- Written by Rand Sealey
In the past few weeks, we have been tasting some more Rosé wines from both Washington State and France. The range and quality is much better than in past years. There are a lot of gems out there. You must buy Rosés now, because they will soon be sold out. I was at Tamarack Cellars yesterday and learned their Mourvèdre Rosé was down to the last four cases.
2017 CAVU Cellars Barbera Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($25) - Copper-pink colored, this possesses intriguing aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red plums, orange blossoms, with fresh lively flavors and a juicy, nicely extracted finish. Full review to be in the August issue. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Tamarack Cellars Rosé of Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley ($15) - This is a bit more extracted than most Provence style Rosés. It shows a light copper color and attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry, red currant, cherry blossoms, orange peel and incense. The flavors are comprised of red fruits, grape skin, recurring orange peel and kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a slightly textured dry finish. Excellent value. 18/20 points.
2017 Dama Wines Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($25) - Sourced from the Chelle den Millie Vineyard, this offers a light copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry and tangerine with scents of cherry blossoms and incense. The flavors are crisp and lively, with notes of melon rind and orange peel. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs on the way to a crisp, invigorating dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Revelry Vintners Rosé Wine, Columbia Valley ($18) - This is an interesting combination of 87% Cabernet Franc and 13% saignée Grenache. Light pink colored, it possesses intriguing aromas of strawberry, cranberry, Rainier cherry, wildflowers and light incense. The flavors are fresh and vivacious, with notes of grape skin, cherry liqueur and a twist of orange peel on a lively finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Solemn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - With 24 hours on the skins, this is a more extracted than usual Rosé. It shows a copper tinged color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, rhubarb, cherry and tangerine with scents of cherry blossoms, purple lilac and spiced incense. The flavors are more assertive than most Rosés, with notes of grape skins, rhubarb sticks, kirsch, and tangerine zest, followed by a dry finish. For those preferring a more extracted Rosé, this gets a plus. 18+/20 points.
When we were in Woodinville on June 23, we tasted a few Rosé wines:
2017 Finn Hill "Le Fantome" Pinot Gris Rosé, Yakima Valley, Sugarloaf Vineyard ($18) - This was produced from Pinot Gris grapes that were given extended hang time, giving the wine a grayish-copper color. The aromas of pear, Casaba melon, quince, lime, anise, jasmine and pink lilac are intriguing, along with flavors of grape skins, melon rind and poire William liqueur, followed by a dry finish. 18/20 pointsé
2017 Callan Cellars Cinsault Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - This Rosé sports a pale copper color and enticing aromas of strawberry, tangerine and watermelon with scents of jasmine and wildflowers. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with red fruits that are imbued with grape skin, recurring tangerine peel and fraise liqueur. At 11.7%, the alcohol is light and the finish dry and refreshing, making for an ideal summer Rosé. 18+/20 points.
2017 Savage Grace "Pétillant Naturel" Côt Rosé, Yakima Valley, Dineen Vineyard ($30) - This is a slightly effervescent sparkling Rosé made from the Malbec grape (called Côt in the Loire). It shows a light purplish pink color and enticing aromas of strawberries, cranberries, watermelon, and pink lilac and vivid red fruit flavors that are enlivened by the effervescence and lively acids. 18.5/20 points.
Here are some additions to the French Rosés reviewed in last week's Review Blog (scroll down to see).
2017 Notorious Pink Grenache Rosé ($15.99 - Safeway) - Pale pink colored, this is a delicate, yet well delineated Rosé. It possesses intriguing aromas of wild strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, tangerine, pink lilac and white incense. The flavors are lightly extracted, picking up fraise and cerise liqueurs and saline minerals followed by a squeeze of pomegranate juice and a twist of tangerine zest on the way to a low alcohol (11.5%) faintly honeyed finish. 18+/20 points.
2017 AIX Côteaux d'Aix en Provence Rosé ($17.99 - Safeway) - Pale copper-pink colored, this wine emits intriguing aromas of raspberry, cherry, watermelon, cherry blossoms, lavender, Provençal herbs and white incense. The flavors, as well, are enticing, with fresh young light fruits dancing on the palate, with notes of framboise and kirsch liqueurs and saline minerals, all leading into a resonant, crisp, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
Tomorrow, we will be driving to Lyle, Washington to visit some wineries in the Columbia Gorge. There, we will be tasting some Rosés which will be reviewed in next week's Review Blog.
