Review of Washington Wines Blog
Wine and Food Pairings for September
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 14:02

This our first posting of this new feature from the Review of Washington Wines. Here, and in future Review blog postings, I will suggest food pairings with wines from the current issue of the Review.


Grilled Marinated Chicken

For this recipe, I marinate chicken (usually boneless thighs) in my all-purpose marinade: 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tb soy sauce, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (this is sufficent for 4 thighs, for larger quantities, double or triple the amounts). Marinate for 2-4 hours and grill until tender.

Wine pairings:

2009 Robison Ranch Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley

2009 Maison Bleue "Le Midi" Grenache, Yakima Valley

2008 Airfield "Spitfire" Red, Yakima Valley


Grilled Halibut

I also use my all all-purpose marinade for fish, adding a tablespoon of lime juice to the above ingredients. Marinate for 30-40 minutes, then grill.

Wine pairings:

2009 Upland Estates Chardonnay, Snipes Mountain

2010 Maison Bleue "Notre Vie" Viognier, Yakima Valley

2010 Rotie Cellars Southern White, Columbia Valley


Grilled Lamb Chops

I like to put fresh rosemary leaves on top of the chops as they cook. Grilled yellow squash or eggplant make fine accompaniments.

2008 Upland Estates "Teunis" Red, Snipes Mountain

2007 Watermill Estate "Midnight" Red, Walla Walla Valley

2008 Cadaretta "Windthrow" Red, Columbia Valley


Grilled Salmon

I use the same marinade as for Grilled Halibut above. Salmon pairs nicely with a medium bodied red.

2009 Gilbert Cellars Grenache, Wahluke Slope

2008 El Corazon "Tiger's Blood" Reserve Carmenere, Walla Walla Valley

2008 Adamant Cellars "Winemaker's Select" Merlot, Walla Walla Valley


Braised Short Ribs of Beef

I select thick cuts of beef ribs and braise them with vegetables (diced carrots, celery, onion, leeks, fennel, tomato) and red wine, preferably of the same varietal as will be served with the dish.

2008 Upland Estates Malbec, Snipes Mountain

2009 Gilbert Cellars Malbec, Wahluke Slope

2008 Zerba Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley

2007 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley

2008 Alexandria Nicole "Alderdale" Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills




Last Updated on Friday, 30 September 2011 16:41
When will Washington Whites get Respect?
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 24 August 2011 16:30

About a year ago, I was at a multi-winery tasting in the Artifex winemaking facility. While I was at the first table sampling a Viognier, a woman of a certain age came up and was offered a pour of the same wine. She replied, with a surly tone of voice, "I'm only tasting red wines," and walked off. Numerous times, I have seen people come up to tasting room counters and skip the whites, going straight to the reds. When is Washington white wine going to get respect?


First of all, it is evident that many consumers have the perception that only Washington reds are to be taken seriously. After all, aren't Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot the "signature" varietals? But that doesn't mean there isn't an important place for Washington whites. Here's a rundown:


Chardonnay - This is the most widely planted variety in the state, so why isn't it more respected? Granted there is a dreary sameness to many Washington Chardonnays, not unlike their California counterparts. I recently had a bottling from a respected Washington producer that was pleasant but lacked much varietal character. To show character, Chardonnay needs to come from cooler sites with distinguishable terroir. Some of the better vineyards and the wineries producing from them are: Conner-Lee (Buty); French Creek (Maison Bleue, Sleight of Hand); Canoe Ridge (Ch. Ste Michelle).

Riesling - This is the second most widely planted variety with many thirty-plus year old vineyards. But I think Riesling suffers from the perception that it is "sweet." Actually the wines range from dry to sweet. The top contenders for world class Riesling are Long Shadows' Poet's Leap and Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica, a cooperative venture with Dr. Loosen.

Gewurztraminer - The Columbia Gorge is the best source for this variety. Celilo Vineyard (Dowsett Family) and Jewett Creek (Domaine Pouillon).

Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon - There are two distinct styles. "Bordeaux" is generally a combination of about 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc is an elegant example and Cadaretta's SBS is also very fine. The other style is modeled after the Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes of the upper Loire. A top example is Woodward Canyon's Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Varietal Semillons are also made, the L'Ecole No. 41 Fries Vineyard being a notable example.

