- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night (February 18th) the Sons of Bacchus and a Daughter of Dionysus met at the home of Jerry Solomon (Sleight of Hand) for a tasting of Gran Reservas. To be labeled Gran Reserva (principally Termpranillo, with a bit of Garnacha or Graciano) the wine must be aged two or more years in cask and three in bottle. All the wines tasted were 2001 or older, so it was a remarkable opportuntiy to tasted aged Riojas. Except for one corked wine, all the wines had held up remarkably well. There were three flights, and there was broad consensus among the tasters as to which wines were the best of each grouping. Here they are, with my notes and scores.
2001 Vina Olabari Gran Reserva - This was a tasty, tautly-structured classic Tempranillo, deep ruby colored, with sultry, smoky aromas of tobacco and cedar with deep, penetrating flavors. 19+/20 points.
1999 Puelles Gran Reserva - This showed a medium garnet color with aromas of roasted berries and nuts, tobacco, dried orange peel, and really classy medium-bodied flavors. This is a fine representation of the elegant style of Rioja. 19+/20 points.
1994 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva "904" - Medium garnet colored, this showed a mature bouquet of dried roses, berries and nuts, elegantly styled, medium=bodied. Drying out a bit, so this is a bit past its peak, but still showing remarkably well. 19+/20 points.
Other noteworthy wines:
2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva "904" - Nearing its peak, this showed a nose of crushed roses, orange peel and tobacco, with medium-bodied flavors, a bit more dry than sweet, with a long, elegant finish. 19/20 points.
1987 Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva - This was the oldest wine tasted and it showed remarkably well for its age. The mature nose showed roasted nuts, dried roses, tobacco and cedar. The flavors were dry and austere, yet still quite drinkable. 19/20 points.
1996 Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco Reserva- This white was poured during an interlude. Composed of 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, it was remarkable for its age. Brilliant gold colored, it showed a smoky nose of apricot and toasted nuts, dry, yet fleshy, just slightly oxidized. 19/20 points. (Provided by Steven Maxood).
2005 Chateeau Suduiraut, Sauternes - After the tasting, Trey Busch provided a this. Deep golden colored, it was thick nutty and apricoty, but never cloying, with superb fruit acid balance. 19+/20 points.
A Couple of Noteworthy Wines
These two are out of the range for inclusion in the monthly Review of Washington Wines, but are worthy of mention. Both are worth having on hand for spring and summer drinking.
2013 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($17) - This is too limited in supply to appear in a future issue of the Review. A shipment has gone out to Seattle and is already being snapped up. It is now being offered to the wine club, then to the public in a couple of weeks. It will go fast, so buy now. Composed of 70% Cabernet Franc and 15% each of Petit Verdot and 15% Malbec, it displays a pale copper color and enticing aromas of strawberry, pink peach, pink grapefruit and papaya, with scents of white lilac and white violets. The flavors are fresh and vibrant, with notes of grape skin and peach stone. The juiciness continues on the back with sensations of squeezed berries and tangerine peel, followed by a light dusting of spices (cardamom, coriander) on the nearly bone dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2012 Flying Trout Torrontes, Mendoza, Argentina ($19) - This was made at Bodegas Don Bosco by Ashley Trout and Doug Roskelley, along with the winery crew, during their stint in Argentina last spring. Torrontes is a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and other unknown varieties. This version is a bright, refreshing white. It offers a brilliant gold color and attractive aromas of pear, peach, melon, apple blossoms, jasmine and stone. The flavors are crisp and lively, with notes of grape skin, peach pit, melon rind and Andean mountain minerals. The richness continues on the back with touches of creme fraiche and nougat, counterpointed by bracing fruit acids on the vibrant, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last Wednesday, in my Review of Washington Wines Blog, I wrote that I would be reporting on "Walla Walla Breaking Wine News." The biggest news in that projected posting was going to be about the Tero Estates, Flying Trout Wines and Waters Winery ground breaking event at a new faciity to be constructed just below the Amavi Winery on Peppers Bridge Road. That event was canceled due to permit issues yet to be resolved. So this report will have to be left for later. Also, the Downtown Walla Walla winery tasting rooms are still in flux, and in some cases, nebulous. So more on that later. This leaves my report comparing the 2011 and 2012 Washington State red wines. So here's this week's article.
