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Tasting Italian Wines and Chenin Blancs
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 12:41

Last week, I attended two interesting tasting, one of Italian red wines, and one of international Chenin Blancs. Both were very interesring and informative. Here are my reports on them.

 

The WSET Italian Wine Tasting

The Wine and Spriti Education Trust (WSET) is a London, U.K. based organization dedicated to educating wine and spirits professionals and serious amateurs. There are numerous chapters around the world, including the U.S. A group of Walla Walla Community College Center for Enology & Viticulture faculty members, led by Sabrina Lueck, are studying for the WSET Level 3 Certification. I was invited to participate in the group's tastings. On June 9, the group met for a tasting of Italian wines, comprising two Sicilian wines, three Tuscan ones, four Piedmont wines and two from Valpolicella. Here are the most noteworthy wines.

2009 Girolamo Russo "San Lorenzo" Etna Rosso - This Sicilian red displayed a medium ruby/garnet color and a rich, ripe, slightly raisiny nose with scents of dried roses, orange peel and tobacco. The the volcanic soil imbued dried fruit flavors were savory and picked up notes of sage, rosemary, cardamom and clove on the finish. 18+/20 points.

2007 La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - Made from the Sangiovese Grosso clone (locally called Brunello), this showed a brilliant garnet color and rich aromas, redolent of cherry, plum, orange peel, truffles, dried roses, brine and oriental perfumes. The medium-full bodied flavors were elegant and well wrought, with a long, nutty finish with a hint of sweetness to counterpoint the classic dryness. 19+/20 points.

2005 Arigiano Brunello di Montalcino - This showed a deep garnet color with orangish edges. The aromas consisted of smoke, brine, tobacco, and dried fruits, and the flavors of slightly nutted semi-dried fruits, striking a balance between the traditional and modern styles. It turned dry on the finish, with touches of tar and leather. 19/20 points.

2001 Damilano Barolo - Garnet colored with orange edges, this wine emited sulty, smoky aroms of dried fruits, orange peel, dried roses, tar, and oriental perfumes. The flavors were classically styled, entering a maturing phase, with touches of caramel and roasted nuts and a burnt back palate and a leathery, peppery dry finish. 19/20 points.

2009 Ca'Nova Barbaresco, Montestefano - This displayed a deep medium garnet color and intriguing aromas of semi-dried fruits, tobacco, dried rose petals, sandalwood, orange peel, and whiffs of tarry smoke. The flavors were rich and generous, with an almost lush texture that belies the dry nose. The wine turned dry again on the back palate, followed by recurring orange peel and dried cherries and some remaining tannins. A fine modern/traditional syle. 19+/20 points.

In discussing the Barolo and Barbaresco, one WSET student asked about the unfamiliar aromas of those wines. I commented, "creosote, road tar." This, along with dried rose perfumes, is what makes Nebbiolos from those districts so distintive, and, for that matter, "noble" wines.

2010 Vietti "Tre Vigne" Barbera d'Alba - This was a fine, typical Barbera, showing a ruby/garnet color and a smoky nose of black cherries, crushed roses and spices. The flavors consisted of typical tart cherries, intermixed with licorice, chocolate and Alban hills minerals, and a well fruited mouth feel and a lively finish. 18.5/20 points.

A 2010 Vietti Barbera d'Asti was also poured, it was a bit more medium bodied and less complex. 17.5/20 points.

2008 Villa Mattielli Amarone della Valpolicella - This showed a ruby/garnet color and an exotic nose of dark roasted fuits, oriential perfumes and incense. On the palate, the flavors were thich and ripe, consisting of sweet-dry roasted fruits and nuts, burnt earth, minerals. The leathery finish picked up a recioto-like sweetness on the end. 19/20 points.

Thanks to Sabrina Lueck for organizing and hosting this tasting!

 

The SOB Chenin Blanc Tasting

Chenin Blanc is one of the world's most undervalued white grapes. The Sons of Bacchus (SOBs) tasting on June 11th proved that Chenin Blancs are wines that can be taken seriously. We tasted nine wines - seven dry and two sweet - and not one clunker among them. Here the most impressove ones.

2013 Waitsburg Cellars "Chevray" Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley - Paul Gregutt's own entry showed a deep gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle and orental perfumes. The flavors showed moderate acidity and minerally earth, making for an attractive, easy drinking white. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec, Clos du Bourg - This was the best of the dry Chenins (provided by me). It offered a medium gold color and a rich, smoky nose with floral scents and rich, round, mouth-filling flavors that showed notes of nougat, bright citrus and cream, with a deep, minerally backbone, and a long, ripe, dry finish. Huet is one of the best and most reliable producers of Vouvray. 19/20 points.

