Review of Washington Wines Blog
Why I am in Favor of Initiative 1183
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 21:55

This morning, in perusing the blogs of some of my wine writing colleagues, I read some very interesting commentaries on the spirits privatization Initiative 1183. I have always been in favor of privatizing the sale of spirits as well as wine and beer. The State of Washington has no business being directly involved in the sale of liquor. The role of the Washington State Liquor Control Board should only be the enforcement of the laws governing liquor. One of my cohorts, Sean Sullivan (Washington Wine Report) is voting no on 1183 and two, Paul Gregutt (Unfined & Unfiltered) and John Sosnowy (Wine Peeps) have come out in favor of the initiative, and I am joining the latter two.


I'm not going into a lengthy analysis of Initiative 1183 and its pros and cons here. My colleagues, especially Sean Sullivan (although I disagree with his conclusion), have done admirable jobs of analysis. I'm just going to make a few points.


First, one of Sean Sullivan's greatest concerns was how the initiative might impact Washington wineries and retailers. Many smaller wineries fear that deregulation, such as allowing volume discounts to retailers, might adversely affect them, that they might get pushed aside by the big guys (Costco and the supermarkets). I am extremely supportive of Washington wineries (which is what my Review of Washington Wines is all about), but I think they need not fear 1183 as much as they do. There will always be a place for smaller wineries whose limited production is of little interest to the big stores. They can continue to market just as they do now. Look at California. Volume discounting has been around there for a long time, but there are thousands of boutique wineries in California. I really don't think Initiative 1183 is going to be that much of a game changer except that it gets the state out of the liquor business.


Secondly, the opposition to 1183 is being financed largely by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America who fear volume discounts and retailers buying directly from wineries (something already in effect) will cut into their business. They are bankrolling a fear campaign called "Protect our Communities" with scare tactics about minors buying liquor. It's really all about "Protect our Jobs." The spirits industy also opposes the initiative because they prefer the status quo which reduces competition by limiting the selection to that offered by state stores.


Finally, there is the question of whether or not Initiative 1183 benefits the public and the consumer. Analysis (see the other blogs I have mentioned) has shown that there should be added revenue to the state. Availability in more stores and more competition should result in better selection and pricing for consumers.


Initiative 1183 may not be the best scenario all around, but it would be a great step forward in getting the state out of an antiquated Liquor Control system which now exists in only eight states in the U.S. I have voted to approve the initiative (my ballot is in the mail) and urge others to do so, although I respect the opinions of those who are opposed.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 October 2011 22:35
Winery Reports on Harvest 2011
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 20 October 2011 14:07

During the past few days, I have been receiving comments from various winemakers about how this year's grape harvest has been going. Here, I am passing on these reports, a few days ahead of the usual weekly posting of my blog.


Billo Naravane (Rasa Vineyards, Walla Walla) - "Harvest is going great so far. We are seeing fantastic phenolic ripeness at lower Brix accumulation. This could result in a classically styled vintage. Pinto and I are very excited about the possibilities." (10/16)


Judy Phelps (Hard Row to Hoe, Lake Chelan) "It is going slow. We have so far only picked Primitivo, Sauvignon Blanc and Orange Muscat. Our estate Cab Franc is at 22 Brix, Malbec at 22.5 and Riesling at 20, so we'll let them hang a little longer. We expect Cinsault this week from Wahluke Slope and maybe Pinot Noir and Merlot from our south shore vineyards at Lake Chelan." (10/17)


Corvus Cellars (Walla Walla) - "While cooler temps and increased rainfall had us all worried most of the 2011 growing season, Mother Nature kicked it into overdrive towards the end and gave us some hot and dry days in these later months. We would have liked a few more, but we've not figured out who will listen to our request :-). As this email goes out, we are preparing to pick fruit from our own Corvus Estate Vineyard [on Red Mountain] as well as the other grape sources that we use for our wines....The lower sugars will naturally translate into lower alcohol and potentailly better balanced wines. The acids have been dropping and the flavors have really started to mature. We are hopeful that some fantastic wines will emerge from the 2011 harvest." (10/18)


