- Written by Rand Sealey
Last Sunday, March 17, Lynn and I hosted what we called a "Random" tasting. Here is what we wrote in our invitation:
Rand has a wide assortment of wines in our back room "cellar." He decided it would be fun to organize a tasting. His plan is to choose wines at random: some might be outstanding, some "O.K." and others perhaps over the hill. But it will be fun to taste what he's collected over the past several years.
Some of the wines were indeed outstanding, some o.k., some over the hill. Here are some of the more noteworthy wines tasted.
2014 E. Guigal Saint Joseph Blanc - This Viognier-Marsanne combination showed a mineral nose and exquisite, precise flavors with a ling granitic mineral finish. 19+/20 points
2012 E. Guigal Condrieu - This Viognier showed a deep gold color and maturing aromas and flavors of semi dried fruits, hazelnuts and minerals. Slightly past its peak, but still superb. 19/20 points.
2010 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru - A fine maturing white Burgundy at its peak. It came on as being not powerful, but elegant, with a bit of that Bois de Corton woods on the nose and palate. 19+/20 points.
2012 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru - From a soft but elegant vintage, this showed a ruby-garnet color and a rich, smoky bouquet and maturing "velours" flavors, with a long finish. 19/20 points.
2010 Domaine Mugneret Nuits-St. Georges Clos de la Marechale Premier Cru - Ruby garnet colored, this displayed classic aromas of fruit and earth, with vigorous yet velvety flavors and a rich, sultry finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Betz Family Winery "Besoleil" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - This Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah blend was a fine rendition of a "CdP" style red, with pleasing ripe aromas and mixed fruits and a long smooth finish. At its peak. 19/20 points.
2008 No Girls Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, La Paciencia Vineyard - This was holding up well for a ten year old Grenache, showing a funky "Rocks" nose and mature flavors that had faded a bit, but still sound. 19/20 points.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, "Terres Brulées" - This came on as classic North Rhone Syrah, with a strong bouquet and palate entry, followed by layers of smooth, elegant flavors. 19+/20 points.
2004 Long Shadows "Pirouette" Red Wine - Columbia Valley - This "BDX" blend showed a garnet color and aromas of semi dried fruits and nuts, maturing but showing considerable strength and complexity. 19/20 points.
2012 Château Monbousquet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru - This hit the right notes with a rich, smoky nose and pleasingly supple yet structured flavors, with touches of suede and lanolin and a vigorous finish. 19/20 points.
2010 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux Cru Classé - This showed a deep ruby color and a classic Margaux bouquet of earth and fruits. The flavors were firmly structured, yet fleshy, with layers of dark fruits, followed by a long, complex finish. Just beginning to come around. 19.5/20 points.
2007 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red Wine, Red Mountain - This was highly impressive with a well developed smoky-nutty bouquet and medium full bodied mature flavors, still showing considerable fruit and a long complex finish. 19.5/20 points.
2008 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva - The wines of the Rioja district of Spain can age well as this one has. Garnet colored, it possessed a smoky bouquet of dried fruits, orange peel and exotic perfumes. The flavors were deep and complex. Aged in neutral American oak. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Downtown Walla Walla Tasting Room Moves
The changes in wine tasting room locales in Walla Walla has been like a game of musical chairs. Here are the recent moves.
Lagana Cellars - Jason Fox and Todd Bernave's winery has moved its tasting room around the corner from Rose Street to South Second Avenue, taking the location vacated by Kerloo Cellars which has moved all its operations to Seattle's SODO district.
Spring Valley Vineyards - This winery is moving its tasting room to the corner of South Second and Rose, where the Gino Cuneo and Côte Ciel was located. The balcony loft (formerly an artist studio) will be turned into a tasting lounge.
G. Cuneo Cellars & Côte Ciel - Gino Cuneo and Michael Holmes (Côte Ciel) will share the space previously held by Spring Valley. Remodeling is under way and the new location will be opened this Spring.
