OUR GORGE : WINE SPOTLIGHT
Gorge wineries offer an enticing array of bubbly selections STORY BY L. M. ARCHER • PHOTOS COURTESY OF WINERIES
Award-winning winemaker Rich Cushman of Viento Wines has been making sparkling wine since 1992. A Hood River native, Cushman established a successful wine career in the Willamette Valley before returning to his Columbia Gorge roots in 2007. In addition to Viento, Cushman produces wine for five other Gorge labels: Mt. Hood Winery,
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Stave & Stone, Flume, The Gorge White House and Alan Busacca’s Heart Catcher Wines. The prolific winemaker also spearheads a few small-batch sparkling programs, including his own méthode champenoise and méthode ancestrale wines. “We just started one for Mt. Hood Winery,” Cushman says, “and a pét nat for Stave & Stone will be the first one out of the box next February .” For his own méthode ancestrale (wines fermented once in bottle) Cushman uses no sulphur dioxide, and disgorges à la volée (by hand) to mitigate overflow and murkiness so prevalent in pét nats. I’ve been making sparkling wine for awhile,” explains Cushman, “and I know that if a pét nat isn’t perfectly brilliant, it gushes. You can lose a third of the bottle opening it.” He also eschews dosage for his méthode ancestrale sparklers, preferring moderately acidic base wines like Pinot Gris, sourced from his son, to achieve balance. For the 2018 vintage, Cushman plans to rack his sparkling wines prior to bottling, in an effort to alleviate disgorging altogether. He’s also using Chardonnay from the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. “This year we’ll have about 600 bottles of Chardonnay pét nat,” says Cushman. “Washington grapes ripen a little bit more slowly than Hood River due to elevation, so they are well-suited to bubbly. I’m very happy to work in a bi-state appellation.” Courtesy of Viento Wines
hile the Columbia Gorge doesn’t name its winds as do some Old World wine regions, winds nonetheless define it. Here, breezes careen, cascade, and collide in kinetic intensity, banshees of brute force unwilling to sit quietly and mind manners across the area’s craggy landscape. So, too, the region’s unruly array of wines. Turns out this cantankerous, cool climate proves perfect for crafting compelling sparkling wines. We’ve put together a lineup of six top Columbia Gorge boutique bubble makers worth toasting this holiday season.
• NV Cuvée Diamante Columbia Gorge Sparkling Wine, Méthode Champenoise, $30 • NV Cuvée Diamante Rosé Columbia Gorge Sparkling Wine Méthode Champenoise, $30