Other White Varietals - There are respectable whites being made from Pinot Gris (although Oregon is more noted for this variety) and Chenin Blanc (Hestia, Cedergreen, L'Ecole No. 41).


Then there are the white varieties that originate in the Rhone Valley, which are gaining attention, along with the red varieties such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. Plantings of Rhone whites are continually increasing, following those of Dick Boushey, the Olsen family and others. Here's a rundown on those.


Viognier - This is the most widely planted "Rhone" variety (sometimes used in small percentages to co-ferment with Syrah for a "Cotie Rotie" style red). Rich and aromatic, the finest examples are those of àMaurice, McCrea Cellars, William Church and Maison Bleue.

Marsanne - The principal grape of Hermitage in the North Rhone, this produces a full-bodied white, with a steely character that lends itself well to Washington State. Again, the Rhone Specialists, McCrea and Maison Bleue are at the forefront.

Roussanne - This is sort of the "exotic" new-wave variety, big, aromatic and sensuous in character. Rhone Rangers McCrea and Maison Bleue are the leaders. DeLille Cellars' Doyenne bottling is also impressive.

Grenache Blanc and Picpoul - These South Rhone varieties were first planted by Dick Boushey, and more are coming into production, including the recently-planted vines, along with the above whites, at Corliss/Tranche's Blue Mountain Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

White "Rhone" Blends - There is a bevy of blends of variations of the above varieties, such as DeLille's Metier Blanc, Rotie Cellars Southern White and McCrea's Sirocco Blanc. Others are sure to follow.


In the final analysis, it may be the "Rhone style" whites that will bring Washington whites back into respectability. Washington wine consumers seem to be obsessed with trends and these whites which have links to the trendy Grenache, Mourvedere and other varieties, point the way to a brighter future for Washington whites.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 22:12
When will Washington Merlot get Respect?
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 16 August 2011 14:42

Sometimes it seems as though Merlot is the Rodney Dangerfield of Washington wine: "it can't get no respect." The variety looks like it is being eclipsed by Syrah and Rhone-style reds. But I do believe Washington Merlot deserves more respect than it gets. A couple of decades ago, Washington Merlot was a "hot" commodity, fueled by the Leonetti phenomenon. Perhaps the cycle may turn full circle in the future.


A week ago, Brian Rudin (Cadaretta/Buried Cane) and I put on a Merlot tasting at our house in Walla Walla. We made the blind tasting simple: guess if each wine was Old World or New World and then where it came from. No taster got more than three out of eight right. I correctly guessed that two of them were Washington Merlots and one French (but it was from Blaye, not Pomerol as I guessed). Two winemakers did not recognize their own wines. One of the two surprises was a fruity, uncomplex Merlot that some tasters (myself included) thought came from the south of France. It turned out to be a Napa Valley Merlot which was not worth its $58 price tag. The other surprise was a 1999 (from a long, cool growing season) Tamarack Cellars which, while showing signs of age, was holding up well. A younger (2006) Merlot from Red Mountain was slightly "cooked" and drying up and was mistaken for a '98 or '99. The explanation there is that it was from a warm vintage at a typically hot climate AVA. (For pictures of this tasting, go to the Review of Washington Wines Facebook page.)


What ths tasting seems to illustrate is that:


1) Merlot is a fickle grape and, while it has identifiable varietal characteristics (suppleness, minerality) and a sense of terroir in certain areas (e.g. Washington State, Bordeaux's Right Bank), it becomes an amorphous variety elsewhere (such as Napa).


2. Merlot grows better in moderate climatic conditions. It, for instance, does not do well in hot AVAs in warm years, as evidenced by the one from Red Mountain. Likewise, in the Napa Valley, Merlot is considered to do better in the cooler Carneros district than in the Valley benchland.


That said, there are exemplary examples of Washington Merlot that can command high respect. My two favorites of the tasting were the 2007 Tero Estates "Herb's Block" from the Windrow Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley and the 2007 Cadaretta, a multi-vineyard bottling. They easily outshone the 2005 Chateau La Croix de Gay from Pomerol.


