- Written by Rand Sealey
Every November, I become annoyed when grocery stores and liquor stores recommend foreign wines for Thanksgiving. The main motivation seems to be that retailers want you to buy what they want to sell. Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, giving thanks for our country's bounty, and should be celebrated with our own wines. Here are some of my suggestions.
White wines can be tricky. Aromatic ones work better than Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Try Gewurztraminer, such Dowsett's or Domaine Pouillon's, both from the Columbia Gorge, or Waitsburg Cellars' "Chevray" Chenin Blanc or Riesling. Rhone style whites such as DeLille Cellars' Doyenne Roussanne or Nefarious Cellars' Roussanne-Marsanne, or Rotie Cellars' Southern White can work well.
For red wines, steer away from Cabernet Sauvignons which may have tannins that are a bit too agressive. Try a Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc dominated wine, such as Fielding Hills' "Tribute" REd, Tero Estates' (although the winery is located in Oregon, it is part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA) Cabernet Franc or "DC3" blend, Long Shadows' "Pedestal" Merlot. Some Rhone-style reds can work well, too, such as Kevin White's Fraternité, Nefarious Cellars' "Rx3" or Betz Family's "Besoleil" red. Syrah works only if it is not in too bold a style, such as those from the Walla Walla Valley's Les Collines Vineyard - Forgeron or Kontos Cellars - or the Red Willow Vineyard - Eight Bells - or ones with a "feminine" side such as Rotie Cellars' Northern Red, or Waters' "Tremolo" Syrah. For those of you who want something more distinctive, try Carmenère, the smoky "lost grape" of Bordeaux, such as the ones from Seven Hills or Trio Vintners.
All in all, when selecting wines for Thanksgiving, think aromatics, wines whose aromas and savory flavors can complement the spice and herb aromas and flavors of turkey and all the fixings. Happy Thanksgiving!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Over Fall Release Weekend and the following week, I attended three interesting wine tastings. Here are my reports on them.
A Corliss Red Wine Vertical
On Saturday, November 8th, Croliss held its annual Fall Release Event. For that event, the winery poured its newly released 2009 Corliss Red Wine (a combination of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec). Also poured from Magnums, were the 2006, 2005 and 2004 Red Wines, also various combinations of the five varietals.
2009 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($75) - Deep ruby colored this wine offered seductive aromas of wild strawberry, cassis, mulberry, and cedar along with dark mouth encompassing fruits and earth minerals, followed by a long, vigorous, lip-smacking finish. 19.5/20 points. (A full review will be in the January 2015 issue of the Review of Washington Wines, along with the 2009 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon.)
2006 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - This vintage showed a deep ruby-garnet color and complex aromas of dried fruits, sage,bay leaf and spiced incense. The flavors were deep and fleshy, with essential minerality. The back showed expressive viscosity to counterpoint the dried fruits, followed by tannins that were beginning to smooth out. 19+/20 points.
2005 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - Deep ruby-garnet colored, this wine emited intoxicating aromas of dried fruits, orange peel, cedar, tobacco and incense. On the palate, the fruits were still vibrant and resonant, wiht notes of cocoa, black tea and earth. The back picked up roasted berres and nuts, followed by a lingering satiny tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2004 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - This is a wine that is approaching maturity. It showed a deep garnet color and smoldering aromas of dried fruits - blackberry, cherry, plum - and dried rose petals, tobacco and cedar. The flavors were still rich, round and fleshy, with notes of chocolate, French roast and minerals, followed by a long, plush finish. 19.5/20 points.
An Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting
On the afternoon of Sunday, November 9th, we attended a tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs, organized by Gary and Pam Gormley, who came from Beaverton, Oregon for Fall Release Weekend. Twelve wines were poured, six provided by Gary, all from the Willamette Valley except two, one from California's Santa Lucia Highlands and one from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. Here are the wines I found to be the most noteworthy.
2008 Et Fille Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Nicholas Vineyard ($34) - This wine showed a brick red color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, bayberry and incense, with rich, ripe, textured roasted fruit flavors, followed by a lingering sweet-dry moderate tannin finish. Very well put together. 19/20 points.
2008 Carabella "Inchinnian" Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains ($54) - Brick red colored, this wine showed a true to variety nose of wild strawberries, cherries and cassis, with scents of crushed roses and incense. The medium bodied flavors offered plenty of charm, with earthy notes and glided effortlessly from beginning to end. 19+/20 points.
