Review of Washington Wines Blog
Cayuse Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 13:54

The weekend of April 3rd and 4th was the time when Cayuse Vineyards was opened for list memners to taste the upcoming vintage and to pick up their newly released wines. It was also a busy time for other wineries, restaurants and hotels. Here's my account of the weekend.

On the morning of the third, we drove down to Sunnyside Road in Oregon for the opening of the Cayuse Private Release Party. While I was tasting and taking notes, Christophe Baron came up to me and asked if I liked the wines. If not, I would be thrown into a vat of Bionic Frog. There was no need for that as I found the wines to be highly impressive. Here are my notes:

2012 God only Knows Grenache - Medium ruby colored, this showed enticing aromas of red fruits, lavender and violets, and ripe medium bodied, yet well structured, flavors that were imbued with licorice, cocoa, herbal tea. The back picked up pressed berries and framboise liqueur, followed by a lingering ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Flying Pig - Composed of 45% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this vintage showed a deep ruby color and alluring aromas of wild raspberries, currants, bramblea, crushed roses and violets. The flavors were direct, yet deep and penetrating, marked by notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted berries and nuts, and distinct "Rocks" minerality. 19+/20 points.

2012 The Lovers - This 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah combination exhibited a deep ruby color and sultry, smoky aromas of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, sandalwood and juniper berries. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with dark fruits that were underlain with Swiss chocolate, coffee grounds and Rocks minerals. The wine turned fleshy textured on the back, with fruit confit and sweet-dry, firm tannins. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Syrah, Cailloux Vineyard - Deep crimson colored, this emited seductive aromas of wild blackberries, blueberries, crushed rose petals, lavender and violets. On the palate, flavors spread out with layers of dark fruits that were imbued with licorice, chocolate, dark roast and Rocks earth and minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, framboise liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by a lingering finish. 19.5+/20 points.

2013 Syrah, En Cerise Vineyard - This showed a brilliant ruby-crimson color and a floral nose of raspberry, blueberry, cassis, orange peel, red roses, violets and white incense. The alluring medium bodied flavors were mouth-filling and intermixed with licorice, cocoa and minerals. The back picked up framboise and kirsch liqueurs, recurring orange peel, and burnt toast, followed by a lingering moderate acid and tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Syrah, En Chamberlin Vineyard - Deep crimson colored, this wine offered intriguing aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, anise, red roses and violets, and rich medium-bodied flavors that casted a swath across the palate, underlain with licorice, Swiss chocolate, herbal tea and rocky, loamy earth. The back picked uo fruit liqueurs, creme de cassis and dried orange peel, followed by a lingring ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Bionic Frog Syrah - This wine showed the elegance of the vintage admirably. Deep ruby colored, it emited a sultry, smoky nose of wild raspberries, cherries, cassis, dried orange peel, earth, dried roses, lavender and smoldering incense. The flavors, as well, were seductive, with thick, chewy medium full-bodied flavors that were intermixed with licorice, cocoa, and cobblestone and earth minerals. The back showed sensations of pressed berries, franboise liqueur, creme de cassis, mocha and toast, followed by a lingering, decadently rich finish. 19.5+/20 points.

2012 Syrah, Armada Vineyard - This was a superb expression of the rich, ripe 2012 vintage. It showed a brilliant ruby color and intoxicating aromas of wild blackberries, raspberries, black currants, orange peel, crushed roses, violets and oriental incense. The flavors spread a wide swath across the palate, with intermixtures of licorice, Belgian chocolate, French roast and ground up cobblestones. The wine kept on going on the back, with sensations of pressed berries, orange peel, roasted nuts and kidskin, all lifted by bright fruit acids on the incredibly long finish. 20/20 points.

