Review of Washington Wines Blog
A Day in Seattle
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 10 March 2016 14:54

On Monday, March 7, I flew to Seattle to participate in the judging for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards and some winery visits. Here's a recap of my day.

I took the 6 a.m. Horizon Airlines flight out of Walla Walla, arriving in Seattle at 7. I picked up a rental car and drove to the South Seattle Community College where the Washington Wine Awards judging was being held at the Northwest Wine Academy, the college's winemaking program. There, the Program Coordinator, Regina - "Reggie"- Daignault showed us around the program's facilities. Then the wine judging commenced at nine. We went through about one hundred wines, scoring them on a 20 point scale. We finished at about 11:30. We then had lunch, grilled ham and cheese croissants prepared by the College culinary program, while the scores were being compiled. After lunch, we judged the top wines in each category for the Red Wine and White Wine of the Year. The winners will be revealed in the August issue of Seattle Magazine.

After the judging, I tasted the Northwest Wine Academy's current releases. including an impressive Chardonnay for under $20 and a tasty Reserve Red Wine. The wines were made from donated grapes from vineyards such as the Wycoff Farm and Doc Stewart. The reviews will be in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

I then drove to Esquin Wine & Spirits on Fourth Avenue South and placed an order for some wines to be shipped to me. I also tasted three Bartholomew reds, including a new "5th Quarter" blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cab Franc (19/20 points). The wines will be reviewed in the April issue.

After Esquin, I drove to Structure Cellars on First Avenue South where I met the owners, Brian Grasso and Brandee Slosar. The wines lived up to their name with structure as well as accessibility. These included "Newel," an interesing combination of 51% Syrah and 49% Cabernet Franc. The "Foundation" Syrah was particularly impressive (19/20 points). The wines will be in the April issue.

After Structure Cellars, I drove back to SeaTac, turned in the car, had supper at Anthony's in the airport, took the 8:20 flight back to Walla Walla and got back home at 9:25, ending my day.



Comparing the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Vintages
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 03 March 2016 15:31

In the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines, there will be eight reds from the 2014 vintage. So this is a good time to compare the 2012, 2013 and 2014 vintages.

2012 - This is probably the most "normal" of recent harvests, resulting in wines with fine fruit and balance. Andy Perdue (Great Northwest Wine) has written, "Stock up! The 2012 vintage provided almost perfect grapes in Washington, and produced wines that are great now and could be even  better in a decade or two." I agree about the 2012's being great, but I'm not so sure about aging them for a decade. They seem to be fruit-forward wines that are tasty now, but many don't seem to have the tannins and acidity for prolonged aging.

2013 - This was another early harvest, mostly completed by mid-October. I have found many 2013's to be even better than their 2012 counterparts, with distinct varietal typicity. For example, the Upchurch Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (reviewed in the March issue) scored 20/20 points, while the 2012 scored 19.5/20 points. The same goes for the 2013 Mark Ryan "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon (to be in the April issue) as compared to the 2012.

2014 - Again, this was an early harvest, mostly completed by mid-October, with some Cabernet and Malbec coming later. The weather was mostly sunny and in the '70's, resulting in wines that combine ripe fruits with phenols for armoatis and acidty and tannins for structure. The the 2014's I have tasted so far, including the superb Reynvaan Syrahs, are deep, distinctive wines that should age well. I will be tasting more 2014's during Cayuse Weekend, April 1-2, and Spring Release Weekend, May 6-8. More later!

So, if you are thinking of following Andy Perdue's advice, "Depending on how much space you have, load up on 2012 Washington reds," my advice is to save room for the 2013's and 2014's. They may turn out to be more ageworthy wines.



Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2016 16:11
Walla Walla Tourism on the Rise
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 25 February 2016 14:12

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an article in KEPRtv.com, "Rise in Walla Walla tourism brings new benefits for residents." The Tri-Cities tv station found that "Tourists are flooding to the wine and food in the city of Walla Walla, and not without their wallet. KEPR found out how a recent rise in tourism is benefiting local residents and what you can expect in the near future."

The article finds evidence of a transformation in Walla Walla wih 80 independently owned restautants in the town of 30,000, 120 million dollars in direct spending by tourists in 2014, and a doubling in lodging and sales tax revenues in the past ten years.

The Fat Duck Inn's Cynthia Koby is quoted as saying, "With the rise in tourism here we feel like we are almost grouind floor here: there's so much opportunity it's limitless." It's something she and Rich Koby never imagined when they opened in 2013.

There is further evidence of a surge in tourism in Alaska Airlines' increase in its flights to Seattle from two to three daily starting in March. "Then we can actually get back to Walla Walla the same day we leave California or something, that's pretty cool," stated one interviewee. So the historical town of Walla Walla is widening its appeal to tourists. And the town's wine industry will be a big beneficiary.



Tasting Chenin Blancs and 2014 Ardor Cellars Reds
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 15:34

Since returning from Florida a week ago, I have tasted some interesting wines, Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley and 2014 Syrahs from Ardor Cellars. Here are my reports.


The Whitehouse Crawford Chenin Blanc Tasting

On Wednesday, February 10, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla held a tasting of Chenin Blancs from the Loire Valley. I have always believed that Chenin Blanc is one of the world's most undervalued grape varieites. This tasting shows what can be done with that varietal.

