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The First Half of 2012 Review Compilation
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:56

I have just completed compiling the wine reviews for January through June 2012. Some subscribers have asked for a search database for finding reviews by winery, something that is not currently available in the Review of Washington Wines. So, in response, I have listed all the wines reviewed during the first six months in alphabetical order. A link to this list can be found on your subcription page: Your Membership Information (the one that appears after your login). Click on "Wines Reviewed January - June 2012"underneath "Newsletter Archive," and the list will appear (I suggest printing out a copy for your use in searching the previous issues). To find the review for a particular wine, go to the issue for the month in which the wine was reviewed and then scroll down until the review is found. I wish I could give you an easier way, but this is the best I can do unless I were to raise my subscription rates. Below is a listing of wines in the categories that may be of the most interest. Some of these wines may be sold out.

 

The 20/20 Points Wines

2009 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, Mays Discovery Vineyard ($52) - April

2003 Reininger "Desiderata" Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($120) - January

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures $65) - February

2007 Tero Estates Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard ($90) - January

 

The 19.5/20 Points Wines

2009 Adams Bench "the V" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($49) - April

2007 Boudreaux Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($100) - May

2009 Buty "Rediviva of the Stones" Red, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - June

2008 Brian Carter Cellars "One" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard ($48) - January

2007 Corliss Syrah, Columbia Valley ($55) - June

2009 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red, Red Mountain ($70) - April

2009 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Red, Snipes Mountain ($70) - April

2008 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($89) - May

2008 Figgins Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley ($85) - May

2006 Force Majeure "Collaboration Series" Ptera Red Wine, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard ($45) - February

2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($45) - June

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 "Perigee" Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($49) - March

2008 L'Ecole No. 41 "Apogee" Red, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard ($49) - March

2008 Northstar Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($50) - February

2008 Pamplin Family Winery Proprietary Red, Columbia Valley ($50) - April

2009 Rasa Vineyards "Doctrina Perpetua" Syrah, Columbia Valley, Bacchus Vineyard, Block 5 (Futures $48) - Feb.

2009 Rasa Vineyards "Plus One" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Kiona Vineyard (Futures $65) - February

2009 Rasa Vineyards "Perfect Union" Red Blend, Columbia Valley (Futures $75) - February

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures $50) - February

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures $60) - February

2009 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Illusionist" Red, Columbia Valley ($45) - June

2010 Sleight of Hand Cellarz "The Funkadelic" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Funk Vineyard ($60) - June

2010 Tenor Sauvignon Banc, Columbia Valley ($48) - April

2009 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Forgotten Hills Vineyard ($60) - February

2009 Woodward Canyon "Dedication Series" Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State ($79) - May

 

Wines Scoring 19 Points for $40 or Less

2009 Amavi Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($29) - February

2010 Bookwalter "Double Plot" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($38) - February

2009 Bookwalter "Foreshadow" Merlot, Columbia Valley ($40) - February

2010 Ch. Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen "Eroica" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($25) - February

2009 Flying Trout "Cutthroat" Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($35) - January

2009 Flying Trout "Mary's Block" Malbec, Walla Walla Valley ($39) - June

2009 Gramercy Cellars "Inigo Montoya" Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - June

2009 JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Artz Vineyard ($33) - May

2009 JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard ($33) - May

2008 Kontos Cellars "Caimbry" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard ($40) - March

2009 Kontos Cellars "LeeVeLooLee" Malbec, Wahluke Slope, Stone Tree Vineyard ($40) - April

2009 L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($36) - March

2009 Matthews Syrah, Columbia Valley ($39) - February

2009 Otis Kenyon Carmenere, Horse Heaven Hills ($40) - April

2006 Page Cellars Syrah, Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard ($37) - January

2010 Rotie Cellars Southern Red, Columbia Valley ($40) - May

2010 Rotie Cellars Northern Red, Columbia Valley ($40) - May

2008 Seven Hills Cebernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard ($35) - March

2010 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Enchantress" Chardonnay, Yakima Valley ($28) - June

