Review of Washington Wines Blog
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.


The Story of the Esquin Hidden Case
Written by Rand Sealey   
Saturday, 23 January 2016 15:33

My last Review of Washington Blog posting (see below) wrote about the memorable advertising campaigns David Horsfall produced for Esquin Wine Merchants, which I owned from 1969 to 1997. I also posted on Facebook pictures of some of these ads. One of the most commented on was the hidden case of wine. One comment was from Jim Gratton who was a sales rep for a wine distributor at the time that campaign was going on. He wrote, "I would love to hear the whole story of the Cos d'Estournel treasure hunt." I replied, "Jim, the next Review Blog which goes on line Saturday will have the back story of the hidden case of Cos d'Estournel." So here it is.

At the time (1979) the Esquin ads in the Seattle Weekly were on the theme of "Who's hiding the best wines in Seattle." so David and I came up with the idea of "hiding" a case of wine. Not actually, but a wood Chateau Cos d'Estournel box with a certificate for the wine inside. The series of advertisements contained Clues #1 through #4, each bringing the searchers closer to the location of the case. The treasure hunt took place in Seattle's Discovery Park, an expansive park granted to the city by the federal government after the naval base there was closed.

The ad campaign elicited a couple of phone calls from government officials. The first was from a Liquor Control Board agent saying we couldn't give wine away. I replied that it was just a promotional expense. I never did hear back from the Liquor Board about that. The other call was from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation complaining about people digging up the grounds in the Park. I explained that the ads stated that one didn't need to dig anything up, but apparently some people still did.

As the campaign and the clues progressed, more and more interest was created. Finally, the last ad had the heading, "Near the feet of the Patriarch lies Esquin's hidden case of 1970 Chateau Cos d'Estournel." Clue #4 directed readers back to the first ad in the series, which showed in the background a tall old snag tree in Discovery Park, "The Patriarch." A few days later, a Seattle architect, Jerry Arai, appeared at Esquin to claim his treasure. A few days later, we did a photo shoot at the site, re-enacting the discovery of the hidden case with me hiding behind the tree. This concluded this memorable campaign. We did another hidden case campaign where we hid a case near Pioneer Square, with clues taking hunters from Esquin through SODO and under the Viaduct. A group of lawyers found the case. That was the last time we "hid" a case of wine.

For pictures of the hidden case ads, go to Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.


No Review Blog next week

Tomorrow, Sunday January 24, we will be leaving for South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and there will be no blog for the week of February 1. The next blog will be on Wednesday, February 10.


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 January 2016 16:11
The Rand Sealey / David Horsfall Esquin Ad Campaigns
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 18 January 2016 15:01

A couple of weeks ago, I received a posting on my Facebook page from an old family friend with a picture of an advertisement from 1985 with me and four Esquin Wine Merchants "clients" captioned "Rand Sealey is looking for a few Good Clients." (I owned the store from 1969 to 1997). The Facebook comments included, "Awesome pic," and "Love, love, love!" I commented, "This ad was dug up in the Chevignard home in Nuits St. Georges in Burgundy, going through the possessions of Eleanor Chevignard after she had passed away. Her son, Paul, lived with David Horsfall [producer of the ad] at the time this and other advertisements were being published in the Seattle Weekly [a newspaper launched in 1976 by David Brewster]."

A week later, my wife, Lynn, posted on Facebook an ad from October 1978, "I'd walk a mile for a 1976 Meursault Genevrieres," with a photo of me with a glass of white Burgundy and a pack of Camel cigarettes, a takeoff on the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco ads of the 1950's. That posting elicited 40 "likes" and 11 comments, including, "So awesome, Rand Sealey is the epitome of cool."

