- Written by Rand Sealey
On May 22, Matt Reynvaan joined Dr. Owen Bargreen (Washington Wine Blog) for a virtual "Friday Afternoon Wine Tasting," featuring the 2017 In the Hills and 2017 In the Rocks Syrahs. First, Matt talked about the 2017 vintage, a nearly ideal one for Syrahs. Then about the vineyards. In the Rocks is located near Milton-Freewater on a site strewn with cobblestones left behind on the bed of the Walla Walla River after it changed course about 15,000 years ago. In the Hills is situated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, next to the winery, at an elevation of about 1600 feet where the soil is mostly loess silt. These differences in terroir produce different kinds of minerality in the wines. Then Matt and Owen talked about the wines. The In the Hills was described as being peppery, with briny characteristic and savory Unami. The In the Rocks tastes like rocks, along with smoke, dark fruits, barbecued meats and a bit of funkiness. The wines are fermented with native yeasts, enhancing the terroir driven character.
After watching the interview (which can be seen on the winery website), I tasted the two wines. Here are my notes.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks ($95) - Co-fermented with 6% Viognier, this displays a semi-opaque ruby color and smoky aromas of blackberries, mountain blueberries, Boysenberries, black currants and figs, with scents of crushed roses, pipe tobacco, charcuterie, herb garni and wet stone. The flavors are loaded with rich dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, dark roast coffee beans and minerals. The wine intensifies further on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, burnt charcoal and soy, followed by an endless sweet-dry tannin finish that is lifted by precise fruit acids. 19.5/20 points.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Hills ($80) - Co-fermented with 7% Viognier, this shows a semi-opaque ruby color with a garnet edge and intoxicating aromas of of blackberry, huckleberry, cherry, plum, cassis, semi-dried rose petals, sweet tobacco, lavender, olive tapenade, brine, cracked pepper and smoldering spiced incense. On the palate, the flavors are direct and deep cored, infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and loamy minerals. On the back, the wine takes an elegant turn, with sensations of pressed berries, roasted pecans, mocha, toffee and fruit confit, augmented by touches of braised meats, charcoal and Unami, followed by a lingering dryish tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
Qualitatively, these wines are nearly equal, but distinct in their terroir. Lynn says both have the funk, but in different ways. We were highly impressed with both. The wines are available at www.reynvaanfamilyvineyards.com on the Pop Up Store for a limited time.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Yesterday (Monday, May 18) Lynn and I drove down to Seven Hills Road near Milton-Freewater to the Tero Estates. The winery had just reopened for wine tasting by appointment under Oregon's Phase 1 reopening. When we arrived, Doug Roskelley, the winemaker, showed us the outdoors where tastings will be held when the weather warms up. Then we went upstairs to the tasting room.
In accordance with the Phase 1 requirements, we wore face masks except when tasting the wines. All precautions were taken: a maximum for five persons per group, each group being 6 feet from another group and social distancing at all times by all, and proper sanitation with sanitizers. Wines are served in flights and poured by employees only.
Four our tasting, Doug poured us the following wines:
2019 Tero Estates Rosé of Charbono ($22) - Produced from a grape originating in the Savioie region of France, also known as Corbeau, this showed a pink-peach color and lovely aromas of strawberry, pomegranate and orange peel. The flavors were nicely extracted and balanced, with a bit of spritz on the way to a dry freshly fruited finish. Reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines. 18.5/20 points.
2012 Tero Estates Nebbiolo - This comes from a small block in the southwest corner of the Windrow Vineyard. It showed typical Nebbiolo characteristics of a garnet color and a sultry, smoky nose of semi dried fruits, orange peel and tar and roses. The flavors were simultaneously authoritative and warm, with velvety semi-dried fruit and a long, slightly nutted dry finish. 19/20 points.
These were followed by three 2014 reds, from a nearly ideal growing year.
2014 Tero Estates Charbono - This showed a semi opaque ruby color and intoxicating aromas of wild fruits, crushed roses, tobacco, oregano, dried orange peel and incense. The flavors were thick and round, with notes of licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, mocha and charcoal, followed by a long finish, lifted by bright fruit acids. 19/20 points.