Spring Coming in Walla Walla?
Last week, I reported on the unusually mild January and cold, snowy February. As of this writing, it is 36 degrees outside, with an expected high of 40. Snow has been melting slowly and refreezing at night, making driveways icy and hard to get in and out of. There'll be a warming trend into the upper 40s at the end of this week. The end of Winter is in sight, but will it be in time for the official beginning of Spring? We'll' see.
More Wines Recently Tasted
Below are some noteworthy wines we've tasted recently. from my wine collection reorganization.
2016 Domaine Gerard Thomas Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, La Garenne ($41.99 - Total Wine) - This is relatively affordable for a Premier Cru White Burgundy. It offers a brilliant gold color and a lovely perfumed nose of Bosc pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The palate is filled with copious white fruits and the back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs and granitic minerals followed by a long finish. "That's the way a Chardonnay should be, with mouth feel," says Lynn. 19/20 points.
2015 J.J. Vincent Julienas ($21.99 - Wine.com) - One of the more robust Crus of Beaujolais, this offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild raspberries, plums and black currants, with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are thick and fleshy, with notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and wood smoke. The chewy textured back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a grainy ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc ($39.99 - Wine,com) - Little white wine is produced in Chateauneuf du Pape, but this one is worth looking for. It shows a brilliant gold color and exotic aromas of Asian pear-apple, peach, Crenshaw melon, honeysuckle, anise and clover. The flavors are full bodied and penetrating, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and mas (cobblestone) minerals. The intensity continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and melon rind, followed by a persistently minerally dry but unaustere finish. 19/20 points.
2012 DeLille Cellars "D2" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - I picked this up a few years ago at a tasting with Jason Gorski. It takes its name from the Route D2 in the Bordeaux Medoc. It is drinking nicely now, showing a deep ruby color and a bouquet of semi-dried fruits - raspberries, cherries, plums - crushed rose, tobacco and incense. The flavors are rich and smooth, yet vigorous, with notes of licorice, cocoa and alluvial earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts, mocha and toasty oak (100% new) followed by a lingering savory finish, with the tannins rounding out. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
So far this year, it's been a topsy-turvy Winter in Walla Walla. January was milder than normal with only one short snowfall and precipitation mostly rain. But February was colder than normal with most days below freezing and 10" of snow. So far in March, lows have been under 30 degrees. This morning, the thermometer registers 11 degrees outside. A warming trend is forecast by the end of the week. But it looks like Winter will not be over until the official beginning of Spring. The good news is that there will be plenty of snowpack to feed the springs and creeks for agricultural irrigation.
While many Walla Wallans fled South for January and returned to freezing weather, we stuck it out until February 27 for a trip to the post "Snowmageddon" Westside - two days in Seattle and two in LaConner in the Skagit Valley. Weather was cold there, too, mostly in the 30s and 40s. We had some interesting wines on our trip: a nice robust Malbec from Dussek (will have to check out this Woodinville winery), a lovely Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Bethel Heights, an elegant Pouilly Fuisse with oysters and Ling cod. A pleasant discovery was a crisp and nicely fruited 2017 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc. I generally haven't been impressed with Napa Valley Sauvignon, but this was an exception. I also ran across a Sauvignon Gris, a variety I will investigate.
This week, I will be in the processor tasting wines for the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. This morning, I will be going to Rotie Cellars for the 2018 Rosé and whites. Later this week, a drive out to Dumas Station between Waitsburg and Dayton. Samples will be coming from Array Cellars (2014 Chardonnays), Brian Carter Cellars, Clearwater Canyon Cellars in the Lewis-Clark Valley, and more.
