- Written by Rand Sealey
The weekend of December 2-4 was Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. Most wineries and tasting rooms were decorated with festive holiday decor. Also, many poured barrel samples of their future releases from the 2015 and 2014 vintages. Here's a run down of what I tasted.
2015 Saviah Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Funk Estate Vineyard - Co-fermented with a bit of Viognier, this wine from the Rocks showed a deep ruby color and an intense nose of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, lavender and incense. The flavors were thick and meaty with distinct Rocks minerality. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts and charcoal, followed by a rich, spicy finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Saviah Cellars Walla Walla Valley, Watermill Vineyard - One third foot stomped, this Syrah showed a deep crimson color and a rich nose of wild fruits - blackberry, pomegranate, cassis - with scents of orange peel, garrigue and incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, with notes of licorice, cocoa and earthy minerals. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, leather, mocha and burnt charcoal, followed by a long chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Sleight of Had Cellars "Levitation" Syrah, Columbia Valley - Composed of 70% Lewis and 30% Les Collines and 30% whole cluster fermented, this displayed a deep crimson color and an intense perfumed nose of wild fruits, roses, mulberry, tobacco, violets and white incense. The flavors were mouth encompassing and lavish, replete with minerals, licorice and coffee, and pressed berries and creme de cassis on the back, followed by a long smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points, possibly 19.5.
2015 Seven Hills Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard Block K1 - Deep crimson colored, this possessed a wonderfully perfumed nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, cassis, crushed roses, sweet pea flowers, sweet tobacco, sandalwood and violets. The flavors, as well, were seductive, with layers of lavish yet focused dark fruits, underlain with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and Rocks minerals. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, graphite and integrated oak (50% new French) on the way to a complex savory ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2015 Aluvé Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley - Here, JJ and Kelly Menozzi have turned out a highly promising Cabernet. Deep ruby-crimson colored, it exited seductive aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, cassis, crushed roses, cedar, tobacco and violets. The flavors were lavish, yet focused, underlain with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and loamy minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted walnuts, mocha, toast oak, followed by a ripe yet firm tannins. 19+/20 points.
2015 Aluvé Winery Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley - This promises to be a real gem. It showed a crimson color and a perfumed nose of raspberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, sweet pea flowers, sweet tobacco and violets. The flavors, as well, were alluring, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and loess minerals, followed by pressed berries, framboise and kirsch liqueurs, graphite and toasty oak, all gliding into a velvety, yet well delineated finish. 19+, possibly 19.5/20 points.
2015 Tero Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - This looks to be a very nice Merlot. It showed a deep ruby color and a smoky nose of raspberries, cherries, black plums, black roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors were supple, yet deep and focused, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and distinct minerality. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, toffee, mocha and graphite, followed by a ripe grainy tannin finish that smooths out at the end. 19+/20 points.
2014 Tero Estates Windrow Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - A vineyard field blend, this showed a deep purplish color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with rich flavors that were underlain with licorice, cocoa, French roast and distinct minerality. The chewy textured back showed notes of pressed berries, nougat, mocha and oak, followed by a long, smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 Waters Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - Mostly from the Cold Creek Vineyard, this promises to be a real beauty. Semi opaque ruby colored, it possessed an intense, earthy nose of blackberries, cherries, black plums, crashed black roses, mulberry, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors were thick and bold, yet refined, underlain with black licorice, dark chocolate, espresso and alluvial minerals, followed by roasted berries and walnuts, toffee, mocha and charcoal pencil, all leading into a savory, spiced finish. 19+, possibly 19.5/20 points.
2015 Kontos Cellars "The Boss" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - This blend was made with Chris and Cameron Kontos' Dad, Cliff, the Boss. It showed a deep ruby-crimson color and a rich, berried nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, black roses, tobacco, cedar and violets. The flavors were generous and supple, yet focused, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back picked pressed berries, kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a long, slightly nutted finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 Kontos Cellars "Progeny" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - This tribute to the Kontos kids, showed a deep crimson-ruby color and enticing aromas of wild blackberries, cherries and plums, with scents of roses, mulberry, tobacco,, cedar and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with thick, fleshy, focused dark fruits, intermixed with licorice, dark chocolate, espresso and loam and gravel earth. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, mocha and graphite, followed by a spice and herb dusted long finish. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
From time to time, Lynn and I will drink European wines with meals or at group tastings. This gives us a respite from tasting and rating Washington Wines for the Review of Washington Wines. Here's what we've been drinking lately.
When it comes to French wines, our favorites are from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, but we do make room for Bordeaux.
2012 Chateau Talbot, St. Julien ($67) - This Fourth Growth is a really classy Bordeaux. Deep colored, it showed rich aromas of dark fruits - cherries, plums and black currants - crushed roses, earth and tobacco. The flavors were deep and penetrating with a long finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac Leognan ($82) -This is another classically styled Bordeaux. It exhibited a deep ruby-garnet color and intense aromas of raspberry, cherry, cassis and plum with scents of dried roses, tobacco, cedar and truffles. The flavors showed classic Graves (gravel) character with a firm, focused, yet velvety character and a long, well defined finish, along with fine grained tannins. 19.5/20 points.