2014 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Block ($57) - This was a compelling expression of 39 year old vines Cabernet. It showed an opaque ruby color and an intoxicating nose of ripe fruits - blackberries, cherries, plums - with scents of dried roses, tobacco, sandalwood and smoldering incense. The dark fruits were mouth encompassing and layered, developing considerable complexity, especially on the long, rich finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Tero Estates Petit(e)2 - This blend of 62% Petite Sirah and 38% Petit Verdot displayed a deep ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of dark fruits with scents of smoke and pepper (Petite Sirah) and perfumes of roses and violets (Petit Verdot). The flavors were deep and well packed, with layers of black fruits that were infused with licorice, chocolate and charcuterie, followed by a long, delicious ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
After the tasting, I commented on how nicely the 2014s were developing. We also talked about the impact of Covid-19 and agreed that wineries will recover, but that will take time.
To schedule a tasting (by appointment only), go to www.trwines.com and then at the Tero website go to Contact and Taste. The winery will be open most weekends and other times may be scheduled. The wines being poured will generally be current releases.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Who does't love wines that overdeliver for their price points. How about $20 wines that taste like $30 ones, or $30 ones that taste like $50 ones? Here are some wines that we have tasted recently that offer high quality/price ratios. Full reviews will be in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines which goes on line May 26.
The Institute for Enology and Viticulture at the Walla Walla Community College delivers high quality wines for their modest prices. Most of the grapes come from the Institute's vineyards (Clarke and Anderson) or are donated by other vineyards. And the grape growing and winemaking is done by Program students.
2019 College Cellars Marsanne, Walla Walla Valley, Anderson Vineyard ($18) - This version of a North Rhone white variety shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and intriguing, floral aromas and fresh, lively flavors that lead into a juicy, dry finish, lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2018 College Cellars Dolcetto, Walla Walla Valley, Cockburn Vineyard ($20) - This is a tasty version of this Italian Piedmont variety. Purple-crimson colored, its has seductive aromas and ample yet focused flavors with a sweetish ("dolce") lip-smacking finish. An ideal pizza or pasta wine. 18.5/20 points.
2018 College Cellars Carménère, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($25) - Ruby-crimson colored, this has seductive aromas of wild fruits, with deliciously ripe, juicy flavors and a pleasing nicely fruited moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 College Cellars Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, Cockburn Vineyard ($30) - With lovely, perfumed aromatics and copious red and blue flavors and a long finish, this tastes as good as a $45 Grenache. 19/20 points.
2017 College Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - Sourced from the Blue Mountain and Clarke vineyards, this has jump out of the glass aromas and deliciously juicy and fruit forward flavors and a pleasing juicy finish. 18.5/20 points.
2019 College Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - This Sangiovese-Barbera combination shows a pink color and attractive aromas of strawberries, currants, Rainier cherries, lilac and cherry blossoms, with fresh, sprightly flavors and a nicely fruited dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
Other Washington Wine Values
2016 L'Ecole No 41 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($36) - Composed of 79% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, half from Ferguson and Half Seven Hills, this is exquisitely balanced, with medium bodied but deep and penetrating flavors and a long, satisfying finish. 19/20 points.
2018 Canvasback Riesling, Columbia Valley ($30) - From the Frenchman Hills on the Royal Slope, this shows how well Riesling develops. Brilliant lemon-gold colored, it possesses floral aromas and vivid, resonant flavors, with persistent minerality. 19+/20 points.
2019 Bartholomew Rosé of Carménère, Rattlesnake Hills, Konnowak Vineyard ($18) - This is the only Rosé of Carménère I know of. Light copper-pink colored, it has attractive aromas of strawberries, cherries, watermelon and lively, pleasingly juicy, dry flavors. 18.5/20 points.
2019 Bartholomew Albariño, Horse Heaven Hills, Coyote Canyon Vineyard ($18) - From a grape originating in the Galicia region of Spain, this has intriguing aromas and distinctive flavors and a racy, bone dry finish 18.5/20 points.
