There isn’t a lot of Gruner Veltliner grown in Washington State. However, the little bit we do have is riveting. On a recent visit to Cascade Cliffs Vineyard and Winery, I had the pleasure of receiving a couple of sample bottles. Read on for more about this notable winery and an introduction to Cascade Cliffs Gruner Veltliner.
The Columbia Gorge is unlike any other wine region I’ve visited. The drive to Cascade Cliffs is along a stretch of highway with the Columbia River on one side and towering walls of basalt looming over the other side. It feels tranquil and rugged. Unfortunately, on the day of my visit a California wildfire sent up a haze of smoke like a thin veil of fog. Yet, even that couldn’t hide the quiet grandeur of the scenery.
On this weekday visit hardly any other cars appear on the road, and I reach my appointment on time. As I open the door to the tasting room team member Rachel offers an enthusiastic greeting. She then introduces me to Bob Lorkowski, the owner of Cascade Cliffs Vineyard and Winery.
I am here to conduct an interview for The Slow Wine Guide. On site visits are a hallmark of the Guide. My assignment is to write about the people, the vineyard, and to evaluate the wine. One of those wines is a Gruner Veltliner. The variety is one of the most significant in Austria, and having visited that country in 2019, it’s one that engulfs me with a number of sentimental feelings.
During my visit I learn that Bob’s early experience in Washington’s wine industry includes a stint at the Pike & Western Wine Shop in Seattle as well as time spent working with Kay Simon of Chinook Wines. Kay’s influence remains with Bob today. Consequently, he favors sustainable practices. He farms the 18 acres he’s acquired over 20 years utilizing a mix of biodynamic and organic techniques.
Now, let’s talk about wine. Gruner Veltliner is a white wine is known for its bright acidity. To imagine it visually should conjure up shapes with angles. Often referred to as “Gruner” or “GruV” (think groovy) by wine geeks, part of its intrigue is its savory flavor profile, often times with a peppery character. For Sauvignon Blanc fans this wine is a terrific alternative.
Cascade Cliffs Columbia Gorge Gruner Veltliner 2020
This stainless steel aged tongue tingler reveals a happy marriage of lemongrass, herbal notes, crisp pear, and fresh citrus brightness, then finishes with chalky minerality. Plus, there’s something that reminds me of lemon cream filled cookies. Suffice it to say, the wine is an easy drinker and pairs well with food.
Gruner Veltliner Food Pairings
This wine would be a brilliant addition to the Thanksgiving table, especially as a complement to herb stuffing or other herb centric dishes.
I enjoyed it with a Brussels sprout salad I made that was simply dressed with EVOO and lemon juice and topped with walnuts and pomegranate.
Gruner is known to be one of the few wines to pair with two of the most challenging vegetables for wine – artichokes and asparagus.
With its European roots in mind, I imagine pork and cabbage would also work.
Visit Cascade Cliffs
For those who wish to taste the wines of Cascade Cliffs, there are multiple options. Not only does the winery have a tasting room in the Gorge, there is one in nearby downtown Hood River. For those in the greater Seattle area, there is a charming Georgetown location. Or, for eastsiders, check out the Woodinville tasting room.
Thirsty for more? Cascade Cliffs has a sassy Nebbiolo that is fantastic with pasta marinara.