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The SOB Tempranillo Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 16 March 2015 22:07

On March 12th, the Sons of Bacchus, plus one Daughter of Dionysus, assembled at Kevin Pogue's for a tasting of Tempranillo wines. Most were from Spain, but there were ones from the U.S. as well. Here are the most interesting wines tasted, with my notes and scores.

2001 Domino de Atauta Ribera del Duero - This comes from Northern Spain and it showd a deep ruby color and an intense smoky classic Tempranillo nose, with perfumes of black roses. The black fruit flavors were deep and assertive, with notes of crushed pepper, minerals and a long, dry finish. I correctly identified this as a Ribera del Duera. 19/20 points.

2001 La Rioja Alta "904" Rioja Gran Reserva - I picked this wine to take to the tasting to see if it was as good as Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rating of 96 points. It came out in the middle of the pack. It offered a medium garnet color and aromas of dried fruits and rose petals, with dryish maturing flavors. It faded a bit on aeration. 19/20 points.

2010 Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo, Columbia Valley - Ryan Crane's Tempranillo (blended with 14% Grenache) was highly impressive. It showed a medium ruby-garnet color and intense aromas of black currants, dried roses, tobacco and chocolate. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with some tannins to shed. 19+/20 points.

2007 Cayuse "Impulsivo" Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley - This was quite different from the other Tempranillos. Kevin Pogue was sure it was the Impulsivo, and he was right. It possessed a deep ruby-garnet color and a sultry, smoky nose of sweet-dry fruits, followed by a sweet-dry mid palate and roasted berries and nuts and a long finish. On its own merits, I gave it 19/20 points.

2006 La Cueva del Contador Rioja - This showed a deep color and a distinctive nose of black fruits, perfumed, pepper and incense. The intense dark fruits were well focused, and the sweet-dry tannins turned smooth on the long, ripe finish. 19/20 points.

2001 Vitis Terrarum "Zincara" Tempranillo, Tierra del Castilla - This came out in the top of the last flight. I found it to be a rather bold and direct Tempranillo, with a deep ruby color and a smoky, peppery nose and medium full bodied flavors, with notes of cocoa and green tea. My score, 18.5/20 points.

Thanks to Kevin Pogue for hosting this fine tasting.

 

Coming Up: Next week's Review Blog will go on line on Sunday, March 22nd with an article on "The 2012 Vintage Enters Full Cycle." There will also be an advance notice that the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines will go on line on Thursday, the 26th.

 

 
The Whitehouse Crawford Brunello, Barolo and Barbaresco Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 09 March 2015 14:50

On Wednesday, March 4th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant had another tasting of Italian wines, this one consisting of three Brunellos from Montalcino, and three Nebbiolos from Barbaresco and Barolo. These are considered the premier DOCGs of Italy, so this was a particularly special tasting. Here are my notes.

2007 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - This is 100% Sangiovese Grosso from 20 to 30 year old vines, aged partly in French oak barriques and partly in medium capacity casks. It showed a deep garnet color and a seductive nose of semi-dried fruits - cherry, pomegranate, orange peel - with scents of crushed roses, anise, oriental perfumes. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with swee-dry fruits fanning out on the palate, underlain with bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans and minerals. The back picked up a bit of glycerin ("legs") to counterpoint the roasted nuts and dryish tannins. 19+/20 points.

2007 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - From the southern part of the DOCG, this was aged for 4 years, two in Savonian oak. It displayed a brilliant medium garnet color and a sultry, smoky nose of roasted fruits - cherry, boysenberry, orange peel - with scents of dried roses, oriental incense and white pepper. The flavors were simultaneously firm and svelte, with notes of licorice, cocoa, and minerals. The back picked up touches of caramel and leather, along with toasted nuts and mocha, all leading into a complex, lingering sweet-dry finish. 19+/20 points.

2008 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - This vintage showed a bit more restraint than the 2007. It had a medium ruby color and an intriguing nose of semi-dried fruits, dried orange peel and rose petals, and wafts of white smoke. The flavors demonstratred the stylishness of a cooler year, with elegantly framed fruits that were underlain with licorice, cocoa and minerals and then continued into a focused, nutted back and a dryish finish. 19/20 points.