2012 Toil Pinot Noir, Oregon ($50) - This was produced by the Figgins Winery of Walla Walla. It displayed a medium brick red color and enticing aromas of cherry, raspberry, cassis and orange peel, with scents of oriental perfume and white incense. The svelte flavors were rich and chewy, with touches of dried cherries and satiny tannins. 19/20 points.
2011 Saviah Cellars Pinot Noir, Walla Walla Valley, Couse Creek Vineyard ($45) - This came from a tiny vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountans at 1900' elevation. It showed a medium brick red color and rich, smoky aromas of cherry, plum, cassis, orange peel and incense. The medium bodied flavors were velvety, yet well defined, with notes of chocolate and alluvial earth and minerals, followed by a ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
A North Coast California Pinot Noir Tasting
On Wednesday, November 12th, the Sons of Bacchus and two Daughters of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma North Coast, including Green Valley, Anderson Valley and Russian River Valley. Here are the most impressive wines.
2010 Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Narrows Vineyard - Goldeneye is part of the Napa Valley's Duckhorn portfolio. This showed a deep brick red color and rich aromas of cherry, black currant, tobacco, and crushed roses. The medium full-bodied flavors were nice and fleshy, with lavers of dark fruits, followed by a lush finish. 19/20 points.
2011 Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Gowan Creek Vineyard - From a warmer site, this wine showed a deep brick red color and rich aromas of wild raspberry, cherry and forest carpet, with rich, direct, minerally flavors that were marked by notes of licorice, coffee and dried fruits. The finish was long and complex, deftly oaked and spiced. 19+/20 points.
2012 Gary Farrell "Dijon Clone" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Halberg Vineyard - This displayed a semi opaque brick red color and rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, crushed roses, sweet tobacco and incense. The classically styled flavors were round and chewy, well focused, and marked by ripe, dryish tannins. 19+/20 points.
2008 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Klopp Ranch Vineyard - This was a dark, intense Pinot with a deep color and a smoky, earthy nose of raspberry, cherry and cassis. The flavors were eathy, chewy and tannic, with considerable depth and structure, making it ageworthy. 19/20 points.
Thanks to Lee Sanning for hosting this fine tasting.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend, November 7-9, was Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It was a busy and successful weekend for everyone, the wineries, the visitors and the community. Here are my highlights.
On Friday morning we drove up to the end of Cottonwood Road to Reynvaan Family Vineyards. There, we tasted the winery's 2013 Syrahs which will be released next fall. They are knock-out wines, with extraordinary depth and completeness. A report will be in the January 2015 issue of the Review of Washington Wines. In the afternoon, we stopped at Rotie Cellars, where two new wines were unveiled, a 2012 "Dre" 100% Mourvèdre and a 2012 "Swordfight" 50/50 Mourvèdre/Syrah blend, both to be reviewed in January. In the evening we went to Foundry Vineyards' tasting room/art gallery and saw the opening of Marie Watt's stacked and hanging blankets installation, and tasted the winery's new releases, also to be reviewed in January. Afterwards, we went to Robison Ranch for the winery's club party.
On Saturday, at Long Shadows, some fabulous new 2012's were poured, all 19.5/20 points wines, to be reviewed in the December issue. Afterwards, there was a stop at Gramercy Cellars where Greg Harrington's new 2012's were stellar, also to be in the December issue. Then in the evening, we went to Corliss' annual Fall Release Event where a vertical tasting of the 2009, 2006, 2005 and 2004 Estate Red wines was presented (a report will be in next week's blog).
On Sunday morning, we went to Tertulia Cellars where we tasted four impressive new 2012's by Ryan Raber (winemaker) and Ryan Driver (vineyard manager). These will be in the January 2015 issue. Then we stopped at Gifford Hirlinger where we tasted a delicious 2012 Estate Malbec with Melissa Berghan, also to be in the January issue. In the afternoon, we joined Gary and Pam Gormley for a tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs, along with onesies from California and the Walla Walla Valley (a report to come in the next blog). I also tasted two fine 2010's from Fort Walla Walla Cellars that will be reviewed in January.
- Written by Rand Sealey
After our visit to Burgundy (see the posting below), we headed south on the A7 Autoroute on Saturday, October 18th, and turned off north of Macon toward Cluny, where we visited the Abbey which was once the governing body of the Benedictine order. From there, we drove to Morgon in the heart of the Beaujolais countryside where Chateau de Pizay is located, amid the estate's vineyards which are planted to the Gamay grape. There, we spent two nights wining and dining, along with an excursion to climb the Rock of Solutré, overlooking Pouilly-Fuisse. During that stay, we had the Chateau's three cuvées of Morgon.
