There are currently eight wine producers in Clark County, Washington. But none of them are familiar to the people of Oregon, because the Beaver State has its own wine industry with hundreds of producers to visit and support. Yet, the Vancouver-area wineries are easy to reach from Portland, and they tend to produce different varietals from their Oregon counterparts, making them a good option for a Saturday afternoon picnic.
Last fall we had a lovely afternoon at Rusty Grape in Battle Ground. Yesterday, we ventured to Confluence Winery, positioned on a high plateau above the Columbia River in Ridgefield. The property is home to maturing pinot noir vines, two horses, a production facility and tasting room, plus the lovely home of the proprietors, Jae and Greg Weber.
Confluence produces big bold Washington reds with fruit sourced from the Yakima Valley region, Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain, all in the south central part of the state. Darby and I tasted their Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Primitivo and a blend. The Syrah was excellent, but we were intrigued by the Primitivo, so we bought a bought a bottle and enjoyed it thoroughly it with our picnic lunch of olives, cheese, hot Genoa salami and crusty bread.
Originating from Croatia, the Primitivo grape has been grown in Italy for thousands of years. DNA testing now confirms that Primitivo is the exact same grape as Zinfandel, made popular by Californian wineries. The original Croatian name for this grape is Crljenak.
Weber told us his Primitivo fruit was planted from Italian vines and that the growing region in Washington is one of the best in the world for this particular grape. I believe it. At $32 for a bottle of Confluence’s 2008 vintage, this is a special wine that easily lives up to its price tag. The fruit is vibrant in this wine, but it’s balanced by a lingering velvet finish one might find in a powerful Cab.
Confluence wines are only available at the winery in Ridgefield. They do not supply any restaurants nor retail outlets at this time, so you’ll have to head north on I-5 and make your way to the western edge of Clark county. Be prepared to come home with a case, or as much as the Webers’ will sell you.