- Written by Rand Sealey
In my blog of September 5, I wrote that winemakers and growers were excitied about the prospects for the 2013 grape harvest, using words such as "fantastic" and "incredible." Now, with cooler weather and more rain, things are looking more worisome. Maturing grapes can handle rainfall so long as it is intermittent, allowing the clusters to dry out, keeping the skins intact. But the sunbreaks have become less frequent, to the point that there is real concern about moisture diluting the intensity of the grapes. The harvest is about 50% completed at this point, with most white grapes and some reds (mostly Syrah and Merlot) brought in. If the current weather patterns continue, the situation may become problematic for later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. For more about the concern about grape dilution, see Andy Perdue's post of September 28 in greatnorthwestwine.com. As of today, the Walla Walla weather forecast is for partly cloudy or sunny for the next ten days, with temperatures in the 60's and 0 to 20% chances of rain. There are similar forecasts for Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley. Hopefully, this respite will give grapes time to dry out and get more hang time for full maturity. Lets keep our fingers crossed and remember that it still too early to make predictions. As I stated in my previous Harvest Update, "It ain't over 'til it's over."
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night (Tuesday, Sept. 24), the Sons of Bacchus (S.O.B.s), with two Daughters of Dionysus, got together at Kevin Pogue's home for a tasting of "Awe-inspiring" Syrahs from anywhere in the world. Wines were poured blind from all over the world: Australia, the Rhone Valley, Washington, California and even Idaho. There were sixteen wines in all, in four flights of four. Here are the top wines, followed by other outstanding and noteworthy wines, with my notes.
2010 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Funkadelic" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley. - Here the "Rocks" of the South Valley really rocked. Deep crimson colored, it offered a lseductive nose of wild raspberries, cherries, cassis, black roses, violetsand spiced incense. The flavors were thick and mouthfilling, with chocolate, Sumatra roast and Rocks minerals, followed by a richly testured dryish finish. 19.5/20 points.
2007 Reynvaan "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Brilliant ruby colored, this emited aromas of wild berries, plum, cassis and earth. The flavors were thick and almost jammy, underlain with chocolate, French roast and "Rocks" earth and minerals. The back revealed sensations of squeezed berries, creme de cassis and plum presrves, followed by a lingering fruit and terroir driven finish. 19.5/20 points.
2004 Basel Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley - Trey Busch was a double winner with his Funkadelic (above) and this, which he made while on his stint before starting Sleight of Hand. Composed of Lewis, Portteus and Minick fruit, it showed a deep ruby-garnet color and a spicy nose of raspberry, cassis, incense and oriental perfumes. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with fine varieal purity and minerality. The lingering finish showed considerable oak (70% new) for a Syrah. 19.5/20 points.
2005 Koenig Vineyards Syrah, Cuvée Amelia, Snake River - This was a surprise winner from Idaho. It displayed an opaque ruby color and intense, brooding aromas of black fruits, dried cherries and incense. The dark fruit flavors were deep and full-bore, exuding pure Syrah varietal character, followed by an intense, minerally finish. 19.5/20 points.
The following four were among my favorites:
2011 Silverback Vineyards Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley - Here, Charles Herrold's wine, produced from two barrels, showed an opaque ruby color and smoldering aromas of wild blackberries, black cherries and black currants. The massive flavors were deep and full-bore, with a meaty, earth texture and great varietal purity. The finish was long, intense and spicy. 19.5/20 points.
2009 Reynvaan "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was, coincidentally, in the same flight as the 2007 Contender, above. The group consensus favored the '07, but I preferred the '09, both served blind. It exhibited a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, cassis, orange peel, crushed roses and smoldering incense. The flavors were chewy textured and lavish, with notes of charcoal and spiced dark fruits. The back picked up notes of kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by a lingering "Rocks" mineral finish. 19.5/20 points.
