- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in April, while judging for the Seattle Wine Awards, table went through a couple of flights of about 15 Washington Chardonnays each. There seemed to be a depressing sameness about most of them, with only a couple of standouts in each flight. Most of the wines had good varietal character but without distinction. So, later on, in May, I was thrilled to find some real standout Chardonnays that displayed terroir and microclimate specificity. Two were from The Walls, Ali Mayfield and Mike Martin's winery in Walla Walla. They came from the White Salmon Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. From volcanic soil and from a transitional climate, they showed great precision and site specific distinction. Then, a few weeks later, I visited Coman Din at his Co Din winery in Grandview. Sourced from the Rosekamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain and with southern exposure, again I discovered distinctive character. These wines are:
2014 The Walls "La Lutte" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($42) - Reviewed June - 19/20 points.
2014 The Walls "McAndrew" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($42) - Reviewed June - 19/20 points.
2013 Co Dinn Chardonnay, Snipes Mountain, Rosekamp Vineyard ($45) - Reviewed July - 19.5/20 points.
Since then, I have run across a few more outstanding, site specific Washington Chardonnays:
2015 Owen Roe Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard ($48) - From a block planted in the 1990's, this shows distinct Rattlesnake Hills minerality and varietal purity. To be reviewed in the November issue 19+/20 points.
2015 àMaurice Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($32) - To be reviewed in November - 19/20 points.
2015 Buty Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($42) - To be reviewed November 19+/20 points.
Conner Lee, situated on Radar Hill in the Frenchman Hills near Othello is a fine source of Chardonnay. Great varietal precision and distinct minerality.
2014 Domaine J. Meuret Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($35) - From the same vineyard as The Walls above. To be reviewed December - 19+/20 points.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes, Evergreen Vineyard ($35) - The caliche soil and old vines make this a distinctive Chardonnay. To be reviewed in December - 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2016 Heads to Endgame
This year's grape harvest is now over three fourths of the way through. Most of the remaining grapes to be picked are Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, varieties that are typically slow maturing. On Monday, Brian Rudin (Canvasback) reported that he still had a third of the crop on Red Mountain remaining to be picked and that more were about to be picked. This morning, I talked with Rich Funk (Saviah Cellars) and he said he was happy with the way the harvest was going, especially with Syrah, with great fruit from the Rocks, and with Cabernet.
The thing that is looming in everyone's mind now is the report that a major storm will be moving through the state starting tomorrow afternoon. The Cliff Mass report predicts a cyclonic storm to move eastward. The coast and Puget Sound will receive the brunt of the storm with high winds and heavy rain, but as it moves eastward, wind and rain will impede the harvest in Eastern Washington. Pickers are, at this moment, working in the vineyards to get as much done as they can. Saturday may see the greatest impact of the storm, with weather calming down by Monday. Luckily, as Rich Funk pointed out, the thick skinned Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot grapes can withstand rain well.
Fingers crossed, more later!
Walla Walla Valley Fall Release Weekend Recommendations
This year, Fall Release Weekend will be November 4-6. Below is a list of recommendations of wineries to visit. It is not an inclusive list, but consists of ones that will be releasing outstanding wines, scoring 19 or 19.5 points, that have been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines and, therefore, merit special attention.
àMaurice Cellars - Anna Schafer has turned out some impressive 2015 whites and 2014 reds (19 - 19.5 points), to be reviewed in the November issue, on line October 24.
Ardor Cellars - Ardor has four superb single vineyard Syrahs (19 points each) and a blend of the four (19.5 points). Reviewed October.
Buty - Nina Buty and Chris Dowsett have beautiful 2015 whites and 2014 reds to pour. They are not to be missed. To be in the November issue.
Maison Bleue - Check out the 2014 Métis Rouge and the 2014 Domaine J. Meuret Chardonnay and 2014 Pinot Noir from the Columbia Gorge. To be reviewed in December.
March Cellars - Ashley Trout's tasting room on Lyday Lane, off Braden Road, has just opened. She has a lovely 2014 Chardonnay (19 points, reviewed October). Also check out the 2015 Vital Red Blend and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon to be reviewed December.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd has some outstanding 2014 reds (19+ - 19.5 points) and tasty 2015 whites. Reviewed September and October.
Seven Hills - Outstanding 2013's and 2014's (September and October), including the new 2014 Pentad (19.5/20 points, to be reviewed December).
Spring Valley Vineyards - The 2013 Muleskinner Merlot, Derby Cabernet and Uriah are outstanding (19 points).
Tero Estates - The 2013 "DC3" Red and Cab Franc are outstanding (19+ points) and the 2011 Old Block Cabernet scored 19.5 points. Reviewed October.
Tuesday, October 18 - The Re-emergence of Site Specific Chardonnay
Monday, October 24 - More About the Wineries visited on the Olympic Peninsula (along with the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend, September 30 - October 1, we went to some events celebrating fall harvest. Here's what we did.
On Friday morning, the 30th. we checked out Ashley Trout's new March Cellars / Vital tasting room on Lyday Lane, off Braden Road in the South Valley. It was the first day open, having gotten its liquor license sooner than expected. New releases are the 2015 Vital Red Blend and the 2014 March Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, both to be reviewed in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines. See the October issue for the already released 2015 March Cellars Chardonnay.
