- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night, Tuesday, August 15th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant held a "Walla Walla Chef and Artisan Dinner," with dishes prepared by local chefs from with artisan foods grown by local farms. I had gotten a group of friends from PAWS (Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers) together - Ted and Joyce Cox, Howard and Sue Higgen, Philippe and Penny Michel, and his brother. and Lynn and I. The dinner was a BYOW - Bring Your Own Wine - event, with corkage charges waived. So I volunteered to supply the wines for the dinner from my bulging collection.
When the menu was first announced, I found it a challenging one for wine pairing. What wines to have with pork belly and roasted black cod? What I came up with was a Grenache Blanc and Grenache Noir themed selection. What made Grenache a logical choice was the medium bodied, aromatic and moderately tannic characteristics of the wines which would go with the rich, fatty dishes. So I put together a selection.
When we assembled at Whitehouse Crawford for the sold-out event, we were presented with the following menu, to which I have added my wine selections and my comments.
Chicken liver mousse bruschetta with pickled strawberry gelee and dijon. Rich Koby, Fat Duck Inn.
Radicchio agrodolce with goat cheese mousse and fennel pollen on black rye, Robin Leventhal, Wine Country Culinary Institute
2016 March Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley (supplied by Whitehouse Crawford) - Fresh and dry, this went nicely with the hors d'oeuvres. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyard Grenache Blanc, Walla Walla Valley - With floral aromatics, flavors ranging from citrus to tropical and piercing saline minerality and acidity, this made a fine accompaniment. 19/20 points.
2014 The Walls "Lip Stinger" Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard - Crisp and bracing, yet finely fruited, this was a "lip stinger" indeed. Perfect pairing. 19/20 points.
Stuffed Peter Pan squash with lamb and feta. Lainie Carey, Whitehouse Crawford.
2013 Cayuse Vineyard "God only Knows" Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, Armada Vineyard - With an amazing, smoky, perfumed nose and thick, yet svelte, flavors, this was a superb alignment. 19.5/20 points.
Roasted Alaskan sockeye salmon with sweet corn, cherry tomato, purple potato succotash and gribiche, Robin Leventhal, Wine Country Culinary Institute.
2011 No Girls Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, La Paciencia Vineyard - With sensuous aromas of wild fruits and well structure, and a long, fleshy, complex finish, this paired well with the sockeye (substituted for the black cod originally announced). 19+/20 points.
Pork belly porchetta with stone fruit mustard and fines herbes potatoes. Rich Koby, Fat Duck Inn.
2012 Clos des Brusquierès Chateauneuf du Pape - Sultry and smoky, with lavish, rich savory aromas and flavors, showing the earthy and rocky "was" character, this was a perfect fit with the fat inter layered pork. 19+/20 points.
Rye profiterole with blackberry-sage ice cream, stewed blackberries and whipped crème fraiche. Tina Meyer, Whitehouse Crawford.
2012 Betz Family "Besoleil" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - This "CdP" style blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Consult, 15% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah, showed supple, generous, yet bold and full flavors that counterpointed the cream and stewed blackberries. 19/20 points.
2012 Domaine de la Charbonnière Chateaunuf du Pape, Cuvée Spéciale - This was the "star" of the evening. An intense, dense old vine CdP, with tremendous depth and complexity, this really stood out. 19.5+/20 points.
Thank you to our Artisans
Frog Hollow Farms, Hayshaker Fram, Montelliet Fromage and Uppe Dry Creek Ranch.
At our table, the dinner and the wine and food pairings were declared a great success.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As the heat wave continues in Eastern Washington with temperatures around 100 degrees, there is still plenty of summer left. Here are some recently tasted wines that will fill the bill for drinking for under $25 a bottle.
2016 Canoe Ridge Cinsaut Rosé, Yakima Valley, Canyon Vineyard Ranch ($22) - Light copper-tinged pink colored, this offers enticing aromas of tart strawberry Rainier cherry and watermelon, with scents of cherry blossoms, spiced orange peel, lavender and white incense. The flavors are appealing, with notes of grape skin, melon rind and Provençal herbs. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs followed by a juicy finish. 18+/20 points.
