Review of Washington Wines Blog
Tasting Older German Rieslings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 13:56

A week ago, the Sons of Bacchus (SOBs) assembled for a tasting of German Rieslings 2001 and older. For the most part, they were remarkably fine. It is the natural acidity that makes Rieslings the longest-lived white wines. There were a couple of corked wines and a couple over the hill ones, but the rest were truly remarkable. There were two sets of six Spatlesen and six Auslesen, each group in flights of three wines. There are the top three wines in each group, according to the tasters' ranking, together with my notes and scores.

1996 Reichgraf von Kesselstatt Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spatlese - Deep gold colored, this showed a rich nose of slightly dried fruits and flowers. The flavors were almost viscous, with notes of orange peel, toasted nuts and slate, followed by a long complex finish. I ranked this number one of the Spatlesen. 19+/20 points.

1998 Dr. Loosen Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Spatlese - Almost amber colored, this wine showed a rich nose of dried fruits - peach, citrus, apricot - with a hint of diesel (typical of older Riesling). The slightly spiced flavors were rich and fat, yet balanced with fine acidity and racy minerality. 19/20 points.

1998 Schloss Schöenborn Johannisberger Klaus Riesling Spatlese - This Rheingau Riesling showed a gold-amber color and aromas of spiced, dried fruits, with scents of dried flowers, tangerine and a hint of banana. The flavors were rich and earthy, with fine acidity and a dryish, spiced finish. 19/20 points.

1996 Porta Nigra Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese - This was the top ranked wine in the Auslese group. Interestisngly, it was a shipper's bottling rather than an estate one. It was truly remarkable (my top ranked wine as well). It showed a deep amber color and aromas of dried fruits and flowers, diesel, and orange peel. The flavors combined racy acidity and minerals with lanolin and spice, followed by a long, ultra complex finish. 19.5/20 points.

1989 Schloss Schöenborn Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Riesling Auslese - Here, again, Schloss Schöenborn stood out. It showed a deep amber-copper color (characteristic of a 25 year-old Riesling) and striking aromas of dried fruits and flowers, caramel and burnt orange peel. The flavors were comprised of rich dried fruits, with a slightly bitter finish. 19+/20 points.

2001 C.H. Berres Urziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese - This was the youngest wine in the grouping. Sadly, my 1997 was corked, but I had also taken this one for Trey Busch. It showed a medium gold color and a slaty, floral, minerally nose and ripe, dryish, complex flavors that showed a sense of exquisiteness. 19+/20 points.

There were two other noteworthy wines that could have been contenders for the top rankings.

1997 Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg Riesling Auslese - This one showed a medium gold color and and lovely aromas of dried flowers and semi-dried fruits. The flavors were rich, earthy and slatey (typical of a Nahe Riesling), with racy, ultrarefined finish. I ranked this second. 19+/20 points.

1990 Dr. Bürklin Wolf Forster Pechstein Riesling Auslese - Forst is one of the premier wine producing towns of the Rheinpfalz. Ths one displayed an amber color and a peachy, appley nose, with a hint of diesel. The flavors were nicely matured, still showing a bit of Auslese sweetness on the back palate, and then turning dryish. 19/20 points.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 May 2015 14:57
The Third Annual Rosé Roundup
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 20:35

Spring Releaae Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley

Last weekend, May 1 through 3, was a busy one. The turnouts at the tasting rooms were large, and things were hopping everywhere. We visited Leonetti's annual event at the winery, along with Doubleback, Seven Hills, Maison Bleue (where Lynn helped out Saturday afternoon), Kerloo, Tertulia (which opened a boules terrain with the Walla Walla Petanque Club) and Gino Cuneo Cellars. On Saturday evening, Roger and Julia Russell hosted a fabulous paella party for Manison Cellars club members and friends. Watch for reviews in the June and July issues of the Review of Washington Wines.