Karen LaBonte (Trio Vintners, Walla Walla) - "Just crushed the Tempranillo from Les Collines and it's going to be a beauty! I can't wait for this to develop over the next 2 years or so!" (10/18)


Steve Snyder (Hollywood Hills Vineyards, Wodinville) - "Starting with a cool spring, the middle of the summer was dry - but not as warm as normal - and now a cool damp fall. Even with those climatic variations, things are still on schedule in the Yakima Valley. Picking for us starts next week - about a month later than normal - and with slower ripening, the fruit is developing more intense flavor and color. A cooler years gives us many winemaking options, including the possibility of a Rosé for the first time in several years. Wouldn't that taste great next summer when it gets hot again?" (10/19)


Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand Cellars, Walla Walla) - "Overall, terrific day at SofH! 4.6 tons of Red Mtn. Cabernet in the door and resting in their fermenters, cold soak, whole berry." (10/19)


Greg Harrington (Gramercy Cellars, Walla Walla) pretty much said it all - "Harvest is progressing well. We will be done with pretty much everything except Cab, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot by Monday. Then we are going to white knuckle it until the first week of November." (10/19)


For more reports on the 2011 Harvest, go to Sean Sullivan's Washington Wine Report (www.wawinereport.com).


Next Review of Washington Wines Blog posting to be November 1

Since this posting takes the place of the one scheduled for October 24, the next one will be on Novermber 1, simultaneously with the November issue of the Review going on line.


Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 16:40
How the 2009 Reds are Turning Out
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 17 October 2011 19:54

This fall is seeing the release of quite a number of red wines from the 2009 vintage. It is turning out to be a vintage that has produced many attractive wines.

The 2009 growing season started off with a fairly cool spring, but was followed by a warm summer that saw a number of days with 100 plus degree temperatures. This enabled most red grapes to ripen quickly, with harvesting in late September and early October. Then, on October 9, weather started cooling considerably and then on the 10th, freezing weather set in, precipitating a rush to harvest the remaining grapes (one winemaker told me his winery crushed 35 tons in three days, working around the clock). Many grapes were left behind following freeze burn. Winemakers then put their attention on crushing and pressing their grapes.

The following spring and summer, I liked what I smelled and tasted from the barrels: fine fruit and aromatics. Not potential heavyweights, however, showing moderate tannins and acids. In November 2010, I attended the Reynvaan Family Vineyards preview of the 2009 Syrahs and found them even better than the 2008's (given another years' winemaking experience and vine maturity). So by the end of 2010, the 2009 vintage was shaping up to be another fine year.

In tasting the recent releases, I found the most common trait of the 2009's to be wonderful aromatics - lovely, true to variety, fruits and fragrant perfumes and scents, such as roses, lavender, violets, sage and incense. Some seemed exotic and oriental in character. They are, however, softer, plusher wines than their 2007 and 2008 counterparts (due to the quick ripening of the grapes in late September) with moderate acids and tannins. But it is the aromatics that make them lovely wines that will give much pleasure for mid-term aging, say up to five years or so. Of the wines I have reviewed so far, there is a goodly number of wines scoring 18.5 points or higher, with several 19 points plus wines, and one absolutely beautiful 20/20 points wine. Most of the wines up until now are Syrah and other "Rhone" varietals (which were harvested early), so if you like these wines, the 2009's are ones to buy. More reports on others, such as Cabernet Sauvignon (the most affected by the freeze of October 10-12) Cab Franc and Merlot are to come later on.


Here's a list of outstanding 2009's tasted so far (19/20 points or higher).

2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Unnamed" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($55) - 19/20 points (Reviewed March)

2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - 19+/20 points (March)

2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($65) - 19.5/20 points (March)

The above wines have just been released and the supply will not last long. They are available at Esquin and McCarthy & Schiering in Seattle.

