- Written by Rand Sealey
During the past few days, I have noticed some deep discount wine deals being offered in the marketplace. A few days ago, I saw a 2014 Balboa Syrah from the Eidolon Vineyard which normally sells for $40 a bottle being offered for $16 at Last Bottle. Yesterday, I saw an offer from Full Pull for 2014 Basel Cellars Malbec for $17.99, normally $40. How and why do such deals come up? Often, it's because wineries want to clear out back vintages so they can move on to the next vintage. Or the offers may be of orphan varieties or brands that the winery wants to get rid of. A few months ago, Tero Estates decided to terminate the Flying Trout brand it had inherited when Asley Trout left. The Roskelley decided three brands (including Waters) were too many. So they blew out the Flying Trout brand for $15 a bottle for wines selling up to $40.
Back in the days when I owned Esquin Wine Merchants from 1969 to 1997, I made lots of deals, so deal making is not new. Most of the deals were under the table because of Liquor Control Board price posting regulations. Wines had to be sold for a fixed price. Some of the deals were a one on ten cases or one on five. The wines were purchased at the posted prices, and then free cases would magically appear. Other deals were posted off blind which means only the deal makers see them. I bought pallets (50 cases) of 1983 Chateau Talbot, a highly respected Saint Julien Third Growth, which I sold for $13.95 a bottle. I also did a lot of direct imports (called DIs in the industry) where French and Italian wines would be brought in through an importer who took a 10% charge for bringing them in.
In 2010, the State Supreme Court ruled Liquor Board price posting to be unconstitutional, which made deal making above board. Any retailer, wholesaler or winery could make deals directly without encumbrance from the Liquor Board. When the initiative which privatized liquor sales was passed, volume discounts were allowed, something that was to the advantage of big store retailers such as Costco and Safeway. Deal making today, is prevalent. Esquin today has a big section on the floor devoted to wines on deal.
Deal making is here to stay. There is so much competition in the wine industry today. Consumers have come to expect deals. And ratings and pricing are what drives the market.
Coming Up: The March issue of the Review of Washington Wines and Weekly Blog
Next week, we will be in Seattle, so there will be no weekly blog. The next blog will be posted on Monday, February 24 along with the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines. That issue will have a lot in it. More winter releases from Walla Walla, revisits to Five Star Cellars, Basel Cellars and TruthTeller, plus new releases from Eight Bells, Nota Bene Cellars, Fortuity Cellars. Also the first of the year Rosé wines and more.
- Written by Rand Sealey
When we buy a bottle of wine, it's what's inside that matters. But how about what's around the wine: glass and an enclosure? What are the impacts of these packaging components?
It is known that 2 to 3 percent of wine bottles with natural corks (cut from cork tree bark) are tainted by trichloranisole (called TCA for short) which produce an aroma akin to wet paper or dirty socks. Increasingly wine producers are going to alternative bottle closures. The main products are:
Screw caps - These are aluminum caps that are screwed on around the neck of the bottle. Stelvin is the most common brand. These, however, are used mostly for lower tier wine products.
Synthetic corks - These are processed products shaped like bark corks and made to look similar. The two leading products are DIAM, which is made from ground cork that has been washed and CO2 treated, and Nomacorc which is derived from sugarcane biopolymers.
Glass stoppers - A few wineries use these, Eight Bells, located in Seattle, in particular. They are inserted in the bottle neck. and then foil covered.
The trend away from cork will continue, except for the highest end wines whose corks are of the highest quality and individually inspected. It ia predicted that within a few years, less than 20% of wines will have natural corks. This includes imported wine, especially French, which are increasingly enclosed with synthetics.
The other part of the wine bottle packaging (aside from the label which is a visual and informative component) is the container, usually glass, which is not an easily recyclable product. Glass can be melted down, but not easily made into a recycled product. So uses for glass containers are limited and much glass ends up in landfills. Here are possible uses for glass and some glass alternatives:
Crushed glass - Some glass gets mixed with asphalt for paving ("glasasphalt") but only so much glass can be mixed in.