2006 Gaja Langhe DOC, "Costa Russi" - Costa Russi is located in Barbaresco, but because Angelo Gaja added 5% Barbera to the Nebbiolo, this was classified as Langhe Rosso. This vintage exhibited a brilliant garnet color and a seductive nose of old tree cherry, plum and orange peel, with scents of attar of rose, tobacco, cedar, anise and oriental perfumes. The exoticism continued on the palate, with semi-dried fruits, intermixed with licorice, cocoa, Langhe earth and minerals. The back picked up touches of dried orange peel, leather and toffee, followed by a lingering finish that shows the restraint of a slightly cooler year. 19+/20 points.

2007 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo DOCG - The entire harvest was co-fermented in cement tanks, and this is an example of the traditional style of Barolo. It displayed a deep garnet color and aromas of dried roses, orange peel, road tar and dried fruits, with whiffs of burnt brambles. The flavors showed distinct Nebbiolo character, with a sense of rusticity, intemixed with dried licorice, cocoa, coffee grounds and Langhe earth. These sensations continued on the back with recurring tar and burnt toast on the lingering finish. 18/20 or 19/20 points, depending on one's stylistic preference.

2008 Aldo Conterno Barolo DOCG, "Bussia Cicala" - Cicala is a 40-45 year old vineyard in Monforte d'Alba. Conterno combines modern and traditional methods in his winemaking. This showed a brilliant garnet color and a perfumed nose of wild raspberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of black roses, fennel, tobacco and violets. The authoritative flavors reflected the iron rich terroir, and embodied notes of roasted nuts, dried orange peel and leather, followed by a long, dry finish. A second bottle of this wine, however, had a dirty "off" nose, that was completely different. 19.5/20 points for the first bottle, 17.5 points for the second.

Thanks, again, to Whitehouse Crawford manager, Jenna Bicknell, for putting this fabulous tasting on.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 March 2015 15:51
 
A Day in Seattle and a Northern Italian Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 16:11

A Day in Seattle

Yesterday, Monday, March 2nd, I flew to Seattle for a day trip occasioned by a wine judging for Seattle Magazine's Washingtion Wine Awards and other activities. Here's my account of the day.

I got up at 4 a.m. and got to the Walla Walla Airport for the 6:05 flight to Seattle which arrived five minutes early. I took a taxi to the Full Pull Wines warehouse in the SODO district (South of Downtown). There, I found Paul Zitarelli (Full Pull owner), the wine judging host, and Yashar Shayan (Impulse Wines), the judging organizer for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. Once the other judges arrived, we all proceeded to taste about 100 wines, alternating between whites and reds, finishing at about 12:30. The judging results will be reported in the August issue of Seattle Magazine, with the Red and White Wines of the Year and the best wines in various categories. When that issue is published, I will report on it with my comments.

After the judging, I walked north up First Avenue South to the Pioneer Square district and went to the Little London Plane, a bistro and wine tasting bar on Occidental Avenue South. There C & G Wines, a wholesale distributor, put on a tasting of French wines, mostly from the Loire Valley, along with some Alsace and Languedoc wines. Here are the most noteworthy wines.

2011 Domaine Clos Marie, Pic St. Loup "Glorieuses" - Pic St. Loup is an appellation in the Pays de l'Herault in South France. This Cuvée consists of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. It showed a deep color and intriguing aromas of wild blackberries, blueberries, cassis, lavender, Provençal herbs and incense. The flavors consisted of abundant sweet-dry fruits, followed by notes of burnt leaves, roasted berries and nuts, followed by a savory ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2012 Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, "Silex" - The late Didier Dagueneau was a legendary producer of intense Sauvignon Blancs. This one showed a medium gold color and rich floral aromas of wildflowers and butternut, with a characteristic "gout sauvage" (from wild yeast fermentation). The flavors were delciously rich and creamy, with notes of minerals and fig, followed by a long vivid finish. 19.5/20 points.

