Another highly anticipated new winemaking facility in the Walla Walla Valley has been that of Valdemar Estates. For months, construction has been going on the property off Peppers Bridge Road to the west, past Amavi and Waters. Owned by Bodegas Valdemar in Spain (with properties in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero districts), it is the first non-American owned winery in the Walla Walla Valley. The winery is managed by a member of the fifth generation of the Martinez Bujanda family, Jesús Martinez Bujanda who is continuing the winemaking tradition that began in 1889 with Joaquin Martinez Bujanda.
A week ago, Wednesday, April 24, we joined a group organized by Michele Rennie (who also organized the one at Force Majeure a week before) for a tour and tasting at the new facility. There, we were led by Jesús through the winery which was still in the final stages of construction. It is a multi level gravity feed state of the art winery, with lots of barrel room and storage. The reception area and tasting room are in the top level, flanked by a patio and circulating waterfall. It was all beautifully designed and constructed. It will be a major showpiece for the Walla Walla Valley.
At the tasting room, the Valdemar Spanish wines as well as those of Valdemar Estates whose winemaker is Marie-Eve Gilla, formerly of Forgeron Cellars are being poured. The winery's production is still in barrel and the Spanish wines are coming in as quickly as possible given the logistics. While at the winery, we tasted the following two wines, previews of what is to come.
2017 Valdemar Estates Syrah, Red Mountain (Price TBD) - This 100% Syrah comes from the Klipsun (82%) and La Coye (18%) vineyards. It shows a deep ruby color and a seductive nose of raspberry, blueberry, black currant, crushed roses, sweet tobacco, lavender, violets and spiced incense. The flavors are deep precisely wrought, with notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and Red Mountain scorched earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, vanillin (50% new French oak) followed by a long peppery ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2016 Bodegas Valdemar "La Gargantilla" Single Estate Garnacha (Price TBD) - Garnacha is the Spanish name for Grenache. This 100% varietal wine offers a deep ruby color and rich, enticing aromas of raspberries, cherries, red currants, brush, lavender and violets. The medium bodied flavors are expressive, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and gravel and dust earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted almonds, mocha and pulverized charcoal, followed by a long, firm yet silky ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
A week later, on May 1, I returned to Valdemar Estate. When I got there, Jesús Martinez Bujanda was at the tasting room. With him, I tasted some more of the Spanish wines, including two special varietal bottlings.
2016 Conde Valdemar Finca Alto Cantabria Rioja Blanco ($30) - Composed of 100% Viura, the principal white grape of Spain, this shows a deep gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, apricot, lemon peel, orange blossoms, verbena, white lilac, almond and white incense. The flavors are full bodied, with notes of peach stone and slate, with a creamy texture and a persistent finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Conde Valdemar Rioja Crianza ($22) - This 90% Tempranillo (with 10% Graciano) shows a deep ruby-garnet color and distinctive aromas of raspberry, cherry and black currant with scents of dried roses, mulberry, tobacco, brambles and smoldering incense. The flavors are medium bodied but well structured, with black and blue fruits that are marked by licorice, cocoa, vanillin and earth. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, mocha and graphite followed by a smooth moderate tannin finish. Super value. 18.5/20 points.
2011 Conde Valdemar Rioja Reserva ($30) - From the Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta districts, this 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Garnacha blend offers a deep ruby color and rich, smoky aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, dried roses, mulberry, tobacco, sandalwood, a hint of smoked meats, and smoldering incense. The medium full bodied flavors are ripe and generous, yet focused with notes of licorice, cocoa, coffee and variegated minerals. The back reveals macerated berries, roasted nuts and toffee, followed by a grainy yet elegant finish. 18.5+/20 points.
The following two wines are available for tasting, but, at this time, not for purchase.
2015 Conde Valdemar Las Seis Ahajas Rioja - This is 100% Graciano, a variety normally used for blending and seldom as a stand alone varietal. This was deemed to be outstanding enough to be bottled as such. Opaque ruby colored, it possesses a lovely perfumed nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed rose, violets and oriental incense. The flavors are intense and deep cored, with layers of dark fruits that are interwoven with licorice, dark cacao, extra dark roast and minerals. The intensity continues on the back with sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts, basalmic reduction and graphite, followed seamlessly by a long, sweetish tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Conde Valdemar Balcón de Pilatos Rioja - This is produced from the Maturara grape, an ancient variety that is being restored to cultivation by Bodegas Valdemar. It exhibits an inky purple-crimson color and seductive aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of black roses, anise, vanillin, roasted nuts, anise and exotic incense. The flavors are deep and penetrating, wrapped around a firm core, infused with licorice, dark cacao, chicory coffee and crushed rocks. On the back, the wine turns silky textured yet firm, with macerated berries, toffee and vanillin, all marching on into a long, complex sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
Also available for tasting are three 2017 Syrahs (one of which is above) which are yet to be released. I will report on them at a later date. The tasting room is open daily from 11 to 6:30. Tapas are available as well.