Ground glass - I have seen the operation of machine purchased by our friends Ted and Joyce Cox that crushes bottles into glass the consistency of sand, reducing the volume of one wine bottle into one pound of glass sand. The sand is also amorphous unlike the crystalline silica from which the bottle was made. This increases the usefulness of the product. It can be more easily used in glasasphalt and in other possible applications such as sandbags, concrete intermixtures and more. Experimentation is under way for more applications.
Alternative packaging - Aluminum cans are increasingly being used to package wine. These are mostly in the half bottle (375 ml.) size and for lower tier products. I have tried a few from 14 Hands that are of respectable quality. Aluminum is easily recyclable and there is a market for recycled aluminum cans. Plastic has the disadvantage of a weak market for recycling. How about reusable bottles? When I was in college in the 1960s, beer came in glass "longneck bottles" which could be returned to the brewery for refilling. The problem with wine bottle reuse is the multiplicity of glass colors and sizes. It would be great if a large winery such as Chateau Set. Michelle were to standardize its bottles and take them back for reuse.
Locally, in Walla Walla, we are working on this problem, such as what the Coxes are doing with the help of Philippe Michel and others. As Philippe put it, we are trying to help in a small way.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been drinking more Beaujolais. Why? Because the wines are very enjoyable and represent outstanding value.
The production of Beaujolais wines is located north of Lyon in the Saône River Valley in Southern Burgundy. The principal grape is Gamay, which was widely grown in Burgundy during the Middle Ages. In 1395, the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Bold, issued an edict banning the cultivation of Gamay in the Côte d'Or which he believed to be inferior to Pinot Noir. This pushed the production of Gamay further south in the region now known as the Beaujolais.
Despite the Duke's opinions, Beaujolais remained popular. Much was shipped to England and Beaujolais became a staple beverage in Parisian bistros. The wines are typically generous and finely fruited, yet elegant. The best wines come from the "Crus."named after the villages where they are produced:
Fullest-Bodied - Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent
Medium Bodied - Fleurie, Côte de Brouilly, Saint-Amour
Lightest-Bodied - Regnié, Brouilly, Chiroubles
The soils of the Crus, are typically granitic, which contributes to the intensity of the wines, with interspersed clay and gravel. For more, see the Beaujolais AOC article in Wikipedia.
2018 - An excellent vintage, a bit lighter than 2017, but with considerable depth and fruit.
2017 - An exceptional year. Ideal harvesting conditions, resulted in wines of much depth and strength.
2016 - A less than stellar year. The wines are pleasant but without the depth and complexity of the 2017s and 2015s.
2015 - The vignerons in Beaujolais claim this is their greatest vintage since 1945. The best wines have much power and complexity.
Here are my notes on Crus Beaujolais we have tasted recently.
2018 Jean-Marc Bourgaud Morgon, Côte du Py ($27.99 - wine.com) - This wine possesses a deep ruby-crimson color and an intense, perfumed nose of wild raspberries, black cherries, black currants, crushed rose petals, sweet tobacco, lilac and wood smoke. The flavors are vigorous and mouth-filling, with notes of licorice, cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. The back reveals macerated berries, roasted nuts, and framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5+20 points.
2018 Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly, Vieilles Vignes ($28.99 - wine.com) - Purple-crimson colored, this wine emits ripe aromas of raspberries, cherries, currants, crushed roses, bayberry, lilac, anise and incense. The flavors are deliciously juicy yet well defined, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, black tea and pink granite. The back picks up kirsch and cassis liqueurs and touches of nougat and pencil shavings, followed by a pleasing finely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly ($29.99 - wine.com) - From a higher elevation site above Brouilly, this shows a ruby-crimson color and a seductive nose of fraises de bois, raspberries, currants, rose petals, sweet tobacco, lilac, anise and white incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with medium bodied but vigorous red fruits that are imbued with licorice, Swiss chocolate, chamomile tea and schist minerals. On the back, the wine turns elegant with sensations of framboise, fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs and touches of nougat and pencil lead, followed by a satiny tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine de Marrans Morgon "Corcelette" ($23.99 - wine.com) - Deep purplish colored, this possesses lovely aromas of raspberry, cherry, black currant, crushed roses, bayberry, violets and incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with vivid red and black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back picks up kirsch and creme de cassis liqueurs and a bit of spritz (from carbonic maceration) followed by a pleasingly juicy finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points.