- Written by Rand Sealey
How I Began Reviewing Adams Bench Wines
It was on March 14, 2009 that we first visited the Adams Bench Winery in Woodinville. We had heard about it from other winemakers in the area, so we decided to check it out. Visits were by appointment only, so we scheduled a time. When we arrived, we were greeted by Erica Blue, co-owner (with husband Tim Blue) and winemaker. We sat at a table in front of the barrel room and winemaking equipment crammed into the small winery below the Blues' home on Hollywood Hill above Woodinville. The first releases were the 2006 "Reckoning" Red Wine and the 2006 "the V" Cabernet Sauvignon. They were reviewed in the April 2009 issue of the Review of Washington Wines, with scores of 18.5/20 points for the Reckoning and 19/20 points for "the V," highly respectable scores for the winery's second vintage (a limited bottling of a 2005 red blend had been released in 2008).
The following year, we revisited Adams Bench to taste the newly released 2007 vintage. I found the Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to be the first wine to score 20/20 points in the Review of Washington Wines. I wrote, "It is not a 'blockbuster' in the sense of weight and depth. But it is one of the most highly nuanced and harmonious wines I have ever tasted. I seen 40 minutes analyzing this at the winery in Woodinville." In scoring the wine, the clincher was the 4 out of 4 points for overall quality, "Wines of 'noble' quality with distinct and distinguishing character." Here is the full review:
2007 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a block planted in 1999, exhibits a deep ruby color with rose edges, and a gorgeous nose of blackberries, cassis, crushed roses, exotic perfumes, lavender and spiced ripe berries. On the entry, a silky array of flavors fans out on the palate: ripe, lightly toasted fruits, sweet-dry berries, orange peel, vanilla bean, licorice, coffee, cocoa powder and minerals. The deep and seamless back palate adds even more complexity with traces of burnt sugar, mocha, dustings of clove and nutmeg and a sense of cinnamon bark. A dribble on the back of the tongue reveals tones of pomegranate juice and a precise juxtaposition of fruit acids, textures, tannins, etc. on a long, long finish. The fine-grained tannins are evident, suggesting 2-10 years aging, but are so satiny as to be unobtrusive. 20/20 points.
Over the years, I reviewed subsequent vintages from Adams Bench. Many of the wines scored 19.5/20 or 20/20 points. Such consistency is remarkable for any winery. Recently, I pulled out a couple of 2009 wines to see how they were showing. Here are my notes.
2009 Adams Bench "Artz & Shaw" Red Wine, Red Mountain - Composed of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this showed a deep ruby color and an opulent bouquet of semi dried dark fruits, crushed roses, brandied cherries, pipe tobacco and smoldering oriental incense. At nine plus years of age (stored at 57 degrees F) it still showed vivid fruit, rich and fleshy yet deep and penetrating, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and Red Mountain scorched earth. The velvety yet chewy textured back picked up semi dried fruits, roasted chestnuts and mocha, followed by a savory long finish. 19+/20 points. Reviewed August 2012 - 19+/20 points.
2009 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - This vintage displayed a deep ruby color and an intense bouquet of blackberries, old tree cherries, plums, cassis, attar of rose, sweet tobacco, cedar, vanillin, anise and exotic incense. The flavors were thick and muscular, almost massive yet refined, infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, French press coffee and alluvial minerals. The wine intensified on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted walnuts, lanolin ("legs") and graphite. The oak was evident yet smooth and sweet, with some tannins to shed yet with plenty of fit. It could go another 10 years. 20/20 points. Reviewed August 2012 - 20/20 points.
Other Wines Recently Tasted
2017 L'Ecole No. 41 "Old Vines" Chenin Blanc ($14) - This is one of the greatest values in Washington white. Light lemon-gold colored, it possesses floral aromas of Anjou pear, peach, citrus, apple blossoms, lemon verbena and clover. The flavors are vibrant and resonant with notes of grape and apple skins, peach stone and saline minerals. The back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs and lemon zest on the way to a crisp, nicely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points. Reviewed September 2018 - 18.5/20 points.