2009 Stella Fino Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, Les Vignes de Marcoux ($29) - April

2009 Tapteil Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($40) - June

2008 Tero Estates Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard ($37) - March

2009 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($37) - June

2008 Tranche Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge ($30) - March

2007 Tranche Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - April

 

Wines Scoring 18.5 Points for $25 or Less

2010 Airfield Estates Tempranillo, Yakima Valley ($25) - May

2009 Angel Vine Zinfandel, Columbia Valley, Stone Tree Vineyard ($20) - May

2009 Balboa Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - March

2010 Bunnell Family Cellar Viognier, Wahluke Slope, Clifton Vineyard ($22) - June

2008 Buried Cane "Heartwood" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - February

2011 Cadaretta "SBS" White, Columbia Valley ($23) - June

2011 Convergence Zone "Drizzle" Pinot Gris, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard ($17) - January

2009 Dunham Cellars Riesling, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard ($19.50) - January

2010 El Corazon "With Love" Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills ($23) - March

2010 Maison Bleue "Jaja" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($25) - May

2008 McKinley Springs Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills ($24) - May

2009 Stella Fino Sangiovese, Columbia Valley ($20) - April

2009 Thurston Wolfe Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills ($25) - June

2008 Thurston Wolfe Cabernet Sauvignon, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($25) - June

2008 Tranche Cellars Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - April

2009 Wind Rose Cellars Nebbiolo, Wahluke Slope, 24K Vineyard ($25) - May

 

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 13:59
 
How I Write Wine Reviews
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 22 June 2012 14:06

I take an analytical approach to evaluating wines and writing reviews of them. This is the basis of the UC Davis 20 Point system (see my Review blog of 25 January, 2012) which evaluates wines qualitatively on their components (Clarity, Color, Bouquet etc.) on a score sheet. Recently, I attended Ann Noble's class on Sensory Evaluation of Wines at the Walla Walla Community College. There, we explored the evaluation of wines through aromas and other components. This is what wine tasting is all about.

 

Wines have a series of components which comprise a begining, middle and end. There is color, then aromas (what the taster smells), then flavor (body, texture, taste), then the back (which comprises mostly of aromas that come to the olfactory nerves though the back of the nose), and then the finish (acidity, tannins, sweetness or dryness).

 

For me, writing about wine means putting these components into words, from beginning to end. It is like writing a paragraph (as we learned in grade school). The paragraph sentence describes the wine's overall impression and the other sentences amplify that. Here is an example from one of my recent (June issue) reviews.

 

2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($45)

Composed of 79% Cabernet, with 14% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, this wine exhibits a deep ruby color and a rich, intense nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, roast chestnuts, dried rose petals, herbs and oriental incense. [This describes the composition of the wine and the initial components, color and aroma.] The flavors are deep and penetrating, wrapped around a deep core, marked by black licorice, graphite, minerals and roasted coffee beans. [This describes the flavors and body/texture.] The back picks up notes of dried cherries and orange peel, roasted nuts [sensed by the olfactory nerves on the back nose] and a thrust of scorched earth on the lingering toasty oak laced and spiced (coriander, cardamom) medium-full tannin finish. [This describes the components tasted on the back of the tongue, bitterness/astingency.] All this combines depth and elegance in an impressive package. 19.5/20 points. [This is the overall impression, and the score is a qualitative evaluation. This can be considered the "paragraph sentence.].

 

Below is another example, a "Best Buy" review to appear in the upcoming July issue.

 

2011 Maison Bleue "La Famille" Rosé of Mourvedre, Yakima Valley ($20)

I had this wine in a blind tasting and it came in close to a Bandol Rosé (also Mourvedre), for which it was a dead ringer. Pale pink-copper colored, it emits an intriguing nose of wild raspberry, Rainier cherry, orange peel, jamine, dried rose petals and a whiff of spice. The palate reveals precisely balanced dried fruits, recurring orange peel and melon rind, that lead seamlessly into a back that ix given texture from glycerin and grape skin on a deftly spiced lingering finish. 19/20 points.