2019 Bartholomew Viognier, Horse Heaven Hills, Coyote Canyon Vineyard ($18) - This possesses a lovely, perfumed nose and pleasingly juicy flavors, with notes of pear skin, peach stones and stony minerals and a crisp, finely fruity finish. 18.5/20 points.
2019 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Gris Rosé, Columbia Valley ($20) - Produced from grapes given extended hang time to produce a copper tinged color, this possesses expressive aromas of strawberry, pink peach, Rainier cherry, tangerine, and pleasingly quaffable, yet textured flavors. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Long Shadows "Poet's Leap" Riesling Columbia Valley ($20) - With floral aromas of pear, peach, Key lime, apple blossoms. lilac and wet stone, with vivid white fruit flavors and a lingering off-dry, racy finish, this is inspired by the great Rieslings of Germany. 19/20 points.
2019 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Magician's Assistant" Cabernet Franc Rosé Wine, Yakima Valley, Blackrock Vineyard ($18) - This attractively styled, with a pink-copper color and fresh aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red currants, tangerine and pink roses. The flavors are appealing and resonant, with a crisp, piquant finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2019 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Magician" Riesling, Ancient Lakes, Evergreen Vineyard ($18) - From a cool site, ideal for Riesling, this has floral aromas and fresh, juicy white fruits dancing on the palate, followed by a racy, off-dry low alcohol (11.5%) minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 DeLille Cellars Roofline Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($20 - regular $30) - This "Rhone-style" red displays a purplish-ruby color and rich aromas of berries, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are generous, yet focused intermixed with licorice, cocoa and alluvial minerals, followed by a savory moderate tannin finish. Good value at $30, a bargain at $20. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Given the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the wine industry, what is being done to cope with the situation? What are the options? Here are a couple of perspectives, one from an industry consultant and the other a retailer, Esquin Wine Merchants.
A few days ago, I received an email with an attachment from Erik McLaughlin, a wine industry consultant with METIS NW which has facilitated major winery acquisitions in the Northwest. Recognizing that there will be a "slow and painful recovery," he wrote a lengthy article, "Thoughts on Winery response options in the midst of Covid-19." Here are excerpts from the introductory paragraph:
"It is hard to fathom any real recovery with unemployment nearing 20% (and likely to exceed it). You can't have that many people out of work and have a real recovery. The business mortality in this cycle is going to be substantial, so many of the jobs these folks would go back to might not be there waiting for them. I'd be pleased with a "V" shaped recovery, but I think it is extremely unlikely. Certain sectors are clearly more affected than others, with hospitality being both the most squarely hit and the least capable of weathering this.....Though they are key to the wine industry in several ways (restaurant, retail, tasting room, distribution, etc.) the core wine consumer is likely the least affected by the quarantine effects. Now their behavior may change, and ultimately our economy is one big ball of string so there are indirect and psychological effects on then, but most of the people who have been buying $25+ bottles of wine are still just as capable of buying that wine."
Among the winners who are doing right are those in DTC (Direct to Consumer) who have good data, talk DIRECTLY to customers, create meaningful discounts/incentives and have authentic online presence. Only the favorites are getting the lift while everything else is being left behind. Erik recommends that wineries help distributors, talk to their bankers, adjust inventories and fruit intake and do time management. For on-premise (tasting rooms, restaurants, and tourism) things are going to be heartbreaking. For some, an unpalatable but viable option is a managed wind-down of the wine business.
In conclusion, Erik states, "Turbulence creates both challenge and opportunity, by definition. Self-honesty, agility, and the willingness to make the hard decisions - doing the hard work will be the key to being one of the businesses that can grasp the opportunity in this time."
For the full article, go to www.metisnw.com and then the Blog link.