2013 Impulsivo Tempranillo - Deep crimson-ruby colored (a trait of Tempranillo), this offered an exotic nose of black currants, black cherries, anise, damp earth, black roses and violets. On the palate, the flavors were deep and penetrating, marked by notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, chicory coffee, and stony earth. The back picked up kirsch liqueur, creme de cassis, dried orange peel, and burnt charcoal, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

After Cayuse, we drove about a half mile further west on Sunnyside to Otis Kenyon where we tasted a lovely, perfumed new 2012 Carmenère (the "lost grape" of Bordeaux), to be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Then we drove back up to Walla Walla and up to the end of Cottonwood Road to the Reynvaan Family Vineyards winery, where we say Matt, Mike and Gale Raynvaan and other family members. We tasted the newly-released 2013 whites and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are my notes:

2013 Reynvaan "Queen's Road" White Wine ($65) - Composed of This showed a medium gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, white peach, Meyer lemon, acacia flowers, anise and white incense. The crisp and well delineated, with notes of pear skin and toasted almonts, followed by a dry, minerally finish. 19+/20 points.

2013 Reynvaan Grenache Blanc ($60) - This came on like a  distinctive white with scents of Boac pear, almonds, orange blossoms and white incense. The white fruit flavors were very dry and crisp, with intense minerality and laser-like precision. 19/20 points.

2013 Reynvaan "In the Rocks" Viognier ($60) - This showed the distinct minerality of the "Rocks" of the South Valley, along with scents of white lilac and honeysuckle and juicy, vibrant flavors that showed notes of pear, peach, orange peel, and poire William liqueur, followed by a long, creamy finish. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Reynvaan "Foothills in the Sun" Viognier ($60) - This comes from the estate vineyard by the winery. It showed a more delicate, fruit-forward character than the In the Rocks, with floral semi-tropical aromas of pear, peach, papaya, honeysuckle and white incense. The flavors showed high elevation intensity, and gravelly undertones. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Reynvaan "The Classic" Cabernet Sauvignon ($75 - Fall Release) - This showed a deep ruby color and classic Cabernet aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, crushed rose and sandalwood, and dark fruit flavors, intermixed with chocolate, roasted coffee, roast chestnuts and ripe, chewy tannins. 19+/20 points.

In the evening, we drove out on Highway 12 to L'Ecole No. 41 where we attended a dinner celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Lowden Schoolhouse and the release of the 2012 Ferguson Vineyard Red (to be reviewed in the May issue). A superb dinner, was prepared and served by the Walla Walla Community College's Wine Country Culinary Institute, headed by Dan Theissen.

The next day, Saturday the fourth, we visited a few downtown wineries. First was Seven Hills where we tasted the outstanding 2012 Klipsun Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 Walla Walla Valley Pentad (both to be reviewed in May). Then we stopped at Maison Bleue where we tasted Jon Meuret's superb 2014 Rose, 2012 "Bourgeois" Grenache, and "Voyageur" Syrah (also to be reviewed in May). We also stopped at Mark Ryan where Mark McNeilly was pouring his new releases (reviewed in April) along with pulled pork from a roasted whole pig.

In the evening, we went to Va Piano's Black Label Release Party at the winery on JB George Road. Black attire was part of the theme. After sipping Champagne with appetizers, the guests marched down to the barrel room to sample the Black Label wines, including the 2012 DuBrul Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (to be in the May issue) and barrel samples of the 2013 Syrahs, to be released in the Fall. I also barrel tasted a couple of 2014's with Justin Wylie.

For pictures from Cayuse Weekend, see the Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 April 2015 16:05
A Weekend in Woodinville and Taste Washington
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 14:17

Last weekend, after an evening in Seattle and three days on Chuckanut Drive, south of Bellingham, we drove over to Woodinville for some winery visits on the 27th and 28th. Then on Sunday, I went to Taste Washington in the Century Link Field Event Center. Here's my report.

On Friday, we visited the DeLille Cellars Carriage House where we tasted some superb new 2012 reds (19 to 19.5 points) which will be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines. On other stops, we tasted other outstanding 2012's from Guardian Cellars, and Novelty Hill, plus a fine effort from Mike Januik's son, Andrew, all to be reviewed in May.