Here is a selection of exceptional Washington Merlots from reviews in past issues of the Review of Washington Wines.


2007 Tulpen Cellars, Columbia Valley - 18.5/20 points - March 2011 issue

We had this with dinner at the South Fork Grill in Walla Walla a week ago, and it was delicious.

2007 Nota Bene: Cellars, Columbia Valley, Connor Lee Vineyard - 18.5/20 points - April

2008 Fidelitas Cellars, Horse Heaven Hills - 19/20 points - July

2008 Otis Kenyon, Walla Walla Valley - 18.5/20 points - July

2007 Northstar, Columbia Valley - 19/20 points - July

2007 Northstar, Walla Walla Valley - 19.5/20 points - July

Northstar has positioned itself with Merlot as its "signature" wine. David "Merf" Merfeld is doing a great job with it.

2008 Long Shadows "Pedestal" Red, Columbia Valley (81% Merlot) - 19/20 points - August

2008 Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Valley - 19/20 points - August


Next week: When will Washington Whites get Respect?





Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 August 2011 17:17
Washington Wine Month Specials
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 08 August 2011 14:47

Super Buys for August at Esquin


August is Washington Wine Month at Esquin Wine Merchants in Seattle, and they have some great buys there. Here are some that have been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines.

2010 Alexandria Nicole “Shepherd’s Mark” White, Horse Heaven Hills, Destiny Ridge Vineyard ($16.99 - Regular: $20) - To be in the September 2011 issue

Composed of 62% Roussanne, 22% Viognier and 16% Marsanne, fermented and aged in stainless steel, this is a vibrant “Rhone style” white. Pale gold colored, it imparts aromas of pear, peach, pineapple and lemon peel with scents of lilac and lemongrass. The fruit compote flavors are ripe and lively, with a hint of creaminess on the back, followed by a nice, juicy citrus-tinged finish. 18/20 points

2007 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley ($19.99 - Regular: $28) - September 2011

This is a well put-together Syrah 100% Syrah. Composed of Lewis, Frenchtown, Double River and Phinny Hill vineyards, it exhibits a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberry, cherry, huckleberry, lavender, and rubbed sage. The flavors are juicy and well saturated, mixed with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate and variegated earth minerals. The back shows sensations of cherry liqueur, squeezed cranberry juice and orange peel, followed by cinnamon bark, roasted nuts and pain grillé upon a sweetish tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.

2008 Revelry “The Reveler” Red, Columbia Valley ($12.99 - Regular: $20) - March 2011

This Walla Walla winery calls this a “Reverse Bordeaux Style Wine.” Composed of 52% Petit Verdot, 38% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it shows a purplish color and an attractive nose of raspberry, currant, plum, lavender and rose petals. The dark fruit flavors are bright and expressive, interwoven with notes of licorice, cocoa powder and French roast. On the back, there is a squeeze of berry and currant juices on a svelte sweetish tannin finish. 18/20 points.

2007 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($29.99 - Regular: $40) - August 2010

This 100% varietal wine is made in a deliciously rich, supple style. Ripe aromas of wild blackberries, black currants and black cherries, with scents of rubbed sage, cigar box and crushed roses. The savory character continues on the palate with deep, supple flavors that are underlain with notes of milk chocolate, licorice, toffee, graphite and a definite sense of terroir (silt, loess, basalt). The back palate is thick and velvety, with tones of vanilla custard, roast coffee and nutmeg upon a finish that shows admirable fruit acid balance and chewy tannins. 18.5/20 points.

2006 Col Solare Red, Columbia Valley ($49.99 - Regular: $75) - January 2010

On a visit to this winery, a Ch. Ste. Michelle-Marchesi Antinori collaboration, I tasted this superb blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. The aromas of wild berries, currants cherries, lavender, rose petals and violets exude elegance. The flavors are exquisitely interwoven with a palette of red and dark fruits fanning out with tones of licorice, vanilla bean, bittersweet chocolate, coffee beans, pencil lead and subtle earth. The flavorings are well balanced, never obvious, finely interspersed with warm spices and melded with Red Mountain (27% of the blend) character. 19/20 points.