2012 Marc Bredif "Classic" Vouvray - This is from another reliable producer. It showed a brilliant gold color and an attractive, floral nose, with full, round and satisfying flavors of pear, peach and apricot, marked by a broad streak of minerality. The back and finish showed weight and substance. 18.5/20 points.

2003 Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant - This was an unusual wine, from a Loire district known for its distinctive wines, which seem to show premature oxidation and stay that way for years. Erik McLaughlin, who brought it, called it a "zombie wine." It displayed a deep gold color and a spiced, candied nose of apricots and rasins. The palate showed a dense combination of minerals, dried fruits and roasted nuts, with a lanolin coated dry finish. 18.5/20 points. I would have given this 19 points if I could have gotten past the oxidative qualities.

These were followed by two fabulous sweet Chenins from the Loire Valley.

2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray Molleux, Le Mont - Huet makes sweet as well as dry Vouvrays. This one showed a brilliant lemon gold color with a rich, spicy nose of pear, peach, apricot and ethereal perfumes. The ripe fruit flavors were rich and opulent, yet showed precises fruit acids, like a laser beam. The back picked up notes of lemon peal and a bold streak of minerality, followed by an endless honeyed, semi sweet finish. 19.5/20 points.

1989 Domaine Baumard Coteaux du Layon, Clos Ste. Catherine - This was an amazing wine, nearly 25 years old. Deep lemon gold colored, it showed an intensely minerally nose of dried fruits - pear, apricot, lemon peel - all spicy and unctuous on the palate. The back was rich and sweet, but not at all cloying, with notes of peach stones, marzipan and creme brulée. The minerality was pervasive and astonishingly fresh for its age. 20/20 points.

Thanks to Billo Naravane for hosting!

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 17:25
 
More Rosés Plus Summertime Whites
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 13:39

Since last week's Review of Washington Wines Blog posting, I have tried some more rosé wines to add to last week's list. As I mentioned before, interest in rosés has risen dramatically in the past few years. They are fun to drink, yet are to be taken seriously, being versatile wines that are especially suitable with summer fare.

Here are three that I discovered on our visit to the Columbia Gorge on the way back home from Seattle to Walla Walla last Saturday.

2013 AniChe Cellars "Little Birds" Rosé Wine, Columbia Valley ($21) - This is a saigneée rosé, produced from one third each of Tempranillo, Zinfandel and Sangiovese, which were bled off from crushed grapes. It displays a salmon color and intriguing aromas of pear, Rainier cherry and watermelon and bursts with bright fruits that are accented by light herbs and spices. 18/20 points.

2013 Domaine Pouillon Rosé Wine, Horse Heaven Hills ($20) - Composed of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre, this rosé displays a brilliant copper color and seductive aromas of ruhbarb, blood orange, dried roses and lavender. The flavors are deep and extracted, redolent of steeped fruits, dried orange peel and Horse Heaven minerals. The back picks up notes of dried orange peel and melon rind on the lightly spiced dry finish. 18+/20 points.

2013 Syncline Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - Sourced from the McKinley Springs and Coyote Canyon vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills, and composed of 43% Cinsault, 32% Grenache and 25% Mourvèdre, this offers a pale pink-copper color and aromas of strawberries, watermelon, ruhbarb and white lavender. The flavors are ripe and direct, with notes of grape skin and melon rind, followed by a crisp, dry, lightly spiced finish. 18/20 points.

Here are a few more rosés that were tasted since last week, including a couple from Provence which are the inspirations for the drier style of rosés being made today.

2013 Tamarack Cellars Rosé of Mourvèdre, Wahluke Slope ($18) - Pale salmon colored, this wine emits intriguing aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry, orange peel, and white incense. The flavors are dry and precise, with the dried fruits and Wahluke scorched earth and minerals mimicing the Cotes de Provence. The back picks up nores of dried orange peel and spices, followed by a persistent dry finish. 18/20 points. Sold out at the winery, but can be found elsewhere, including Metropolitan Market.