Saturday morning, we we stopped by JM Cellars to taste the exceptional 2012 "Tre Faniculli" and Margaret's Vineyard Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Franc (to be in the May issue). In the afternoon, we went over to the Warehouse District to Davenport Cellars (to be reviewed in June), Elevation Cellars (also June) and Savage Grace (beautiful red values from the 2013 vintage to be reviewed in June). Then we drove up Hollywood Hill to Adams Bench were Tim and Erica Blue debuted their superb 2012 "Ursula's" Sangiovese (19.5.20 points) and Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon (20/20 points), both to be reviewed in the May issue.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to the Washington Wine Commission's Taste Washington. Over 200 wineries were represented at this premier event. Highlights were Andrew Will (2011 Two Blondes and Champoux vineyards reds), Avennia (2012, Justine, Arnaut, Gravura and Sestina), Proper Wines (2012 Walla Walla Valley Syrah), and Cadence (2011 Camerata and Bel Canto), all to be reviewed in the May issue. I also made some new discoveries from Amelia Wynn, somme des parties, Coral Wines and Grand Ciel, to be reviewed in upcoming issues.


Next Week's Blog: "Cayuse Weekend" in the Walla Walla Valley

The 2012 Vintage Enters Full Cycle
Written by Rand Sealey   
Saturday, 21 March 2015 14:41

In my last Review of Washington Wines Blog posting I incicated that the April issue of the Review would go on line March 26th, Since then, I determined that it would make more sense to have the issue go on line today, March 21st, along with this blog posting.


In the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines which has just gone on line, there are thirty two 2012 red wines and nine 2011's. This indicates that the 2012 vintage is into its full cycle, while the 2011s are nearing the end of its cycle. More 2012s will be released this spring while the 2011's continue to taper off.

On 10 February of last year, I wrote a Review Blog article on "The 2012 and 2011 Red Wines Compared." Here's an excerpt from the article:

"After the protracted harvest of 2011 which went well into November, 2012 was a return to a more normal season. Harvesting begain 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 berry 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 2012's."

The 2011 and 2012 wines that have been released since, then have larely borne out this assessment. Of his 2011 Fall Line wines (reviewed in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines), Tim Sorenson commented, "The 11s are my personal favorite for the single vineyard blends - love the weight, brightness, lower alcohols, etc. Too bad we're unlikely to see a similarly 'climed' vintage for a very, very long time (if ever)." The recent releases of 2012 reds, generally are quite forward, often already drinkable, although many will benefit from further aging. As for the 2013's, they are just entering that vintage's cycle. They, again, come from a nearly normal season, with a cool spring, followed by a warm summer and a successful mid-autumn harvest. The newly released Tero Estates 2013 "ST" Red Wine is a good indication of the 2013 vintage. More later!


The Whitehouse Crawford Rhone Tasting

On Wednesday, March 18th, Jenna Bicknell put on a tasting of South Rhone wines. Most of the wines were from the Côtes du Rhone AOCs, and some of them represented excellent values, most priced under $20 a bottle. Here are the most noteworthy wines.

2012 La Cabotte "Colline" Côtes du Rhone ($13) - This Grenache-dominated wine turned out to be a pretty good CdR for $13. Medium ruby colored, it possessed attractive aromas of raspberry and pomegranate, with scents of roases and lavender. The medium bodied flavors were pleasing and direct, with notes of earth and framboise liqueur. 18/20 points.

2012 Domaine Albin Jacumin Côtes du Rhone ($19) - Composed of 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 5% Carignan, this was made by a fourth generation winemaker and aged in concrete tanks. It showed a deep ruby color and smoky aromas of raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate, with scents of roses and lavender. The flavors were medium bodied and chewy textured, with notes of licorice, cocoa and loam, followed by touches of framboise and orange peel. It was charming and represented excellent value. 18+/20 points.