Below are some recommended Crus Beaujolais that have been previously reviewed and which are still available.
2017 Yohan Lardy Fleurie, "Le Vivier" ($24 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - This lovely wine possesses lovely, perfumed aromas of strawberries and currants, with alluring supple red fruits and hillside minerals. The finish is long and velvety. Reviewed 7 January. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Yohan Lardy Chénas, "Les Deschamps" ($25 - The Thief) - This one offers enticing aromas of wild fruits, lilac and white incense. The flavors are pure Gamay, with notes of licorice, cocoa and pink granite.], followed by a pleasingly juicy creme de cassis infused finish. Reviewed 7 January. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine du Clos du Fief Juliénas, "Tradition" ($21.99 - wine.com) - This is medium-bodied but substantial and focused, with wild fruit aromas and generous red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa and high elevation minerals. The back picks up toasted nuts and creme de cassis, followed by a satisfying finish. Reviewed 2 December. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Daniel Boiuland Chiroubles "Chatnay" ($37 - The Thief) - This is relatively pricey for a Cru Beaujolais (most are under $30) but is worth it. It features a purplish color and lovely aromas of wild fruits, crushed roses, violets and incense. The flavors are velvety and generous yet well structured, with notes of licorice, cocoa and minerals, followed by a lingering a creme de cassis and toast finish. Reviewed 24 October. 19/20 points.
While on the subject of Beaujolais, we should take note of the passing of the French wine shipper Georges Duboeuf a few weeks ago. He was largely responsible for the increased popularity of Beaujolais in the 1980's with his flower label wines. He also pioneered the export of estate grown Cru Beaujolais. I met him once in Seattle at a promotional tasting of his wines. He was quite personable. As a tribute, we recently had the following wine, one of the Domaine wines.
2015 Domaine des Rosiers Moulin-à-Vent - This vintage is sold out (the 2017 is the current vintage at wine.com). The 2015 shows a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberries, currants, plums and a hint of fig, with scents of semi dried roses, mulberry, tobacco, sandalwood and whiffs of spiced incense. The flavors are simultaneously velvety and muscular, marked by licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and granitic minerals. On the back, the wine is rounding out beautifully with notes of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, coffee grounds and graphite, followed by a lingering smooth tannin finish. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Not Just for Summer
Conventional wisdom has it that Rosé wines are for summer and that the current vintage should be drunk up by Labor Day. Quite to the contrary, Rosés can be drunk the year around. The French do that and at home, we do, too. Here are some that we have had recently that are still available.
2018 Isabelle Garrault Sancerre Rosé, "Les Grands Monts" ($26.99 - wine.com) - Sancerre Rosé is made from Pinot Noir (unlike Sancerre Blanc which is Sauvignon Blanc). This one sports a bright pink-ruby color and lovely aromas of strawberry, raspberry and currant, with lively, nicely extracted flavors. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé, Pfalz ($13.99 - wine.com) - This German Rosé's a crowd pleaser (we had it at a luncheon with smoked ham). Light pink colored, it has attractive aromas of strawberries, cherries and currants with juicy, lightly extracted red fruit flavors that are accented by a distinct Pfalz minerality. A bargain at 13.99. 18+/20 points.
2018 Domaine de la Modorée Tavel Rosé ($31.99 - wine.com) - Tavel is situated near Avignon and the Rosés are predominately Grenache. We had this at our luncheon and everyone loved it. Copper-pink colored, it has enticing aromas of raspberry, currant and orange peel with beautifully balanced and extracted flavors. A great all-around Rosé. I ordered three more bottles. 19/20 points. Lynn - three stars, highest rating.
2018 Maison L'Envoyé Beaujolais Rosé, "Le Saint Pâle" ($17.99 - wine.com) - Made from the Gamay Noir grape, this presents a light brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberries, red currants, pink roses and pink incense. The flavors are moderately extracted and nicely juiced on the dry finish. 18.5/20 points. Lynn, 2 stars.
