Review of Washington Wines Blog
Tasting the 2010's in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 08 December 2011 15:44

I tasted a good number of wines from the barrels during Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in Walla Walla from December 2 through 4. Most wineries had 2010’s for sampling and a few had some 2009 and 2008 reds. The 2010 vintage was a protracted one. A cold spring and cool summer led to a late, protracted harvest that took place from late September until mid November. As Chuck Reininger put it, working with the vintage was “like yesteryear,” as it recalled classic vintages such as 1999 and 2001. The grape sugars were lower than in 2008 and 2009, with higher phenols (which produce aromatics). The result is 2010 reds with lower alcohol levels and more aroma and structure. Here are my notes on the wines in order of tasting, with preliminary scores.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards “The Unnamed” Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Purplish ruby colored, with an intriguing nose of wild berries, cherries, plum, sandalwood and garrigue. The texture is thick and chewy, intermixed with minerals, licorice, and dark chocolate and coffee grounds. Turns svelte on the back with ripe tannins. 19+/20 points.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards “In the Rocks” Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Deep ruby colored, with aromas of wild berries, roasted cocoa beans, dried cherries, orange peel and smoldering incense. The dark fruits are thick and mouth filling, loaded with earthy minerals. The roasted berry character continues on the back, picking up tones of leather and dust. 19.5/20 points.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards “The Contender” Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Ruby colored, with a nose redolent of crushed raspberries, cherries, blackberries, lavender, violets and smoldering incense. The palate is strikingly sensuous, replete with roasted berries, licorice, espresso and a touch of leather, all with a chewy texture that is accented by orange peel and dried cherries. 19.5/20 points.

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards “Stonessence” Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

Semi opaque purplish color, with a seductive, intense nose of wild berries, cherries, cassis, attar of rose, violets and oriental perfumes. Thick and massive, yet refined and balanced, with an almost seamless interweaving of extracted fruits, licorice, mocha, French roast. The back picks up notes of crème brulee and orange peel on a fleshy texture. 20/20 points.

2010 Reininger Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard

Lovely blackberry, raspberry, cherry, spice and pepper nose with hints of violets. The dark fruits are super saturated, redolent of plucked berries, chocolate, earth and minerals, followed by a long, ripe finish that is marked by beautiful fruit acids. 19/20 points.

2010 Reininger Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, Phinny Hill Vineyard

This is a refined, aromatic style of Syrah with aromas of raspberry, cherry, cranberry and orange peel, with whiffs of crushed roses and pepper. The fruits are forward, yet wrapped around a firm core that is accented by notes of licorice and Horse Heaven earth and minerals, and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove). 19/20 points.

2010 Buty Redivia of the Stones, Walla Walla Valley

Brilliant ruby colored, this wine shows a sensuous nose of raspberry, pomegranate and cassis, with scents of rose petals, sandalwood and violets. The flavors are deep and refined, almost “old world” style. The saturation continues on the back with notes of dried orange peel, mocha, chocolate and cinnamon bark, and a squeeze of pomegranate juice on a fine-grained oak and tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

2010 Tranche Cellars Tempranillo, Yakima Valley, Black Rock Vineyard

Opaque ruby colored, this offers an intriguing nose of wild berries, cherry, mulberry, bayberry and vanilla (from new oak). The flavors are deep, but not heavyweight, yet with plenty of extracted dark fruits, followed by a long, nutted finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2010 Tranche Cellars “Block 9” Syrah, Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard

Opaque purplish colored, this shows spicy, peppery aromas of blackberry, cassis, garrigue and crushed roses. The sweetish dark fruit flavors are loaded with licorice, chocolate, and roast coffee. The roasted character continues on the back with grilled nuts and berries, followed by sweetish tannins. 19/20 points.

2010 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Forgotten Hills Vineyard

Brilliant ruby colored, this vintage offers a lovely perfumed nose of raspberry, cranberry and cassis, with scents of lavender, jasmine and oriental perfumes. Medium-bodied, it shows a feminine side to Syrah, along with a grainy texture and notes of Swiss chocolate, orange peel and dried berries. 19/20 points.