2010 Chateau La Vielle Cure, Fronsac ($38) - This Merlot dominated wine comes from the right bank of Bordeaux, adjacent to Pomerol. It showed a deep ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberries, cherries and plums. The flavors were deliciously supple, yet deep and focused with distinct ferruginous minerality. The back picked up semi dried berries and ripe tannins.
2010 Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan ($67) - This comes from a neighbor of the famous Haut Brion. It displayed a deep ruby color and a nose of dark cherries, plums and smoldering incense. The flavors were dense, yet supple, with distinct Graves minerality. The long finish showed fine "grip" (as the Brits say) of grainy tannins on the long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Clos des Rocs Pouilly-Loché ($32) - I ran across this yesterday while reorganizing my wine collection and we had it with lunch. It showed a deep, brilliant gold color and distinct Chardonnay aromas of pear, peach and minerals. The sun drenched flavors were rich and distinct, with calcareous undertones. 18.5/20 points.
2012 Domaine Michel Gros Nuits-St.Georges ($74) - Medium brick red colored, this possessed earthy, intriguing aromas of blackberries, cherries and baked apples, and scents of crushed roses and tobacco. The flavors were medium bodied, but with distinct Pinot Noir assertiveness and a long, supple finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Domaine Chandon de Brialles Pernand Vergelesses 1er Cru, Ile de Vergelesses ($69) - This came on like a classic Côte de Beaune Premier Cru, with heady aromas of smoke and earth and full, fleshy yet well delineated flavors and notes of chocolate, coffee and fine grained tannins. 19/20 points.
2013 Louis Jabot Santenay, Clos de Malte ($36) - Jadot has been one of our favorite grower-negotiants. This Burgundy from the southern end of the Côte de Beaune offered a medium brick red color and definite Pinot Noir character. The medium bodied flavors were supple, yet well defined, with coffee and earth notes and a moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Louis Jabot Pommard Les Rugiens, 1er Cru ($80) - This is as deliciously rich and plush as a Burgundy can get. Deep brick red colored, it emited aromas of wild cherries, plums, black currants, mulberry, tobacco, crushed roses and violets. The flavors were thick and meaty, with a long, complex finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc ($34) - Composed of Roussanne, this showed a brilliant gold color and an intriguing nose of pear, peach and anise, with distinct saline minerality and notes of herbal tea, peach stone and pear skin. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Domaine Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Rouge ($36) - Composed of Syrah, this displayed a ruby-garnet color and a smoky berried nose. The flavors were thick and chewy, with notes of forest carpet, roasted berries and nuts and mineraly earth, followed by a ripe, chewy moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Domaine de la Charbonnière Vaqueryas ($32) - This South Rhone red is 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. It showed a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild fruits. The medium full-bodied flavors were dark fruited, with notes of French roast, earth and minerals. The wine kept on going on the back and finish, with firm, yet supple tannins. "Very French," said Lynn. 18.5+/20 points.
2012 Domaine Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape ($59) - From a top-notch producer, this showed a deep ruby color and intoxication aromas of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, earth and smoldering incense. The flavors were deep, mouth encompassing and marked by cocoa and French roast, followed by a long complex finish. 19/20 points.
2010 E. Guigal Côte Rotie, Brune et Blonde ($69) - This came on as a classic Côte Rotie with rich aromas and roasted slope earth and minerals, marked by notes of roasted coffee, toffee, creme de cassis and a long satiny tannin finish. 19/20 points.
These wines came from Christopher Cannan's Europvin in Bordeaux, which I knew in the 1980's. He specializes in Spanish wines as well as French ones (including Michel Gros and Allain Graillot above).
2010 Cune Rioja Gran Reserva ($33) - Cune stands for Compania Vinicola del Norte d'Espagne. This showed a brilliant ruby-garnet color and a sensuous nose of barrel aged fruits, straw and incense. The flavors were bold and taut, yet velvety, a fine rendition of classic Rioja with Tempranillo grape purity. 19/20 points.
2012 Serras del Priorat Viña Tinto ($32) - from the foothills of the Pyrenees, this Garnacha, Cariñena combination offered a deep ruby color and aromas of berries, crushed roses, tobacco and smoldering incense. The medium full-bodied flavors were marked by notes of roast coffee and pulverized minerals. 18.5/20 points.
2010 Font de la Figura Priorat ($40) - From the producer of the above wine, this is a Reserva from very old vines and all Garnacha. It showed a deep ruby color and intoxicating aromas of wild fruits - cherries, currants, black plums - with scents of dried orange peel, tobacco and smoke. The flavors were deep and penetrating, yet accessible, underlain with pulverized minerals. The pepper dusted finish was long and complex, with dry yet ripe tannins. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines there are thirty two 2014 red wines, of which sixteen scored 19/20 points and seven, 19.5/20 points. This is a clear indication that the 2014 vintage is turning out to be a great one for red wines.