The 2012 and 2011 Red Wines Compared
After the protracted harvest of 2011 which went well into November, 2012 was a return to a more normal season. Harvesting began in early September and was mostly completed by the end of October. This resulted in wines with differing characteristics.
The 2011 reds have frequently been called "old world" in style. That is, wines with pronounced aromatics, resulting from the phenols that were developed during the extended "hang time" of the harvest, and with drier tannins on the finish. So far, with more 2012 reds being released, the wines seem to be more fruit forward, with the aromatics being more berrly like and less floral, and the tannins riper.
Qualitatively, the two vintages may turn out to be nearly equal, but stylistically different, which becomes more a matter of personal preference. If you like tasty, fruit forward wines, go for the 2012's. If you prefer more aromatic and structured "old world" like wines, go for the 2011's. Here are some fine examples of each vintage.
2012 Seven Hills Reserve Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, McClellan Vineyard 19+ points - January - To be released in March.
2012 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrahs - These scored 19+ to 20/20 points in the January issue
2012 Sparkman Cellars "Wonderland" Grenache, Yakima Valley - This deliciouly ripe wine is to be reviewed in the March issue. 19 points
2012 Savage Grace Syrah-Grenache, Columbia Valley 18.5+ points - At $27 a bottle, this is a super value from an up and coming new winery in Woodinville. This and other 2012 reds will be in the March issue.
2011 Cadaretta "Windthrow" Red Wine - 19+ points - January
2011 Rasa Vineyards Living in the Limelight" Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, Dionysus Vineyard - A classic Petit Verdot with teriffic aromatics. - 19.5 points - July
2011 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - 19.5 points - To be reviewed in March.
2011 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Loess Vineyard - Even better than the excellent 2010. 19.5 points - To be reviewed in March.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing, the Walla Walla wine scene is in a state of flux. Things are changing. A couple of new wineries are emerging. And the downtown tasting rooms are playing musical chairs, with some wineries moving from one place to another. On Saturday, Tero Estates, Flying Trout and Waters will be having a "Ground Breaking" event, for just what remains to be seen. There has been a lot of speculation about that.
The next Review of Washington Wines Blog will be posted on Monday, February 10 with more news and details. There will also be a report on intial impressions of the 2012 vintage.
As an advance tip, Woodward Canyon is having 20% off on its 2012 Nelms Road Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at $20 a bottle, down from $25, until the end of the month. Both are tasty fruit-forward wines, a trait of many of the 2012's I have tasted so far. These two wines will be reviewed in the March issue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Two weeks ago, I wrote about two blind tastings of two Malbecs and two Syrahs my wife and I conducted at home (to see the posting, scroll down below to the article). Now that the reviews have been published in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines, I can reveal the identities of the wines.
2011 Malbec A: Walla Walla Vintners, Columbia Valley (55% Sagemoor, 36% Summit View, 9% Dwelley)
2011 Malbec B: Kontos Cellars, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard
2011 Syrah A: Kontos Cellars, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard
2011 Syrah B: CAVU, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard
Here are some further comments in addition to those in the first article.
Differences in one wine from another of the same varietal, can be functions of terroir and/or winemaking styles. These four wines each seem to combine both of these functions. The Walla Walla Vintners Malbec is 55% Columbia Valley (just north of Pasco) and 45% Walla Walla Valley (Summit View and Dwelley). It comes on more like an Argentinan Malbec with its bold, direct fruit flavors, that also have components of Sagemoor dust and minerals and Walla Walla Valley gravel and loess. The Kontos is all Summit View and displays an earthy, aromatic character that is reminiscent of a Malbec from Cahors in France's Lot Valley. Both Syrahs are good examples of ones from different AVAs. The Kontos Cellars shows the Les Collines loess laden, sun-drenched Blue Mountain foothills terroir. The CAVU shows the floral aromatics and ripeness from the south facing slope above the Columbia River where the Alder Ridge vineyard is located. Both show varietal purity, with the Kontos leaning toward the earthy style and the CAVU toward the floral.