2012 Domaine de la Charbonnière Vacqueras ($32) - This was 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah from the "Hautes Garrigue" plateau composed of chalky, pebbly soil. Aged in wood vats, it displayed a brilliant ruby color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, plum. pomegranate and red currant, with scents of red roses, garrigue (lavender and herbs) and spiced incense. The medium full bodied flavors were imbued with cocoa, licorice and chalky earth. The back picked up framboise, creme de cassis and orange peel, while the Syrah imparted a chewy texture. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Cotes du Rhone ($24) - This came from a top notch producer in Chateauneuf du Pape. Composed of 80% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre, it showed a brilliant medium ruby color and intriguing aromas of semi-dried fruits - raspberry, pomegranate, orange peel - with scents of lavender and incense. The medium bodied flavos showed touches of licorice, cocoa and pebbly earth, along with medium roast coffee. The Mourvèdre imparted a bit of spice to the lingering finish. 18.5/20 points.

During the tasting, Jenna poured two wines "blind" and asked if they were "old world" or "new world." I guessed new world for both.

2012 Proper Wines Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($42) - It was the vividity which gave this wine a new world character. Deep purplish colored, it showed an intoxicating nose of wild blackberries, blueberrries, cassis, crushed roses, violets and spiced incense. It was thick and meaty on the paate, with loads of dark fruits, and "Rocks" minerals. The back picked up macerated berries and roasted nuts, and a touch of kidskin, followed by a lingering ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2011 PB Wines Mourvèdre-Syrah-Grenache Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($32) - Made by Pinto and Billo Naravanne (Rasa Vineyards), this showed old world-like (see the comments above about the 2011 vintage) as well as new world character. It showed a medium ruby coor and a smoky nose of raspberry, pomegranate, semi-dried fruits and orange peel. The medium-bodied flavors were farirly direct, with notes of cocoa, nuts and earth, followed by chewy moderate tannins and acids on the finish. 18.5/20 points.


The SOB Tempranillo Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 16 March 2015 22:07

On March 12th, the Sons of Bacchus, plus one Daughter of Dionysus, assembled at Kevin Pogue's for a tasting of Tempranillo wines. Most were from Spain, but there were ones from the U.S. as well. Here are the most interesting wines tasted, with my notes and scores.

2001 Domino de Atauta Ribera del Duero - This comes from Northern Spain and it showd a deep ruby color and an intense smoky classic Tempranillo nose, with perfumes of black roses. The black fruit flavors were deep and assertive, with notes of crushed pepper, minerals and a long, dry finish. I correctly identified this as a Ribera del Duera. 19/20 points.

2001 La Rioja Alta "904" Rioja Gran Reserva - I picked this wine to take to the tasting to see if it was as good as Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rating of 96 points. It came out in the middle of the pack. It offered a medium garnet color and aromas of dried fruits and rose petals, with dryish maturing flavors. It faded a bit on aeration. 19/20 points.

2010 Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo, Columbia Valley - Ryan Crane's Tempranillo (blended with 14% Grenache) was highly impressive. It showed a medium ruby-garnet color and intense aromas of black currants, dried roses, tobacco and chocolate. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with some tannins to shed. 19+/20 points.

2007 Cayuse "Impulsivo" Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley - This was quite different from the other Tempranillos. Kevin Pogue was sure it was the Impulsivo, and he was right. It possessed a deep ruby-garnet color and a sultry, smoky nose of sweet-dry fruits, followed by a sweet-dry mid palate and roasted berries and nuts and a long finish. On its own merits, I gave it 19/20 points.

2006 La Cueva del Contador Rioja - This showed a deep color and a distinctive nose of black fruits, perfumed, pepper and incense. The intense dark fruits were well focused, and the sweet-dry tannins turned smooth on the long, ripe finish. 19/20 points.

2001 Vitis Terrarum "Zincara" Tempranillo, Tierra del Castilla - This came out in the top of the last flight. I found it to be a rather bold and direct Tempranillo, with a deep ruby color and a smoky, peppery nose and medium full bodied flavors, with notes of cocoa and green tea. My score, 18.5/20 points.