2010 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Loess Vineyard

Deep, brilliant ruby colored, this wine shows scents of raspberry, blueberry, cassis, violets and crushed roses. The flavors are exquisitely wrought, like a tapestry of red and blue fruits, licorice, cocoa powder, and coffee, spreading out on to a lingering moderate sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2010 Flying Trout “Mary’s Block” Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard

This wine exhibits an inky purple color and a strong, peppery blackberry, black currant and plum nose, with scents of roses and violets. The flavors are deep and penetrating, amassing layers of dark fruit, intermixed with licorice, dark chocolate and espresso. Underneath are added layers of pressed berries, mocha and orange peel on a minerally sweet tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2010 Tero Estate Windrow Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley

Dark ruby colored, this wine shows a seductive young nose of wild berries, black cherries and plums, with scents of crushed roses. The flavors are thick and saturated, with underpinning of dark chocolate, minerals and earth. The dark fruits march on through the back, with added infusions of squeezed berries, mocha, espresso and orange peel, followed by sweet-dry tannins. 19+/20 points.

2010 Tero Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley

Deep ruby colored, this wine displays a ripe nose of raspberry, plum and roast coffee. The flavors are thick and chewy, with an earthy character that is reminiscent of a Chinon from the Loire Valley. On the back the chewy texture continues with notes of mocha, roasted nuts, Swiss chocolate, followed by a seductive finish that is marked by ripe tannins. 19/20 points.

Next week: More on Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, including upcoming releases in 2012


Last Updated on Monday, 26 December 2011 21:36
Recipes from the Wineries
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 14:20

For this month’s wine and food pairings, we are featuring recipes supplied by wineries featured in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Who can know better than the winemakers themselves for coming up with ideal pairings?

Robison Ranch Cellars' Steak, Green Peppers and Tomatoes

Marinate 2 cups sirloin or top round steak in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, l teaspoon cornstarch, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. red wine, a dash or pepper and l tsp. grated ginger for at least a half hour. Mix and set aside a gravy mixture of 2 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp. sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/2 tsp steak sauce. Prepare 2 cups green peppers, 2/3 cup onions and 3 cups tomatoes sliced lengthwise, and 1/3 cup celery sliced crosswise at an angle. Stir fry the beef in a skillet to a sear, then put aside. Stir fry the vegetables for a few minutes and simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and meat and stir gently. Add gravy and stir gently until thickened. Serve over hot rice. Pair with Robison Ranch Cellars Combine or Merlot.

Walla Walla Vintners’ Rack of Lamb with 2009 Walla Walla Valley Merlot

Rack of lamb coated with crushed ground hazelnuts, minced roasted garlic, chives, thyme leaves, Parmesan and buttered breadcrumbs blended together with salt and pepper. Oil the racks and pack the crushed mixture around the lamb. Make an essence of Merlot by reducing one bottle of the Merlot with one cup of chicken stock until the liquid coats the back of a spoon (about 45 minutes). Preheat the broiler, spoon the essence over the crush-covered racks, and broil about ten inches from the heat source for 8 to 10 minutes. Let it rest, then spoon more essence over the racks, slice and serve with a bottle of authentic 2009 Walla Walla Valley Merlot.

Kontos Cellars’ Power House Burger – “A beautiful burger with a Greek spin”

Combine 1/2 lb ground beef and1/2 lb ground lamb, a splash of Syrah, pressed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon each of dried savory, ground allspice, ground coriander, salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin, and shape into thin patties, 1/8 to 1/4 inches. Cook and top with crumbled toasted bread, shredded Kasseri cheese and crumbled feta cheese on a Kaiser roll.

While Kontos Cellars 2008 Syrah (January, 2011) is a fine choice, this will go nicely with the 2008 Merlot and 2008 Alatus Red, reviewed in the December issue.

Coeur d’Alene Cellars’ Herb Braised Lamb Shanks

Take 8 medium lamb shanks, well trimmed, and cut slits and insert slivered garlic cloves, then place in a roasting pan (with lid) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix l teaspoon each of basil and oregano, 2 teaspoons each of rosemary, thyme and curry powder, and sprinkle over the shanks. Cover the meat with thinly sliced onions and 1/2-cup soy sauce. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 for two hours, then pour off fat and add 1 ½ cups white wine to the pan, cover and continue roasting for another hour. Serves eight.

This dish will go nicely with the Coeur d’Alene Cellars 2007 “Opulence” Syrah.