2013 Array Cellars "Dijon Clone" Chardonnay, Yakima Valley ($32) - Back in February 2018, I reviewed Array Cellars 2013 Chardonnays. Last week, I pulled out a bottle of the Dijon Clone from the Otis Harlan Vineyard. It showed a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, pear blossoms, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors were well delineated, Burgundy-like, with notes of peach stone, pear skin and alluvial minerals. The leesy textured back picked up poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of creme fraiche and hazelnut one a still vibrant finish. Excellent value. This and the other 2013 Chardonnays are still available. 19/20 points.
2015 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, "La Madone" - Once in a while, we'll drink a Beaujolais for the fun of it. This one showed a ruby-crimson color and perfumed aromas of raspberry, cherry and currant with scents pf roses, sweet pea flowers and violets. The flavors were filled with expressive red and blue fruits that were accented by licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back picked up roasted nuts, kirsch and creme de cassis, followed by an elegant ripe moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2015 Domaine Ragot Givry, "Vieilles Vignes" - The Côte Chalonnaise of Burgundy is another area whose wines we like. This one showed a deep brick red color and a rich, smoky nose of fraises de bois, cherries, red currants, crushed red roses, tobacco and incense. The flavors were not highly complicated, but very tasty with definite old vine Pinot Noir character, underlain with licorice, cocoa and earth. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, toffee and soft pencil lead, followed by a moderate tannin finish. Purchased for $27.99 from wine.com. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Louis Jadot Côte de Nuits Villages - This is our go-to Red Burgundy and we drank a bottle last night. From the communes of Premeaux and Comblanchien, it showed a brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberry, raspberry and black currant, crushed roses and wood smoke. The Pinot Noir flavors were pleasingly supple yet substantial with plenty of red fruit, intermixed with cocoa, medium roast coffee and granitic minerals. The back revealed pressed berries, roasted nuts and fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe smooth tannin finish. Purchased for $45.99 from wine.com. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last week, I reviewed several wines from France and Germany. Here are some more that we have drunk over the past week as our ongoing search for affordable European wines.
2016 Domaine Brusset Rasteau "La Bastide" ($21.99 - Total Wine) - Rasteau is situated northeast of Avignon. Composed of Grenache and Mourvèdre, this shows a deep ruby-crimson color and a rich nose of blackberries, blueberries, currants, garrigue (lavender and herbs) and wood smoke, The flavors are robust and direct, with chewy dark fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and limestone, followed by a ripe, smooth moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2016 Domaine Brusset Cairanne, "Vieilles Vignes ($24.99 - Total Wine) - From a commune adjacent to Rasteau, this offers a purplish ruby color and aromas of black currant, cherry and blueberry with scents of lavender, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors are supple yet full and concentrated, with notes of licorice, cocoa and limestone and alluvial minerals. The back picks up kirsch, creme de cassis and charcoal on the way to a ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
See last week's blog for the 2016 Domaine Brusset Gigondas, "Tradition de Montmirial."
2016 Domaine La Millière Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc ($39.99 - Total Wine) - Most of the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape are red, but this is a distinctive white. Brilliant gold colored, it emits intriguing aromas of pear, apricot, grapefruit, white roses, honeysuckle, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors are full and mouth filling, composed of yellow fruits that are intermixed with pear skin, apricot stone, and mas (cobblestone) minerals. The back reveals sensations of poire William liqueur and grapefruit peel, followed a persistently minerally finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Domaine de Durban Gigondas ($27.99 - wine.com) - This 70% Grenache, 30% Syrah combination offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild raspberries, plums, black currants, rosebuds, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and chewy, marked by notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee brans and Montmirail stone. The saturation continues on the back with roasted berries and nuts, framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a savory moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine du Prieuré Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($50 - Whitehouse Crawford) - We had this wine with dinner at the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant last night. It was mis-listed as a Savigny les Beaune, where the Domaine is located. But it turned out to be a winner. It comes from a vineyard just outside the commune of Savigny. From 39 year-old vines, it shows a medium brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberries, cherries, currants, rose petals and whiffs of spiced incense. The medium bodied flavors are pleasingly supple, yet well textured, with notes of cocoa powder, orange peel and alluvial minerals. The back picks up kirsch and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed a bright young fruit finish. For a restaurant wine, the price is right. Estimated retail: $20-25. 18+/20 points.
