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Washington State Students Releasing Wines

Working with faculty advisor, students create seven wines from 2012 and 2013 harvests under Blended Learning label

by Wines & Vines Contributor
The Washington state University students behind the Blended Learning wine label toast their 2012 Riesling. Photo: Amos Morgan
Prosser, Wash.—Washington State University (WSU) students are preparing for another release of Blended Learning, the label they developed for their inaugural wine, a 2012 Riesling made from two sites in the Yakima Valley.

The project’s founders—student winemakers Dane Day, Joe Perez, Robb Zimmel, Colin Hickey, Garrett Grover and Lora Morgan—began planning for what would be the first WSU student-made wine in spring 2012 with WSU viticulture and enology program director Thomas Henick-Kling, eventually releasing 100 cases of the Riesling and selling it at the new WSU Visitor’s Center and WSU Connections in Seattle, Wash., for $25 per bottle.

Entering their final semesters of the viticulture and enology program last summer, Day and Perez began pouring at wine shows and tastings, shaking hands with alumni and buyers, and developing an online presence to promote the wine.

“The ability to ask questions and soak up knowledge on a regular basis is fantastic,” says Perez, who decided to pursue an education in wine after serving in the Marine Corps. “Luckily for us, what we are learning in the wineries is also what we are learning in the classes. The two work in concert with each other.”

Zimmel, a senior in the WSU Viticulture and Enology program, was working as a LifeFlight paramedic in Portland, Ore., when he developed an interest in fermentation science and decided to move to Washington’s Tri-Cities with his wife and children two years ago. He’s now in his final year at WSU.

Grapes for the 2012 Riesling were crushed and pressed at Hogue Cellars. The student team selected two Riesling lots out of 15 from various Yakima Valley vineyards that had the flavor characteristics desired for a dry (0.27% residual sugar) Riesling with fine acidity and floral notes. A 1,000-liter, 12.7% alcohol blend of the two lots was made and transferred to Charlie Hoppes' winery in Richland, Wash., to finish fermentation, fining, stabilization and bottling under screwcap during summer 2013.

They will bottle two clones of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon wines (a comparison) cellared in French oak barrels (about one-third new oak) at Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland, to be released in 2015. Columbia Crest provided a mixture of new and used American and French oak barrels for barrel-aging of the red wines.

Other wines produced by the Blended Learning team include:

• Two-hundred cases of a 2012 Horse Heaven Hills red blend (15.2% alcohol) of 54% Malbec, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc was cellared in a mix of American and French oak barrels and bottled under screwcap. It will be sold at $35 per bottle.

• Grapes for approximately 200 cases of a 2012 Syrah blend were crushed from two vineyards in Horse Heaven Hills (Alder Ridge 37.5% and Alexandria Nicole 37.5%), and Walla Walla (Seven Hills 20%) and Grenache (5%) from Horse Heaven Hills (Spice Cabinet).

• A 2013 Barbera (approximately 200 cases) came from Lonesome Spring Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

A 2013 botrytized semi-dry Riesling (approximately 50 cases) was crushed from Columbia Crest Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

A 2013 semi-dry Chenin Blanc (approximately 200 cases) from McKinley Springs Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills.

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