Hollywood Hill Vineyards 2009 Estate chardonnay

Another WAwineman classic, 1st posted on May 16, 2010:

Oh, how I’ve been waiting patiently to write about this wine.

Let’s start with the AVA: Puget Sound. This is the most disrespected, kicked-around, and pee’d on wine region, despite being the most populated of all the State’s AVAs. This is the only AVA where there are as many “tasting rooms” as actual functioning wineries, and we can thank Woodinville for housing these dens of winery-prostitution. The AVA was established in 1995 as the 4th AVA in the State. There’s a whopping 80 acres of vineyards and even fewer resident wineries in a land where there is no consistency in the weather of the overall AVA. Seattle and Bellingham may get 36 inches a year, Whidbey Island will get 25 as will Port Angeles, while Centralia gets nailed with an average of 50 inches and many memorable January floods that close Interstate-5. The average “growing degree days” sits at just over 2000, easily the coolest of all the AVAs. While the AVA rarely gets near 100 degrees in any given season, the region is known for a color other than red or white…it’s called green, as in greenbacks. Home to Starbucks, Microsoft, and Boeing, no other region boasts the financial wealth that the Puget Sound AVA has access to. And, this explains why wineries from across the State flock with shameless abandon to setup shop in this AVA to court these income-fattened hyenas.

Walla Walla may have their snobbish terroiristas, but the affliction has equally infected the Puget Sounders. I personally do not understand the local winemakers who insist on using only Puget Sound AVA grapes to make all their wines. It’s a recipe that can only result in remaining small-time as very few internationally-known noble wine grapes can prosper in this “wet” region. This AVA cannot even grow a decent Alsatian-style riesling, and is best known for its madeline angevine, siegerrebe, and Müller-Thurgau wines, which are quite decent on its own, but will never be the rave of the international wine world. However, even I will acquiesce as my visits to these micro-wineries outside of King and Snohomish Counties have resulted in purchases of only these odd lots of wines that proudly advertise the AVA. I sometimes wonder if all those Walla Walla “hotshot” winemakers would or even could make wines with Puget Sound grapes. That should say something about the quality of the grapes more than the skill of the winemakers. That’s why I respect the winemakers of the Puget Sound AVA: they continue to craft respectable table wines from grapes grown in, perhaps, the State’s most challenging conditions. And, getting to their wineries is easily the most scenic eye-candy of all the AVAs…yes, even more than looking at another state’s mountain with the mighty Columbia  slumbering along in the foreground.

Hollywood Hills Vineyards sits harmoniously on the east hill on horse pasture land, adjacent to one of my favorite wineries (Adams Bench), and overlooks the plateau that is home to most of the wineries of Woodinville. Steve and Becky Snyder, the owners, have a long history with wine with Steve cutting his chops with partner Jeff Jernegan in forming Maury Island Vineyards around 2000, even though their vineyard was on Vashon Island. The lease was short so Steve chose to move his winery to its current location in 2004 to be close to his day job and give some stability to their two children. Steve is extremely passionate about wine and is a faculty lecturer at South Seattle C.C. and also sits on the Board of Directors for the Puget Sound Wine Growers Association. Becky is the face of the winery, responsible for the marketing and managing of the tasting room that recently moved from the Apple Farm Village to a dedicated “house” across the road from Brian Carter Cellars. Becky “retired” from a career in the wireless industry to focus her passion on the winery, and, I believe, you haven’t been to Woodinville until you pay a visit and meet Becky. I have visited both locations of their tasting rooms and can easily agree that their current location is a huge upgrade, capable of being the setting of some memorable parties down the road. Btw, as a trivia note, Hollywood Hill makes the only Regent wine (red) in the nation. 2007 was the first vintage and expect the next release this autumn.

Well, I consider this wine a privilege to review as only 30 cases were made (from ½ acre) and, after all, this is one of the few wines, so far, that I have actually seen where it was grown. Heck, I could throw an Adams Bench bottle purchased straight from the winery and it would land smack in the middle of the estate vineyard. And, I will make an exception and proudly state that they craft some superb syrahs from not one but three other AVAs (Rattlesnake Hills, Wahluke Slope, and Red Mountain). This chardonnay is from clone 76 and grafted onto 101-14 and 3309 rootstocks, which tends to ripen in cooler climates but with less acid and protects against Phylloxera. As you notice, the Snyders lean toward Rhone and Burgundy wines. Smart strategy.

Tonight’s food fare included: baked fries, broccoli and breaded pork chops. Omg. An outstanding combination. At first, the wine was shy, but warmed up and beautifully complimented the juicy pork savoriness while smiling at the starchy potato notes and did a cute foxtrot with the crunchy broccoli. A classic nouveau food wine from Woodinville.

Pale straw out of the bottle, this wine is especially sensitive to temperature. Too cool and the flavors lock up tightly. Too warm and the tangy notes dominate. Scents of tropical fruit, grapefruit, peach, and Granny Smith apple evolve to a palate of citrus zing, green melon, banana, and a sultry licorice kiss. 30 cases.

Alcohol: 12.5%. Puget Sound AVA. Estate vineyard. No notes from the winery (website needs updating). I’m guessing neutral oak for a couple of months. Amazingly refined for being so quickly vinted. A terrific blog. Music pairing: “Ride” by Dee Dee Sharp. Rated: 89. Value: $15. Paid: $19. This is WAwineman…uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.

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