To get a retail perspective on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I contacted the people at Esquin (which I sold in 1997). Here is the reply I got from Chuck Lefevre, the owner:
"Esquin, like everyone else has been substantially impacted by COVID-19. We are open but not to walk in traffic - curbside pick-up, delivery and shipping only. Sales have skyrocketed to record highs for March and April, normally a quiet time of year. Delivery orders for example, have gone from 10 to 20 orders a day to over 100. As you might imagine those sales channels are much more labor intensive. We are needing to take the orders, pick the orders, ring the orders, then deliver or pack and ship the orders. Stephanie and the staff are overworked and exhausted - even more so than in December. We are paying the staff weekly hazard pay bonuses and are thankful they are working during these challenging times. Between the bonuses, overtime and additional expenses such as delivery costs and packing supplies, we are not making much if any profit. We are glad to be in business and our focus is on taking care of our customers and keeping the staff safe. We are hoping things return to the new normal soon - whatever that is."
This looks like Esquin is winning in DTC by doing right.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As you know, I owned Esquin Wine Merchants from 1969 to 1997. During those years European wines were the mainstays of our business: French, German, Italian, a bit of Spanish and Portuguese (Sherry, Port). Today, under the present owners, European wines play an important role and they do a great job with them. European wines were my first loves. Here are some wines from Esquin that we have tried recently and love.
2017 Jean-Philippe Fichet Rully Blanc ($36.99) - Iridescent lemon-gold colored, this Chardonnay from the Côte Chalonnais possesses floral aromas of pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The flavors are bright and vivid, with white fruits dancing on the palate, accompanied by notes of peach stones, pear skin and flinty minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire William and pêche liqueurs, almond and lemon zest, followed by a lingering, persistently minerally finish. This is a real find. 19/20 points.
2016 Domaine Moutard-Diligent Chablis ($24.99) - From a respected grower in Chablis, this Chardonnay shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and typical Chablis aromas of Bosc pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and gunflint. The flavors are crisp and vibrant, with white fruits that are imbued with grape and pear skins and saline minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs and lemon zest, followed by a dry yet finely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Regis Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($23.99) - From a grower in Marsannay at the north end of the Côte d'Or, this wine shows a brick red color and a typical varietal nose of wild strawberries, red cherries, red currants, red roses, tobacco leaf, fennel and whiffs of incense. The flavors are engaging as well, with supple red fruits that are imbued with red licorice, milk chocolate, medium roast coffee and earth. The back picks up gently pressed berries, mocha, fraise and cassis liqueurs and toast, followed by a slightly grainy moderate tannin finish. This is what the French call a vin du plaisir. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Beaune Villages ($38.99) - From a respected Beaune negociant, this offers a brick red color and rich aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, red roses, sweet tobacco and sweet incense. The medium bodied flavors are deliciously rich and velvety, yet substantial, with definite Burgundian Pinot Noir character, accompanied by notes of red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and a touch of dusty earth. On the back, the wine fleshens out with sensations of fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs and toasted nuts, and then drifts into a satiny moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($43.99) - Composed of cold fermented 45% Grenache Blanc, 30% Clairette, 20% Bourboulenc and 5% barrel fermented Roussanne, this shows an iridescent gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, white peach, honeydew melon, citrus, anise and white incense. The flavors are forceful yet finely tuned, with vivid white fruits dancing on the palate, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and cobblestone minerals. On the back, the wine turns richly textured, with sensations of poire and pêche liqueurs, marzipan, lemon zest and lees (from extended contact) followed by a lingering persistently minerally finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Pélaquie Lirac ($15.99) - Lirac is situated across the river from Tavel. This 70% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre combination shows a deep ruby color and and rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, black currant, black plum, black roses, mulberry, garrigue, cracked pepper and incense. The flavors are direct and generous, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast, earth and minerals. On the back, the wine thickens, with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, burnt charcoal, lanolin and a bit of leather, followed by a ripe sweet-dry tannin finish. Excellent value. 18+/20 points.