Abeja Winery suggestions with 2009 Columbia Valley Merlot

“Pair this wine with something flavorful. I am thinking anything grilled, smoked or seared, and in particular duck and lamb. If you are lucky enough to be camping (even if it’s in your own back yard!), try to save a bit for dessert, because it can enhance an already nice experience with a s’more, and at the very least, it is fantastic under the stars.” – John Abbott, winemaker.


Last Updated on Friday, 23 December 2011 16:55
Some Real Best Buys
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 16:33

A few days ago, I picked up a bottle of Private Reserve Chardonnay from a historic Napa Valley winery for $23, down from the regular retail of $42. It had a typical Chardonnay nose and a creamy texture from sur lie aging, with regular battonage. On the back, however, slightly green notes of granny apple ermerged and the intitial creaminess petered out into a flat, oaky finish. I gave it 17/20 points, a decent wine, but not a great value. So where are the great values that supposedly are out in the marketpace? Well, here are a few real deals from Washington state that are not to be missed.


I have reviewed :Nota Bene wines in previous issues of the Review (most recently in October). Tim Narby and Carol Bryant have been putting out well crafted wines. Here are two 2007's that I picked up at Esquin for $17.99 a bottle that are real bargains.


2007 :Nota Bene Cellars Abbinare, Columbia Valley ($17.99 - Regular: $25)

Abbinare is Italian for "link together." This blend links 56% Merlot with 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It displays a deep ruby color and a smoky nose of blackberries, black currants, anise, dried roses and mulberry. The flavors combine the minerality of Merlot with the depth and focus of the Cabernets, along with notes of black licorice and bittersweet chocolate. The back picks up sensations of cherry liqueur, dried bitter orange peel, coffee grounds and toasted almonds, followed by a squeeze of currant juice on the sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.


2007 :Nota Bene Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley ($17.99 - Regular: $25)

Composed of 84% Syrah (Stillwater Creek and Stone Tree) and 8% each of Mourvedre (Kiona Heart of the Hill) and Grenache (Stone Tree), this offers a rich  nose of blackberries, blueberries, cassis, rose petals and lavender, with whiffs of white pepper. The dark fruit flavors are vivid and well saturated, marked by minerally earth, licorice, cocoa powder and mocha. The chewy-textured back picks up notes of squeezed blueberry and pomegranate juices, followed by a supple, nicely spiced and peppered finish whose ripe, sweet tannins are smoothing out. 18.5/20 points.


Milbrandt Vineyards has vineyards around the Columbia Valley, principally in the Wahluke Slope AVA. Brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt produce wines and sell grapes. These two wines were purchased at Esquin.


2009 Milbrandt "Traditions" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($12.99 - Regular: $15)

Deed purplish colored, this is a thick, chewy styled Cabernet with varietal aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, tobacco, sandalwood and sage. The flavors are full and generous, with notes of licorice, cocoa and earth. The thickness continues on the back with tones of roasted berries and nuts, followed by a chewy, grainy moderate tannin finish. 17.5+/20 points.


2010 Milbrandt "The Estates" Viognier, Wahluke Slope, Clifton Vineyards ($14.99 - Regular: $20)

Brilliant gold colored, this white veers toward the tropical style with aromas of pear, peach and a hint of mango, with scents of honeysuckle and jasmine. The fruit compote flavors are lively and juicy, with a hint of creaminess, counterpointed by notes of grapefruit and minerals. The back shows a resonant vibrancy of fruit acids which enhances the luscious, faintly honeyed finish. 18.5/20 points.


Chateau Ste. Michelle's Cold Creek Vineyard was planted in 1973 in silty loam soil, and is one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in the state. Its wines show much old vine character and is one of the Riesling buys in the world.


2010 Ch. Ste Michelle Riesling, Columbia Valley, Cold Creek Vineyard ($13.99  - Regular: $18)

Light greenish gold, this wine shows a floral nose of peach, granny apple and citrus, with scents of apple blossoms, honeysuckle, jasmine, and wet stone. The dynamic flavors show distinct minerality, with ying/yang sensations of sweet/dry pineapple and grapefruit juices. The back then picks up touches of lanolin, passion fruit and spice on the way to a lingering racy, medium dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

By the way, any of these wines would make fine accompaniments to a turkey dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!






Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 November 2011 23:34
Initiative 1183 Passes - What Next?
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 22:02

The passage of Initiative 1183 by a wide margin (nearly 60% for) will bring significant changes for the sale of wine and spirits in Washington State (beer remains unchanged). Here is a summary of some of the changes.


