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Avennia: Wines of place and precision in Washington state

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Inspired by Old World winemaking, Avennia is proving that the raw power of the state’s warm growing conditions can be tamed to produce wines of nuance and finesse.

Avennia was founded in 2010 by Marty Taucher and Chris Peterson, who had met at the acclaimed DeLille Cellars, where Peterson was production winemaker and Taucher a harvest intern. Their new winery’s reputation rose quickly on the strength of Peterson’s winemaking philosophy, crafting wines of nuance and complexity with an elegance that can be hard to achieve in the heat of Washington state.

The notion of vin de terroir is as old as wine itself; stylistically, however, it can still remain elusive, particularly in younger wine regions like Washington. The wines of Avennia have managed from the outset to distinguish themselves, emphasising terroir and refinement over fruit-forward expressions.

Avennia founders, Chris Peterson (left) and Marty Taucher (right) Credit: Hayley Young

The privilege of historic vineyards

Wines of subtlety, with a focus on minerality and savoury character – the winery’s vision – can never be created through the talents of winemakers alone, so Avennia’s focus has always been on finding Washington vineyards that lend themselves to a refined, balanced style. Peterson’s reputation for coaxing nuance from wines grown in the warm climes of eastern Washington allowed Avennia to quickly form relationships with the state’s most esteemed wine growers.

‘Due to our philosophical resolve and a couple of strokes of good fortune,’ Peterson explains, ‘we started, in our first year, sourcing from some of the historically iconic vineyards in Washington – particularly the older blocks from these vineyards.’ This meant Avennia was using some of the state’s oldest vines for the first wines they produced: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 1985 plantings in Red Willow; Bacchus Vineyard’s famed Block 10 Cabernet, planted in 1972; and fruit from the Dionysus Vineyard, planted in 1973.

Avennia winery in Washington state, United States

Credit: Kim Fetrow Photography

Legendary grower

Dick Boushey was also keen to work with the new winery, supplying fruit from his first Syrah plantings, which date from the mid-1990s: ‘when Chris asked me to sell fruit to Avennia I didn’t hesitate for a second… his wines speak for themselves.’

Peterson’s winemaking is inspired by an emphasis on nuance, striving for a balance of non-fruit elements, minerality and savoury character – without sacrificing any of the ripe, concentrated, generous New World fruit that Washington is known for. ‘The choice of older vines and sites that were not the state’s warmest,’ he explains, ‘was aimed at the idea of freshness, elegance and balance.’

Wines from Avennia winery in Washington state, United States

Freedom to experiment

Liminal, a single-vineyard project within the Avennia portfolio, uses only fruit from the WeatherEye estate, at the top of Red Mountain, and has quickly become known for wines of finesse and sophistication, harnessing the power of Washington’s warm growing conditions with distinctive finesse.

The acquisition of one particular vineyard seemed an unlikely choice for Taucher and Peterson’s partnership: the former Tapteil vineyard, now the Avennia Estate Vineyard, in Red Mountain AVA. With its reputation for powerful, ripe wines, the brawn of Red Mountain may seem to run counter to Avennia’s winemaking philosophy – but there is space for nuance here as well. ‘Another advantage of older vines,’ Peterson reminds us, ‘is that they tend to ripen a little slower, even in warmer sites. So when the Tapteil vineyard became available, it was a great opportunity to express Avennia’s philosophy in a new area.’

Avennia is well aware of their precious inheritance from the vineyard’s original founders, part of ‘the vanguard of the second wave on Red Mountain,’ and the history of the site. ‘We also have the oldest Cabernet Franc vines in the appellation,’ Peterson notes, which ‘show those non-fruit, ripe, savoury herb characters that set them apart.’

Tasting room at Woodinville, part of Avennia winery in Washington state, United States

Avennia’s tasting room at Woodinville, Washington state. Credit: Travis Gillet

Allowing terroir to shine

Avennia’s Peterson, named as part of America’s New Vanguard of winemakers in Decanter’s May 2024 issue, has produced singularly elegant wines from across the state of Washington. What’s more, the Avennia and Liminal labels represent some of the best value in America’s luxury wine market – offering intensity and depth combined with finesse, and a sense of place that expresses the essence of Washington terroir.

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