2018 La Fleur de Mer Côtes de Provence Rosé ($16.99 - Safeway) - Predominately Grenache, this a charmer. Light copper colored, it shows expressive aromas of wild strawberries, orange peel, lavender and pink incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, with dustings of herbs and spices on the dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 AIX Côteaux d'Aix en Provence Rosé ($18.99 - Safeway) - This, too. is an attractive Rosé. Light copper-pink colored, it shows floral aromas of raspberry, currant, orange peel, lavender and pink incense. The flavors are lively and mouth-filling, with vivid red fruits and minerals. The vibrancy continues on the lightly spiced finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Conde Valdemar Rioja Rosé ($20 - Valdemar Estates) - We had this recently at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla with tapas. Light copper colored, it possesses rich aromas of raspberry, orange peel and wildflowers. The flavors are deft and nicely crafted. Produced from Garnacha (70%) and Viura (30%). 18.5/20 points.
2018 Lagana Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Breezy Slope Vineyard ($20 - winery) - Light copper colored, this offers enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, red roses and whiffs of pink incense. The moderately extracted flavor are bright and juicy, finishing crisp and dry. 18+/20 points.
2018 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18 - winery) - Predominately Cabernet Franc, this presents a light copper color and attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry, cranberry and whiffs of pink incense. The flavors are light and deft, with nice fruits and a pleasing dry finish. 18+/20 points.
2018 Julia's Dazzle Rosé, Columbia Valley ($17.99 - Safeway) - From Pinot Gris grapes given extra hang time to produce a copper-tinged Rosé, this possesses enticing aromas of raspberry, melon and orange peel, with vibrant fruit flavors, marked by bright acidity and a brisk, dry finish. 18.5/20 points. Lynn 3 stars.
2018 College Cellars Rosé of Grenache, Columbia Valley ($18 - winery) - This is a delightful slightly sparking Rosé. It shows frothy bubbles, and a pink color and rose and lavender scents, along with lively red fruit flavors (strawberry, raspberry, currant) and touches of spice and minerals that finish nice and juicy. 18.5/20 points. Lynn 3 stars.
2018 Stoller Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley ($19.99 - Safeway) - This Oregon Rosé offers a light copper-pink color and lovely aromas of strawberry, cranberry, currant and pink incense. The flavors are fresh and lively, nicely extracted, especially on the crisp finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma ($16.99 - Safeway) - We tried this California Rosé and liked it. It displays a brilliant copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, red currant, red roses and pink incense. The flavors are lively and nicely extracted, with a hint of spritz and sweet fruit on the finish. 18.5/20 points. Lynn 2 stars.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Here are a few recent news items about goings on in the Walla Walla Valley.
Barrel Full of Money Raises $55,000 for the Food Bank
On December 12th, Barrel Full of Money held its annual reception and auction to benefit the Blue Mountain Action Council which operates a Food Bank and provides other services for the needy in the Walla Walla Valley Community. Over 55 thousand dollars was raised, which will buy a lot of meals for those who need them. Many wineries participated by donating wines, mostly magnums, for the silent auction. And other businesses donated travel and other packages for the live auction. Thanks to all who helped this event, the most successful one yet.
Marcus Rafanelli Named L'Ecole No. 41 Winemaker
In December, it was announced that Marcus Rafanelli, a lead instructor at the Walla Walla Community College Institute for Enology and Viticulture would become L'Ecole No. 41's winemaker. Marcus is a 2006 graduate of Boise State College with a degree in biology. He enrolled in the Walla Walla Community College Institute for Enology and Viticulture and worked the 2007 crush at L'Ecole. Then five years at the William Church winery in Woodinville where I first met Marcus. After a year in Australia, he returned to Walla Walla as an instructor at Community College. The faculty is happy to see him move on to L'Ecole.
Rockgarden Vineyard Acquired by Force Majeure
It was announced this week that Rockgarden Vineyard in the Rocks of Milton-Freewater was purchased from the Buty Winery. This increases the presence of Force Majeure, which previously sourced most of its wines from Red Mountain, in the Walla Walla Valley, in addition to the newly constructed winery in The Rocks and the Stellar Vineyard.
Todd Alexander Now Winemaker at The Walls
Another development related to Force Majeure is Todd Alexander's taking over the winemaking at The Walls Winery. He is also winemaker at Force Majeure and his wife, Carrie is now marketing director for both wineries. Former Walls winemaker, Ali Mayfield has departed to start her own winery.