2012 Domaine Roland Schmitt Riesling Grand Cru, "Altenberg de Bergbieten" - This was an exquisite Alsace Riesling, showing a pale gold color and lovely aromas of pear, peach, and wildflowers, with elegant spicy fruits and stony minerals dancing on the palate. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Domaine Roland Schmitt Gewürztraminer Grand Cru, "Altenberg de Bergbieten" - This showed a light gold color and enticing aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle, and clover. The flavors were rich, creamy and minerally, but without the gutteral character of many Gewürztraminers, followed by long, spicy faintly honeyed finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Nicolas Joly Savennières, "Roche aux Moines, Clos de la Bergerie" - This Loire appellation is known for its fine dry Chenin Blancs. This one showed a medium gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, apricot, clover, white lavender and oriental perfumes. The flavors were rich, dry and concentrated, with lots of mineral and extracts, followed by a long hazelnut tinged finish. 19+/20 points.

1998 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon - This is a striking example of aged, botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc. This one showed a medium gold color and a rich, floral nose of pear, spiced peach, apricot. The flavors, as well were rich and concentrated, yet, wth its bracing acidity, was still fresh and vibrant. 19/20 points.

After the C & G tasting, I walked up Yesler Way to the Pioneer Square Station, where I got on the Sound Transit light rail train back to the SeaTac Airport. I got off at the SODO Station and walked over to Esquin Wine & Spirits (which I owned until 1997 when I sold it to Chuck LeFevre) on Fourth and Lander. There, I put in my order for some Burgundies, and wines from the C & G tasting, to be picked up later in the month. Then I got back on the train for the rest of the ride to the airport. After dinner at Anthony's Seaport Restaurant, I boarded the Alaska Airlines evening flight back to Walla Walla. The plane landed on time, and I drove home, arriving about 9:25, ending an evenful day in the big city of Seattle.

 

The Whitehouse Crawford Northern Italian Tasting

On Wednesday, February 25th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla continued its series of wine tastings with a selection of North Italian wines. Here are the most interesting wines.

The white wines included some nice ones from the Alto Adige, but the most interesting one was from the Piedmont.

2013 Giovannue Almondo Roero Arneis ($19) - Arneis is a dry white from the commune of Roero. This one showed a light greenish gold color and intriguing aromas of apple, wet stone, mountain wildflowers and lemon peel. The flavors were fresh and brisk, with calcarous clay undertones and an invigoriating lemon zest tinged finish. 18+/20 points.

Instead of the typical wines of the Piedmont, Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, the tasting featured less well known DOC's from the Province of Novara northeast of Torino. Two particularly stood out.

2008 Le Piane Boca ($58) - This is composed of 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina (a Novarese variety). The 2008 showed a brick red color and enticing aromas of wild cherries and red currants, with scents of crushed rose petals, orange peel and orential perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were simultaneously silky and tightly woven, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, Italian roast coffee and volcanic minerals. The back picked up ground roasted nuts and charcoal on the way to a dry, yet agreeable, tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2005 Azienda Sella Lessona, "San Sebastiabi allo Zoppa" ($45) - Also 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina, this showed a deep ruby-garnet color and an alluring nose of dried fruits - cherries, currants, raspberries - crushed roses, burnt bramble bush, violets and incense. The dried fruit flavors spread across the palate, with sandy earth undertones. The back picked up notes of roasted chestnuts and dried orange peel, followed by a lingering, dry, but not overly austere, tannin finish. Just beginning to smooth out. 19/20 points.

From the region of Pavia in Southwestern Lombardy, was this nice, attractively-priced little gem.

2011 Fattoria Cabanon Pinot Nero ($15) - This brick red colored wine showed an unmistakable Pinot Noir nose of red cherries and caiis, with scents of cedar, tobacco and crushed roses. The flavors were medium bodied, yet well delineated, with notes of cocoa, tea and stony minerals, and persisted on the back with pressed fruits and a clean finish. 18+/20 points.

From the Veneto, was this Valpollicella that came on as being more elegant and restrained than is typical of Amarone.