On early Saturday afternoon, October 1, we went south to Windrow Vineyard near Milton-Freewater for Tero Estate's annual "Wine & Swine in the Vine" event. A roasted pig was served along with cole slaw and baked beans. Delicious! This event was the official release of the 2013 "DC3" Cab Franc-Merlot blend, the 2013 Windrow Vineyard Cabernet Franc and 2011 Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon. See the October issue for reviews of these. There also was a preview of the 2014 Petit Verdot/Petite Sirah blend to be released next spring. Thanks to Doug and Jan Roskelley for this fun event.
Later in the afternoon was àMaurice Cellars' Fall Harvest Celebration at the winery off Mill Creek road east of Walla Walla. Winemaker Anna Schafer and parents, Tom and Kathleen, and other family members were on hand to greet guests. Five new wines were poured, the 2015 Conner Lee Chardonnay, the 2014 Gamache Vineyard Malbec, the 2013 Artist Series McCool Red, the 2013 Amparo Malbec and the 2013 Night Owl Red. Tom Schafer gave guided tours of the Estate Vineyard, and a tasty pork cassoulet was served. And there was pumpkin carving for the kids. Again, more fun.
Coming soon, Fall Release Weekend, November 4-6. Watch for the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines on the 24th for a preview.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The 2016 Washington wine grape harvest is now well under way. Most white grapes have been harvested and Merlot and Syrah are nearly complete. Cabernet Sauvignon is due to come in during October. This is the fifth of a succession of early harvests since the protracted ones of 2010 and 2011. The cumulative degree days so far this year are below 2015's but it all looks good for another fine year. More later.
March Cellars/Vital Wine Opens a New Tasting Room
Ashley Trout's new ventures, Vital Wines and March Cellars has opened a new tasting room on Lyday Lane, just off Braden Road in the South Walla Walla Valley. Hours are Friday-Saturday from 11 to 5 and Monday-Thursday from 11 to 4. The 2015 March Cellars Chardonnay was reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington wines and the Vital Wines second release, the 2015 "The Gifted" BDX blend will be in the December issue.
Harvest Celebrations in Walla Walla
On Saturday, October 1, Tero Estates and àMaurice Cellars will be having events for club members and friends. Tero's annual Wine and Swine roast will be at the winery near Milton-Freewater, with its signature pig roast. The Schafer family will be hosting its annual Fall Harvest with pumpkin carving for the kids and Tom Schafer's guided tour of the Estate Vineyard. New releases will be featured.
In Memoriam: Mike Wallace and Scott Pontin
Recently, two Yakima Valley winemaking pioneers passed away. Mike Wallace who founded Hinzerling Cellars with his father died of complications of pneumonia and Scott Pontin of Pontin del Roza was stricken by a heart attack. It is a great loss to the Prosser wine community. These two guys did much to put the Yakima Valley on the wine map. I remember them as good friends from the 1970's before higher profile winemakers came to the fore. Washington winemaking owes much for their legacy.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On September 20th, the Sons of Bacchus (SOB's) and a Daughter of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Premier Cru White Burgundies from the Côte d'Or, comprised mainly of the communes of Aloxe Corton, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. Eight wines in all were tasted and ranked in order of preference. Here are the results with my rankings, scored and notes, in order of group preferences.
2011 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, La Romanée - This was the hands down overall winner, picked as the top wine by a majority of the participants. My notes: Brilliant gold color. Floral aromas of pear, peach and spring flower. Exquisitely wrought, with distinct mineralogy and fine balance. 19+/20 points.
2004 Domaine Vincent Girardin Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Combettes - This was surprisingly vivid for a 12 year old white. Deep gold colored. Nose of butternut, woods, stone and a hint of white smoke. The well developed flavors were strikingly vigorous, bolstered by bright fruit acids. 19/20 points. Interestingly, another Girardin wine, 2005 Meursault Geneveieres-Dessous, showed its age with noticeable oxidation and butternut.
2010 Louis Latour Chassage-Montrachet 1er Cru, Morgeot- Deep lemon gold colored, this showed a floral nose of peach, apricot, butternut, and exquisite, with well-defined mineral, slightly nutted flavors and fine fruit acids on the lingering finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 Domaine Philippe Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Chenevottes - This wine was fourth overall, but impressive. Still a young wine, it showed a brilliant gold color and a soft nose of pear, peach and meadow flowers. The nicely delineated flavors were stylish and upright. 18.5+/20 points. With further aging, should go to 19/20 points.
The other wines were noteworthy as well.
2010 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru - Put in for good measure, this showed a medium gold color and an exquisite nose of pear, peach and wet stone. The flavors were precise and varietally pure, with a bit of citrus and vanillin on the back. My preference for third place. 19+/20 points.
2012 Domaine Bruno Colin Chassage-Montrachet, 1er Cru, En Remilly - Rich, almost buttery nose of pear, peach and flowers. The flavors were rich, yet precise, with notes of grape skin, peach stone and minerals. 19/20 points.
2014 Domaine Antoine Jobard Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru - From the town of Blagny, adjacent to Meursault, this was another young wine that should improve with age. Brilliant gold colored, with a citrusy nose of spring flowers and hazelnut. The flavors showed distinct Burgundian character, with a nice, but not long finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2005 Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru, Les Charmes-Dessous - See Domaine Girardin above. 18/20 points.
Before the tasting, we had a red 1993 Domaine Piguet-Girardin Santenay 1er Cru, La Comme (compliments of Erik McLaughlin) which had held up surprisingly well for a 23 year old. Also thanks to Philippe Michel for hosting and for the fine cheeses and jambon.