2016 Domaine Chevillon-Chezaux Nuits-St. Georges, "Vieilles Vignes" ($41.99 - Total Wine) - Deep brick red colored, this possesses enticing aromas of fraises de bois, red cherry, cassis, red rose petals, orange peel and whiffs of incense. The medium bodied flavors show considerable old vine Pinot Noir character along with lots of texture and mouth feel, imbued with licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back picks up kirsch and creme de cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a satiny ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Domaine Chevillon-Chezeaux Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits ($31.99 - Total Wine) - This comes from the plateau above the Côte de Nuits. It comes on like a high elevation Pinot Noir with a medium brick red color and intriguing aromas of fraises de bois, cherry, red currant, orange peel and white incense. The medium bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with supple yet well structured red fruits that are underlain with licorice, cocoa and cobblestone minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, toasted nuts, creme de cassis and light graphite on the smooth tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Weinhaus Dönnhof Riesling trocken, Nahe ($28 - The Thief) - "Trocken" means dry in German, so this is a dry Riesling. It shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, pear, melon, lime, pear tree blossoms, lemongrass, anise and white incense. The full bodied flavors, as well, are distinctive, with white fruits that are accented by peach stone, pear skin, and minerally earth (typical of Nahe, south of the Rhine River). The back picks up pear and peach liqueurs, melon rind and lime zest, followed by a resonant dry (fermented to 12% alcohol) but un-austere finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel ($38 - The Thief) - This is a beautiful example of Mittel Mosel Riesling. Brilliant lemon-gold colored, it possesses fragrant aromas of pear-apple, pear, honeydew melon and citrus with scents of apple blossoms, honeysuckle and clover. The flavors are ripe (late harvest) with notes of peach stone, melon rind and slate minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire William liqueur and lemon zest followed by a low alcohol (7.5%) faintly honeyed lingering finish that is counterpointed by racy fruit acids. 19/20 points.
First of the Year Rosés
During the past couple of weeks, we have been attending previews of the new 2018 Rosés from Walla Walla Valley wineries. Here are capsule reviews of them. Full reviews will be in the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines which will go on line February 26.
2018 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - Predominately Cabernet Franc, this offers a light copper-pink color and enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, watermelon and pink grapefruit. The flavors are fresh and vibrant with a kiss of fruit juice on the dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 SMAK Wines "Spring Rosé" Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley ($16) - Pale copper colored, with scents of pear, peach, tangerine, spring flowers and white incense, this wine is fresh and buoyant. The flavors are crisp and lightly extracted with light alcohol (11.2%) lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2018 SMAK Wines "Summer Rosé" Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($16) - Made from Pinot Gris grapes given extra hang time to produce a rosé with a greyish pink-copper color and intriguing aroma pear, watermelon, tangerine, pink lilac and white incense. The flavors are vivid and refreshing, with a crisp pleasingly fruited finish. To be released in April. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Underground Wine Project "And Why I am Mr. Pink" Rosé, Columbia Valley ($13) - This collaboration of Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly offers a brilliant pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry and tangerine. The flavors are expressive and are followed by a pleasingly juicy dry finish. 18+/20 points.
2018 Vital Wines Rosé Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($19) - Predominately Sangiovese (85%) this displays a pale copper color and aromas of wild strawberries, citrus and star fruit. The flavors are bright and vivid, with sensations of fraise and kirsch liqueurs and orange peel on the persistently minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Brook & Bull Rose, Columbia Valley ($19) - Composed of 54% Cinsault, 40% Mourvèdre and 6% Counoise, this shows a pale copper color and intriguing aromas of peach, cherry, guava, cherry blossoms and spiced white incense. The flavors are fresh and juicy, with notes of peach stone, melon rind and flint. 18.5/20 points.