Impressions of Recent Washington Vintages
Washington State has been blessed with a string of fine vintages since 2005, but their characteristics do vary from year to year. Here is a summary of my impressions of these vintages together with some fine examples of them.
The 2005 vintage could be considered a "classic" vintage, not so much in a qualitative sense as a structural one. Many of the wines, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are fairly tight knit rather than textured, yet with moderate fruits and acids. It is more of a Cabernet/Merlot vintage than a Syrah one. All but one of the Review's highest rated wines of this vintage are Cabernets or "Bordeaux" blends: Pepper Bridge Reserve (19.5/20 points) TL Cellars Les Collines Cabernet (19.5) Nicholas Cole Reserve (19.5). The only exception is the SYZYGY Saros 134, a Tempranillo-Malbec blend (19.5).
The 2006 vintage comes on as being riper, fruitier and more open-knit than the '05. But some show considerable elegance and opulence. They frequently possess moderate acids and tannins and hence are attractive wines for near term, but not prolonged aging. Here, again, the "biggest" wines seem to Cabernet Sauvignons. Some of the best examples: Woodward Canyon Cabernet (19) Efeste "Big Papa" Cabernet (19) Spring Valley "Derby" Cabernet and "Uriah" Red (both 19) Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot (19) Adams Bench Reserve Cabernet (19) and Bergevin Lane Intuition Red (19.5). The two top Syrahs were Cadaretta (19) and Reininger Pepper Bridge (19).
The 2007 vintage is shaping up to be outstanding. Recently released wines show fine fruit as well as structure. Those vineyards that harvested low yields produced wines of great depth and concentration, wines to lay away for 3-10 years. This is also a vintage where Syrah is coming into its own. Best wines so far: Bergevin Lane "Princess" Syrah (19) Sleight of Hand Levitation Syrah (19) Archimage and Illusionist blends (both 19.5) Kerloo Syrahs (both 19) and more that are yet to be released or reviewed.
Most 2008 reds are still in the barrel, waiting to be bottled. Barrel tastings indicate much promise, including some possibly incredible wines: great fruit, depth and proportion. More to come. The best 2008 whites (Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne) are very fine - lovely perfume, fruit and balance. Best whites: aMaurice Viognier (19) Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay (19) Maison Bleue "Vallee du Soleil" Marsanne (19).
For the 2009 vintage, it's to early to tell. The reds are still fermenting and yet to be pressed and the whites are still in tanks. More later.
These are only generalizations and do not apply all wines of a particular vintage. There are always exceptions.
Walla Walla Valley Prepares for Fall Release Weekend
One of the year's top events in Walla Walla is Fall Release during the first weekend in November. It is less elaborate then the Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend when barrel rooms are decorated and lighted. Fall Release started out a few years ago when Cayuse (of the sought-after Syrahs which are sold to a limited customer list) released its wines the first weekend of November. Then other wineries followed suit so that the weekend became a major event. This year, even more wineries are having special open houses. All the hotels, motels and restaurants are fully booked for the weekend, a remarkable turn-around from Spring Release when many reservations were cancelled. Some winery people have commented that Fall Release seems to bring in more serious wine buyers. That turned out to be the case last year and may well be this year, too. I will report on the outcome in a future blog.