- Written by Rand Sealey
My first love in wine was those from France. I was bought up on French wines, especially Bordeaux which my father adored. I also have a kinship for Burgundy. Lynn and I have friends there we have known for decades. When I founded Esquin in Seattle in 1969, most of the wines were French. So it stands to reason that many of the wines we drink are French as well as Washington state ones. Here are some French wines we have had recently.
It is the French who invented rosé wines by drawing juice from crushed grapes to the fermentation tanks. Copious amounts are produced in Provence and the South Rhone Valley. Here are ones we tasted recently, some at a tasting along with Washington ones, and others.
2017 Minuty Côtes de Provence Rosé ($15.99 - Safeway) - Produced from Grenache and Mourvèdre, this features a light copper-pink color and attractive aromas of raspberry, currant, pomegranate, pink lilac, lavender and white incense. The flavors are light, yet well delineated, with a crisp dry finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Fleur de Mer Côtes de Provence Rosé ($17.99 - Safeway) - This comes from near Saint Tropez on the Côte d'Azur. Copper tinged pink colored, it possesses enticing aromas of raspberries, cherries and currants with scents of cherry blossoms, pink lilac and lavender. The lightly extracted flavors are fresh and expressive, with notes of grape skin, tangerine peel and sun drenched earth. The back picks up framboise and cerise liqueurs on the way to a lightly spiced dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Commanderie de Peyarassol Côtes de Provence Rosé ($26 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - From the Pays du Var, this offers a light copper-pink color and enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, peach, cherry tree blossoms, pink lilac, Provençal herbs and white incense. The flavors are crisp and resonant, with touches of peach stone and scorched earth. The vibrancy continues on the back with a nicely juiced dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Labastide Blanche Bandol Rosé ($27 - The Thief) - Some of the best Rosés come from Bandol, situated between Marseille and Toulon and are mostly Mourvèdre. This sports a light copper-pink color and seductive aromas o raspberries, currants and tangerine with scents of wild flowers, lavender and whiffs of herbs and white incense. The flavors are light but well delineated, marked by notes of framboise liqueur, orange peel and dried pomegranate seeds, followed by a lightly spiced dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol Rosé ($29.99 - wine.com) - This is an elegantly styled Bandol. Light copper colored, it possesses seductive aromas of pomegranates, red currants, tangerine peel, pink lilac and lavender. The flavors are light but deftly extracted, with notes of grape skin, dried pomegranate seeds and dusty earth. The back picks up dried pomegranate seeds, currant liqueur and recurring tangerine peel followed by a lengthy dry finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Campuget Costierès de Nimes Rosé ($11.99 - Safeway) - This South Rhone Rose from west of Avignon is composed of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache. It shows a copper-pink color and attractive aromas of peach, Rainier cherry, red currants, orange peel and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, with notes of light cocoa powder and hillside scorched earth. The back picks up light spices and recurring orange peel, followed by a dry, nicely fruited finish. A bargain at $11.99. 18/20 points.
2017 Château Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé ($17.99 - wine.com) - From near Avignon, this Grenache/Syrah Rosé offers a light copper color and intriguing aromas of wild raspberries, tangerine and pomegranate with scents of orange blossoms, lavender and crushed roses. The flavors are a bit more extracted than usual for a rosé, with vivid red and orange fruits that are imbued with minerals and pomegranate seeds, followed by a dry, spiced finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Château de Segeries Tavel Rosé ($22.99 - wine.com) - This is a bit more extracted than the above wine. It shows a light copper-pink color and intriguing aromas of wild raspberries, red currants, tangerine peel, lavender, wildflowers and white incense. The flavors are fresh and lively, with notes of grape skin, framboise and cassis liqueurs, recurring orange peel, followed by a spice dusted nicely fruited dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Réserve de Rochers Mâcon-Chaintré ($13.99 - Esquin) - Chaintré is located near Pouilly-Fuissé. This shows a brilliant gold color and attractive Chardonnay aromas of pear, peach, citrus, pear blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The fruit compote flavors, as well, are appealing, with notes of peach stone, pear skin and Maconnais granite. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs and grapefruit peel on the way to a crisp, satisfying finish. Terrific value. 18+/20 points.
