Young winemaker pushing Jones of Washington to top
Jones was started a decade ago by Jack Jones, who owns three vineyards. As recently as a five years ago, the Jones of Washington label meant a pretty good bottle of wine.
Then, in 2008, winemaker Victor Palencia arrived. The son of migrant workers, Palencia grew up in the Yakima Valley.
"I worked in vineyards," he said. "As a kid, that was my after-school job. In my teen years, I enjoyed the outdoors, so the vineyard was a good fit."
He got an early start in winemaking, working at Willow Crest in Prosser before he turned 21. After graduating from Prosser High School, he attended Walla Walla Community College -- and was the first in his family to earn a college degree -- before returning to Willow Crest until Jones came calling.
Now 27, Palencia is one of the hottest young winemakers in Washington. The wines he has released in the past three years have been some of the state's best, earning him Washington Winery of the Year from Wine Press Northwest magazine this spring.
For Jones of Washington, Palencia produces about 10,000 cases. The winery also has a custom-crush operation that makes much more than that for a number of clients around the state.
Here are a few new releases from Jones that are superb. They are widely distributed -- even served by the glass at Disney's California Adventure Park. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant:
Jones of Washington 2008 Estate Vineyards Reserve Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, $30: Aromas open as if you'd stuck your nose in a bag of cherry pipe tobacco, then walked into a kitchen where blueberries are bubbling on the stove and bread dough is rising. There's also a spice cabinet of juniper berry and cardamom. Once inside, the drink doesn't pack the typical uppercut of tannin, but there's a continuation of blueberry and boysenberry, joined by more tobacco and finished with pomegranate.
Jones of Washington 2011 Estate Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, $12: One might confuse this for a Riesling with a bit of Muscat blended in with its fascinating floral notes of lychee, jasmine and fruit cocktail. Flavors also gather up delicious hints of white peach, sweetened lime and spearmint. A remarkable amount of spritzy acidity helps balance the residual sugar (1.5 percent), and serving it cold will accent that acidity even more.
Jones of Washington 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $15: This releases wide-ranging aromas of jasmine, lychee, lime, gooseberry, spearmint, celery and slate. It's loaded with fruity flavors of lemon, lime and kiwi. The combination of delicious acidity and a slightly savory finish of fresh-cut celery counteracts the residual sugar (0.9 percent).
Jones of Washington 2011 Rosť of Syrah, Columbia Valley, $12: Aromas are reminiscent of cherry vanilla ice cream with hints of apricot, burnt caramel and a bit of meatiness that one often gets from this Rhone variety. It's a fun, off-dry drink of strawberries, cherry lemonade and Jolly Rancher watermelon candy that gets just enough of a boost from mouthwatering acidity to deal with the residual sugar (1.7 percent).
Jones of Washington 2011 Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, $15: This opens with big aromas of banana taffy, lemon zest, mango, white peach and mint julep, followed by flavors of spearmint, apple box, yellow grapefruit and pineapple upside-down cake. It is backed with beautiful acidity and mild oak. Pair this with halibut, oysters or scallops.
Jones of Washington 2011 Estate Vineyard Riesling, Columbia Valley, $12: This opens with inviting aromas of minerals, roses and spices, followed by flavors of apples and pears. Its bright, tight flavors give way to a style that is more elegant that opulent, making this a perfect candidate for scallops, crab or raw oysters.
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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