First, there is a shift in the public perception of the role of the state in the sale of liquor. There is clearly a mandate for privatization. The voters did not buy the "Protect our Communities" (actually "Protect our Jobs") scare that worked for the opponents last year. Also there was not the confusion of two initiative on the ballot. While Costco's bankrolling of the Yes on 1183 campaign was a major factor, this outcome is largely the result of the legislature's abdication of its responsibilty in dealing with liquor privatization. Session after session, privatization bills were sent to die in committee.


Wineries, especially smaller ones, are nervous about the impact of 1183. One concern is less shelf space for wine as supermarkets start stocking spirits. The other issue is volume discounting which would give larger wineries more clout. My feeling is that wineries that produce quality wines will do just fine, even though they may need to do more creative marketing.


The privatization timeline is for the Washington State Liquor Control Board to continue selling at state stores through the holidays, then start drawing down inventory at the begining of the year. Wholesaling of spirits commences March 1, 2012 (which means restaurants can start buying from distributors instead of the WSLCB). In the meantime, the state will auction off its stores to private investors. Retail sales of spirits is to commence June 1.


The passage of 1183 also puts the seven remaining state store systems on the line as privatization targets, with Oregon and Idaho as the most likely ones. In Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported on calls for privatization. The growing sentiment, in the West at least, is that liquor sales is not a proper function of state government.


Another interesting aspect of Initiative 1183 is that it is largely a victory for supermarkets and big box stores (Costco, WalMart). In Colorado and Kansas, stand-alone package stores are fighting efforts by grocery stores and convenience stores to sell wine and strong beer (and spirits in Kansas). Passage of laws governing the sale of liquor has always been a battleground for various competing business interests.


For more information about the repercussions from 1183, go to Sean Sullivan's (www.wawinereport.com) and Paul Gregutt's (www.paulgregutt.com).



Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 November 2011 22:46
November Food & Wine Pairings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 18:25

Here's this month's posting pairing wines featured in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines with suitable dishes.


Stir-fried Pork Tenderloin Medallions

Cut 1.5 lb pork in 1/4" slices and marinate it in 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 tb. olive oil, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin for 3-4 hours. Saute vegetables (baby bok choy, shitake mushrooms, baby carrots, snap peas) then put them aside. Saute the pork until pale pink. Add vegetables. Serve with jasmine rice.

2009 Nefarious Cellars Estate Syrah, Lake Chelan

2009 Hard Row to Hoe Syrah, Lake Chelan


Homemade or Take Out Pizza

A good artisan pizza goes well with these spicy reds.

2008 Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo, Columbia Valley

2007 Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel, Columbia Valley

2009 Trio Vintners Zinfandel, Yakima Valley, Far Away Vineyard


Wine and Cheese Pairings

Some friends have asked for suggestions on what cheeses go best with what wines.

Creamy goat cheses, such as Bucheron and Humbolt Fog go best with whites.

2010 Hard Row to Hoe Sauvignon Blanc, Yakima Valley

2010 Nefarious Cellars Estate Viognier, Lake Chelan

2010 Benson Vineyards Estate Pinot Gris, Chelan County

Medium bodied sheep's or cow's milk cheeses, such as Izdabel, Tomme or Petit Basque go well with medium-full reds.

2009 Nefarious Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain

2009 Besnson Vineyards Estate Merlot, Chelan County

2009 Gramercy Cellars "L'Idiot du Village" Red, Columbia Valley

Full bodied cheeses such as Cheddar and Wensleydale call for Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon

2009 PB Wines Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley

2008 Karma "TRY" Red Blend, Wahluke Slope

2009 Nefarious Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope

2008 Forgeron Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley


Thanksgiving Wines

Here are a few suggestions to go with the savory flavors of turkey and its accompaniments. There are other similar wines that will work well.

2009 Nefarious Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain

2009 Gramercy Cellars "The Third Man" Red, Columbia Valley

2008 Lost River "Cedarosa" Red, Columbia Valley

A couple of spicy, aromatic whites:

2010 Nefarious Cellars Riesling, Columbia Valley, Stone's Throw Vineyard

2010 Dowsett Family Gewurztraminer, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard (August issue)

For special reds with some bottle age:

2006 Corliss Estates Red Wine, Columbia Valley

2006 Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley






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