Note: This wine is available for $12.99 a bottle at Precept Brands' headquarters on Fairview Avenue in Seattle and at the Canoe Ridge tasting room on Cherry Street in Walla Walla. At this price it's a steal of a deal that's not to be missed.
2016 El Corazon "Red Frog" Rosé, Columbia Valley ($23) - Spencer Sievers and Raul Morin make a bit more extracted Rosé than usual. Brilliant strawberry-pink colored, it brims with aromas of wild strawberries, cranberries, red currants, red roses, lavender and white incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, with notes of tangerine peel, grape skin and minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a dry, persistent finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Syncline Rosé, Columbia Valley ($24) - Composed of 35% Cinsault, 35% Grenache and 30% Mourvèdre, this offers a pink-salmon color and enticing aromas of strawberry, pomegranate and watermelon with scents of meadow flowers, lavender and lightly spiced incense. The flavors are nicely extracted and juicy, with notes of grape skin and pomegranate seeds, followed by a fresh, minerally dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Basel Cellars "2901" Estate Syrah Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - 2901 is the address of the winery on the Old Milton Highway. This shows a pink-copper color and fresh aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry and tangerine, with scents of cherry blossoms and flowers. The moderately extracted flavors are pleasantly juicy with notes of tangerine peel and minerals, followed by a lightly spiced crisp finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ($14) - This is one of the greatest white wine bargains around. Lemon-gold colored, it possesses attractive aromas of pear, peach and melon with scents of honeysuckle, lilac and verbena. The flavors are fresh and vibrant with distinct old vine minerality. The back picks up poire William liqueur and grapefruit peel followed by a nearly dry, nicely fruited finish. To be reviewed in the September issue. 18.5/20 points.
2016 El Corazon "V Neck" Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Brilliant gold colored, this has engaging aromas of pear, peach, citrus, peach blossoms, honeysuckle, verbena and white incense. The fruit compote flavors are appealing, with notes of grape skin, peach stones and minerals, followed by a well fruited finish. Full review to be in September. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Syncline Picpoul, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($25) - This an intriguing wine, from a grape originating in Southwest France. It shows a brilliant light gold color and aromas of granny apple, gooseberry and Crenshaw melon, with scents of white lilac, anise and white incense. The flavors are striking and lip-stinging, with notes of tart apple skin and minerals. The back picks up melon rind and lemon zest on the way to a bone dry finish. It calls out for shellfish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Ste. Michelle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($18) - This is a "50th Anniversary Special Bottling" with script lettering on the label like that of the 1967 vintage. It's not just for nostalgia buffs. Deep ruby colored, it puts out classic Cabernet aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum with scents of black roses, mulberry, olive and anise. The flavors are direct and true to variety, with ample dark fruits, licorice, chocolate and earth, followed by a fruit forward, yet focused moderate tannin and acid finish. Purchased for $12.50. 18/20 points.
2015 Charles Smith "Boom Boom" Syrah, Washington State ($18) - Purplish ruby colored, this wine has typical Syrah aromas of blackberries, blueberries and currants with scents of rosebuds, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The medium bodied flavors are generous with good varietal character, intermixed with licorice, coffee beans and earth, followed by a slightly chewy textured back and soft grainy tannins, all making for easy drinking. Purchased for $13.99. 18/20 points.
2015 Tenet Wines "The Pundit" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($25) - Produced by Ste. Michelle, this shows an inky purple color (typical of a young Syrah) and a rich nose of blackberries, blueberries and black currants, with scents of black roses, mulberry, tobacco, lavender, olive and incense. The black and blue fruit flavors are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picks up pressed berries, and creme de cassis, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. Purchased for $19.50. 18.5/20 points.
2014 Dunham Cellars "Three Legged Red" Wine, Washington State ($24) - This proprietary blend offers a deep ruby color and engaging aromas of blackberries, cherries, plums, red roses, mulberry and smoke. The flavors are medium bodied yet well stuffed, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picks up pressed berries and roasted nuts, and the finish possesses enough acidity for depth and structure on the satisfying finish. Purchased for $18. 18/20 points.
