- Written by Rand Sealey
A week ago (Wednesday, April 6) we attended the Vital Wines Launch Dinner at the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla. Over a hundred people showed up to hear Ashley Trout (formerly of Flying Trout Winery) talk about her nonprofit winery whose sole purpose is to raise money for SOS Health Services in College Place, providing free, no questions asked, health care. This makes available health care to the many winery workers without medical insurance, something that is prevalent in the industry, much of which is seasonal. Ashley, herself, worked in the wine industry without health insurance for eight years. It became apparent to her that something needed to be done to help which is how Vital Winery came into being.
Vital Winery operates largely with donated resources, wine grapes, winemaking equipment, bottles, labels, shipping materials, just about everything involved in making wine. The first release is a 2015 Rosé Wine, made from Sangiovese from the Seven Hills Vineyard, and a red blend will be released in the Fall. Wines will be sold directly through a wine club and mailing list, as well as some select retail outlets. All profits go to the SOS Clinic. The 2015 Rosé is available for $18 a bottle. Go to www.vitalwinery.com for more information. In addition to Ashley, the assistant winemaker is Tim Doyle (who was at our table), social media director, Morgan Mayfield and public relations, Bob Silver. Compliance and bookkeeping is provided by Winery Compliance Services. And many other services are being donated.
The dinner, which included many winery workers whose meals were paid for as part of the dinner payments, was a great success. In addition to the new Rosé, many donated wines were poured. We had a lovely 2013 Reininger Carmenere and a robust Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon (made by Ashley's husband, Brian Rudin) and much more. The Rosé was made in a fresh, lively, dry style, with notes of berries, cherries and watermelon. The three course dinner consisted of Fuji apple salate with pecans and Oregon blue cheese, spicy lamb sausage, and Grand Marnier cake.
Kudos to Ashley Trout for spearheading this project. It's all about "Taking care of each other."
- Written by Rand Sealey
This year, Cayuse Weekend and Taste Washington were on the same weekend, that of April 1-3. How that came about is this: Back in the October of last year, Cayuse sent a notification to put April 1-2 the calendar for its annual pick-up party; some months later, after the beginning of the year, the Washington Wine Commission announced the dates for Taste Washington for April 2-3. Normally, Taste Washington is held the last weekend of March, but that was Easter weekend, so it was moved back another week.
Since Cayuse Weekend and Taste Washington were must-attend events for me, I went to Cayuse on Friday, April 1 (announced as "No Joke") and Taste Washington on Saturday, flying there from Walla Walla. Here's my report:
Cayuse Weekend, Friday April 1
That morning, I drove towards Milton Freewater and turned off Highway 11 to Sunnyside Road and continued west a few miles to the winery (aka "The Box"). Once inside I started tasting the 2014's and 2013's. Christophe Baron, the owner-winemaker, always likes to kid me about my note taking, asking me "Do you like our wines?" I assured him I certainly did. I found the 2024's particularly compelling, although the 2013's were highly impressive as well. Here are my notes and scores.
2013 "God only Knows" Grenache - Brilliant brick red colored, this showed attractive aromas of raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, roses, violets and incense. The medium bodied flavors were supple and alluring, with notes of pressed berries and roasted nuts, and sweet-dry tannins. 19+/20 points.
2014 "Widowmaker" Cabernet Sauvigon - This showed an opaque ruby color and a rich, ripe nose of blackberries, cherries, cassis, anise, crushed roses, tobacco and cedar. The flavors were deep and powerful, loaded with dark fruits, espresso and Rocks minerality, The power continued on the back with a long, ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah - Deep purplish colored, this had an intense nose of wild berries, crushed roses, garrigue, tobacco, violets and incense. The full throttle flavors were deep and full, marked by distinct terroir, continuing on into a long, dark and brooding back and finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah - Purplish colored, this possessed an intense, earthy, minerally nose of blackberries, blueberries, cassis, roses, garrigue and violets. The flavors were dense and compact, with notes of licorice, dark roast and chocolate. The intensity continued on the back with roasted berries and nuts, leather and cassis, followed by a long, powerful finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 "Bionic Frog" Syrah - From the Cocinelle Vineyard, this showed a deep ruby color and a lovely, fragrant nose of wild berries, crushed roses, lavender, sweet tobacco and oriental incense. The medium bodied flavors were supple, yet focused, with notes of cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back picked up pressed berries and roasted nuts, followed by a long, spicy finish. 20/20 points.
