Chris Dowsett is not only the winemaker for the Buty Winery in Walla Walla; he also makes his own wines under the Dowsett Family label. They are truly family produced, with some of the grapes coming from Chris' aunt, and his sister and brother in law. Recently, I got samples of the new releases along with Chris' comments on the wines. Here are my reviews, together with the commentary.
2016 Dowsett Family Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Aunt Diane's Vineyard ($16) - Brilliant gold colored, this possesses an intriguing, rich, smoky nose of Asian pear-apple, white peach, musk melon, grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, lemongrass and oriental white incense. The flavors, as well, are distinctive, more in the Alsace style, with full bodied old vine character and notes of peach stone, grape skin extracts, and volcanic minerals. The back picks up melon rind, grapefruit peel, toasted hazelnuts and persistent minerals on the bone dry finish Makes a striking alternative to those ubiquitous off-dry and medium-dry Rieslings. A bargain at $16. 18.5/20 points.
Chris writes, "This is a dry Riesling from a tiny vineyard in the Gorge, above Husum, that my Aunt's family has owned for generations. The vines were planted in 1960 and went through periods of use and neglect. In 2012, my Aunt and I started to bring the vineyard back from the weeds and suckers. I did 37 cases of wine in 2014, 42 in 2015, and a massive 73 in 2016. It is at 1100-1150 feet elevation and has a long, slow growing season. Barrel fermented (very old and neutral) to give body and balance to the acidity, it is finished dry."
2016 Dowsett Family Gewürztraminer, Columbia Gorge ($14) - Brilliant gold colored, this emits enticing aromas of pear, nectarine, citrus, melon, litchi nuts, honeysuckle, clover and spiced white incense. The flavors are fresh, lively and well extracted, with notes of fruit stones, pear skin, grape skin, and Columbia Gorge volcanic minerals. The back reveals sensations of poire William liqueur, grapefruit zest, ginger, melon rind and recurring litchi nuts on the way to a spice (nutmeg, clove, coriander) dusted dry finish. With plenty of varietal character, this scores 18.5/20 points.
Chris' comments: "This is the first version of this wine I have bottled. It is a blend of Celilo and Oak Ridge Vineyard fruit. I will continue to make the Celilo single vineyard release. I worked with Oak Ridge Vineyard from 1997-2001 at Canoe Ridge Vineyard, and always kept in touch with the owners. When a half acre of fruit opened up, I grabbed it. I tank fermented the Oak Ridge piece and blended some neutral oak fermented Celilo Vineyard fruit with it. I wanted to have a Gewürztraminer that I could let wine programs afford to pour by the glass, release a fresh spicy Gewurz young and still be able to give the Celilo release a longer period of bottle age before release. I will release this late summer."
2016 Dowsett Family "Georgia Rose" Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards ($16.50) - Because this wine was made in Walla Walla, it is labeled "Oregon." Named for Georgia Rose Hannigan Johnson, Chris' maternal grandmother, it shows a pink-salmon color and intriguing aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red currants, watermelon, cherry blossoms, pink lilac, and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, just right, with notes of grape skin, melon rind and stony minerals. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs and touches of dried currants and orange peel, followed by a crisp, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the second vintage of this wine. My sister and brother-in-law bought some land on the east side of the Willamette Valley, in an area called Pete's Mountain. There are vines planted in 2000 on the site that they fell in love with. It is a strip of hillside with mostly Jory soils and three different clones of Pinot Noir. They are farmed by an amazing vineyard management company and they sell most of their fruit to a California winery and a few small Oregon wineries. I have used a small amount of the 777 clone Pinot Noir from the bottom of the hill for this wine. It was whole cluster pressed gently until I tasted excess tannins and phenolics, and then fermented cool in stainless. I love dry Pinot Noir Rosé and could not resist making this."
2015 Dowsett Family Pinot Noir, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards (price TBD) - This wine exhibits a deep brick red color and an intoxicating, smoky nose of wild fruits - fraises de bois, huckleberries, old tree cherries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, pipe tobacco, oregano, sweet pea flowers, violets and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are deep and encompassing, replete with red licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and mountainside earth and minerals. The velvety yet grainy textured back reveals sensations of pressed berries, cerise and cassis liqueurs, and touches of nougat and orange peel. The lingering finish is savory and sensuous, with the persistently smoky fruits wrapped around the slightly grainy moderate tannin finish that is lifted by vivid fruit acids. 19.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the first red Pinot I have made for Dowsett Family. Growing up on a vineyard in Oregon, I fell in love with two things: Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. I loved red Pinot, rosé Pinot and Blanc de Noir. I also tasted many wines and began to love the expression of the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir. I knew it was the one I would like to try and make someday. The Pommard at my sister's place is in the middle of the hill and beautiful. I could not resist making a tiny bit of this. I used just under 20% new French oak, fermented in small fermenters letting one get warm to balance some tannin with the acidity, and used 20% whole (uncrushed) clusters in one fermenter to lift the fruit a bit. We bottled just over 100 cases and will release in September. My entire family is very excited with this wine!"