2013 Buty "Rosé of the Stones," Walla Walla Valley, Rockgarden Estate ($25) - This comes from the winery's vineyard in the "Rocks" of the South Valley. Composed of 92% Syrah and 8% Grenache, it displays a brilliant salmon color and captivating aromas of pear-apple musk melon and Provençal orange, anise and jasmine. The flavors are well extracted, yet graceful, imbued with notes of grape skin, melon rind and "Rocks" minerality. The back picks up sensations of dried orange peel and pear liqueur, followed by a lingering, spiced (nutmeg, clove) dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2013 "AIX" Rosé Wine, Coteaux d'Aix en Provence ($15) - Pale salmon colored, this offers lovely aromas of hillside strawberries and raspberries and scents of Provençal wildflowers and herbs, with whiffs of white incense. The flavors are as enticing as the aromas, with notes of Mistral-blown earth and minerals, followed by dried orange peel and spices on the dry finish. 18/20 points. (Purchased at Esquin)

2013 La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé ($21) - Produced from the Mourvèdre grape, this shows a pale salmon color and seductive aromas of pear-apple, musk melon, orange peel, dried roses, white lavender and white incense. The flavors are well extracted, but without being particularly rindy, marked by Provençal minerals and seaside salinity. 18+/20 points. (Purchased at Esquin)

Last week's listing of rosés included one from K Vintners which was reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines.. It is sold out at the winery, but last week I discovered that Esquin has a few cases of it left. The price there is $19.99 a bottle.

Now, here are a couple of white wines that are in too limited a supply to list in the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

2013 Syncline Grüner Veltliner, Columbia Gorge, Underwood Mountain Vineyard ($20) - This is sold out at the winery, but there are several cases left in Seattle. James Mantone poured it for me on my visit last Saturday. It offers a brilliant gold color and an exotic nose of Asian pear-apple, peach, star fruit, anise jasmine and white lavender. The white fruit flavors are equally intriguing, with notes of peach pit, oriental fruits, lime peel and Underwood Mountain volcanic minerals. The back is well extracted, yet equipoised, followed by a long juicy dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Domaine Pouillon "Deux" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($23) - This is a charming combination of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Viognier. It was a popular wine in previous vintages, but shifting demand has resulted in it being phased out. But it's a fine wine on its own merits. It offers a brilliant gold color and attractive aromas of pear, apple, peach, citrus, orange blossoms, acacia flowers and white lilac. The flavors are bright and nicely balanced, with notes of peach stones, grape skin and stony minerals. The back picks up touches of poire William liqueur and grapefruit peel on the way to a ripe, crisp finish. Lynn really likes this. 18.5/20 points.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 15:12
 
The 2014 Season's Rosé Roundup
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 02 June 2014 14:24

About a year ago (16 May, 2013), I posted a Review Blog article about "This Season's Rosés and Their Various Styles. It turned out to be the most read posting of the year, 742 "hits." This is a remarkable testament to the growng popularity of rosé wines. Four years ago, hardly anyone would have paid any attention to these wines. For this season, here is a compilation of recommended rosés, grouped according to type.

 

Rhone Valley Style - Most of these are Syrah, some with Grenache, Cinsault or Counoise.

2013 Tranche Cellars "Pink Pape" Rosé, Yakima Valley, Blackrock Vineyard ($16) - Counoise, Cinsault, Grenache. Reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines - 18+/20 points.

2013 Balboa Rosé of Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Eidolon Vineyard ($20) - Reviewed May - 18.5/20 points.

2013 K Vintners Syrah Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Reviewed May - 18.5/20 points.

2013 Renegade Wine Co. Rosé, Columbia Valley ($10) - Syrah, Cinsault, Counoise - April - 18/20 points.

2013 Waters Rosé Wine, Washington State ($18) - Co-fermented Syrah (55%) and Viognier (45%). Reviewed April 18.5/20 points.

2013 Gramercy Cellars Rosé, Columbia Valley, Olsen Vineyard ($25) - Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah - June - 18.5/20 points.

 

Provençal Style - These are modeled after the rosés of Aix en Provence (Grenache and/or Mourvèdre) and Bandol (Mourvèdre).

2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($19) - Reviewed June - 18+/20 points.

2013 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Rosé, Yakima Valley, Angolina Farm Vineyard ($20) - Brilliant pale pink colored, this emits enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry and watermelon, with scents of cherry blossoma, pink lilac and white incense. The flavors are fresh, ripe and minerally, with notes of fraise liqueur, melon rind and orange peel, followed by a lightly spiced finish, akin to a Aix en Provence Rosé. (New Review). 18+/20 points.