2013 Armada Vineyard Syrah - This showed a seductive nose of wild fruits, wild roses, lavender, violets and sweet incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with mouth encompassing black and blue fruits that were underlain with licorice, French roast and minerals. The saturation continued on the back with pressed berries, roasted nuts, creme de cassis and orange peel, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 20/20 points.
2014 "Impulsivo" Tempranillo - Deep ruby colored, this emited intriguing aromas of black cherries, roasted plums, black currants, anise, dark tobacco and black olive. The flavors were bold and direct, with a taut focus, accompanied by notes of licorice, dark chocolate, chicory coffee and minerals. The back picked up notes of pressed berries, Marcona almonds and leather, followe by a lingering dryish tannin finish. The best Washington Tempranillo I'vre tasted so far. 20/20 points.
2012 "Wallah Wallah" Special Syrah #4 - This showed a deep ruby color and seductive aromas of wild dark fruits, roses, lavender and spiced incense. The medium full-bodied flavors were thick and chewy, with noticeable Rocks earthiness. The depth and power continued all the way to the end, picking up roasted berries and nuts and ripe tannins. 19.5/20 points.
After picking up my Cayuse allocation, I went over to the Reynvann Family Vineyards winery at the end of Cottonwood Road. There, the newly released 2014 whites were poured, along with the 2014 reds, to be released in the Fall. I found the whites to be deliciously vibrant and the 2014 reds even more compelling than when they were tasted last November (reviewed in the February issue).
2014 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Foothills" Viognier - From the Estate Vineyard on Cottonwood Road, this showed a brilliant gold color and a lovely, fragrant nose of pear, peach and papaya, with scents of butternut, meadow flowers and jasmine. The white fruit flavors, as well, were alluring, with silky fruits and peche and poire liqueurs and a long finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Viognier - This showed a more minerally character than the Foothills along with a distinct varietal character, and well extracted fruits, and a long Condrieu-like finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Reynvann Family Vineyards "Queen's Road" White Wine - Composed of 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, it showed a brilliant gold color and a minerally nose of pear, peach and papaya, lemongrass, jasmine and dried flowers. The flavors were full bodied and extracted, with a long dry, yet finely fruited finish. 19.5/20 points.
After Reynvaan, I stopped at Otis Kenyon to taste the fine 2013 Carménère and Malbec from the Phinny Hill Vineyard, to be reviewed in the May issue. I also stopped at Kerloo Cellars to taste new releases to be reviewed next month.
Taste Washington, Saturday April 2
After arriving at Sea-Tac, I took a cab to the Century Link Exhibition Center for Taste Washington. My initial focus was to taste the wines of Avennia, Andrew Will, Betz and Cadence, wineries that are not open to the public. This gave me an opportunity to taste their wines at one venue. The reviews will be in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines which goes on line April 26th.
I also visited some other wineries, looking for new discoveries. Co Dinn (Coman Dinn) had some compelling site specific wines, a Chardonnay and Syrah from the Roskamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain and a Painted Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in a future issue. Another winery turning out terroir-driven wines in Ali Mayfield's The Walls, which is building a new winery in downtown Walla Walla. I tasted a striking 2014 "La Lutte" Chardonnay and a "Stanley Groovy" red that lives up to its name. These and others will be reviewed in June or July. A couple of interesting "outliers" were Wilridge's intruigingly aromatic 2013 Zweigelt Red from the Naches Heights AVA and a bold, dark "Artist's Series" Lake Chelan Syrah with a label by Eugene Lybecker, age 3.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last evening (Wednesday, March 30) the Whitehouse=Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla put on a tasting of Chateauneuf du Pape wines. The principal grape is Grenache, with some Syrah or Mourvèdre, and smaller amounts of Cinsault, Counoise and others. Here are the wines tasted, with my notes and scores.