 

Here, the first sentence (paragraph sentence) gives the overall quality, comparing the wine to a Bandol. The rest of the paragraph describes the wine's components from the beginning, though the middle, and on to the finish. This is the formula for all my reviews.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 22 June 2012 15:12
 
The Westside Wineries Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 14 June 2012 19:51

Last night (June 13), Lynn and I put together a tasting of wines from wineries from the West side of the mountains for friends in Walla Walla. Most of the wineries were in Woodinville, but two were from the Pamplin Family Winery in Dundee, Oregon, but made entirely from Washington grapes. The preferences of many of the tasters seemed to be personal. For instance, of the two Betz Family wines, those who like Grenache preferred the Besoleil Blend while Syrah lovers favored the La Cote Rousse. Likewise, Merlot aficionados preferred the Merlot-dominated Pamplin Family JRG Blend to the Cabernet-dominated Proprietary Red, and vice versa. Here are my favorites and evaluations:

 

2009 Betz Family "Besoleil" Red, Columbia Valley

This is a superb expression of Grenache-dominated (67%, with 14% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre and 9% Counoise) Rhone-style red. It displayed ripe raspberry, cassis and orange peel aromas, with scents of Provencal herbs and exotic perfumes. The flavors were supple and expansive, with notes of licorice, cocoa powder and roast coffee, followed by a lightly spiced, lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.

 

2008 Betz Family "La Cote Rousse" Syrah, Red Mountain

This wine showed a seductive wild berry character with scents of lavender and violets. The flavors were thick and meaty, yet refined with multi-layered dark fruits, that were wrapped around a deep core. The back revealed notes of macerated berries, intermixed with licorice, bittersweet chocolare and roasted nuts. The intensity continued through the long, spiced sweet-dry finish. 19.5/20 points.

 

2009 Pamplin Family "JRG" Red Blend, Columbia Valley

Composed of 75% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 10% Malbec, this wine showed ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry and cassis, with scents of black roses, orange peel, sandalwood and a hint of mint. The medium-full bodied flavors showed the typical minerality of merlot, tempered by a supple texture and a chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points. (See the June Review of Washington Wines issue for a full review).

 

2008 Pamplin Family Proprietary Red, Columbia Valley

This wine (89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot) offered rich aromas of blackberries, black cherries, sandalwood, dried roses and eucalyptus. The dark fruit flavors were mouth-filling and solidly structured, with a deep core, intermixed with roasted berries, dried cherries and minerally earth. The wine glided through a seamless back palate, leading effortlessly into a long, well-integrated finish. 19.5/20 points. (Reviewed April, 2012).

 

2008 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, Mays Discovery Vineyard

This wine showed a seductive nose of raspberry, cherry, cassis, dried rose petals, cigar box and spiced incense. The mouth-encompassing flavors showe superb equipoise throughout, like a seamless tapestry of dark fruits, licorice, chocolate and French roast, followed by touches of creme brulée and gently squeezed berries on a long, toasty oak laced finish. 19.5/20 points. (Reviewed September, 2011).

 

2008 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard

Deep ruby colored, this vintage exhibited a seductive, exotic aromas of wild berries, cassis, mulberry, attar of rose and spiced oriental incense. On the palate, the dark fruit flavors drilled into a deep, full bore core and spreaded out with interlayings of Swiss chocolate, licorice, French roast and Missoula Flood minerals. The gamut of nuanced flavors were completed on the back with notes of gently macerated berries, roasted nuts, creme brulée, mocha, orange peel, followed integrated oak, superb fruit acid balance and fine-grained tannins on the long, long finish. 20/20 points. (Reviewed May, 2011. - In that review, I gave it 19.5+/20 points, and subsequently the winemaker, Erica Blue, predicted it would surpass the 2007 vintage. The 2008 Red Willow has evolved to the point where its score is now equal to that of its predecessor).

