- Written by Rand Sealey
This year's Fall Release Weekend, November 1-3, was another fun-filled event even even though the weather was not particularly cooperative (inntermittent rains). Here's a rundown of the weekend's happenings.
On Friday, the 1st, we first went to Long Shadows where we tasted the 2009 Chester Kidder Red and the 2009 Sequel Syrah, both to be reviewed in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines. There, directing winemaker, Gilles Nicault also took us to the back where we tasted the newly fermented 2013's from the tank. They showed marvelous aromas and fruit, showing promise for an outstanding vintage. Then we stopped by Bunchgrass to taste with Tom Olander the new 2012 Whispering Owl White and 2010 Windrow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in December. That evening, we attended Robsion Ranch Cellars' Club dinner.
On Saturday morning, we went to Tranche Cellars at the Blue Mountain Vineyard to taste with Griffin Frey. Then we drove up to the end of Cottonwood Road to the Reynvaan Family Vineyards winery. All the Reynvaans were there and previewed the 2012's which will be reviewed in January. Then we went on to Isenhower, then Rasa and MacKey on Powerline Road. The wines will be reviewed in the December issue. The premier event of the evening was Corliss' Fall Release party, where a fantastic 2009 Syrah was previewed (to be released in 2014). There, all had a good time with plenty of stimulating conversation.
On Sunday afternoon, we had a great time at Northstar's "Blending Experience." There, Lindsey Dean guided us through a tasting of six 2009's: four Merlots from different AVA's and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Petit Verdot. Then each participant put together a blend of their favorite wines. Lynn put together a blend of 70% Horse Heaven Hills Merlot and 30% Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. My blend consisted of 70% Walla Walla Valley Merlot, 10% Red Mountain Merlot, 10% Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. I was pleased with my result. Here's my review:
2009 Northstar "Rand's Blend" Merlot, Columbia Valley - Deep purplish ruby colored, this blend offers a perfumed nose of wild blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, violets and white incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with supple, yet structured, red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, Swiss chocolate, French roast and silt and loam minerals. The back picks up notes of squeezed berries, kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by supple tannins and light spices on the lingering finish. 19/20 points.
Each of us botted our wine and got to take it home. The Blending Experience is held periodically and reservations are required. The cost is $65 for club members and $85 for non members.
As a fun post Fall Release Weekend event, the Mark Ryan Winery had an Industry Night party on Monday at the downtown Walla Walla tasting room on Main Street. Mark McNeilly grilled beef burger sliders on ciabatta buns to go with the newly released 2012 Viognier and 2011 reds (to be reviewed in the December issue). Again, there was a lot of conversation and a great time.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Some Walla Walla Wineries to Visit During Fall Release Weekend
Here are my suggestions for "must visit" wineries during Fall Release, November 1-3. This is not an inclusive list. There are many other wineries worth visiting. If you have favorites, by all means, visit them. These are wineries that have noteworthy new releases or special library wines for tasting.
Buty - Nina Buty and winemaker Chris Dowsett will have some tasty 2012 whites and 2010 reds (see the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines).
Gramercy Cellars - This winery has a bevy of impressive 2011 reds (see the November issue).
Kerloo - Ryan Crane has turned out some fine 2011 reds (reviewed in September and November).
L'Ecole No. 41 - Here, the new 2010 Apogee and Perigee (reviewed September) will be poured along with other recent releases.
Maison Bleue - Jon Meuret's tasting room opened on South 2nd in August. Most new wines will be released in spring, but the 2011 La Montagnette Grenache is worth stopping by for.
Seven Hills Winery - This winery turned out some of the top wines of the 2011 vintage (reviewed September and November). Some library wines will also be poured.
Tero Estates/Flying Trout/Waters - Having acquired Waters, Tero will be pouring three labels at the Marcus Whitman Hotel tasting room. The Waters Winery will be serving its own wines at the J. B. George Road location and Tero/Flying Trout at the South Valley. (See the October issue for Tero's new 2010 reds and November for Flying Trout's).
Va Piano - This winery has two outstanding "Black Label" 2011 Syrahs (see the November issue).