All this is to say that wines of the same variety can differ stylistically as a result of where the grapes come from and how they are handled. This is no single "style" of Malbec or Syrah, but rather a variety of types. This is one of the things that make Washington wines so unique, in that there is a lot of variety. This can be, at times, confusing for the consumer who wonders what kind of Malbec (Argentinian, or French styled?) or Syrah (fruit-driven, or terroir-driven?) he or she is getting. Part of a wine writer's job is to describe wines in such a way that indicates a wine's style as well as quality. This is what I try to do.
An Interesting Article about Tulpen Cellars
A couple of days ago, I ran across an article by Shannon Borg in the February issue of Seattle Magazine about Ken Hart and Rick Trumbull whose wines are reviewed in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines. It is titled "Tulpen Cellars Takes on Dry Farming of Wine Grapes." It writes about how the two manage vineyards without irrigation of the vines, a technique that is acquiring more interest. To see the article, go to seattlemag.com and then enter the keyword Tulpen on the Search line. This will take you to a link to the article. For further discussion of dry farming of vineyards, see the Review blog posting below about the Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard which is also managed by Hart and Trumbull.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As you drive east on Mill Creek Road past K Vintners and Abeja, you will see to the north a slope planted with four rectangualar vineyards. On the northeast is Leonetti's Upland Vineyard, below it on the southeast is àMaurice. On the northwest quadrant is the Chan family's Yellow Bird Vineyard. Then on the southwest is the Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard. The Walla Walla Vintners' was the last to be planted, in 2008. The winery waited until then because the owners wanted to secure water rights before planting. An irrigation stystem was set up, but it was never used. The vineyard comprises 11 acres total, 3.75 of Merlot, 3.75 Cabernet Sauvignon, one half acre Petit Verdot, an acre of Sangiovese and two acres Syrah. Gordy Venneri, co-ower of Walla Walla Vintners, has stated, "I believe there are not very many dry land vineyards in the state of Washington so that makes this site somewhat unique. Besides Syrah, our goal at this point is to ultimately make a French type of vineyard blend with Merlot, Cabernet and Petit Verdot, and also a super Tuscan type of blend with Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot."
A few weeks ago, I stopped by Walla Walla Vintners to taste new 2011's that had been recently released (Sangiovese and Malbec, to be reviewed in the February issue). In the course of our conversation, Gordy Venneri mentioned that the winery had released a lmited amount of the 2011 Syrah from the Estate Vineyard, and gave me a bottle of it to try, and asked me to let him know what I thought of it. Here is my review:
2011 Walla Walla Vintners Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley
This is an impressive wine for fourth leaf fruit. It displays a deep purplish color and an intriguing nose of raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate, with scents of crushed roses, bayberry, orange peel, tobacco leaf and spiced white incense. On the palate, the medium bodied flavors are generous and direct, imbued with licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and earthy substrate minerals. The back picks up notes of squeezed bright young fine fruits, framboise liqueur, pomegranate seeds, and dried orange peel, all leading into a savory, lightly spiced moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
All in all, this came on as a complex wine, coming just short of 19 points due to the young age of the vines. As the vines mature, deeper and more complex wines are sure to come. Gordy stated, "We have some very good 2012 and 2013 vintage wines in barrel that I feel will allow us to do that."
I asked Gordy, "One more question, does the vineyard have a name, is it just 'Estate Vineyard?'" His reply was, "We want to come up with a name but for now we are just saying 'Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard.'" Regardless of whatever it is, or will be called, this is a unique vineyard to be watched.