2009 Maison Bleue "Le Midi" Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($35) - 19.5/20 points (September)

2009 Maison Bleue "Liberté" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($45) - 20/20 points (September)

2009 El Corazon/Rotie Cellars "Swordfight" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($50) - 19+/20 points (September)

2009 Sparkman Cellars "Ruckus" Syrah, Red Mountain ($38) - 19/20 points (October)

2009 DeLille Cellars "Metier" Rouge, Yakima Valley ($34) - 19/20 points (October)

2009 Obelisco Estate Reserve Merlot, Red Mountain ($45) - 19/20 points (October)

2009 Obelisco Estate "Electrum" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($65) - 19.5/20 points (October)

2009 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley ($34) - 19+/20 points (October)

2009 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($34) - 19.5/20 points (October)

2009 Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo, Columbia Valley ($34) - 19/20 points (October)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 03:09
The Tero Release Party / 2011 Harvest Update
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 10 October 2011 14:07

The Tero Estates Release Party


On Friday, September 30, Doug and Jan Roskelley and Mike Tembruell hosted Tero Estates' Release Party. Many guests came for the event which was held under a tent outside the winery. Tim and Lori Kennedy (Don Carlo Estate, one of the Marcus Whitman tasting rooms wineries) were there, as were Lori and Dennis Fischer (the Fischer House B & B) and Catie McIntyre Walker (Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman). Many Tero wine club members were there, too. At our table were Jeff (teaches viticulture at Walla Walla Community College) and Michelle (who helps out at the Tero tasting room) and Carlos (also teaches at WWCC) and Georgi. During the course of the dinner, Doug Roskelley spoke about each of the wines being poured by Jan Roskelley and co- winemaker Ashley Trout (also of Flying Trout Wines). See the Review of Washington Wines Facebook Wall for pictures of this event.


The dinner was prepared by Paul Freeman and Jeanine Gordon, owners of the Bank and Grill in Milton-Freewater. Paul's culinary technique is simple: take a cut of meat, season it, and roast it until rare. It works very well with about any cut of meat. In this case, it was New York style beef cut in loin roasts rather than strip steaks. The result was beef that was tender and juicy on the inside, like prime rib. The beef was accompanied by the couple's signature Caesar salad and roast potatoes. These paired beautifully with Tero Estates' newly released 2008's which are reviewed in the October issue.

2008 Tero Estates Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard

2008 Tero Estates "Herb's Block" Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard

2008 Tero Estates Windrow Red Blend, Walla Walla Valey


2011 Harvest Update


In my last report on this year's wine grape harvest, I observed that the outcome could be exceptional if good weather held on, which was a big if. As of this writing (Monday, October 10) there were two fair days over the weekend, and today is cloudy, with rain forecast for tomorrow. Winemakers are understandably nervous. Harvest commenced in late September, consisting mostly of whites. On the 28th, I was at Buty, where Caleb Foster was crushing Semillon for his "Bordeaux-style" white blend. Last week, Merlot was starting to come in. Cabernet Franc comes next, and Cabernet Sauvignon later. Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand) stated that some beautiful Red Mountain Merlot was coming in and Ryan Crane (Kerloo Cellars) got terrific Tempranillo from the Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. More later!

Last Updated on Monday, 10 October 2011 14:55
October Wine & Food Pairings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 30 September 2011 16:23

This is a new feature for the Review of Washington Blog. Each month, simultaneously with the monthly issue going on line, there will be a listing of food pairings with the wines reviewed in that issue. Here are the pairings for this month.


Pan Fried Oysters

This is an easy dish. Dip small size fresh oysters in egg and dredge them in bread crumbs. Fry in cooking oil until brown. I usually accompany them with cole slaw.

2010 Sparkrman Cellars "Pearl" Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley

2010 Buty Semillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle, Columbia Valley

2010 Ross Andrew "Meadow" White, Washington/Oregon


Erik McLaughlin's Lentil Pasta and Vegetable Soup

Erik, Director of Wineries for Tranche Cellars and Corliss Estates, prepared this at a tasting of "Rhone-style" reds and whites. Here is his recipe.

Before starting, make sure you have a cup of cooked pasta or brown rice ready to add at the end. If not, start with preparing this.

Boil, covered 1 ½ cups your favorite Letnils (for this type of recipe, I prefer French Green Lentils, called “Puy Lentils) in 2 cups Vegetable stock or Vegetable broth and 2 cups water. Cooking time will vary on type of lentil from aprox 15-60 minutes. Green lentils will take 20-25 minutes. Boil until delicately yielding to bite into but still firm and holding shape.