2017 Brotte Gigondas, "La Marasque" ($27.99) - Predominately Grenache with some Syrah, this shows a ruby-crimson color and enticing aromas of raspberry. pomegranate, black currant, black roses, tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with thick black and red fruits that are intermixed with licorice root, cola, roasted coffee beans and Dentelles de Montmirial minerals. On the back, a chewy texture emerges, with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, framboise and cassis liqueurs and touches of leather and charcoal, followed by a satisfying spiced moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Crous Saint Martin Châteauneuf du Pape "Hommage à l'an 1879" ($34.99) - This is a repeat from the posting of 17 March, but we liked it so much, we bought more. Ruby-crimson colored, it emits inviting aromas of blackberries, cherries, pomegranates, black currants, brambles, crushed roses, sandalwood and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet deep and forceful, with lavish red and blue fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The wine thickens on the back with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, kirsch, crème de cassis and charcoal, followed by a long sweetish tannin finish. 80% Grenache, 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Tastes like a $50 CdP for $35. 19/20 points.
2017 Oliver Dumaine Crozes-Hermitage, "La Croix du Verre" ($27.99) - This North Rhone 100% Syrah displays a semi opaque ruby-crimson color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberries, black cherries, black currants, black roses, pipe tobacco, lavender, rosemary and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with bold, up front black fruits that are direct and true to variety, infused with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and riverside earth and minerals. The saturation continues on the back with macerated fruits, roasted nuts and burnt charcoal, followed by a savory sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba ($18.99) - This is a tasty young Dolcetto. It shows a typical purplish color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, tobacco, field herbs and incense. The flavors are pleasingly rich and generous, with red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and Alban hills minerals. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured, with pressed sweetish ("dolce") yet dry fruits and touches of almond paste and pencil shavings, followed by a ripe dry finish. A pasta and pizza wine. 18+/20 points.
2018 Vietti Dolcetto d'Alba, "Tre Vigne" ($21.99) - Purplish ruby colored, this wine emits rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry, currant, red roses, field herbs, anise and wood smoke. The flavors are ripe and fruit forward, with notes of red licorice, cola, black tea and hillside minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, roasted hazelnuts, cherry and currant liqueurs and a bit of graphite, followed by a sweetish ("dolce") yet dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Vietti Barbera d'Alba, "Tre Vigne" ($26.99) - This shows a deep ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed red roses, mulberry, tobacco, oregano and wood smoke. The red fruit flavors are bright and vigorous, with notes of red licorice, bittersweet chocolate and Alban hillside minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, tart cherries (a trait of Barbera) and roasted hazelnuts, followed by a juicy sweet-dry moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Vietti Barolo "Castiglione" ($58.99) - The Vietti single vineyard bottlings will cost you $200 a bottle, but this multi vineyard blend delivers a lot at a fraction of that. It exhibits a deep ruby-garnet color and an intoxicating nose of semi-dried fruits - raspberries, cherries, plums, figs, orange peel - with scents of crushed dried roses, tobacco leaf, road tar (a trait of Barolo Nebbiolo), sandalwood, dried violets and smoldering incense. The flavors are classically styled and medium full-bodied, with semi dried fruits that are infused with licorice root, bittersweet chocolate, espresso and Castiglione hills earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of dried berries, roasted hazelnuts, recurring orange peel, and graphite, followed by a long, long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Marqués de Murrietta Rioja Reserva, "Finca Ygay" ($20.99) - This is another repeat, but I put it in here because it's such a great buy (regular: $25.99). Composed of 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuela and 2% Garnacha, it shows a ruby-garnet color and rich, smoky aromas of raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with ample yet focused fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and earth. The back picks up roasted berries and touches of almonds and American oak, followed by a ripe, moderate sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
Dow's 10 Year Tawny Port ($34.99) - This comes from a highly respected Oporto House. Hold it to the light and it shows a distinct tawny edge. The aromas are rich and sultry, with scents of semi-dried fruits - cherry, plum, fig - dried roses and orange peel. The sweetish entry gives way to fruits that have gained complexity from the ten year sojourn in oak. On the back, the wine enriches with notes of roasted nuts, dried orange peel and dried cherries, followed by a long sweet-dry finish. 19/20 points.