2013 Tero Estates Barbera, Walla Walla Valley ($24) - Sourced from the Dugger Creek Vineyard, this shows a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberries, black cherries, black currants and black roses. The flavors are robust, yet generous, marked by chocolate, espresso and minerals. The back picks up tart cherries (a trait of Barbera) counterpointed by amaretto and nougat, followed by a satisfying finish. Full review in September. 18.5+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last March, I was one of the judges for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. The wines were tasted blind in various categories according to variety or type, and price. The winners were announced in the August issue of Seattle Magazine. Here is a compilation of the winning wines which I have reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines and a few others, with my comments.
White Wine of the Year - 2014 Forgeron Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($28) - In my review of March 2016, I called this a "nicely balanced" Chardonnay. Sourced from various vineyards, some from cool sites, some from warmer ones, it shows fine varietal character. At $28, it offers fine value. 18.5/20 points.
Chardonnay, $20 or Less - 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle "Indian Wells" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($18) - I missed reviewing this, but after seeing the Awards listing, I picked up a bottle. I found it to be crowd-pleasing style of Chardonnay with semi tropical aromas and flavors, balanced by a bright, juicy finish. 18/20 points.
Rosé, All Prices - 2016 College Cellars Rosé of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Reed Vineyard ($16) - From the teaching winery of the Walla Walla Community College, this was made from Pinot Gris grapes given extended hang time to produce a pleasingly supple copper hued Rosé. 18/20 points. March issue.
Red Wine of the Year - 2014 B. Leighton Syrah, Yakima Valley, Olsen Brothers Vineyard ($45) - Due to very limited availability, I have not reviewed this wine. But my nod from the Syrah over $40 category finalists would go to 2014 Mark Ryan "Lost Soul" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($48) -"a stellar vintage from the first vineyard in Washington State to be planted with Syrah." 19.5/20 points. February issue.
Syrah, $25 - $40 - 2014 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard ($40) - My review said "The flavors are alluring, with layers of lavish red and blue fruits.." 19/20 points. January issue.
Cabernet Sauvignon, $30 - $65 - 2014 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($42) - This 86% Cabernet, with 6% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 3% Petit Verdot is very well put together. "The range of flavors give it a plus." 18.5+/20 points. April issue.
Red Blend, $20 - $40 - 2014 Mark Ryan "Numbskull" BDX Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - I called this blend of 73% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Verdot "mouth encompassing." 19/20 points. April 2016.
Red Blend, More than $40 - 2013 Long Shadows Chester-Kidder Red Blend. Columbia Valley ($55) - Somehow, I missed reviewing this. Long Shadows releases the Chester-Kidder a year later than the other portfolio wines. So I must have tasted the 2013 along with the other 2014's which scored 19.5/20 across the board. It should haver scored 19+ or 19.5/20 points.
Rhone Blend, $25 or Less - 2015 Kevin White Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($18) - I was going to review this wine in March, but pulled it when I found out it was sold out. The 2015 Kevin White "La Fraternité" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($28) - 60% Grenache, 33% Mourvedre and 7% Syrah - 18.5/20 points, will be reviewed in the September issue - , along the 2015 "En Homage" Syrah, Yakima Valley ($28) 19/20 points.
Rhone Blend, More than $25 - 2014 W.T. Vintners Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($35) - A fine exposition of "Rocks" fruit and minerality. 18.5/20 points. August issue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines, there are 20 wines scoring 19/20 points, two scoring 19.5/20 points and two scoring 20/20 points. How did I arrive at these scores?
As you all know, I use the University of California, Davis 20 Point wine scoring system. This was developed by the Enology department's faculty in the 1940's and '50's in order to arrive at a consistent system for qualitatively evaluating wines. The system was the standard until the advent of Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator 100 Point systems. The Davis system comprises of the following points assigned to wines:
Clarity - 2 points
Color - 2 points
Bouquet - 4 points
Total Acidity - 1 point
Sweetness - 1 point
Body/Texture - 2 points
Flavor/Taste - 2 points
Acescensy (Bitterness) - 1 point
Astringency - 1 point
Overall Quality - 4 points
Half points may be assigned.
