate, it’s meritorious with blackberry, juicy black cherries, a splash of coffee and chocolaty tannins.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Provence, Columbia Valley, $35: This is Doug’s version of a Rhone-style blend, with syrah, mourvedre and grenache coming together for a superb wine. The results are fascinating, starting with aromas of talus slope, dusty cherries, cocoa powder and black pepper. Boysenberry and dried cranberry lead the flavor profile, backed by subtle tannins, black pepper and lemon zest.

Chateau Faire Le Pont 2007 Tre Amore, Washington, $39: Styled after a Super Tuscan, the component of sangiovese (27 percent) does not get overshadowed by the cabernet sauvignon (52 percent) or merlot (21 percent). Red fruit aromas get a lift from cinnamon bark, vanilla, cedar and menthol. Smooth black currant flavors hint at the Bordeaux varieties, then juicy Rainer cherries and red currants bring bracing acidity. Bittersweet chocolate and some tension from tannin round out the structure, which can be fully appreciated paired with tomato-based foods or rich meats.

Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.

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