2013 Gard Vintners "Grand Klasse" Rosé, Columbia Valley, Lawrence Vineyard ($25) - This Grenache Rosé comes from the Royal Slope near Othello. It displays a brilliant pale pink-copper color and an intriguing nose of Rainier cherry, watermelon and tangerine, with scents of cherry blossoms and spiced white incense. The mouth feel is dry, yet flavorful, in the mannert of a Provence rosé, showing notes of grape skin, melon rind, orange peel and stony minerals, along with precise extraction and fruit acids on the lingering finish. (New Review). 18.5/20 points.

2013 College Cellars Mourvèdre Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Birch Creek Vineyard ($16) - This resembles a Cotes de Provence Rosé with its pale copper color and aromas of pink peach, tangerine, melon, wildflowers, herbs, and white incense. The flavors are light bodied, yet well defines, with notes of peach pit, melon rind and hillside minerality, followed by a dry, lightly spiced finish that evokes the wine's sun drencehed high elevation terroir. (New Review). 18+/20 points.

2013 Ardor Cellars Mourvèdre Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Birch Creek Vineyard ($28) - Reviewed June - 18.5/20 points.

 

Cabernet Franc Rosés - These are made by cold soaking the crushed grapes for a short period of time, and then pressing off the juice.

2013 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Magician's Assistant" Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, Blackrock Vineyard ($18) - Reviewed April - 18/20 points.

2013 Trust Cellars Rose of Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($18) - Pink colored, this comes on just as it is, a rosé made from Cabernet Franc, with aromas of crushed raspberries, cherries and orange and cherry blossoms. The flavors are fresh and lively, with notes of cherry pits, orange peel and grape skin, followed by a juicy, dry finish. (New Review) 18/20 points.

2013 Seven Hills Winery Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley, ($17) - Reviewed in the 19 February Blog. - 18.5 points.

 

Miscellaneous Rosés - These are rosés made from various varieties and combinations.

2013 El Corazon "Red Frog" Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Produced from Malbec, Reviewed May - 18+/20 points.

2013 Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley ($14) - May - 18/20 points.

2013 Saviah Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - This combination of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Barbera from tge Dugger Creek Vineyard offers a light copper color and interesting aromas of pink peach, tangerine, ruhbarb and spiced white incense. These aromatics are mirrored in the deft, semi dried fuit flavors that pick up a bit of heft from sensations of melon rind and orange peel on the back, followed by a squeeze of citrus juice on the dry finish. (New Review). 18/20 points.

2013 Tertulia Cellars Rosé of Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Riveres Galets Vineyard ($18) This comes from the winery's estate vineyard in the "Rocks" of the South Valley. It displays a light salmon color and intriguing aromas of grapefruit, Rainier cherry, orange blossoms and lavender. The flavors are well juiced, yet dry, with notes of melon rind, orange peel and riverstone minerals. The back picks up touches of bitter Marcona almond that characterizes the Tempranillo grape, followed by a classic "old world" dry finish. (New Review). - 18+/20 points.

2013 Castillo de Feliciana Rose of Tempranillo, Columbia Valley ($19) - Reviewed May - 18/20 points.

The following two wines are made from Pinot Gris grapes that have been given longer hang time, resulting in pale salmon colored wines that possess unique gualities.

2013 Castillo de Feliciana "Vino Verano" Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($16) - May - 18+/20 points.

2013 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Grigio Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills ($18) - May - 18.5/20 points.

 

 

Last Updated on Monday, 02 June 2014 19:42
 
A Visit to the Ferguson Vineyard
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 12:19

On the morning of May 15th, Lynn and I met up with Marty Clubb to visit L'Ecole No, 41's Fergusion Vineyard - named after the winery's founders, Baker and Jean Ferguson - located in the South Walla Walla Valley, west of Milton-Freewater. After a loop through the adjacent Seven Hills Vineyard, we drove up a gravel road to the upper levels of the Ferguson Vineyard, so far planted with 18 acres of vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, along with some Cab Franc and Malbec. When planted out, there will be about 42 acres of vines. The elevation is 1350 to 1500 feet, one of the highest points in the Valley, above the Missoula Floods level. This altitude also protects the vines from winter freezes.

In exploring the vineyard, we saw stunning vistas of the Valley, where we could see the original Seven Hills and Windrow vineyards. The terrain consists of basalt bedrock overlain with a thin layer of wind-blown glacial loess. The fractures in the rock form crevices for vine roots to grow deeper. At one point, we stopped at a section of the slope where basalt rock was cut away and then crushed for gravel to pave the vineyard roads. Here, Marty pointed out the importance of the lava flows that occurred around 15 million years ago. While the Missoula Floods of around 15,000 years ago play a major role in the geology of the area, so do the lava flows.