2015 Domaine Ragot Givry, Vieilles Vignes ($26.99 - wine.com) - This is an attractive well priced Pinot Noir from the Côte Chalonnaise. It shows a brick red color and enticing aromas of cherry, plum and black currant with scents of crushed roses, tobacco leaf and incense. The flavors are supple yet deep and well delineated, with notes of cocoa, French roast and Saone river earth and minerals. The back picks up kirsch and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a satisfying moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Château de Chamirey Mercurey ($35.99 - wine.com) - This is another attractive Côte Chalonnaise red. Deep brick red colored, it emits definite Pinot Noir aromas of raspberries, cherries, black currants, roses, tobacco, earth and incense. The flavors are simultaneously velvety and muscular, endowed with licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and riverside earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts and charcoal dust, followed by a smooth tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2015 Domaine du Prieuré Savigny-les-Beaune 1er Cru, Les Lavierès ($38.99 - Esquin) - This is a tasty rendition of Côte de Beaune Burgundy. Deep ruby-brick colored, it possesses rich, earthy aromas of raspberry, cherry, black currant, dried roses, tobacco leaf, forest carpet and smoldering incense. The medium full bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerally earth. The chewy textured back picks up roasted berries and nuts, followed by a savory, ripe moderate tannin finish. This shows Burgundian Pinot Noir character throughout which gives it a plus. 18.5+/20 points.
2015 Domaine Andio Lirac "Les Mines" ($21 - The Thief) - This 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre combination from near Tavel offers a deep ruby color and rich aromas of wild raspberries, black currants, plums, black roses, tobacco and garrigue. The flavors mirror the aromatics with chewy, direct red and black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, roast coffee and scorched earth. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts and charcoal.followed by a warm (14.5% alcohol) spiced moderate tannin and acid finish. Almost a 18.5 point wine, this is a terrific buy. 18+/20 points.
2015 Bertrand Stehelin Sablet Côtes du Rhone Villages ($26 - The Thief) - This Grenache dominated wine offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberry, black plum, black currant, tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors are robust, yet generous and velvety, underlain with red licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and Southeast Rhone Valley scorched earth. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured with notes of roasted berries and nuts, creme de cassis and dried herbs, followed by a sweet-dry tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2015 Domaine Saint-Damien Gigondas, Vieilles Vignes ($29.99 - wine.com) - Composed of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvêdre, this shows a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberry, cherry, black currant, crushed roses, tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and robust yet velvety, underlain with licorice, cocoa, French roast and South Rhone scorched earth. The vigor continues on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, crème de cassis and kirsch, followed by a ripe warm (15% alcohol) but not hot ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Yves Cuilleron Saint-Joseph "Cavanos" ($43.50 - World of Wines, Redmond) - Saint-Joseph is situated just south of Côte Rotie to whose wines this is similar. From a highly respected vigneron, this exhibits a deep ruby color and unmistakable Syrah aromas of wild raspberries, blueberries, black currants, crushed roses, tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors, as well, are true to variety, infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans and scorched earth. The saturation continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts, crème de cassis and charcoal prefacing a lingering ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
Other French Wines
2015 Domaine de la Lande Chinon, "Le Veron" ($27 - The Thief) - Produced from the Cabernet Franc grape, this Loire Valley red displays a deep purple color and smoky aromas of black cherries, plums, red currants, crushed roses, tobacco and smoldering incense. The red and black fruits are ample yet focused, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and Loire alluvial minerals. On the back, the wine thickens a bit, with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts and graphite, followed by a moderate alcohol (12.5%) and smooth tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Château Bellevue, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ($59.99 - Total Wine) - I tasted the 2014 vintage of this Right Bank Bordeaux at the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine Merlot tasting (see below for the 17 June posting). This is even better, from a stellar vintage. Produced from 100% Merlot, shows a deep ruby color and a smoky nose of raspberry, black cherry and black plum with scents of crushed black roses, dark tobacco, sandalwood and incense. The flavors are thick, almost massive, yet supple, with interlayerings of dark fruits, licorice, Swiss chocolate and calcareous minerals. On the back, the wine strengthens, with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, dried cherries, plum preserves and graphite, followed by a vigorous yet velvety ripe tannin finish that is bolstered by vivid fruit acids. 19+/20 points.
See last week's posting below for the 2015 Château La Pointe, Pomerol.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Two weeks ago, in my Review Blog of17 June, I wrote about the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine Merlot Panel Tasting. During the tasting, the "Sideways" effect was discussed, about how the popularity of Merlot declined after the movie. This decline was not entirely the movie's fault. There was a lot of mediocre Merlot being produced during the grape's boom around the turn of the century.
But there are other reasons why, as the Panel moderator, Ashey Trout put it, Merlot is still the "underdog" variety behind Cabernet Sauvignon. The perception today is that Cabernet Sauvignon is the superior grape variety, a "noble" one. Much of this is historical, because of Cabernet Sauvignon's association with there prestigious wines of Bordeaux, especially those of the Medoc where the Grand Crus are located.
