- Written by Rand Sealey
Today was supposed to be the beginning of what has been called Cayuse Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. But, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Cayuse Vineyards' Release Pickup and Preview tasting events were cancelled. Many other events, as well, have been cancelled.
So far, there have been only eight confirmed cases of coronavirus in Walla Walla County, which is evidence that social distancing is working here. This is difficult in a Valley where socializing and hugging have been commonplace. But everyone understands the necessity.
Among the events that had been scheduled but cancelled were the openings of new tasting rooms, Vital on Rose Street near the corner of Second, Bergevin Lane on Colville Street next to T Mac's. and Rôtie Cellars on Skyline Road in The Rocks of Milton-Freewater (see the 3 March blog posting below for more about this location). But that's the way it goes.
In place of tasting wine in tasting rooms, some wineries have turned to virtual tastings on line. We watched one a few days ago with Trey Busch, Jerry Solomon, Keith Johnson and the Sleight of Hand crew. On April 18 at 2:00, Doug Roskelley will be conducting a virtual tasting of the newly released Tero Estates single block Cabernets from Windrow Vineyards (to be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines - all 19.5/20 points). For more information, go to TR Wines on Facebook.
In the meantime, I'm continuing to taste wine samples shipped or delivered to me. Coming up in the May issue will be reports on Tranche Estates, Golden Ridge Cellars, Walla Walla Vintners, Gramercy Cellars, Tero Estates and Clearwater Canyon Cellars and more.
- Written by Rand Sealey
With wine tasting rooms closed around the state, and wineries turning to curbside and home delivery, much has changed with wine tasting. Many wineries have turned to offering free shipping and taste at home packages. Here's what I've doing to cope with the situation.
Instead of making the rounds of winery tasting rooms, I've been having wines sent to me. I have received deliveries from Balboa, Tero Estates, Waters, Walla Walla Vintners, Valdemar Estates, Golden Ridge Cellars, Gramercy Cellars, and Goose Ridge (Goose Gap proposed AVA) These wines will be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
Included in the May issue will be a number of 2016 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. That year experienced nearly ideal harvesting conditions for that grape. Having had a sojourn in oak for around 30 months before bottling, the wines are now being released. Scores will be high 90/20 plus, with some 19.5's and a 20/20.
In accordance with social distancing, Lynn and I have been tasting these wines at home. We have been pretty much homebound except for trips to the grocery. I am writing the May issue on my computer on the dining table. All this gives a new dimension to working at home.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic and in between evaluating Washington Wines for the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines, we've been trying some new French wines. Here's what we've had lately.
Louis Bouillot Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé ($22.99 - Safeway) - This sparkling wine offers a copper-pink color, streaming bubbles and aromas of fraises de bois, tangerine, cassis, pink roses and pink incense. The flavors are brisk and lively, with notes of grape skin and stony minerals. The verve continues on the back with crème de cassis and recurring tangerine peel on the way to a finely fruited Brut finish. "This is so much fun," says Lynn. 18+/20 points.
2018 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon, "Les Charmes" ($22.99 - wine.com) - This Cru Beaujolais is a real charmer. It shows a purplish-ruby color and enticing aromas of strawberries, red currants, cherries, rosebuds, purple lilac and incense. The flavors are medium bodied but vigorous, with copious red fruits that are endowed with red licorice, cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, fraise and cassis liqueurs and semi-dried cherries, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Domaine du Prieuré Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($21.99 - Esquin) -Stephen Maurce's Domaine du Prieuré is a respected producer. From a vineyard in Savigny, this wine offers a medium brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberry, red cherry, red currant, rose petals, spring flowers and whiffs of white incense. The medium bodied flavors are charming yet substantial, with notes of red licorice, baker's chocolate and hillside minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, crème de cassis and toast, followed by a soft tannin finish. Quite enjoyable, which gives it a plus. 18+/20 points.
