Forecasts from the Crystal Ball


Wines on "Fire Sale" - In Esquin's January newsletter, I found many wines - mostly from Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, but some from Washington and California as well - at prices that were being slashed by 50-60% or more. I picked up a few of these to try. Some were flawed or unbalanced. One wine had ph imbalance and showed excessive acidity. Another had a noticeable aldehyde smell upon aeration. Caveat Emptor! Try before you buy.

I expect dumping of wine at deep discounts will continue well into this year. There is a big backlog of unsold wine, especially from overseas, that will continue to pressure the market. Unfortunately for the consumer, the mediocre wines will be dumped first. (See below for a few Real Deals.)


A Return to a Rational Market - As more excess inventory gets unloaded - along with many "clunkers" - consumers will learn that "Fire Sale" wines are not all bargains. Washington wineries that offer quality and value will gain momentum. And higher-end wineries that deliver outstanding quality will hold their own.


More New Wineries - The urge to strike out on one's own is too strong to resist, and more new wineries will crop up. The commitment of many striving Washington winemakers is truly remarkable.


Greater Awareness of Washington Wines - More and more consumers around the country will become aware of the qualities that make Washington wines exceptional - the dedication of the people who make them as well as the geography and geology.


Wineries to Watch in 2010


Bergevin Lane - With Danish winemaker Steffan Jorgensen, this winery is on the upswing to new even higher levels with its 2006's (see the November Review issue) and 2007's. Also watch for the 2008 Francisca's Vineyard Syrah.

Forgeron Cellars - In a visit to the winery in September, I found Marie-Eve Gilla to be a talented winemaker. I liked what I tasted from the tank and barrel as well as in the tasting room. (See the September Review issue for the Roussanne and Barbera). Look for more to come.

Rasa Vineyards - This winery, owned by Billo and Pinto Naravane, is off to a highly impressive start. See the January Review issue for reviews of the 2007's and the 14 December Blog for the 2008's.

Reynvaan Family Vineyards - This is certain to be the next cult winery (Christophe Baron of Cayuse is a consultant there). Watch for the 2008's which are being offered as futures - buy them! Scroll down to the 14 December blog for my notes.

Robison Ranch Cellars - This Walla Walla winery was bonded in 2008. Owners Jim and Jane Robison and their winemaker partners, Brad and Ruth Riordan, will start releasing their 2008's this spring.

T.L. Cellars - With his departure from Hence Cellars. Troy Ledwick can concentrate on his own wines. His Releases No. 1, 2 and 3 all have received 19 or more points in my reviews. Look for Releases No. 4 and 5, and possibly No. 6 later this year.

Tertulia Cellars - See the January issue of the Review for a profile on this winery. I liked what I tasted from the barrel for the 2008 vintage.

Sleight of Hand - Trey Busch continues to make exceptional wines. His 2008 reds are sure to be knock-outs, so watch for them!

Davenport Cellars, El Corazon, Gifford Hirlinger, Maison Bleue and SuLei Cellars - All of these offer terrific quality for under $30. Some of their wines have already been reviewed, and watch for new releases from them.

Note: to see my notes on 2008's scroll down to the 13 December article. The date at the top is that of the post creation; the posting date appears at the bottom.


The Real Deals


Among the "Fire Sale" wines I tasted from around the world, I found a few winners. A lovely, aromatic Pinot Noir from Chile and an engaging Cotes du Rhone. Some so-so wines included a pleasant but uncomplicated Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a Petit Verdot that promised more on the nose than it delivered on the palate. Some disappointments included a cloying, banana-like Washington Chardonnay as well as the flawed wines mentioned above. Here are three "Real Deals" from Washington state.


2008 Milbrandt "Traditions" Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($8.99)

After tasting the aforementioned Chardonnay, this was a real relief. It offers a fragrant pear-apple and lilac-scented nose with a hint of anise. The flavors are fresh and lively, yet well-nuanced, imbued with wet stone, a touch of lime juice and a hint of creaminess on the crisp, yet finely-fruited finish. This is a fine rendition of this variety at a bargain price (previously $16). 18/20 points.


2005 Sandhill Merlot, Red Mountain ($9.99)

The Sandhill facility has been sold to the Corliss operation which will create a new sister winery on Red Mountain. Consequently, Sandhill had to move its inventory. As a result, Esquin purchased a large quantity of this Merlot which formerly sold for $25. It exhibits a rich, smoky raspberry and wild cassis nose with tobacco and sandalwood scents. The flavors are classic Red Mountain Merlot - rich chewy and minerally, but with plenty of ripe, plush fruit to carry it over. The back palate is laced with licorice, chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean and roasted berry notes on the dryish tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.


2005 Ridgefield Cinnamon Teal Red, Columbia Valley ($6.99)

This is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc from Sandhill which once sold for $14. It delivers a rich, spicy raspberry and cherry nose with scents of anise and rubbed sage. The flavors are full and generous, with tones of cocoa, cola and coffee on the back palate, followed by a squeeze of berry juice on the chewy finish. A bit of astringency shows up after a couple of hours aeration, so use this for casual quick drinking. 17.5+/20 points.