In 1855, when the Bordeaux Châteaux classification was drawn up, the process was carried out by the Bordeaux negotiants who excludes those from Libourne on the other side of the Gironde River. Consequently, only the Châteaux of the Medoc were classified (with the exception of Haut Brian in Graves), a region where Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant. Across the river, Merlot is dominant, along with some Cabernet Franc. To this day, there is no classification for Pomerol which is mostly Merlot. But, you know what, Château Petrus, which is the world's most sought after and most expensive wine ($3000 a bottle) is 100% Merlot.
So, this BDX association explains much of why Cabernet Sauvignon is so prestigious. Another indication is that the Napa Valley's fame as a wine producing are is mostly based on Cabernet Sauvignon. It is only Washington State, as especially the Walla Walla Valley, that is noted for Merlot wines. There was a Washington Merlot boom back in the 1980's and 1990's, largely due to Leonetti Cellar's success with the grape. Today, Merlot seems to be undergoing a resurgence, but is still secondary, the Queen to the King Cabernet Sauvignon.
Recently, I have been drinking some Merlot wines, from the Bordeaux Right Bank (Saint Emilion and Pomerol) and Washington which show that the variety can produce world class wines.
2015 Seven Hills Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($45) - From old vines, this possesses a deep ruby color and a sensuous use of blackberries, cherries plums, attar of rose and smoldering incense. The flavors are seductive and saturated, highly complex and nuanced, approachable now, but with a great future. 19.5/20 points. A full review to be in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
2015 Pepper Bridge Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - This was one of the Merlots tasted at the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine Tasting. I retasted it for the August issue. It is highly impressive, with seductive aromas and lavish, yet well focused flavors. The elegance continues into a high toned back and a long finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Château La Pointe, Pomerol ($54.99 - Total Wine) - While thinking Merlot, I decided I should try Pomerol.. This one, 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, exhibits a semi opaque ruby color and an intense, smoky nose of dark fruits - black cherries, black plums, figs - with scents of dried roses, mulberry, tobacco and smoldering incense. The flavors, as well, are powerful, marked by licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French press coffee and calcareous minerals. The intensity continues on the back with roasted berries and nuts, mocha and charcoal, followed by a persistently minerally sweet-dry tannin finish. The aromatics give it a plus. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Yesterday, Sunday evening, I returned from Seattle after a weekend on the West Side. This gave me an opportunity to catch up on the wine scene over there. On Friday, we started off at Rotie Cellars' SODO tasting room for the release of the 2017 whites (to be reviewed in the August issue) and Rosé. There, we found Sean Boyd busy shucking Taylor Farms oysters to go with the new releases.
On Saturday, we drove over to Woodinville to check up on the Artisan Hill and Warehouse District wineries which are open weekends only. On Artisan Hill, we visited Two Vintners where we tasted two knockout 2015 Syrahs, then Kevin White which had the new 2016 Fraternitie and En Homage and 2015 Dubrul Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet. Then over to Three of Cups for a bargain priced 2016 La Monde Malbec and 2015 L'Astre Syrah and then Callan Cellars - Grenache Blanc, Grenache Rouge and Cabernet, and Finn Hill - 2015 "Vivant" Malbec and 2014 L'abime Syrah. All these wines to be reviewed in the August issue.
After Artisan Hill, we went over to the Warehouse District on the other side of the Woodinville-Redmond Road. At Savage Grace, I tasted some terrific 2017 reds, a Dineen Vineyard Côt (the Loire Valley name for Malbec) and a Loire-like Copeland Vineyard Cabernet Franc along with a 2015 Red Willow Cabernet and nice 2017 whites. At W.T. Vintners I tasted a 2015 "Gorgeous" Syrah and a Boushey Vineyard Rhone Blend. These to be in the August issue.
The next day, Sunday, Lynn drove on to Whidbey Island and I took Uber to the SODO Urban Works winery complex on First Avenue South, just past Spokane Street. After lunch at Nine Pies Pizza which shares space with Nine Hats Wines, I saw Brian Grasso at Structure Cellars where I tasted a nice 2017 Roussanne, a couple of Syrah and a Malbec to be reviewed August. Then I went over to Latta Wines (Andrew Latta, formerly with K Vintners) where I tasted a tasty 2014 GSM and a a 2014 Upland Vineyard Grenache, also to be reviewed in August.