The two most important attributes are Bouquet (4 points) and Overall Quality (4 points), defined as follows:
Distinct varietal characteristics, balanced bouquet - 4 points
Simply fruity characteristics, some bouquet - 3 points
Little varietal character, simple bouquet - 2 points
Underdeveloped nose, closed, non-apparent - 1 point
Defective nose, off odors - 0 points
Wines of "noble" quality with distinct and distinguishing character - 4 points
Wines that are "charming" with some special character - 3 points
Wines that are typical of the varietal/type and age - 2 points
Wines with no exceptional characteristics, but not flawed - 1 point
Wines with no exceptional characteristics, and possess flaws - 0 points
It is the these qualities that distinguish exceptional or great wines from good or very good ones. (The remaining points are for balance and without flaws, and all wines I review get one or two points in these categories). They have distinctive aromatics and special or distinguishing character. These are the ones that score 19, 19.5 or 20 points. Here are some examples from the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
2014 Co Dinn Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain, Roskamp Vineyard, Block Two ($50) - Classic varietal aromas - 3.5 points for Bouquet. 3.5 points for Overall Quality - 19/20 points.
2014 Walla Walla Vintners "GSM" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($42) - Richly aromatic, complex nose. 3.5 points for Bouquet. 3.5 points for Overall Quality. 19/20 points.
2015 Rotie Cellars Southern Red Blend, Washington State ($48) - Seductive aromas. 3.5 points for Bouquet. Lavish, sensuous, complex flavors. 3.5 points for Overall Quality. 19.5/20 points.
2012 G. Cuneo Cellars "Seccopassa" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($75) - Intense nose of dried fruits and aromatics. 3.5 points for Bouquet. "As good as any of the best Italian Amarones." 4 points for Overall Quality. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($94) - Classic, intoxicating nose. 4 points for Bouquet. "Admirably put together." 4 points for Overall Quality. 20/20 points.
2015 Rotie Cellars Northern Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($48) - Intoxicating, highly aromatic nose. 4 points for Bouquet. An array of complex flavors and aromas. 4 points for Overall Quality. 20/20 points.
Does this mean a 20 points wine is equivalent to a 100 points wine, or a 19 points wine a 95 point one? The answer is no. Do not multiply the 20 point system score by five to get an equivalent 100 points score. The 100 point systems (The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator) are more subjective and less qualitative than the 20 point system than the 20 point system. A U.C. Davis 20 point wine is a balanced, distinguished "noble" wine worthy of admiration, without having to bow down before an almighty 99 or 100 points Bordeaux.
What all this brings us to is that the 19, 19.5 and 20 points scoring wines in the Review of Washington Wines offer greater value for the money than the highly coveted wines from elsewhere.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Chris Dowsett is not only the winemaker for the Buty Winery in Walla Walla; he also makes his own wines under the Dowsett Family label. They are truly family produced, with some of the grapes coming from Chris' aunt, and his sister and brother in law. Recently, I got samples of the new releases along with Chris' comments on the wines. Here are my reviews, together with the commentary.
2016 Dowsett Family Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Aunt Diane's Vineyard ($16) - Brilliant gold colored, this possesses an intriguing, rich, smoky nose of Asian pear-apple, white peach, musk melon, grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, lemongrass and oriental white incense. The flavors, as well, are distinctive, more in the Alsace style, with full bodied old vine character and notes of peach stone, grape skin extracts, and volcanic minerals. The back picks up melon rind, grapefruit peel, toasted hazelnuts and persistent minerals on the bone dry finish Makes a striking alternative to those ubiquitous off-dry and medium-dry Rieslings. A bargain at $16. 18.5/20 points.