A couple of wineries west of Walla Walla, are noteworthy not only for the wines, but for the food as well. For that, go to Long Shadows and Woodward Canyon.
Harvest 2013: Endgame
Last Wednesday, October 23, I was at the Corliss Winery in Walla Walla tasting the 2008's (to be reviewed in December) with Lauri Corliss and winemaker Andrew Trio. While conversing, Andrew mentioned that the winery had just celebrated the completion of harvest the day before. I added that the wine growers really lucked out with the sunny days in mid October, after a spell of rainy weather. A few wineries are still picking a few blocks, but the harvest is essentially complete. The wineries really do have something to celebrate, a vintage that promises to be exceptional, and it's over before Fall Release.
A Tasting of Older Bordeaux
On Tuesday, October 22, the Sons of Bacchus and two Daughters of Dionysus assembled once again for a superlative tasting of Right Bank Bordeaux wines from vintages of 2003 and earlier. Here are the top scoring wines.
Flight 1 - 1985 Ch.Cos d'Estournel, St. Estephe
Flight 2 - 1995 Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou, St. Julien (the 1995 Lynch Bages, Pauilliac was a close second and my favorite)
Flight 3 - 1996 Ch. Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac (this was the star of the evening)
Flight 4 - 2001 Ch. Smith Haut Lafite, Graves-Pessac (this was a surprise winner)
Two bonus wines were served as well, a deliciously crisp and vibrant Cold Heaven 2011 Viognier from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in California's Santa Rita Hills, and a 1983 Ch. Doisy-Vedrines Sauternes-Barsac which was ambrosial and nearly perfectly aged and still vibrant.
Special thanks to Steven Maxood for putting this tasting together and providing the Viogner, and to Erik McLaughlin for bringing the superb Doisy-Vedrines and supplying a summary of the results, and to all who brought such special wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Saturday, October 19th, Lynn and I made an excursion out to Lowden, about 12 miles west of Walla Walla. This can be considered the birthplace of Walla Walla winemaking, in that Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole No. 41 and Waterbrook all got their start in Lowden in the 1980's, even though they were preceeded by Leonetti.
Our first stop was at L'Ecole No. 41, in the historic Lowden Schoolhouse No. 41. There, we tasted the new 2011 Stone Tree Grenache and 2012 Semillon, both to be reviewed in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines. For previous releases, especially the 2010 vintages of the Apogee and Perigee red blends, see the September issue.
After L'Ecole, we went over next door to Woodward Canyon for lunch at the Reserve House, which has been turned into a casual restaurant serving lunch Friday through Sunday. We had some delicious meatballs with potatoes and rice, along with the 2010 Woodward Canyon Merlot. Owner-Winemaker Rick Small stopped by our table and told that they were just finishing harvest and were very pleased with the outcome. Rick also talked about his and Darcey's upcoming trip to the south of France, a respite that they were very much looking forward to. Then we stopped by the tasting room to pick up a bottle of the 2012 estate Dolcetto which will be in the December issue.
Then, we drove back east and turned left off Highway 12 at Frenchtown Road and went up to Long Shadows, which is now open daily from 11 to 5, by appointment only (go to longshadows.com to make reservations). There, Rachel Riddle poured us tastes of the 2012 Poet's Leap Riesling, 2009 Saggi (see the January issue for a review), 2009 Chester Kidder Red Blend, and the 2009 Sequel Syrah (the last two to be reviewed in the December issue).
Our day was leisurely, a contrast to the hectic pace of event weekends (such as the upcoming Fall Release). Optimally, one should allow 30 to 45 minutes per visit. All this befits the casual lifestyle of the Walla Walla Valley.
Coming Up: Next week's blog, which goes on line on October 29th along with the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines, will have tips on wineries to visit during Fall Release Weekend, November 1 through 3. It will not be an inclusive list, but one highlighting wineries with interesting new releases.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2013 Update
The wine harvest gods seem to be smiling now, as fair, but cool, weather has come to eastern Washington, following the rainy weather of early October. The added hang time has ripened grapes further, adding complexity to the fruit and, ultimately, to the wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, usually harvested late, is being or is about to be harvested. Other red grapes are in the vats, fermenting and pressing is under way or about to be. Last year, harvest was continuing into November. This year, in mid October, the end is in sight. More later!