An Excellent Rosé from Locati Cellars

Michael Locati has turned out a very nice 2010 Sangiovese Rosé from the winery's estate vineyard south of the border, west of Milton Freewater. It packs a lot of flavor for the price.

2010 Locati Cellars Estate Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Mission Hills Vineyard ($16)

Deep rose colored, this 100% Sangiovese offers an attractive raspberry, cherry, rhubarb nose, with scents of cherry blossoms. The flavors are fresh and lively, redolent of squeezed berry and cherry juices, with touches of orange peel and dried cherry on a crisp, dry, well fruited finish. 18/20 points.

Barbecue Wine Specials

Below are some wines that are especially suitable for summer entertaining. They can frequently be found at supermarkets for substantially less than their regular prices.

2010 Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley ($12)

Pale gold colored, this white offers a fresh citrus, melon and lemongrass nose, with lively grapefruit and pear flavors that are followed by touches of stone fruit and lemon custard on a zingy finish. 17.5/20 points.

2008 Waterbrook Reserve Merlot, Columbia Valley ($22)

Brilliant garnet colored, this Merlot emits typical aromas of raspberry, mulberry, dried roses and incense. The chewy flavors comprise an intermixture of roasted berries, licorice, Swiss chocolate, minerals, earth and graphite. On the back, there are sensations of toasted nuts, glycerin (“legs”) and squeezed juices, accented by cinnamon bark, nutmeg and cardamom on a lingering sweet-dry finish. Almost an 18.5 points wine, this packs a lot for the price. 18+/20 points.

2008 Dunham Cellars “Three Legged” Red, Columbia Valley ($18)

Named for an injured dog, this blend offers ripe, spicy blackberry, cherry, tobacco and sage aromas, with ripe, generous, yet focused, berry fruit flavors that are mixed with notes of licorice, cocoa and mocha on a chewy texture. Moderate alcohol (13.8%), bright fruit acids and ripe tannins keep this wine balanced and approachable. 17.5/20 points.

2009 Tamarack Cellars "Firehouse" Red, Columbia Valley ($19)

This is a tasty blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 12% Merlot, 11% Cab Franc, with dashes of Malbec, Sangio, Zin, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. It shows a deep ruby color and pronounced aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, lavender and sage. The youthful flavors are ripe and juicy, abounding in red and blue fruits that show tones of licorice, cola and spices along with a chewy texture. 17.5/20 points.





Last Updated on Monday, 08 August 2011 21:37
Visiting Walla Walla Valley Icons
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 01 August 2011 14:18

The Pepper Bridge, Spring Valley Vineyard and Long Shadows wineries, whose wines are reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines, are among the iconic must-visit wineries in the Walla Walla Valley. Here's a guide on how best to visit them.


Pepper Bridge - Owned by the McKibben family, this winery has a tasting room, amid the Pepper Bridge Vineyard off J.B. George Road in the South Valley, which is open seven days a week (an appointment is necessary to visit the nearby production facility). The tasting room has a sweeping view of the Blue Mountains, and has a balcony where one can take in the view while sipping. The staff is knowlegable and helpful. Lisa Schmidt, a gracious host, is often on hand. There is a $10 tasting fee which is applicable toward a purchase.


Spring Valley Vineyard - Managed by the Derby family, the winery has a tasting room downtown at 18 North Second Avenue, which is open Thursday through Monday (there is a tasting fee, applicable toward purchase). But the best way to visit is during Special Event Weekends (Spring Release, Autumn Release) when the winery at the Spring Valley Ranch (well worth the ten mile drive up Middle Waitsburg Road) is opened up to the public. On these occasions, Dean and Shari Derby are on hand to greet guests. Visits there at other times are by appointment only.


Long Shadows - A working winery, this facility, high up the hill on Frenchtown Road above Highway 12, is open for Special Events only. On Spring Release, Autumn Release and Holiday Barrel Tasting, the barrel room is opened up to make room for tasting the winery's portfolio of its world-renown winemakers' wines. Plenty of tasty cheeses, antipasta and breads are served. There is a twenty dollar tasting fee which is applicable toward purchases, including large formats, vintage verticals and portfolio collections.


For information on Special Event Weekends, go to www.wallawallawine.com.


Last Updated on Monday, 01 August 2011 16:33

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