2007 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($60) - Deep garnet colored, this showed lovely aromas of cherries, red currants, anise, crushed roses, orange peel and oriental incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with dried fruits that were intermingled with licorice, herbal tea, and basalt and gravel minerals. The dried yet well fruited character continued on the back with notes of roasted nuts, dried grapeskins, and burnt almonds. The lingering, elegant finish gave restraint to the 16.5% alcohol, making for a fine Amarone. 19+/20 points.

 

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 21:27
 
The SOB and Whitehouse Crawford Tastings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 14:35

Last week, I participated in two interesting and educational wine tastings, one of Loire Valley Cabernet Francs, and the other, of Southern Italian wines. Here are my reports.

 

The SOB Cabernet Franc Tasting

On Tuesday, February 17th, the Sons of Bacchus (SOBS for short) and a Daughter of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Cabernet Francs from France's Loire Valley. Cabernet Franc is the principal red grape of the Saumur region of Anjou. The principal appellations are Saumur, Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgeuil. The wines generally are medium bodied and well fruited, with a distinct gravel and limestone minerality.

Ten wines were tasted blind, in three flights of three or four wines. The best wine in each flight was put into a final round to determine the order of preference of the top three. After the final round, something remarkable came out - all three were from the same producer, Domaine Charles Joguet in Chinon. There was near unanimous agreement among the tasters as to the best wines in each flight. Here they are, in order from the top down, with my scores.

2005 Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon, "Clos du Chêne Vert" - This showed a deep ruby color and a smoky, spicy nose of dried fruits. The flavors were well packed, with notes of roasted berries and nuts, and showing much old vine density and minerality (from 30+ year old vines). With a long, rich finish, this was a real classic. 19+/20 points.

2011 Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon, "Clos du Chêne Vert" - Medium ruby colored, this wine possessed rich aromas of dried fruits, nuts, cedar, tobacco and smoldering incense. The flavors were rich, fleshy and direct, imbued with chocolate, coffee and minerals, followed by chewy, satiny tannin on the long finish. 19/20 points.

2005 Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon, "Les Petits Roches" - This cuvée was from younger vines. It showed inviting aromas of crushed fruits - cherry, orange peel and raspberry - with scents of tobacco, mulberry and violets. The flavors were medium bodied, yet well extracted, with a dryish, minerally character, followed by a long finish. 18.5+/20 points.

The other wines were outclassed by those of Charles Joguet. However, there were three other noteworthy wines.

2009 Domaine Gauther Bourgeuil, "Clos Nouveau" - This wine offered seductive aromas of wild blackberry, blueberry, and orange peel, with scents of mulberry and crushed roses, and rich, chewy textured red and blue fruit flavors. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Domaine du Collier Saumur, "La Ripaille" - This was a typical Saumur Cabernet Franc, deep ruby colored, with smoky aromas of raspbery, blueberry, cassis and incense, and direct, penetrating flavors. 18.5/20 points.

2005 Domaine Philippe Alliet Chinon, "L'Huissiere" - This showed a deep color, with dark fruit aromas of roasted berries, tobacco, earth, and plenty of direct fruit, with a moderate tannin and acid finish, 18.5/20 points.

Bonus wines were a delightful Gratien & Meyer Saumur Cabernet Franc Sparkling Rosé, served before the tasting (compliments of Erik McLaughlin), a Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc (a rarity, brought by Jamie Kennedy) and and a 2002 Cayuse "Flying Pig" Red (75% Cab Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot supplied by Elizabeth Bourcier). Thanks to Elizabeth Bourcier for hosting. See last week's blog below, for more about Cabernet Franc.

 

The Whitehouse Crawford Southern Italian Tasting

This was another of the series of tastings at the Whitehouse Crawford restaurant in Walla Walla, conducted by general manager, Jenna Bicknell. It was quite informative, consisting as it did, of mostly indigeneous Southern Italian varieties from Sicily, Puglia, Calabria and Campania. Here are the wines I found most notworthy.