Chris writes, "This is a dry Riesling from a tiny vineyard in the Gorge, above Husum, that my Aunt's family has owned for generations. The vines were planted in 1960 and went through periods of use and neglect. In 2012, my Aunt and I started to bring the vineyard back from the weeds and suckers. I did 37 cases of wine in 2014, 42 in 2015, and a massive 73 in 2016. It is at 1100-1150 feet elevation and has a long, slow growing season. Barrel fermented (very old and neutral) to give body and balance to the acidity, it is finished dry."
2016 Dowsett Family Gewürztraminer, Columbia Gorge ($14) - Brilliant gold colored, this emits enticing aromas of pear, nectarine, citrus, melon, litchi nuts, honeysuckle, clover and spiced white incense. The flavors are fresh, lively and well extracted, with notes of fruit stones, pear skin, grape skin, and Columbia Gorge volcanic minerals. The back reveals sensations of poire William liqueur, grapefruit zest, ginger, melon rind and recurring litchi nuts on the way to a spice (nutmeg, clove, coriander) dusted dry finish. With plenty of varietal character, this scores 18.5/20 points.
Chris' comments: "This is the first version of this wine I have bottled. It is a blend of Celilo and Oak Ridge Vineyard fruit. I will continue to make the Celilo single vineyard release. I worked with Oak Ridge Vineyard from 1997-2001 at Canoe Ridge Vineyard, and always kept in touch with the owners. When a half acre of fruit opened up, I grabbed it. I tank fermented the Oak Ridge piece and blended some neutral oak fermented Celilo Vineyard fruit with it. I wanted to have a Gewürztraminer that I could let wine programs afford to pour by the glass, release a fresh spicy Gewurz young and still be able to give the Celilo release a longer period of bottle age before release. I will release this late summer."
2016 Dowsett Family "Georgia Rose" Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards ($16.50) - Because this wine was made in Walla Walla, it is labeled "Oregon." Named for Georgia Rose Hannigan Johnson, Chris' maternal grandmother, it shows a pink-salmon color and intriguing aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red currants, watermelon, cherry blossoms, pink lilac, and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, just right, with notes of grape skin, melon rind and stony minerals. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs and touches of dried currants and orange peel, followed by a crisp, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the second vintage of this wine. My sister and brother-in-law bought some land on the east side of the Willamette Valley, in an area called Pete's Mountain. There are vines planted in 2000 on the site that they fell in love with. It is a strip of hillside with mostly Jory soils and three different clones of Pinot Noir. They are farmed by an amazing vineyard management company and they sell most of their fruit to a California winery and a few small Oregon wineries. I have used a small amount of the 777 clone Pinot Noir from the bottom of the hill for this wine. It was whole cluster pressed gently until I tasted excess tannins and phenolics, and then fermented cool in stainless. I love dry Pinot Noir Rosé and could not resist making this."
2015 Dowsett Family Pinot Noir, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards (price TBD) - This wine exhibits a deep brick red color and an intoxicating, smoky nose of wild fruits - fraises de bois, huckleberries, old tree cherries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, pipe tobacco, oregano, sweet pea flowers, violets and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are deep and encompassing, replete with red licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and mountainside earth and minerals. The velvety yet grainy textured back reveals sensations of pressed berries, cerise and cassis liqueurs, and touches of nougat and orange peel. The lingering finish is savory and sensuous, with the persistently smoky fruits wrapped around the slightly grainy moderate tannin finish that is lifted by vivid fruit acids. 19.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the first red Pinot I have made for Dowsett Family. Growing up on a vineyard in Oregon, I fell in love with two things: Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. I loved red Pinot, rosé Pinot and Blanc de Noir. I also tasted many wines and began to love the expression of the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir. I knew it was the one I would like to try and make someday. The Pommard at my sister's place is in the middle of the hill and beautiful. I could not resist making a tiny bit of this. I used just under 20% new French oak, fermented in small fermenters letting one get warm to balance some tannin with the acidity, and used 20% whole (uncrushed) clusters in one fermenter to lift the fruit a bit. We bottled just over 100 cases and will release in September. My entire family is very excited with this wine!"