When finding the "Walk a Mile" ad, Lynn happened to spot a Seattle Weekly article about some music recordings by Paul Gregutt (today, my wine writing cohort) next to the ad, and scanned and forwarded it to Paul bt email. Paul replied, "Wow, Lynn, this is a real blast from the past." He added, "I began writing for the Weekly in March of 1976 - their first issue - and was on staff for several years before wandering off into the broadcast wilderness. During those years I worked under Roger Downey...I wrote about music, theater and media in particular, but this article, with its focus on jazz and references to classical music amazes me, as I was then and still am firmly rooted in pop, blues and country!. I didn't write about wine until 1985, when I was gone from the Weekly full time staff, but I talked David Brewster into running some wine coverage which turned into a Wine of the Week feature that ran for several years and launched my ersatz 'career'." Lynn also found in our files a couple of these articles, one about Chanpagne and one about Port.

The Esquin Wine Merchants advertising campaigns were the brainchild of David Horsfall, at the time an independent producer. In the 1970's, my wine shop was in a rut, with slow growth. We did some radio advertising which brought in some people, but not a lot. The radio station rep, Michael Levin, suggested I contact David about doing some print advertising. The first ads he did, with Sue Cummings, were on the theme of "Who's hiding the best wines in Seattle" in 1977-1978. Other memorable ad campaigns were the hidden case of wine in Discovery Park, and the "Rand Sealey and Esquin," with me and an attractive, pert model pouring wine in the clouds. We also did sale ads and the "Esquin - Wine at its Best" inserts in the Weekly, a takeoff on Esquire magazine. In later years, David's wife, Terri Nakamura did the art direction.

I sold Esquin to Chuck Lefevre in 1997 and his daughters are still doing a great job running the store. Paul Gregutt is still writes wine reviews for the Wine Enthusiast. David Horsfall and Terri Nakamura now run the Alki Surf Shop, a boutique store of beach themed clothing and accessories. Lynn has been going through these old ads and we've been going down memory lane with them. Those were the days.

For pictures of some of the ads, see Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.


Coming up for February

On Sunday, January 24th, we will be departing for the warmer climes of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, returning February 9th. The February issue of the Review of Washington Wines will go on line Saturday, January 23rd, along with a short Review Blog posting. There will be no Review Blog for the week of February 1st, and the next Blog posting will be on February 10th.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 January 2016 15:48
Walla Walla Valley Wine News
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 12 January 2016 15:57

As the new year gets under way, here are a few news items on what's happening in the wine scene in the Walla Walla Valley.


Changes at Abeja, Dunham and Sinclair

At the begining of 2016, David Wampfler and Amy Alvarez-Wampfler took over as winemakers at Abeja. Both are excited to be working together as a husband-wife team. At the end of 2015, John Abbot and Molly Gault retired from the operation of the Abeja winery. These changes also leave Dunham Cellars, where David was winemaker, and Sinclair Estate Vineyards, where Amy was winemaker, without head winemakers. Both wineries are transistioning with other help as they look for replacements.


Alaska Airlines adds New Flights between Seattle and Walla Walla

Beginning March 13, a third flight four daya a week between Seattle and Walla Walla will be added by Alaska Airlines. This will provide added flexiblity for travellers between the two cities as the added flights will be in late morning. Air travel in and out of the Walla Walla Regional Airport increased dramatically in 2015. The number of passengers flying rose 13.7 percent for the year. The load factor for all flights was 80.47 percent, which means the average flight was about 80% full, meaning greater profitability for Alaska Airlines. This increase also means the airline's management believes the increase in flights is warranted.


Walla Walla Valley Wine Tastings to be held in Seattle and Portland

In February, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance will be presenting wine tastings in Seattle and Portland. The dates are:

Seattle: February 8 at McCaw Hall

Portland: February 29 at Pure Space

For tickets ($50) go to the Wine Alliance website, Walla Walla Wine.


The Waters / Flying Trout Industry Appreciation Night

Last night, January 11, the Waters Winery and Flying Trout Wines held an Industry Appreciation Night for its friends. Over 50 guests were in attendance and some delicious wines were poured, including Waters' 2012 Loess Syrah (to be reviewed in March), the 2011 21 Grams Red Blend, and the 2013 Flying Trout Konnowak Vineyard Malbec (reviewed October, 2015). It was a fun evening of tasting and conversation. Kudos to the Waters / Flying Trout team, Michelle Aichle, Ashley Trout, Trista Flores, Janna Detoiler and Jill Mediah for putting this on.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 January 2016 16:48

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