In Gramercy Cellars' Fall newsletter, Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss wrote: "We are ecstatic with the 2014 vintage. The wines are fresh, structured, and more complex than ever. The wines have a balance of fruit and earth that displays true elegance....We hope you enjoy the 2014 vintage as much as we enjoyed making them." (See the December issue for reviews of the Gramercy 2014 "The Deuce" Syrah and "Third Man" Red.)
I agree with Greg and Brandon that the 2014 vintage is one to be ecstatic about. In my Review Blog posting of 26 August, I wrote: "For the 2014 reds, the harvest was another early, warm one, with much of the picking completed by the end of September. The 2014's seem to be a bit more structured than the 2013's (also from a warm year), with more phenolics which result in more complex aromatics (perfumes, tobacco, incense, etc.). My recent tastings and notes on the 2014's bear this out. There will be more to come. The January 2017 issue will have at least 15 more 2014's, all outstanding. More later!
I wish all of you a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving Holiday tomorrow. Be sure to have plenty of Washington wines (or other American ones) to celebrate our country's bounty.
- Written by Rand Sealey
I'm sure all of you have heard or read stories about wines that taste like they cost more than they do. Such as a $25 bottle that tastes like a $50 wine. I From my tasting experience, I have found that to be true sometimes. And I have run across overpriced wines. But I have found most wines to be quantitatively in line with their prices.
To test this theory, I put on a blind tasting of three Washington Syrahs, one costing $25, one $55 and one $85 at the last PAWS (Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers, a seniors tasting group) get-together which Lynn and I hosted. Tasters were asked to rank the wines, all from the same vintage, in order of quality. First for the best wine, and so on. Here are the results, in order of ranking.
2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($85) - Ten out of fourteen participants ranked this the highest. I found it to be a rich, aromatic (truffles, lavender, violets), earthy, complex Syrah with a long finish. My score: 19.5/20 points. So here, you get what you pay for.
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley ($25) - This was a surprise second place (eight out of fourteen), an attractively priced Syrah with considerable balance, depth and varietal character. My score, 19/20 points.
2013 Long Shadows "Sequel" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($55) - If there was a direct correlation between price and quality, this should have been in second place (six did rank it second). I found it varietally correct, complex, but not highly so. 18.5/20 points.
I think the Sequel's placing third could be explained by its underdevelopment. In retesting it, I found it a bit closed in, without a lot of nuances. With a few more years aging, it will develop more complexity. The L'Ecole represents great value, but is nearly ready now and may not develop much more complexity.
This was an interesting exercise that, I think, shows that you do get what you pay for in wine to a considerable extent, but not completely so.
At the PAWS get-together, some more bottles were opened after the tasting. Here are the most noteworthy wines.
2012 No Girls Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, La Paciencia Vineyard - Made by Cayuse assistant winemaker, Elizabeth Bouncier, this was classic "Rocks" Syrah, rich, earthy and minerals, with notes of truffles, dried roses and dark fruits. 19+/20 points.
2012 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape - This Grenache-dominated Rhone was lovely, yet solid and vigorous, with thick, lavish red and blue fruits and a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 Coté Nicault Red Wine, Wahluke Slope - Gilles Nicault's Rhone-style Mourvèdre-Syrah-Grenache blend was rich and flavorful, with lots of texture and spicy black and blue fruits and a long finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 E. Guigal Côte Rôtie, Brune et Blonde - A superb rendition of this North Rhone Appellation, from high terraced vineyards, this showed great depth and authority. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
November 4-6 was Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. This year, our focus was on wineries that are open for special events such as this one. Here's what we did that weekend.
On Friday morning, November 4th, we went to the Reynvaan Family Vineyards at the end of Cottonwood Road in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. As usual, most of the family was on hand - Mike and Gale, winemaker son, Matt, and daughter Angela and numerous sisters and in-laws. We tasted samples of the 2015 vintage, to be released in 2018. It is a stellar vintage, with scores of 19.5 to 20/20 points. A preview report will be in the January 2017 issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
In the afternoon, we went to Long Shadows to taste the newly released 2014 reds. They are among the best wines ever turned out by Long Shadows. Across the board, they were 19.5/20 points wines. Kudos to Gilles Nicault for coordinating the production of such stellar wines. Reviews will be in the December issue which goes on line November 23. Then we went to Woodward Canyon where we tasted the 2013 Estate Reserve Red and 2013 Charbonneau, to be reviewed in January.
The next morning, Saturday the 5th, I went to Rasa Vineyards on Powerline Road. I tasted the outstanding 2013's - Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon, Creative Impulse Cabernet-Merlot, and In order to form a more perfect union BDX blend, all to be reviewed in January. In the afternoon, we stopped at Walla Walla Gourmet to sample the Proper 2014 Syrah from the "Rocks," a 19.5/20 points wine to be reviewed in January. Then we went to The Walls Vineyards where we tasted the newly released 2014's, Lip Stinger Grenache Blanc, Cheys Syrah, Gasparts Syrah, and The Ramparts GSM Red. They will be in the December issue. In the evening, we went to Corliss' annual open house where we sampled the 2011 Corliss Red (to be reviewed December) and upcoming vintages.
Watch for the December and January issues for full reviews!