2013 Vieux Telegraphe CdP Blanc ($66) - A small amount of white wine is made in Chateauneuf du Pape. This one, of 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne and 15% Bourboulenc, offered a medium gold coor and intriguing aromas of pear, peach and papaya, with slightly nutted flavors and a ripe, lively finish. 19/20 points.
2006 Le Vieux Donjon (Magnum) - Composed of 75% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, and 5% Cinsault, this showed a ruby color and a perfumed nose of dark fruits, crushed roses and violets. The wild black fruit flavors were thck and generous, with a thick, earthy yet refined finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils ($49) - The cepage is 75% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 6% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, 2% Muscardin. It possessed a deep ruby color and enticing strawberry, cherry and plum aromas, with scents of roses, sweet tobacco and incense. The flavors were nicely fruited with depth and length. 18.5+/20 points.
2013 Domaine de la Charbonnière ($45) - Composed of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre, this possessed a ruby color and a spicy nose of wild raspberries, blueberries and pomegranates along with spiced incense. The flavors were robust and direct, with plenty of character and a forceful finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2013 Chateau Fortia "Traditiion" ($39) - A good value - 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah - this offered a medium ruby color and attractive aromas of raspberries, plums, roses, and incense, with chewy, direct flavors and good depth in the moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2011 Telegramme ($49) - The second wine of Vieux Telegraphe, this is 90% Grenache and 10$ Mourvèdre. It showed a purplish color and a rich nose of roasted berries and nuts. The medium bodied flavors were direct and not particularly complex, followed by a spicy moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2013 Mas de Boislauzon "Tradition" ($54) - This 70% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah blend showed a deep ruby color and a seductive, perfumed nose of wildflowers, raspberries, blueberries, and currants, with scents of crushed roses and violets. The flavors were supple and vivid, with plenty of depth, followed by a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2006 Bosquet des Pape, "Cuvée Tradition (Magnum) - This was the second magnum poured. This one, 75% Grenache, 12% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 3% Cinsault. Ruby-garnet colored, it emited aromas of semi dried fruits, old tree cherries, crushed roses, orange peel, cigar smoke, and incense. The full bodied flavors were supple and well developed, underlain with minerals, nuts, leather and coffee, followed by a long finish with tannins begining to smooth out. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Domaine du Pegau "Cuvée Reservé" ($59) - The lady next to me asked, "what is it about this wine?" I noted that it was aged 24 months in old wood foudres. I said, "it's the old wood." Initially, the nose of wild berries and incense was enticing, but then the taste of old wood became obstrusive. 85% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Mourvedere, Counoise and other reds. 17/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Lately, there has been an increasing popularity of Bordeaux-style red wine blends, composed of varying proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère. The term "BDX" comes from the ticketing code for the Bordeaux airport which has flights to Paris, London and other cities. (My strongest memory of BDX is that of a mediocre dinner and a dirty room at a nearby hotel, and a delayed flight resulting in a missed connection from London to Seattle.)
The question here is why there are up to six grape varieties in BDX blends when there are, for all practical purposes, only three in Bordeaux. Here are the percentages of grapes grown in that region: Merlot, 62%; Cabernet Sauvignon, 25%; and Cabernet Franc, 12%. This adds up to 99%, leaving only 1% for all of the Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère grown in Bordeaux.
The latter three varietals have Bordeaux origins, but are practically non-existent today. Here's what happened to them.
Petit Verdot - The name means "little green." It is a variety that produces small grapes and ripens slowly, which is why it has fallen out of favor in Bordeaux, a relatively cool climate area. In some years, the grapes do not ripen fully and don't have the beautiful crimson color and perfumed fruit that comes in warmer years. After the phyloxera devestation of the 1870's and '80's, there was little incentive to replant Petit Verdot.
Malbec - At one time, a fair amount of Malbec was grown in Bordeaux, especially in Graves, but the phyloxera devastation led to it's demise. Today, in France, Malbec is grown almost exclusively in the Lot River Valley around the town of Cahors, from which the appellation takes its name. It is also known as "the black wine." Much Malbec is now grown in Argentina which is the world's largest producer of that varietal.