2018 Domaine du Prieuré Bourgogne Hautes Côte de Beaune ($19.99 - Esquin) - The Hautes Côtes de Beaune are the slopes above the Côte de Beaune. Brick red colored, it possesses attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, currant, rosebuds, pine needles and wood smoke. The flavors are medium bodied and direct but solid, with notes of red licorice, black tea and high elevation earth and minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and a touch of pencil lead on the way to a nicely juiced soft tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Domaine du Prieuré Savigny-les-Beaune, Les Gollardes ($28.99 - Esquin) - From an 80 acre plot of 40 year-old vines, this wine offers a brick red color and an earthy nose of wild raspberries, cherries, brambly currants, crushed roses, tobacco and wood smoke. The flavors are generous yet focused, with definite Pinot Noir character, marked by cocoa, medium roast coffee beans and hillside earth. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured, with sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts and creme de cassis, followed by a ripe, slightly grainy moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine du Prieuré Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru, Les Lavières ($43.99 - Esquin) - Brick red colored, this wine possesses rich, earthy aromas of fraises de bois, cherries, cassis, dried rose petals, tobacco, pine needles and wood smoke. The flavors mirror the aromatics with generous red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and earth. The chewy character continues on the back with macerated berries, fraise and cerise liqueurs, creme de cassis and pencil shavings, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine Saumaise-Michelin Pouilly-Fuissé, "Vignes Blanches" ($38.99 - wine.com) - This is archetypical Pouilly-Fuissé Chardonnay. It displays a brilliant gold color and a beautiful nose of pear, peach, grapefruit, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The flavors are generous and resonant, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and granitic minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs, grapefruit peel and touches of crème fraiche and toast followed by a juicy, lingering finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Olivier Dumaine Crozes-Hermitage Blanc, "La Croix du Verre" ($28.99 - Esquin) - This 100% Marsanne shows a brilliant gold color and intriguing aromas of Bosc pear, white peach tangerine, orange blossoms, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are vigorous, with notes of grape and pear skins, sassafras tea and riverside minerals. On the back, the wine turns viscous yet resonant, with poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of crème fraiche and hazelnut, followed by a juicy finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Château Fortia Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($43.99 - Esquin) - Brilliant gold colored, this emits floral aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, papaya, melon, pear blossoms, honeysuckle and wet stone. The flavors are vivid and resonant, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and mas minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs, orange peel and toasted hazelnuts, followed by a lingering deliciously juicy finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Nôtre Dame des Pallières Lirac ($23.99 - Esquin) - This is a tasty combination of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. It shows a deep ruby color and intense aromas of raspberries, black currants and plums, with scents of crushed roses, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and generous, with lavish red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cocoa, black tea and mas earth. The back picks up pressed berries, roasted nuts, crème de cassis, framboise and graphite, followed by a grainy yet smooth tannin finish. Great value. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Crous Saint Martin Châteauneuf du Pape, "Hommage à l'an 1879" ($34.99 - Esquin) - Composed of 80% Grenache and 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, this offers a deep ruby color and an intense nose of raspberry, blueberry, red currant, pomegranate, crushed roses, lavender, sandalwood and spiced incense. The flavors are simultaneously velvety and forceful, with lavish red and blue fruits that are immersed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and mas minerals. The wine invigorates on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, crème de cassis and charcoal followed by a long spiced ripe tannin finish. "This is absolutely delicious," says Lynn. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Les Pallières Gigondas, "Les Racines" ($35.99 - wine.com) - This comes from a collaboration of the Brunel and Kermit Lynch Family. Composed of 80% Grenache, 8% Syrah, 7% Cinsault and 5% Clairette, it displays a deep ruby-crimson color and rich, smoky aromas of wild fruits - raspberries, blueberries, brambly currants - with scents of black roses, mulberry, pipe tobacco, cracked pepper and spiced oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are thick, almost massive (60 - 100 year-old vines) with layers of red and black fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa, dark roast coffee beans and scorched earth. The saturation continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts, charcoal and baking spices, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Les Pallières Gigondas, "Terrasse du Diable" ($35.99 - wine.com) - From a terraced vineyard with 50 plus year-old vines, this combination of 90% Grenache and 10% each of Mourvèdre and Clairette offers a deep ruby color and an intoxicating nose of raspberry, cherry, black currant, black roses, bayberry, garrigue (lavender and herbs) and spiced incense. The flavors are mouth encompassing, with red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and Montmirial minerals. The saturation continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts, mocha and burnt charcoal, all leading into a lingering, savory ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A few days ago, I ran across an article by Sean Sullivan in the Wine Enthusiast (Sean reviews Washington wines for that publication) titled "A White Wine Revolution is Underway in Washington's Reddest Appellation." It points out that 95% of the grapes grown in the Walla Walla Valley AVA are red. The fact that only 5% of the production is white is largely a matter of economics with red grapes commanding much higher prices. But there is growing interest in white grapes in an area dominated by red. The article includes interviews with Marty Clubb (L'Ecole No.41), Chris Figgins (Leonetti) and Tim Donohoe (College Cellars) and indicates that white grapes are now being taken more seriously. To see the article, go to www.wawinereport.com for a link.
This article brought to my mind having seen new vines being planted at Tranche Estate's Blue Mountain Vineyard in 2011. I asked what varieties were being planted and was told they were Rhone white varieties: Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul. Today, grapes from these vines are components of Tranche's Pape Blanc Rhone-style white wine.