Simultaneously, in a separate pan sauté mirapoix (mixture of finely diced ½ cup carrots, ½ cup celery, 1 cup onion) in olive or vegetable oil (I prefer half and half, just enough to lightly coat the pan) until carrots start to soften and onions are translucent.

In same sauté pan add a little more oil, then add 3 cloves finely minced garlic cloves and 1-2 cups (depending upon intensity of flavor of mushroom selected) sliced mushrooms (any type will do, but morels are best for this recipe). Saute until garlic just starts to turn color (before browning) and mushrooms start to stick to pan. Deglaze the pan with aprox ¼ - ½ cup white wine, making sure you use a flat spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan into the deglazing liquid. Simmer, adding more wine to keep mixture moist until mushrooms are fully cooked. Stir in a bit of your favorite fresh or dried herb mixture, about 1-3 teaspoons (depending upon preference) of Cholula or Tapatio (or Tabasco or any other red chile based hot sauce), and 1 Tblespoon Miso if you have it. Give it all a quick sauté, keeping the mixture moist.

By this time your lentils will hopefully be cooked, with the boiling liquid turning dark brown and still soupy. If not done, keep cooking until lentils are soft to the tooth. If cooking liquid starts to reduce, add more vegetable broth/water to keep to a soupy consistency.

Once lentils are cooked add sauté mixture and 1 cup cooked pasta (penne works well), or for an even healthier option, 1 cup cooked brown rice. Brown rice, will absorb much of the liquid in the soup, so you will likely need to add more liquid. Stir all together and taste. Add salt, pepper, and more hot sauce to taste.

Serve right away with a loaf of crusty, artisan bread.

Any left-overs will freeze and re-heat well.

2007 or 2006 Tranche Cellars Slice of Pape Red, Columbia Valley (2006 vintage reviewed July, 2011)

2008 Cougar Crest "Syrillo" Red, Walla Walla Valley

2008 :Nota Bene "Una Notte" Red, Columbia Valley


Poulet Saute "Beausejour"

This is an adaptation of a recipe in Pierre Franey's 60 Minute Gourmet. Saute a quartered frying chicken. When brown, add chopped garlic or shallots, cook a bit more, then add a bit of white wine and fresh thyme. Then cook until tender. The aromas of Petit Verdot pairs nicely.

2008 Januik Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley

2007 Cougar Crest Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley

If you prefer a white, try this aromatic wine:

2010 DeLille Cellars Doyenne Roussanne, Red Mountain


The Bank and Grill's Roasted Pork Loin

Paul Freeman and Jeanine Gordon prepared this for Glencorrie Winery's Barn Dinner. Take a center cut pork loin (about 2/1/2 inches in diameter) and rub with garlic, herbs (preferably thyme), pepper and salt, and roast unti barely pink. Serve with vegetables and a huckleberry reduction sauce.

2008 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley

2008 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley


An Outstanding Malbec from Kerloo Cellars

Ordinarily, I don’t publish reviews of wines that are available to only a select few, whether only through winery clubs or otherwise. However, I am making an exception for this particular wine. The members of the Kerloo Calling Club are extremely fortunate to have this.

2009 Kerloo Cellars Malbec, Yakima Valley, Chelle den Millie Vineyard

I first tasted this wine from the barrel the spring after harvest and found it highly promising. It has evolved into a gorgeously aromatic, silky Malbec. It displays a deep purplish ruby color, and ripe blackberries, cherries and blueberries jump out of the glass, with scents of lavender, oriental perfumes, violets, smoldering incense and white pepper. On the palate, the flavors are super saturated, redolent of true blue fruits, intermixed with stony Missoula flood minerals, licorice, dark chocolate and mocha. On the back, the ripe fruit energizes with squeezes of blueberry and cherry juices and picks up tones of orange peel, roasted nuts, kirsch liqueur, crème brulée and light oak (25% new, 75% neutral) all merging effortlessly into a lingering fine-grained tannin finish. 19+/20 points.






Last Updated on Saturday, 01 October 2011 00:28

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