2013 Le Vigne Biondi Etna Outis Bianco ($28) - Produced from Carricante, Cataratte and Minello grapes from the slopes of Mt. Etna, this is a good value from Sicily. It showed a medium gold color and aromas of pear, peach, citrus and star anise, with vivid, laser-like white fruit flavors that were imbued with peach stone and volcanic minerals, followed by a long, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Le Vigne Biondi Etna Outis Rosso ($28) - Produced from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucio, this displayed a medium brick red color and enticing aromas of wild raspberrries, cherries and plums, with scents of red roase, orange peel and incense. The dried fruit flavors were direct and mouth filling, imbued with cocoa, coffee and volcanic minerals, followed by a dried fruit and roasted nuts dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Passopisciaro Nerello Mascalese ($44) - This varietal comes from the northern slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. It showed a medium brick red color and lovely aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, mountain wildflowers, and spiced incense. The rich ripe fruit flavors were counterpointed by tones of dried cherries and volcanic minerals, followed by a lingering roasted nut and dried orange peel imbued finish. 19/20 points.

2011 Librani "Gravello" Rosso ($30) - Composed of 60% Gaglioppo and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Calabrian red displayed a deep ruby color and attractvie aromas of blackberry, cherry,plum, black roses, tobacco and incense. The flavors were pleasingly supple, with copious dark fruits that were intermixed with cocoa, coffee beans and gravelly minerals. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts and fruit preserves, followed by a moderate tannin and acid finish. 18.5/20 points.

2008 Mastroberadino "Radici" Taurasi Rosso ($60) - Mastroberadino is famous for this wine, made from the Aglianico grape in Campania. "Radici" means "roots" in Italian, referring to the heritage of indigenous varieties. It exhibited a deep ruby color and seductive aromas of black fruits - cherries, plums, currants - with scents of orange peel, roses and spiced incense. On the palate, the dried fruit flavors kept on going, infused with licorice, tea and roasted nuts, cocoa and toffee, followed by a long, complex sweet-dry tannin finish. Pricey, but highly impressive. 19+/20 points.

Thanks to Jenna Bicknell for putting this on. Tomorrow: Northern Italy.

 


 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 16:55
 
Cabernet Franc Moves into the Forefront
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 00:11

In wrapping up the March Review of Washington Wines (to go on line February 24), I noticed that there are six Cabernet Francs in that issue. This is a remarkably high number for a varietal that until recently played, for the most part, a supporting role as a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon and other "Bordeaux" varietals. Why this new interest in Cabernet Franc as a stand-alone or a predominat varietal?

Historically, Cabernet Franc has been regarded as a secondary "cousin" of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is grown in Bordeaux, especially on the Right Bank (St. Emilion and Pomerol), but is seldom more than 50% of the cepage. Only in the Loire Valley does it play a primary role as a varietal in the appellations of Anjou-Saumur, Chinon and Bourgeuil. It is a lighter bodied, earlier ripening (one or two weeks) variety than Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes are small and blue-black in color with fairly thin skins (hence less tannic). In the U.S., significant plantings of Cabernet Franc were made in California in the 'seventies, and in Washington in the 'eighties. The first varietal bottlings in Washington were by the Columbia Winery in 1991 and Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1992. Since then, more varietal bottlings have emerged, to the point where there are a siginificant number.

Part of the increased interest in Cabernet Franc may be its acessibility, compared to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Being less tannic, they are drinkable at an earlier age. Often, they also show a distinct earthiness and berry-like fruitiness that make them food-friendly. For instance, the Tero Estate winery in the Walla Walla Valley makes a Cabernet Franc from the Windrow Vineyard which sells out not long after release. Other significant players are Seven Hills (McClellan Estate), L'Ecole No. 41 (Seven Hills Vineyard) and Owen Roe (Union Gap Vineyard in the Yakima Valley). And there is a bevy of other producers.

Watch for the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines a week from now for reviews of six new Cabernet Francs. And next week's Blog, also to go on line Februay 24, will report on a tasting of Loire Valley Cabernet Francs.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 February 2015 01:12
 
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