 

2005 JM Cellars Founder's Reserve Red Wine, Red Mountain

Doug Roskelley (Tero Estates) supplied this wine. It displayed a deep ruby color and a rich, peppery nose of raspberry, cherry and cassis, with scents of dried roses and sandalwood. The palate was thick, chewy and pervasive, intertwining dark fruits, chocolate and roasted coffee beans with Red Mountain scorched earth and minerals. The vigor continued on the back with notes of macerated berries, mocha and pain grille, leading into a deep, direct flavorful finish. 19/20 points.

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 June 2012 21:13
 
Privatization Update / Best Buys
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 18:03

Liquor Privatization: What's Going On?

 

Last Friday, June 1st, I reported in my blog that liquor prices appeared to be about the same as before in state stores. This turned out to be erroneous. The spirits prices in advertisements and shelf prices do include the 17% fee charged to retailers, but not the 20.5% spirits sales tax and the $2.83 per 750 ml. bottle tax. The taxes are added at the point of sale and are not included in advertised prices. This pricing was mandated by the Washington Department of Revenue, to which the State Legislature delegated the responsibility for the collection of liquor taxes. The Department of Revenue website states:

Advertised prices or shelf prices will be considered not to include the spirits taxes unless they clearly identify the amount of spirits taxes included in the listed price. Th spirits sales tax can be combined into one "Spirits Taxes" amount. The term "tax included" will not suffice for the requirement to itemize the spirits taxes.

What this means is that a retailer may have an advertised price or shelf price tag that includes the taxes so long as they are itemized. This should be mandated by the Washington Liquor Control Board. Shoppers should not have to carry calculators around in stores to add up the real cost. Retailers are evading their obligation for full disclosure. I do not think putting up signs showing the tax breakdowns is sufficient.

 

There was an article in the Seattle Times this morning about higher spirits prices after privatization. I think the higher prices have more to do with the wholesalers than with the taxes being imposed. The spirits taxes are not new. They were included in the posted prices at state stores (so why should that be different now?). I do not think voters were marking their ballots in favor of Initiative 1183 on prices alone, but in order to get the state out of the liquor business. But they were not expecting price increases in the range of 20 to 30 percent. The state had a 52% markup which is much more than the "fees" being charged at the wholesale (10%) and retail (17%) levels. So retail prices under privatization should not be so much higher. I can only ascribe this to the middlemen's greed. In my research, however, I have found some prices to be near the state store level. A couple of examples: Bombay Saphire Gin at Metropolitan Market was priced at $19.99 + 4.08 (20.5% sales tax) + $2.83 (liquor tax) = $26.90 versus $26.95 state price; Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch at Esquin - $34.99 + 7.17 + 2.83 = $44.98 versus $39.95 state price, a difference of $5. On the other hand, I found a Remy Martin XO Cognac priced at $169.99 which adds up to a whopping $207.69 versus $154.95 at the state store.

 

I think, however, that there will be some shaking out in the future in regards to liquor prices. Initiative 1183 also allows retailers to purchase directly from spirits manufacturers. Chain retailera and restaurants can also store purchases at central warehouses. Bypassing the wholesale middlemen should help lower prices. This is what distributors are fearful of, that retailers, especially Costco and the big box stores, will make an end run around them. Many distributors do have exclusives on certain brands, and the speculation is that they will use volume discounts on their products to get shelf placements for their profitable wines, thereby crowding out smaller wineries. But the pressure on distributors will continue as "brand" products are reliant on mass markets (wait until Total Wine and BevMo! hit the Washington market). It will be intertesting to see how liquor privatization plays out in the future. Stay tuned!

 

A Couple of Best Buys


I was at Esquin (now Esquin Wine & Spirits) the other day and picked up a couple of wines put together by Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand). They are terrific values.

 

2010 Renegade Wine Co. "Esquin Cuvée" Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley ($14.99)

Deep ruby colored, this wine emits aromas of raspberry, cherry, mulberry, anise and Spanish lavender. The medium-full bodied flavors are imbued with notes of ripe berries, chocolate, toasted nuts and loamy earth. The back picks up tones of dried cherries, nougat and sweet fruit acids on a moderate tanin and alcohol (13.3%) finish. 18/20 points.

