Last weekend, December 6-8, was Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It was the weekend when winery tasting rooms had holiday decorations and lights, and most had upcoming releases to taste. Here's what we did.

On Friday morning, December 6, I drove over to Lowden to L'Ecole No. 41 which had a barrel sample of the 2018 Ferguson Vineyard Red and a vertical of Merlots. Then, at Woodward Canyon, there was the 2018 Artist's Series Cabernet. Then back to Reininger for the 2018 Seven Hills Vineyard Carmenère, plus fine new releases to be reviewed in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines. That evening, we went to the Tero Estates and Waters Annual Holiday Dinner at the Marcus Whitman Hotel were a superb five course dinner was served.

On Saturday morning, I drove out to Mill Creek Road to taste the 2018 barrel samples at Walla Walla Vintners and Aluvé. In the afternoon, we stopped by Tero Estates to taste the 2018 Charbono and 2016 Petit Sirah (to be in the January issue0 and hear the Dave Paul 5 duo play their guitars and sing. Then to Reynvaan for the 2014 MTR Productions Syrah, to be reviewed in the January issue. 

The next morning, we stopped by Forgeron and Seven Hills to taste more 2018's. Then we went out on Heritage Road to Smoky Rose Cellars where Josh and Jodi Rosenowski hosted a delicious Holiday Brunch, including a preview of their 2018 sparkling wine and 2018 Grenache.

Barrel Tasting the 2018's

All the winemakers I talked with were very happy with the way the 2018's are turning out. They are gorgeous wines, with lovely aromatics and perfumes and finely fruited flavors. Here are my notes on the wines I tasted.

2018 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Vineyard Estate Red Wine - To be released in 2021, this blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cab Franc and 5% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot shows a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberries, cherries, plums, cassis, crushed roses and oriental incense. The flavors are thickened generous, marked by basaltic minerals and a long, polished finish. Will be outstanding. 19.5/20 points.

2018 Woodward Canyon Artist's Series Cabernet Sauvignon - Composed of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Syrah and 2% Cab Franc, this is destined to become a classic. Deep ruby colored, with lovely, perfumed aromas, and bold yet rich and velvety flavors and a long, complex finish. Potential 19.5/20 points.

2018 Reininger Carmenère, Seven Hills Vineyard - This is going to be a gorgeous Carmenère. Ruby-crimson colored, it possesses enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, currant, crushed roses and violets. The flavors are deep and intense, accompanied by fine grained tannins and a long, peppery (a trait of Carmenère) finish. Possible 19.5/20 points.

2018 Walla Walla Vintners Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cut Bank Vineyard - This Clone 6 Cabernet shows a deep ruby color and intoxicating aromas of dark fruits, crushed roses, violets and incense. The layers of dark fruits show great varietal purity and develop much complexity on the back, followed by a long finish. Potential 19.5/20 points.

2018 Aluvé Estate Sangiovese, Menozzi Vineyard - Composed of 80% Sangio with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, this shows a ruby-garnet color and a rich, smoky nose of red fruits, red roses and incense. The medium bodied yet substantial flavors are filled with delicious red fruits and followed by a long dryish tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2018 Aluvé Estate "Primo Volo" Estate Red Wine, Menozzi Vineyard - This BDX style blend shows a deep ruby color and smoky aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum with scents of crushed roses, tobacco and wood smoke. The flavors are fleshy and deep cored with layers of dark fruits, and builds up on the back with a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2018 Aluvé Estate Red Wine, Menozzi Vineyard - Composed of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Petit Verdot and 12% Merlot, this shows a ruby-crimson color and lovely aromas of wild fruits, crushed roses, tobacco, incense. The flavors are bold, almost massive with layers of dark fruits, espresso and earth and then marches on into a long sweet-dry tannin finish. Potential 19.5/20 points.

2018 Tero Estates Charbono, Windrow Vineyards - Deep ruby colored, this possesses sultry aromas, scented by orange peel, and a hint of musk and dark, distinctive layered red and black flavors that are infused with licorice, cola and damp earth, followed by a long, again sultry nutted finish. 19+/20 points.

2018 Waters Cabernet Franc - Purplish ruby colored, this possesses smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, roses, spice and herbs. The flavors are thick and generous, yet focused, with layers of black and blue fruits, followed by roasted berries and nuts and graphite on the long grainy tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2018 Waters Syrah - Deep purplish ruby colored, this shows intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black currant, lavender, violets and incense. The flavors are full throttle, with loads of dark fruits and silty earth. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts and burnt charcoal, followed by ripe tannins. Will be a highly enjoyable wine. 19+/20 points.

2018 Balboa Carmenère, Summit View Vineyard - Ruby-crimson colored, this shows a perfumed nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, roses and pepper (a trait of Carmenère). The flavors are lavish, yet deep and focused, with layers of dark fruits and basaltic minerals. The finish is velvety yet vigorous and long. 19+/20 points.

2018 Forgeron Cellars Mourvèdre - This displays a brick red color and rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, blueberry, currant, roses, garrigue and spiced incense, The flavors are typical of the variety, with notes of licorice, cocoa and scorched earth. The back picks up framboise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a long, spicy, warm finish. 19/20 points.

2018 Seven Hills Pentad - To be released in November 2020, this five BDX varieties blend shows a deep ruby-crimson color and lovely aromas of wild fruits, sweet roses, sweet tobacco, violets and incense. The flavors are supple and alluring yet deep cored and structured. The back reveals pressed berries, roasted nuts and integrated oak (50% new French), followed by an ultra long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.