Carménère - This is now known as "the lost grape of Bordeaux." Again, the phyloxera infestation led to its near-extinction. Its resurection has occured in the New World by way of Chile. In the late 19th century, cuttings of what were purported to be Merlot were shipped to Chile, but later, after closer examination, were found to be Carménère. It has more recently developed into something of a cult varietal in the U.S., especially in Washington State.
All this is not to say that there is any problem with calling wines including Petit Verdot, Malbec or Carménère "BDX" blends. But that is more in a historical rather than a contemporary sense. But, at least, those varietals do grow well in Washington State, due to the warmer, more consistent climates than those of Bordeaux, which gives a reason to include them in "BDX" blends.
Here are some noteworthy recently revewed "BDX" blends.
2013 Bartholomew 5th Quarter Blend, Columbia Valley ($32) 19/20 points. (April issue)
55% Carmenénère, 20% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc.
2014 NumbSkull "BDX" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - 19/20 points. (April issue)
73% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 "Perigee" Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($54) - 19.5/20 points. (April issue)
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabefnet Franc, 9% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot.
2013 Long Shadows "Pirouette" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($55) 19.5/20 points (December issue)
63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc.
Also, there are some fine examples of stand-alone varietals from the Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère grapes.
2013 Seven Hills Reserve Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley ($45) - 19.5/20 points (to be in the May issue)
2013 Kerloo Cellars Malbec, Wahluke Slope, Stone Tree Vineyard ($40) - 19/20 points (January)
2013 àMaurice Cellars "Amparo" Estate Malbec, Walla Walla Valley ($47) 19.5 points (November)
2014 Seven Hills Carménère, Walla Walla Valley ($30) - 19 points (to be reviewed in May)
2012 Tertulia Cellars Carménère, Horse Heaven Hills, Phinny Hill Vineyard ($40) - 19 points (April)
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Tuesday, March 15th, the Sons of Bachus (SOBs) and two Daughters of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Saint Joseph Wines. The appellation is situated south of Condrieu in the North Rhone Valley. The principal grape is Syrah and up to 10% white grapes may be added (Marsanne and Roussanne) and the wines are similar to those of Cote Rotie. Ten wines were tasted in three flights and there was a taste off of the top wines in each flight.
The top three in order of ranking, with my notes and scores
2006 Domaine de Miguettes - This was my second choice, but by a small margin. It showed a deep ruby color with a garnet edge (an indication of a maturing wine) and a sultry, smoky nose of grilled berries and meats, and garrigue (lavender, Provencal herbs). The flavors were thick and pure Syrah. 19+/20 points.
2010 Domaine Courbis, "Les Reyes" - This was my first choice. It showed a purplish color and an intense, spicy blackberry and cassis nose and well-structured Syrah flavors. It really opened up on aeration, showing classic depth and a long finish with notes of spices and toffeee. 19.5/20 points.
2011 Qupé Syrah, Edna Valley, California, Lundquist Vineyard - This was the "ringer" of the tasting. I picked it out as such for its lighter color and body, indicative of a warmer climate Syrah. It offered attractive aromas of wild berries, tobacco and spice, with chewy, medium bodied flavors that showed fine depth and length. 19/20 points.
Other noteworthy wines
2006 E. Guigal "Lieu Dit" - This is a bottling from Guigal's estate vineyards. This one showed a purplish color and a spicy nose of blackberries, currants and spices. In between the traditional and modern styles, it had fine depth, Syrah purity and a lasting finish. 19/20 points. There was also a 2011 Lieu Dit which showed a bit less complexity and depth. 18.5+/20 points.
2012 Stephane Robert "Domaine du Tunnel" - This showed an inky purplish color and a perfumed nose - lavender, violets and incense - and mouth encompassing flavors, followed by notes of orange peel and burnt charcoal and a dryish tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2010 Guy Farge "passion de terrasses" - Deep ruby colored, this showed a deep ruby color and aromas of tobacco, cedar and roasted berries. The flavors were thick and meaty, with notes of dried friit, roast coffee, earth, leather and ripe, grainy tannins. This was my first choice in its flight. 19+/20 points.
Thanks to Jamie Kennedy for hosting this fine tasting.