2005 Lillian Syrah, Santa Barbara County - This entry from California showed a deep ruby color and the aromas showed the feminine side of Syrah, with wild berries and ethereal oriental perfumes and incense. The deep, brawny flavors, however belied the femininity, with the dark fruits underlain with chocolate, roast coffee and a finish that went on and on. 19+/20 points.
2007 Domaine Muginis Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvée Amedienne - This North Rhone Syrah showed a deep, semi-opaque crimson color and elegantly perfumed aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco and violets. On the palate, the flavors were thich and sweetish, with notes of licorice and French roast. The finish was long and intense with typical minerality and earthiness. 19+/20 points.
After the tasting, there was a bonus wine:
2004 Cayuse "Bionic Frog" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was an awesome wine. Deep colored, with aromas of roasted berries and nuts, smoldering incense and violets, it was thick and chewy. The intensity reflected the low yields of the 2004 vintage. The back revealed notes of dried fruits, orange peel, roasted meats and burnt charcoal, with a long, rich finish. 19.5+/20 points.
This was one of the best S.O.B. tastings ever, with truly "Awe-inspiring" wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing, I have just returned from a trip from Walla Walla to Chelan and the Methow Valley, and then on to Seattle and back. Over this week, I will be wrapping up the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines, so I have time for just this short posting.
During my recent travels, I ran across a few wineries that are either promising, or which have made recent strides. Here's a rundown on them.
Cairdeas Winery - Cairdeas ("Car-dess") is an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship and goodwill. The winery was started by Charlie and Lacey Lybecker in 2009 in West Seattle, then moved to Manson on Lake Chelan's North Shore in 2012. The three wines that will be reviewed in the October issue are impressive for such a young winery.
Hard Row to Hoe - The wines continue to be excellent, but I would like to mention that Don and Judy Phelps have turned out an excellent "Good in Bed" bubbly wine which will be in a special sparkling wine report in December. The other new releases will be in the October issue.
Lost River Winery - I have visited this winery in Winthrop in each of the past three years and found John Morgan's wines to be well-made. The 2010 "Cote Wall," a Syrah co-fermented with 8% Viognier is up a notch qualitatively over the 2009 and is almost a dead ringer for a savory, earthy Cote Rotie. Lost River also has a nice 2010 Nebbiolo. Both wines are to be reviewed in November.
Bartholomew Winery - I rediscovered this winery a few months ago when I had Esquin send me the 2012 Aligoté and 2009 Tempranillo which were reviewed in July (Aligoté in the July 3 Blog). I stopped by the tasting room located in the Old Rainier Brewery on Airport Way South. I was impressed by owner-winemaker Bart Fawbush's 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Reciprocity Red, both to be reviewed in November.
College Cellars of Walla Walla - I also would like to mention the Walla Walla Community College's Enology and Viticulture Program. A few months ago, Sabrina Leuke previewed the upcoming releases which I found impressive. I will be revisiting them soon, and will report on them in November. Dr. Alan Busacca is now the Director, and is sure to take the College to the next level. Entwine, a benefit dinner and acution for the Program, to be held on October 12 is also very worth attending. We plan to go. For information go to www.entwine.wwcc.edu.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This is a brief update since my last posting of 30 August. Since then, weather in Eastern Washington has cooled a bit, but not by much with temperatures in the mid to upper eighties. A few days ago, I saw LeAnn Hughes, owner of the Patina Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. She said she was hoping for cooler temperatures, for more "hang time." What this means is that when grapes ripen quickly, they develop less phenols, and, hence, less aromatics which contribute to the wines' complexity. This is analagous to the 2009 vintage when a hot summer resulted in grapes ripening quickly, and produced ripe, fruit forward wines. There were many very fine wines in 2009, but they will not be a long lived as the 2010's from a protracted harvest year.
Nevertheless, many growers are enthusiastic about the prospects for this year's harvest, using words like "fantastic" and "incredible" along with Facebook pictures of purple grapes. Most winemakers are expecting harest to be about two weeks away, which, if things get a bit cooler, that may induce grapes to develop more extracts and phenols. Things can change quickly, and, as the saying goes, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Stay tuned!