Tastings of Walla Walla Winery Rosés and Other New Releases

A week ago, April 28th, Mike Eberle (Maison Bleue) hosted a tasting of twenty five Rosés collected from various wineries in the Valley. Overall, the top wines were Seven Hills (reviewed April, $17), L'Ecole No 41 (see below) and CAVU (see below). These were my top picks:

2014 Maison Bleue "Lissette" Rosé of Grenache ($25) - This is a fine rendition of Provence-style Rosé. It showed a pale copper color and lovely aromas of raspberry, pink peach, pomegranate and tangerine, with fresh lively flavors. A full review will be in the June issue. 18.5-19/20 points.

2014 Waters Patina Vineyard Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Reviewed April - 18.5/20 points.

2014 College Cellars Mourvèdre Rose, Walla Walla Valley, Nostra Terrra Vineyard ($15) This came on strikingly Bandol-like (from Provence and also made from Mourvèdre) - floral and nicely balanced. A full review to be in the June issue. 18.5/20 points.

2014 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Gris Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, The Benches Vineyard ($17) - This differs from others in that it was made from white grapes given longer hang time which gave it a copper-hued color. Reviewed April - 18+ points.

That tasting was by no means a complete collection of Rosés. Some had not yet been released. Here are my reviews of ones tasted since the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

2014 Tranche Cellars Pink Pape, Columbia Valley ($18) - Pink is the keynote with this wine: light pink colored, with attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainer cherry, watermelon and pink grapefruit, with scents of cherry blossoms and jasmine and bright fruit acids. 18/20 points.

2014 Gino Cuneo Cellars "Rosato" Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - This Rosé of Sangiovese offers a brilliant crimson-pink color and attractiver aromas of wild strawberries, Rainer cherries and pomegranates. The bright fruit flavors resonate on the palet, picking up grape skin and pomegranate seed extracts on the way to a dry finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Riviere Galets Vineyard ($16) - Medium copper colored, this possesses intriguing aromas of peach, blood orange, musk melon, and papaya, with scents of orange blossoms and spiced incense. The flavors are distinctive, with ripe, mouth-encompassing orange fruit flavors that are accompanied by notes of peach stone, melon rind and orange peel. 18+/20 points.

2014 DaMa Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - Sourced from the XL Vineyard, this is an unusual Rosé in that it shows the palest copper color. But it has lovely aromatics - pink peach, Rainier cherry, orange peel, pink lilac and white incense - and light, refreshing, minerally flavors that dance on the palate, picking up notes of cerise and pêche liqueurs and orange peel on the way to a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. 18.5/20 points.

2014 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Rosé, Yakima Valley, Angiolina Farm Vineyard ($24) - This wine shows a pale peach color and enticing aromas of pear, pink peach, Rainer cherry, peach and cherry blossoms, jasmine and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, are attractive, with notes of peach stone, pear skin and alluvial minerals. The back picks up cerise and pêche liqueurs, followed by a crisp, bright fruit acid finish. 18.5/20 points.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 21:52
A First Look at the 2014 Whites and 2013 Reds
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 30 April 2015 16:58

Tomorrow, May 1st, is the beginning of Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla. Some wineries will be releasing their first 2014 whites and 2013 reds. Here's my preliminary assessment of these vintages.

The 2014 vintage was a "normal" one in that the harvest followed a warm, but not hot summer, and most of the grapes were picked by the end of October. The near ideal conditions resulted in whites that are bright, well fruited and nicely balanced. A few 2014's will be reviewed in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines (including Kontos Cellar's lovely Gossamer white and College Cellars' vivacious Viognier). But most of the 2014 whites have not been in the bottle long, so they will be in a special report, "Introducing the 2014 Whites," in the July issue.

Here, I should interject that the 2014 vintage produced a bevy of tasty Rosé wines. Last Tuesday, we attended a tasting put together by Mike Eberle (Maison Bleue) and there were quite a few nice Rosés. A report, "The 2014 Rosé Wines Roundup," will be in next week's Review Blog

As for the 2013 reds, I stated in my Blog of 20 December, 2014 in my Predictions for 2015, "Watch for the 2013's," adding, "The 2013's combine both structure and fruit, making them finely balanced, yet ageworthy wines." My tasting since have borne out this assessment. In the June issue of the Review, you will see reviews of College Cellars' terrific 2013 "GSM" and Syrah, and Sean Boyd's Rotie Cellars to-die-for 2013 Southern and Northern Blends.