After SODO Urban Works, I took Uber to the Sea-Tac Airport where I had a glass of 2017 Chateau Bas Cotes de Provence Rosé made from the Counoise grape. Nicely fruited and dry, with a note of tangerine peel, it made a nice refreshment before boarding the flight home.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Yesterday, Saturday, June 16, I attended the Wine Panel Presentation and Tasting of Merlot wines as part of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine: The World of Merlot event which was held June 14 - 16. This annual event was going into its third cycle, with the Syrah grape as the featured varietal last year and with Cabernet Sauvignon to be highlighted in 2019. Each event presents a premier Walla Walla Valley varietal with counterparts from California and France.
This year's panel of winemakers and vineyard managers consisted of Jean-François Pellet, winemaker of Pepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars in Walla Walla, Jason Magnaghi, Leonetti Cellar vineyard manager, Sadie Drury, vineyard manager of Seven Hills Vineyard, Emmanuelle d'aligns-Fulchi of Chateau Bellevue and Chateau Angeleus in Saint Emilion, Sally Johnson, winemaker of Pride Mountain Vineyards in the Napa Valley, and Jeff Bundschu of Gundlach Bundschu in the Sonoma Valley. The panel moderator was Ashley Trout, owner-winemaker of Brook & Bull Cellars and Vital Wines of Walla Walla.
While the participants tasted the wines being presented - one from each of the panel wineries - the panelists discussed the wines and their approaches to winemaking and vineyard management. Ashey Trout did a great job as moderator, asking pertinent questions and leading all participants into a better understanding of Merlot.
One of the topics discussed was the "Sideways Effect" of the movie, Sideways, which caused Merlot wines to decline in popularity. This decline is not entirely the fault of the movie. There was a lot of mediocre Merlot being produced during the grape's boom period at the century's turn. But the effect is still there even though Merlot is making a comeback. The panelists were cautiously optimistic about the future for Merlot. As Ashley put it, Merlot is still the "underdog" variety, behind Cabernet Sauvignon.
As the discussion proceeded, the following wines were tasted, with my notes and scores, in order of tasting.
2015 Pepper Bridge Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - Sourced from the Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge and Octave vineyards and composed of 78% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 7% Malbec, this showed a purplish-crimson color and enticing aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors were lavish, yer well structured, with notes of dark fruits, chocolate and loess minerals. The hight toned back picked up pressed berries, roasted nuts and graphite, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 L'Ecole No. 41 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - From the Ferguson and Seven Hills vineyards, this 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc showed a ruby-crimson color and a perfumed nose of raspberry, cherry and plum, with scents of crushed roast, purple lilac and incense. The flavors were fleshy yet well focused, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans and basaltic minerals. The penetration continued on the back with pressed berries, roasted walnuts, kirsch, plum preserves and graphite, followed by a lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Leonetti Cellar Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($75) - From the Loess and Mill Creek Upland vineyards, and composed of 94% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, this displayed an inky purple color and intense aromas of blackberries, cherries, plums, black currants, rose petals, tobacco, vanillin, violets and incense. The flavors were simultaneously fleshy and taut, with dark fruits that were infused with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and minerals. The penetration continued on the back with sensations of pressed fruits, roasted nuts, mocha and graphite followed by a long, long ripe tannin finish. Highly impressive. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Château Bellevue, Saint Emilion Premier Cru Classe ($50) - This 100% Merlot from the Bordeaux district of France showed a deep ruby color and a rich, earthy nose of wild berries, old tree cherries, plums, figs, dried rose petals, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors showed modern and old styles. with notes of licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and earth. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, mocha and charcoal, and then marches on into a rich, yet classic dryish tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Pride Mountain Vineyards Vintner Select Merlot, Sonoma County, Lower Mountain Top Vineyard ($80) - This is a highly impressive Merlot. It displayed a deep ruby color and a sexy perfumed nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, sweet tobacco, sandalwood, violets and oriental incense. The varietally pure flavors were intense and mouth caressing, yet impeccably structured, infused with licorice, Swiss chocolate, French roast and Sonoma Mountain minerals. The depth stretched out on the back with sensations of pressed fruits, roasted nuts, integrated oak and graphite on the endless finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot, Sonoma Valley ($38) - This showed a deep ruby color and a rich nose of cherries, plums, currants, crushed roses, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors were varietally direct, yet fleshy and bold, with notes of licorice root, chocolate, roasted coffee beans and damp earth. The opulence continued on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, toasty oak and charcoal, followed by a lingering, deftly spiced hedonistically ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
All of these were stellar expressions of the Merlot grape, each with its own style. They showed that the Walla Walla Valley is deservedly famous for its Merlots and the two Sonoma ones prove that, despite the Sideways Effect, California is capable of producing great Merlots. The Château Bellevue showed what Bordeaux Merlot is all about. All this goes to show that Merlot is a grape to be taken seriously.