 

2010 Renegade Wine Co. "Esquin Cuvee" Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley ($14.99)

This wine shows a purplish ruby color and an intense nose of wild blackberries, huckleberries and cassis, with scents of black roses, hyacinth. The dark fruit flavors are thick and chewy, intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder and scorched earth. The back reveals notes of roasted berries and nuts, and charcoal, followed by a squeeze of currant juice on a sweet-dry tannin finish. 18/20 points.

 

 

 

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 June 2012 22:57
 
June Wine News Items
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 01 June 2012 15:18

More About the Cadaretta Southwind Vineyard

In last week's blog, I erroneously reported the name of the Cadaretta Winery's vineyard in the South Walla Walla Valley as "Windsong." How I came up with that, I don't know, but it is Southwind, the new name that was given to the Middleton lumber schooner when it was put into government service during World War II. Another elaboraton supplied to me by Cadaretta's winemaker, Brian Rudin, is that there are fractured basalt soils above the 1250 foot level called "Lickskillet" which is classifed as very stony loam. A Middleton Family Wines Synopsis on the "F Block" describes it as "a 7.8 acre swath of land untouched by the Missoula Floods." To render this block plantable, deep soil ripping was done to break up the rock and incorporate the weathered minerals into the upper soil profile. The resultis a truly unique terroir, and it will be exciting to see what results from it.

 

A Rosé Wine Tasting

Last Wednesday, May 30, our tasting group got together for a tasting of International Rosé Wines. The top wine was the 2011 Domaine La Bastide Blanche Bandol from Provence. A close runner up was Maison Bleue's 2011 Rosé of Mourvedre, made from the same grape variety as used in Bandol. It was a nearly dead ringer, with a pale copper color, wonderful aromatics and a dry, minerally finish. A full review of Jon Martinez's wine will be in the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Honorable Mentions go to Trey Busch's 2011 Sleight of Hand "The Magician's Assistant" Rosé of Cabernet Franc and 2011 Renegade Wine Co. Rosé (reviewed in the June issue). Both offer teriffic value, being priced at $17 and $10, respectively.

Speaking of Rosés, I happened to be in Tertulia Cellars this afternoon and winemaker Ryan Raber poured me his new 2011 Rosé Wine from th Lonesome Spring Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, A blend of 73% Mourvedre, 24% Counoise and 3% Grenache, it shows a brilliant copper color and well extracted, but not overly so, lively, yet dry fruit flavors. The Counoise lifts the aromatics with notes of jasmine, litchee nuts and exotic perfumes. A full review will be in the July issue.

 

Liquor Privatization: Day One

Today, June 1, Washington State is out of the liquor business. The state stores are now under private ownership. There is still a lot of speculation as to how it will affect prices. A check in Walla Walla of a few supermarkets and the one and only freestanding liquor store (now Walla Walla Liquor Mart). Safeway had Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch for $40.99 (Club Price), only a dollar more than the WSLCB price. Albertson's had Hennesy VS Cognac for the 34.48, 53 cents more than WSLCB. At Super 1, though, I found the most self-serving and hypocritical situation. Instead of showing the consumer price on the shelf, the store showed the before taxes prices, with the taxes to be added at checkout. There was a sign in the liquor department showing the various taxes, wholesaler and retailer and liquor excise taxes. I shall not be buying my liquor at that store. The Liquor Mart purchased the state store's inventory and was selling liquor at the same state prices (with the same price tags). At the supermarkets, I saw no evidence of reduced shelf space for wine, an issue that some opponents of Initiatve 1183 pointed to.

I also checked Esquin's website (now Esquin Wine & Spirits). The front page of the pdf version of the June newsletter featured Northwest Craft Spirits and below were other spirits at what appear to be competitive prices, for example, Johnny Walker Black at $34.99. Who says liquor prices are going up? And as time goes on the liquor business will get more competitive, especially with retailer direct purchasing from distillers. It will be the self-serving hyprocrites, including the greedy middlemen, who will be the losers.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2012 21:59
 
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