More later!

A Preview of Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 24 April 2015 13:45

This year, Spring Release Weekend will be early, May 1-3. It is the Walla Walla Valley's biggest event, with many wineries open all weekend. There will be some changes in winery locations and new tasting rooms. Here are some new places:

Flying Trout and Waters - Last fall, these two wineries opened a new production and storage facility on Peppers Bridge Road, just below Amavi Cellars. Some of the wines can be tasted at Tero Estates' Marcus Whitman Hotel space, but for the full FLT and Waters line up, go to the South Valley location.

Kontos Cellars has moved out of the Port of Walla Walla Incubators, and the tasting room is now located on North Second Avenue, alongside Maison Bleue and Trust.

Maison Bleue opened its tasting room last fall. See the May issue for reviews of the new 2012 "Bourgeois" Grenache and "Voyageur" Syrah.

J & J Cellars (Jeremy Petty and Jody Middleton) has taken the Incubators location vacated by Kontos Cellars. See the April issue for reviews of the recent releases.

Bontzu Cellars is opening at 1460 F Street, near the airport. Sorin Dumitru, assistant winemaker at Glencorrie, is the proprietor.

Some wineries that will be pouring new releases during the weekend are Ardor Cellars (at Studio TwoZeroTwo on Main Street), El Corazon (two new 2012 reds), somme des parties (also located at El Corazon), Balboa (Fiesta de Vino Bianco), Spring Valley Vineyard (officially releasing 2012 reds, to be reviewed in the June issue). Tero Estates (at the Marcus Whitman and at the winery near Milton Freewater), Sleight of Hand Cellars (see the May issue for reviews).

Trio Vintners is closing its tasting room on North Second, in the Marcus Whitman Hotel after Spring Release. Health issues necessitates Karen LaBonté's moving to the Oregon Coast. Go to the tasting room and pick up some of her wines before they're gone.

See the April and May issues of the Review of Washington Wines for other wines being poured during Spring Release Weekend.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2015 14:31
Tasting Grand Cru Burgundies and Spanish Reds
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 16 April 2015 14:10

This week, we participated in a couple of tastings of memorable wines. Here are my reports.


The SOB Grand Cru Red Burgundy Tasting

On Tuesday, the 14th, Lynn and I hosted the Sons of Bacchus tasting of Grand Cru Burgundies at our home. All of the wines were outstanding, some more so than others. There were nine of us and three flights of three wines. The top preference in each flight plus the next lower were put into a final four taste off. Here are the top four wines in order of the group's overall preference, with my notes and scores.

2001 Domaine Arlaud Charmes-Chambertin - This showed a medium brick red color and aromas of wild berries - fraises, raspberries, cassis - with scents of orange peel and dried roses. The flavors were chewy textured, with admixtures of, coffee ground, earth and stone followed by a mature, slightly nutted and dried finish. 19+/20 points.

2004 Domaine De Montille Corton Les Pougets - Brilliant ruby-garnet colored, this offered lovely, perfumed aromas of wild berries, orange peel, crushed roses, orange peel and white incense. The flavors were rich and velvety and spread out on the palate, and increased in density on the back into a long finish. For me, this was the top wine of the evening. 19.5/20 points.

2009 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux - This displayed a brick red color and a lovely nose of fraises de bois, cassis, crushed roses, spiced tobacco and orange peel. The flavors were thich, chewy and velvet, with intermixtures of licorice, cocoa, and minerals, followed by a long, savory finish. Just beginning to mature, this will have a great future. 19+/20 points.

2000 Heritiers Louis Jadot Corton Pougets - Medium brick red colored, this showed a feminine nose of strawberries, red currants, orange peel and crushed roses. The flavors were very fine and direct, showing considerable Pinot Noir purity. The finish was long and elegant. 19+/20 points.