2013 Marc Brédif "Classic" Vouvray ($25) - This showed a brilliant gold cor and enticing aromas of pear, peach, clover, wildflowers and white smoke. The nearly dry flavors were ripe and well-wrought, with undertones of chalk and minerals. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Catherine & Pierre Breton "La Dilettante" Vouvray Sec ($30) - This is a fine example of dry Vouvray. It showed a medium gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, almond, lilac and white smoke. The flavors were crisp and direct, laser-like, with notes of peach stone and flint stone, followed by a racy, dry finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2004 Chateau d'Epiré Savennières ($35) - This shows how well dry Chenin Blanc can age well. Medium amber colored, this wine emited exotic, smoky aromas of toasted nuts, semi-dried fruits and spiced incense. The flavors picked up notes of peach stone, grape skin and chalk, follwed by recurring dried fruits, orange peel and spice on the long, dry finish. 19/20 points.

2013 François Chidaine "Les Choisilles" Montlouis ($35) - Montlouis is situated across the Loire River to the south. This version offered a brilliant gold color and enticing aromas of pear, apricot and nuts, with scents of honeysuckle and clover. The flavors were exquisitely wrought, well ripened, yet taut and laser-like. The back picked up notes of orange peel and limestone on the racy, dry finish. 19/20 points.

2014 Pascal Janvier "PJ" Jasinères ($28) - Jasinières is the coolest and northernmost appellation of the Loire Valley. This showed a greenist-tinted gold clor and aromas of granny apple, peach, melon, white lilac and honeysuckle. The crisp flavors showed fine Chenin Blanc purity, accented by distinct minerality and vibrant fruits that last on the finish. 18.5/20 points.

2014 Domaine Huet "Le Mont" Vouvray, Demi-Sec ($45) - Domaine Huet is one of the best producers of sweeter Vouvray. This one showed a brilliant gold color and seductive aromas of ripe fruits - pear, peach, melon - with scents wisteria, lilac, and white spiced incense. The flavors were ripe and unctuous, yet laser-like, with pear and peach liqueurs on the lingering faintly honeyed and spiced finish. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Domaine Huet "Le Mont" Premiere Trie Vouvray Moelleux (not available) - Molleux means "mellow," in this case medium sweet. It showed a brilliant amber color and an alluring nose of pear, peach, mango and dried orange peel with scents of lavender, clover and honeysuckle. The ultra ripe flavors were mouth encompassing, yet focused, the essence of Chenin Blanc. The finish lasted and lasted, with recurring spiced orange peel, clover and honey, with superb fruit acids beinging the wine into focus. 20/20 points.


Upcoming 2014's from Ardor Cellars

Last Saturday, Brandon Kubrock opened up his 2014 reds for me. They had been in the bottle about a month, so were a bit closed, But they were highly promising, even better than the fine 2013's. Here are by notes.

2014 Ardor Cellars Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($40) - Deep brick red colored, this possessed a rich, spicy blackberry, plum and spice nose with fleshy, chewy-textured medium-full bodied flavors. A full review will be in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. 19/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars Syrah, Yakima Valley, Den Hoed Vineyard ($50) - Deep ruby colored, this emited rich spicy aromas of raspberry, plum and pomegranate with a thick, chewy palate and back. 18.5+/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley, Lawrence Vineyard ($50) - Deep purplish ruby colored, this wine possessed an intense, pure Syrah nose and rich flavors are blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with thick, pure flavors from beginning to end.19/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars Syrah, Red Mountain, Red Heaven Vuneyard ($50) - This shiowed a purplish crimson color and rich, seductive aromas of wild fruits, violets and spiced incense. The thick, massive flavors spread out on the palate, with Red Mountain scorched earth and mineral. Registeriing at 16.2% alcohol, the finish was warm, but not hot. 19+/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($50) - Deep ruby colored, this showed a rich, earthy nose of crushed berries, tobacco and incense, with thick, chewy flavors and unmistakable "Rocks" character, with notes of charcoal, roasted nuts and leather, followed by ripe tannins. 19+/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars "Quaternarium" Syrah, Columbia Valley (price TBA) - This is one fourth each of the above Syrahs. It displayed a deep ruby-crimson color and enticing ripe, sweet aromas of raspberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of violets and incense. The flavors were full and generous, pulling the four vineyards together beautifully. 19+/20 points.

The 2014 Syrah are to be released in the fall. Full reviews in the Review of Washington Wines will be published at that time.




Upcoming Tastings and Events
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 15:31

Yesterday, Lynn and I returned to Walla Walla from Florida. We had been hoping for warmer weather in the Southeast than we got. But anyway, it was a nice trip. In the meantime, here are a few developments in Washington wine tastings and events.


Wine Awards Judging

I have been asked to participate in two wine awards judging, Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards and Seattle Wine Awards. Here's what they involve.

The Washington Wine Awards is conducted by Seattle Magazine which publishes the award winners in the August issue. About 100 wines are to be evaluated at the South Seattle Community College on March 7th. Yashar Shayan is the Wine Awards Coordinator.

The Seattle Wine Awards includes Oregon and Idaho wines as well as ones from Washington. The tastings will take place over two days, Saturday April 16 and Sunday April 17. Christopher Chan is the Founder and Executive Director of this Event. The winners will be announced in May.

In upcoming Review of Washington Wines Blogs, I will be reporting on these Wine Awards judgings.


Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine

On June 16-18, The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance will be hosting the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine: The World of Cabernet Sauvignon. The events will feature three internationally known guest winemakers, two Master Sommeliers and four celebrated chefs in exploring one of the world's most renowned grape varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon. HIghlights will include a winemaker panel and discussion, a Grand Cabernet Sauvignon wine tasting and winemaker dinner, and winemaker dinners throughout the Walla Walla Valley. For information and tickets, go to www.wallawallawine.com/celebrate/.


The Whitehouse Crawford Chenin Blanc Tasting

This evening, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla will be putting on a tasting of Chenin Blancs. I have always believed that Chenin Blanc is one of the world's most undervalued grape varieties, so this is sure to be an interesting tasting. I will report on it in next week's Review Blog.



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