The Next Review Blog to be on September 16th.
Tomorrow, we will be leaving Walla Walla for Chelan, where we will visit some wineries (to the reviewed in the October issue) and the Methow Valley (for some hiking). The next Review Blog will be posted after my return.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2013 Imminent
Around the state, winemakers and vineyard managers are gearing up for this year's grape harvest. In fact, Woodward Canyon harvested its Estate Sauvignon Blanc last Tuesday and Wednesday. Many vineyards will start harvesting right after Labor Day. Weather in Eastern Washington has been consistently seasonable with highs in the low to mid '90's. A thunderstorm on the evening of August 25th had negligible effect. The grapes are ripening quickly and wineries and growers have been posting Facebook pictures of purple colored clusters. Stay tuned!
Waters Sold to Tero Estates
On August 23rd, the sale of the Waters Winery on J.B. George Road to Tero Estates, near Milton-Freewater, was announced. Waters' winemaker, Jamie Brown, will continue to make his winery's wines. This aquisition will greatly expand the Tero/Flying Trout portfolio to inclue Syrahs and Washington whites. Tero co-owner, Mike Tembruell, is pleased to have his beloved Syrahs as well as the Bordeaux varietals of the Windrow Vineyard. I have always been impressed with Waters' wines, so this merger makes for a powerful combination.
The SOB Pinot Gris Tasting
Last Wednesday, August 28th, the Sons of Bacchus convened at Trey Busch's (Sleight of Hand) home for a tasting of international Pinot Gris whites. Fifteen wine were tasted, some from Alsace, some from Oregon and Washington, and some from the Italian Venezia and Alto Adige regions. This time, there was no taste-off of the top wines from each of the flights, so here are the top four, with my notes.
2010 Weinbach Clos de Capcins, Cuvée Ste. Catherine Pinot Gris
This was an opulent classic Alsace Pinot Gris. Medium gold colored, it emited rich aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, anise and scents of lilac and honeysuckle. On the palate, the wine was creamy textured, with touches of mango and squeezed mandarin orange, along with slatey minerals on the lingering finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 Kientzler Pinot Gris d'Alsace
Light gold colored, this offered an intriguing, smoky nose of pear, peach, lilac and wet stone. The palate showed typical Alsace Pinot Gris richness and minerality, along with notes of grape skin, creme fraiche and hazelnuts. Bright, juicy fruit acids gave the wine vibrancy. 18.5/20 points.
2011 Jermann Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Gulia
This wine showed terrrific varietal purity. Pale gold colored, it had a floral nose of pear-apple, grapefruit, lilac and wildflowers. The flavors were fairly direct, all about varietal character and slatey terroir, with a fresh, clean, lively finish. I brought this wine, purchased at Esquin for $29. 18.5/20 points.
2012 Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Gris, Central Coast
This was a surprise winner fron California in the fourth flight. It showed a medium gold color and aromas of pear, peach, anise and hazelnuts. The flavors were ripe, crisp and focused, with touches of waxy fruits, followed by a crisp, minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
As for the rest, the Washington and Oregon versions were pleasant, uncomplicated wines, along with some ripe Alsatians and fairly direct northern Italian ones.
Afterwards, Erik McLaughlin (Seven Hills Winery) uncorked this phenomenal Alsatian dessert wine:
2000 Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Pinot Gris, Vendange Tardive
Deep copper hued, this wine had an opulent, seductive bouquet of super ripe pear, peach, apricot and papaya, with scents of roasted nuts, orange peel and oriental perfumes. The flavors were rich and sweet, yet never cloying, retaining vibrant fruit acids. The back revealed sensations of spiced spiced orange peel, creme brulée and toasted nuts, with the acids continuing to impart grip through the lingering, decadent finish. 20/20 points.