2013 Chateau de Pizay Morgon - Deep purplish colored, this young Beaujolais showed attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry and cassis, with scents of roses, hyacinth and white incense. The flavors were fresh and vibrant, filling the palate with bright red fruits, along with dustings of cocoa powder and ground minerals. The back picked up kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, with touches of dried fruits on the velvety, yet vigorous finish. 18.5/20 points.
2010 Chateau de Pizay Morgon, "Les Sybarites" - From selected vineyards around the Chateau, this wine displayed a deep ruby color and rich, intriguing aromas of black cherries, black currants and roasted almonds, with scents of black roses and oriental incense. The dark fruit flavors were intense and direct, marked by notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate and mocha. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, kirsch and creme de cassis, along with touches of nougat and dried cherries on the lingering dryish finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2010 Chateau de Pizay Morgon, "Cuvée du Py," From the Chateau's best vineyard, this wine exhibited a deep purplish-ruby color and an intoxicating nose of wild blackberries, black currants, myrtle, black roses and violets. The dark fruit flavors were deep and energetic, intermixed with licorice, cocoa and stony earth minerals. The concentration continued on the back, with pressed berries, creme de cassis and kirsch, and lasted right to the end of the long, dark yet velvety tannin finish. 19/20 points.
On Monday, the 20th, we continued southward, past Lyon, to Condrieu, on the West Bank of the Rhone River. There, we stayed at the Hostellerie Beau Rivage, right by the river. On Tuesday afternoon, we had an appointment at E. Guigal in Ampuis, 8 kilometers north of Condrieu. The property is famed for its full range of Rhone Valley wines, topped by its single vineyard bottlings. After a tour of the cellars, along, coincidentally, with two couples from Whidbey Island, we tasted the following wines.
2013 E. Guigal Saint Joseph Blanc - This Marsanne-Roussane combination showed a brilliant medium gold color and a floral nose of pear, peach, citrus, butternut, white lilac and white incense. The white fruit flavors were vivid and minerally, with notes of peach stone, grape extracts and flint. The back picked up toasted nuts, poire William liqueur and and persistent minerality on the lingering crisp finish. 18.5/20 points.
2013 E. Guidal Condrieu - Brilliant gold colored, this white, made from the Viognier grape, emited intriguing aromas of Asian pear-apple, peach, citrus, honeysuckle, white lilac and spiced white incense. The flavors were lavishly fruited, with touches of cream and honey, pine nuts and stony minerals. The back picked up notes of poire William and peche liqueurs, with piercing, precise fruit acids on the lightly oaked (one-third new) lingering finish. 19/20 points.
2013 E. Guigal Condrieu, "La Doriane" - This is all from estate vineyards and aged 9 months in new oak. Brilliant gold colored, this wine possessed seductive aromas of pear, peach, apple and orange blossoms, white lilac and oriental perfumes. The flavors were enticing as well, with deep, rich, fruits that were intermixed with marzipan, peach stone and rocky minerals. The back revealed sensations of poire William liqueur, toasted hazelnuts and pine nuts, followed by a lingering lightly spiced vanilla oak finish. 19.5/20 points.
2011 E. Guigal Saint Joseph Rouge - This 100% Syrah wine showed a deep crimson color and lovely, perfumed aromas of raspberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of black roses, mulberry, cedar and incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, imbued with notes of mocha, French roast and licorice, followed by a thick, meaty texture on the back, culminating in a long, toasty (30% new oak) roasted chestnut and spice finish. 19/20 points.
2010 E. Guigal Cote-Rotie, Brune & Blonde - Co-fermented with 5% Viognier and aged 36 months in new oak, this wine exhibited a brilliant ruby color and a lovely nose of wild berries - black and blue - and cassis, with scents of black roses, mulberries and violets. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with deep, supple, feminine flavors that consisted of mouth-caressing dark fruits, with notes of chocolate, mocha, French roast and minerals. The velvety texture continued on the back with sensations of pressed fruits, berry preserves and creme de cassis, followed by a long integrated oak and ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2009 E. Guigal Cote-Rotie "Chateau d'Ampuis" - All from estate vineyards, and co-fermented with 7% Viognier, and aged 38 months in new oak, this wine displayed a brilliant crimson-ruby color and intoxicating aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, black currants, attar of rose, bayberry, orange peel, violets and oriental incense. The red/blue fruit favors were equally lavish and seductive, coating the palate with lush, pure Syrah and Viognier, interlayered with licorice, chocolate and mocha. The intensity continued on the back with sensations of pressed fruits and creme de cassis, touches of peche liqueur and creme caramel, followed by a long, long integrated oak and plush tannin finish. 20/20 points.