Entwine is the annual Dinner and Auction to benefit the Walla Walla Community College's Enology and Viticulture Program. This year, it was held on Saturday, October 12th. Guests and honorees were greeted by Dr. Alan Busacca, Director of the Enology and Viticulture Program, and WWCC President Dr. Steven VanAusdle. The 2013 Distinguished Graduates being honored were Matt Huse (Five Star Cellars) Marcus Miller (Airfield Estates) Chris Peterson (Avennia) and Tanya Woodley (SuLei Cellars). Culinary Arts honorees were Brian Mahan (Graze Catering) and Caren McIntyre (Bon Appetit). During the reception and silent auction, appetizers were served along with College Cellars" Sparkling Riesling and wines poured by participating wineries. During the four course dinner, the live auction proceeded with such items as a Dinner with Philippe Michel and Brandon Kubrock, a custom wine rack with wines (some donated by yours truly), a terroir tour with "Dr. Dirt" (Dr. Alan Busacca), and more. It was a fun filled evening, and we came home with some goodies, including four magnums and a couple of private wine tastings. All this for a good cause.
Coming Soon: Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend
This year, Fall Release Weekend will be early, November 1st through 3rd. We have been visiting many wineries which have been previewing their upcoming releases, many of which will be reviewed in the November issue which goes on line a few days early, October 29th, accompanied by that week's blog, lisiting recommended wineries to visit. Watch for it!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night, Lynn and I joined Doug and Jan Roskelley, their partner in Tero Estates and Waters Wineries, Mike Tembruell, Brian Rudin and Ashley Trout for a dinner at the Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Mike brought two magnums of wines he had been saving over the years, a 1994 Chateu L'Eglise Clinet from Pomerol and a 1994 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. It was a enjoyable and memorable dinner. Rather than decant the wines, they were carefully poured out of the magnums. First, a bit about the properties, then my tasting notes.
Chateau L'Eglise Clinet is a property located in the north part of Pomerol, not far from the famed Chateau Petrus. The soil is composed of clay and gravel, which gives the wine a distinct minerality. The vineyard is planted to 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.
Dunn Vineyards is located on Howell Mountain, northeast of Calistoga, at the north end of the Napa Valley. The winery became a cult winery early on, back in the 1980's and 1990's, known for its muscular Cabernet Sauvignons. Owner-winemaker Randy Dunn has a Walla Walla Valley connection in that he directs the winemaking for Long Shadows' Feather Cabernet Sauvignon.
1994 Chateau L'Eglise Clinet, Pomerol - Deep ruby colored, this wine showed a classic Pomerol nose of wild berries, cedar and truffles, with scents of cigar smoke and sultry oriental perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were thick and minerally and penetrated into a thick core. The back revealed sensations of roasted berries and nuts, and picked up a touch of fleshiness to complement the dried, mature fruits, followed by a lingering, nutted finish. This wine ishowed signs of age, yet was still remarkably alive. 19.5/20 points.
1994 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain - This wine showed a deep, opaque ruby color and a dark, mysterious nose of black currants, dried plums and cherries, attar of rose and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and authoritative, characteristic of Howell Mountain, and composed of dried, yet still vibrant fruits. The intensity continued on the back and finish, with notes of roasted berries and nuts. As the wine aerated, age was evident, but occasional flashes of fruit emerged. 19+/20 points.
All the diners had various meat entrees, pork, lamb, beef, expertly cooked, sauced and served. The wines complemented the meal very nicely. Nearly all preferred the Pomerol to the Cabernet, but found the Dunn Vineyards to be admirable as well. Another observation about the wines is that bottling in magnums (1.5 liters) enhances the ageworthiness of the wines greatly. If they had been regular 750's, they most likely would have been over the hill. If you want to have a wine that will age twenty years or more, it pays to get magnums.
Thanks to Mike Tembruell for hosting this fabulous event!