Thanks to Kevin Pogue for hosting this fine tasting.


Coming Up: Next week's Review Blog will go on line on Sunday, March 22nd with an article on "The 2012 Vintage Enters Full Cycle." There will also be an advance notice that the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines will go on line on Thursday, the 26th.


The Whitehouse Crawford Brunello, Barolo and Barbaresco Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 09 March 2015 14:50

On Wednesday, March 4th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant had another tasting of Italian wines, this one consisting of three Brunellos from Montalcino, and three Nebbiolos from Barbaresco and Barolo. These are considered the premier DOCGs of Italy, so this was a particularly special tasting. Here are my notes.

2007 Fanti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - This is 100% Sangiovese Grosso from 20 to 30 year old vines, aged partly in French oak barriques and partly in medium capacity casks. It showed a deep garnet color and a seductive nose of semi-dried fruits - cherry, pomegranate, orange peel - with scents of crushed roses, anise, oriental perfumes. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with swee-dry fruits fanning out on the palate, underlain with bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans and minerals. The back picked up a bit of glycerin ("legs") to counterpoint the roasted nuts and dryish tannins. 19+/20 points.

2007 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - From the southern part of the DOCG, this was aged for 4 years, two in Savonian oak. It displayed a brilliant medium garnet color and a sultry, smoky nose of roasted fruits - cherry, boysenberry, orange peel - with scents of dried roses, oriental incense and white pepper. The flavors were simultaneously firm and svelte, with notes of licorice, cocoa, and minerals. The back picked up touches of caramel and leather, along with toasted nuts and mocha, all leading into a complex, lingering sweet-dry finish. 19+/20 points.

2008 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG - This vintage showed a bit more restraint than the 2007. It had a medium ruby color and an intriguing nose of semi-dried fruits, dried orange peel and rose petals, and wafts of white smoke. The flavors demonstratred the stylishness of a cooler year, with elegantly framed fruits that were underlain with licorice, cocoa and minerals and then continued into a focused, nutted back and a dryish finish. 19/20 points.

2006 Gaja Langhe DOC, "Costa Russi" - Costa Russi is located in Barbaresco, but because Angelo Gaja added 5% Barbera to the Nebbiolo, this was classified as Langhe Rosso. This vintage exhibited a brilliant garnet color and a seductive nose of old tree cherry, plum and orange peel, with scents of attar of rose, tobacco, cedar, anise and oriental perfumes. The exoticism continued on the palate, with semi-dried fruits, intermixed with licorice, cocoa, Langhe earth and minerals. The back picked up touches of dried orange peel, leather and toffee, followed by a lingering finish that shows the restraint of a slightly cooler year. 19+/20 points.

2007 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo DOCG - The entire harvest was co-fermented in cement tanks, and this is an example of the traditional style of Barolo. It displayed a deep garnet color and aromas of dried roses, orange peel, road tar and dried fruits, with whiffs of burnt brambles. The flavors showed distinct Nebbiolo character, with a sense of rusticity, intemixed with dried licorice, cocoa, coffee grounds and Langhe earth. These sensations continued on the back with recurring tar and burnt toast on the lingering finish. 18/20 or 19/20 points, depending on one's stylistic preference.

2008 Aldo Conterno Barolo DOCG, "Bussia Cicala" - Cicala is a 40-45 year old vineyard in Monforte d'Alba. Conterno combines modern and traditional methods in his winemaking. This showed a brilliant garnet color and a perfumed nose of wild raspberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of black roses, fennel, tobacco and violets. The authoritative flavors reflected the iron rich terroir, and embodied notes of roasted nuts, dried orange peel and leather, followed by a long, dry finish. A second bottle of this wine, however, had a dirty "off" nose, that was completely different. 19.5/20 points for the first bottle, 17.5 points for the second.

Thanks, again, to Whitehouse Crawford manager, Jenna Bicknell, for putting this fabulous tasting on.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 March 2015 15:51

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