There are other instances of newer planting of Rhone white grapes. When Sean and Conor Boyd planted the Rotie Rocks Estate Vineyard, the varieties included Viognier, Roussanne and Viognier which go into the Southern White Blend. Saviah Cellars has a Viognier from the winery's estate vineyard in The Rocks.
But what about other white varieties? It used to be believed that the Walla Walla Valley was too warm for Chardonnay and Riesling, both cool climate varieties. But when Justin Wylie planted the Eritage Vineyard north of Walla Walla, he picked out a high elevation site for Chardonnay and Leonetti has a parcel of Riesling on the estate vineyard. Also, the Aluvé winery has planted Chardonnay at the Menozzi Vineyard, whose proximity to the Blue Mountains make it suitable for that variety. The "White Bordeaux" varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon do well at the Seven Hills Vineyard in the South Valley.
So there are the resources for the emergence of high quality white wines in the Walla Walla Valley as well as reds. Here are some noteworthy examples.
2018 L'Ecole No 41 "Luminesce" White Wine, Estate Seven Hills Vineyard ($21) - This 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillon blend offers fresh aromas and combines the crispness of the Sauvignon with the creamy texture of the Semillon. Reviewed December 2019. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Queen's Road" White Wine ($65) - This is an outstanding 65% Viognier, 35% Marsanne from "The Rocks." It display a cornucopia of semi-tropical fruits and exquisite balance. Reviewed December 2019. 19.5/20 points.
2019 Rôtie Cellars Northern Southern White Blend ($32) - This blend of 65% Viognier, 20% Roussanne and 15% Marsanne has lovely aromatics and fresh, vibrant flavors. A full review to be in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. 19/20 points.
2018 College Cellars Chardonnay, Eritage Vineyard ($20) -This bargain priced Chardonnay is attractively styled and true to variety. To be reviewed in April. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Aluvé Chardonnay, Menozzi Vineyard ($35) - The proximity to the Blues make this a good site for Chardonnay. Lovely aromas and exquisite flavors. Reviewed October 2019. 19/20 points.
2018 àMaurice Cellars "Sparrow" Estate Viognier ($38) - This is a striking Condrieu-like Viognier which shows great precision and balance. Reviewed October 2019. 19+/20 points.
2018 Saviah Cellars Estate Viognier ($30) - Whole cluster pressed and aged in a concrete egg, this has viscous yet well balanced flavors. Reviewed October, 2019. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Saturday, February 29 (Leap Day) Lynn and I accompanied our friends George and Kim Suyama to Rotie Cellars' new storage and tasting facility in the Rocks of Milton-Freewater on Sunnyside Road, just past Cayuse. George is an architect and he designed the building which is located on Trumbull Lane, between the Rote and Cayuse Estate Vineyards. The occasion, held from 4 to 8, was to honor those who worked on the project - designers, contractors, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and so on. Conor and Jacqui Boyd, Sean's parents, were also there. Conor, a retired Weyerhauser executive, had a hand in the selection of the wood and the production of the cabinetry and table and countertops. Work is still in progress, but Rotie Cellars is aiming for a Cayuse Weekend opening the first weekend of April.
The design of the building, comprised of poured concrete and wood, is simple yet elegant. The ground level is the storage and maintenance area. Upstairs is the tasting room, with a long table and a wine service area. The ceiling is supported by wood posts and beams and the room is enclosed in glass, with sliding doors. The lighting wiring and and heating ducts are mounted externally. I talked with the electrician who did a great job installing the lighting - lamps enclosed in glass and connected to steel piped wiring. A ramp runs up the sides to the upper level and Rocks silt and stones arepiled up around the building, making for a structure that is attuned to the distinct vineyard terroir where the Walla Walla River flowed before changing course to its present course further north.
There was food and Rotie Cellars wine served as well, along with beer and a Tequila bar. Master chef Chas Latolais prepared a tasty rice, sausage and chicken dish and Rotie Cellars' new releases were poured: a 2019 Washington State Rosé produced in Provence style, composed of 85% Mourvèdre and 15% Grenache and the 2019 "Stonewall" Rosé, the Tavel style with 45% Syrah, 35% Grenache and 10% Mourvèdre, both delicious, scoring 19/20 points. There were two new whites: the 65% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne Northern White Blend and 65% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 15% Marsanne Southern White Blend, both 19/20 points. Full reviews are to be in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. We also tasted the highly promising 2018 Northern Red Blend. It had just been bottled, so I will retaste it later for review in the May issue.
We're all looking forward to Rotie's opening this Spring.