There one other wine that I found to be particularly exceptional amongst this grouping. I would have put it in the top three.

2005 Domaine Pierre Amiot & Fils Clos de la Roche - Clos de la Roche is one of the five Grand Crus of Morey- St. Denis. It possessed a brilliant brick red cilor and an enticing nose of fraises de bois, cerise, anise crushed roses, tobacco and dried orange peel. The flavors were precise and elegant with wonderful Pinot Noir purity, along with touches of licorice, coffee and mocha, followed by a long, elegant finish. 19.5/20 points.

This is my order of preference:

2004 Domaine De Montille Corton Les Pougets

2005 Domaine Amiot Clos de la Roche

2009 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux

2001 Domaine Arlaud Charmes Chambertin

2000 Heritiers Louis Jadot Corton Pougets

It is my belief that most Grand and Premier Cru Red Burgundies are at their best when they are seven to ten years old, when they acquire what the Burgundans call "velours." The bouquet and flavors become well developed, while the charming fruit of Pinot Noir still remains . Beyond ten years, most wines start to dry up. In my opinion, the 2001 Charmes Chambertin and 2000 Corton Pougets would have been much better three years ago. There were some older Burgundies in the tasting that were past their peak and a couple over the hill. Grand Cru Burgundies, generally, are not as long lived as Grand Cru Bordeaux.


The Whitehouse Crawford Spanish Wine Tasting

On Wednesday, April 15th, Jenna Bicknell hosted another tasting at the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant, this time, Spanish Riojas and Priorat. Here are the most outstanding wines.

2005 Senorio de Pecina Rioja Reserva ($39) - This comes from one of the traditional producers of Rioja. Composed of 100% Tempranillo, it shoed a garnet color and a maturing nose of semi-dred fruits, dried rose petals, tobacco and incense. The semi-dried theme continued on the palate with roasted fruit that were underlain with anise, coffee, earth and minerals, followed fine fruit acidity which lifted the dryish finish. 19/20 points.

The most interesting wines of the tasting were the wines from Priorat, an appellation situated in Southern Catalonia, with high elevation old vineyards in volcanic soils. I remember that twenty years ago, Priorats were rustic, tannic and hard to drink. Now, with more modern winemaking there are fine, elegant wines being produced.

2008 Ferrer Bobet Priorat, Vinyes Velles ($59) - This is 70% Carignan (Cariñena) and 30% Grenache (Garnacha) from 100 year old vines. It showed a deep crimson color and a lovely nose of ripe fruits - blackberry, cherry, blueberry - with scents of rosed, violets and incense. The medium full-bodied red and blue fruit flavors were deep and penetraring, imbued with licorice, cocoa and volcanic minerals. The back picked up fruit liqueurs and toasted nuts, followed by a dry, yet supple, lingering finish. 19.5/20 points.

2012 Alvaro Palacios "Les Terraces" Priorat, Velles Vinyes ($39) - This 50/50 Carignan, Grenache combination showed a brilliant ruby-crimson color and perfumed aromas of wild fruits - cherry, blueberry, black currant - with scents of rose petals, sweet tobacco and violets. The flavors were supple and mouth caressing, with evident, but not too assertive minerality. The fruit liqueur imbued back showed fine fruit acids and tannins on the ingering finish. 19/20 points.

2012 Alvaro Palacios "Finca Dofi" Priorat ($64) This is a single vineyard Priorat, 96% Grenache and 4% Carignan. Alvaro Palacios studied enology at Bordeaux and worked at Ch. Petrus. This vintage showed a deep medium ruby color and seductive aromas of wild fruits, rose petals, anise, lavender, orange peel, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with richly textured fruits interwoven with licorice, cocoa and volcanic minerals. The back revealed gently pressed fruits, fruit liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a lingering slightly nutted, balancwed fruit and acid finish. 19./20 points.


Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2015 17:50

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