The next morning, we had an appointment at Domaine Georges Vernay in Condrieu. The Domaine has prime vineyards on the steep slopes of Condrieu, planted with the Viognier grape, as well as choice parcels in the adjoining Cote Rotie Appellation.
2013 Domaine Geroges Vernay Condrieu, "Les Terasses de l'Empire" - From a 35 year-old vineyard and aged in 20% new oak, this Viognier showed a brilliant gold color and floral aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle, hazelnut, apple blossoms and white incense. On the palate, the white fruit flavors were well extracted, imbued with notes of peach stone and pervasive minerality. The back picked up poire William liqueur, coconut and peche melba on the way to a lingering dry, vigorous finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Domaine Geroges Vernay Condrieu, "Les Chailles de l'Enfer" - From a vineyard planted in 1957, this came on as an intense, deeply fruited white. Brilliant gold colored, it emited exotic aromas of pear, peach, apricot, melon wet stone, white lilac, pear blossoms, acacia flowers and white oriental incense. The white fruit flavors were mouth encompassing, interwoven with notes of peach stone, melon rind and granitic minerals. The back revealed notes of peach custard, roasted hazelnuts, semi dried fruits and creme brulée, counterpointed by bright fruit acids and lemon zest on the lingering, vibrant spice dusted finish. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu, "Coteau du Vernay" - From another old vineyard, this cuvée showed a brilliant amber color and rich, smoky aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, apricot, acacia flowers, honeysuckle, toasted nuts and white incense. On the palate, the wine was richly textured with lavish white fruits intermixed with fruit stones, grapeskins, melon rind and flinty minerals. The back revealed sensations of poire William and peche liqueurs, melon and citrus rinds, and touches of marzipan and toasted hazelnuts, followed by a lingering, spice dusted, faintly honeyed yet distinctly dry finish. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Cote-Rotie, Blonde du Seigneur" - From the Cote Blonde on the back side of Cote Rotie, this co-fermented 97% Syrah and 3% Viognier displayed a deep, brilliant ruby color and a lovely nose of wild raspberries, cherries, and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, sandalwood and violets. The flavors were as enticing as the aromarics, with dark fruits intermixed with cooca, medium roast coffee beans and earthy minerals. The back revealed a chewy texture, enhanced by a graceful suppleness that picked up pressed berries, kirsch and creme de cassis on the way to a lingering, satiny tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2011 Domaine Georges Vernay Cote-Rotie, "Maison Rouge" - From 60 year-old vines and aged two years in 30% new oak, this wine exhibited a brilliant ruby color and an exotic, perfumed nose of wild raspberries, cherries, black currants, crushed roses, brambles, tobacco, violets and oriental perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were as intriguing as the aromatics, infused with black licorice, bittersweet chocolate, mocha and granitic minerals. The back picked up lightly roasted berries and pine nuts, mocha, kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a burst of ripe juices and roasted chestnuts, prefacing the lingering, exquisitely wrought lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
The next morning, we ended our memorable trip by driving back north through Givors, and then on N43 to the Lyon-St. Exupery airport where we took off for London, and then to Seattle.
For pictures, see Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.
- Written by Rand Sealey
It was just after arriving in Seattle from London on our way home from France, that I learned on Facebook that Eric Dunham had died. I posted, "Just learned the shocking and saddening news about Eric Dunham. He will be greatly missed."
Eric had deep roots in the Walla Walla Valley as co-owner and winemaker of Dunham Cellars which he started in 1995 with his father, Mike. He had started winemaking as a hobby, then worked at Hogue Cellars and then L'Ecole No. 41 before asking his father to help start their own winery. The operation was moved to its present location in an airplane hangar near the airport in 1998. His wines have consistently received critical acclaim, including his Cabernet Sauvignons which have received 19/20 points scores in the Review of Washington Wines.
Eric was generous in helping anyone who needed it. He also had a wry sense of humor and was an avid cook and artist. As the news of his passing spread around the Valley, there was an outpouring of tributes and rememberances of him. There will be a Celebration of the Life of Eric Dunham on Saturday, November 1st, and hundreds will come to the winery to pay their respects. Everyone will be missing him.
For a well-written, detailed bio of Eric Dunham by Andy Perdue, go to www.greatnorthwestwine.com/2014/10/24/eric-dunham/.