The ridge along the southern rim of the Walla Walla Valley AVA is emerging as an important development in the expanding vine acreage of the area. Cadaretta's Southwind Vineyard and Doubleback's McQueen Vineyard are also on this ridge to the west. The basalt substrate adds exceptional structure, graphite and iron minerality, and sturdy acidity to the wines, as evidenced by the 2011 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Vineyard Red Wine that was reviewed in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

For pictures of the Ferguson Vineyard, see the Review of Washington Wines Facebook page.

 

An Exceptional Sangiovese from College Cellars

I was going to put this wine in the July issue of the Review of Wines but recently learned that it is almost sold out. So I am including it here. Don't miss it!

2012 College Cellars of Walla Walla Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($25)

Deep purplish colored, this Sangio offers rich aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum, black roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. On the palate, the dark fruit flavors are generous and supple, yet focused, intermixed with licorice, baker's chocolate, breakfast roast and silty minerals. The back picks up notes of squeezed berries, mocha and roasted nuts, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish that is enlivened by a dollop of tart cherry juice. As an easy drinking, yet serious, wine, this is a real bargain. 18.5/20 points.

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 14:41
 
Tasting Grand Cru Chablis and Sangiovese
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 21 May 2014 13:55

A week ago, on May 14th, the Sons of Bacchus (SOBs) and a Daughter of Dionysus assembled at the Seven Hills Winery for a blind tasting of Grand Cru Chablis - all Grand Cru, no Premier Cru. These come from the slope overlooking the town on Chablis with a southwest exposure and the heaviest concentration of calcium in the soil, which gives Chardonnay a distinctive minerally taste. The top wines in each fligh, with my scores, were:

2011 Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur - This was my favorite, as well as the group's. It possessed an intriguing saline and floral nose and a classic, crisp texture, turning steely and dry on the lemon zest finish. 19+/20 points.

2009 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos - I ranked this second close second. It shoed a medium greenish gold color and classic aromas of green apple and gunflint. The palate showed much minerality and biting acidity. 19+/20 points.

2004 William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos - Again, I ranked this second. It showed a classic pale colo and a flinty, yet rich nose, with hints of hazelnut (showing the wine's maturity) and a long, dry, herb tinged finsh. 19/20 points.

Other outstanding wines.

2012 Domaine L. Chatelain Chablis Grand Cru, Le Clos - Light gold colored, this had a fresh, minerally nose and notes of pear and peach, with a classic, steely finish. Purchased from Total Wine, it cost $59.99, a best buy, as the others cost upwards of $70 a bottle. 19/20 points.

2010 Domaine Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchots - This was my favorite in the entire tasting, and number two in the second flight. It showed a brilliant gold color and a saline nose of flint, peach and citrus, with a steely, classic finish. 19.5/20 points.

The tasting was preceeded by a 2000 Hanzell Sonoma County Chardonnay, in honor of its winemaker, Bob Sessions, who had just passed away. It had held up remarkably well, with superb varietal delineation and little oxidation. Thanks to Casey McClellan and Erik McLaughlin for hosting.

 

Last Saturday, the Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers (PAWS) assembled at the home of Ted and Joyce Cox for a tasting of Sangiovese wines, some from Italy, some from Washington. The wines were scored on the "Wine Country Getaways" 25 point scale (a new one for me). The scores were all over the place, so I am just listing the group's favorite and my top pick.

2010 Balboa Sangiovese, Columbia Valley - This was an amiable Sangio, which explains its top ranking. It showed a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry and cherry, with a supple texture. I found it to be a nice wine, but not my favorite. 19/25 points.

2007 La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva - I picked this out as a Brunello (Sangiovese Grosso). It showed a garnet color and classic aromas of dried berries and cherries, woody smoke and elegant medium-full bodied flavors and a long, dry, complex finish. A beautiful wine, I scored it 25/25 points.

Curriously, Walla Walla Vintners appeared three three times out of the seven wines being blind tasted, two from the 2012 vintage, one from 2011. Here's my notes on the 2012:

2012 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese, Columbia Valley - Deep ruby colored, it showed attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry and crushed roses, with supple, medium-bodied flavors that carried on nicely through the finish. I scored both bottles 21/25 points.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:48
 
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