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Holiday Barrel Weekend in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 18:00

This year, Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley on December 4th through 6th. It was a festive weekend with wine tasting rooms decorated with Holiday lights and greenery. Most wineries also had one or two wines to taste from the barrel. Here's a rundown of the most interesting wines, from the 2013 and 2014 vintages, which will be released in the future.

2014 Saviah Cellars "Foot Stomp" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Funk Vineyard - As the name suggests, this was crushed the traditional way. It shows a deep purplish color and true varietal aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, tobacco and incense. The palate offers loads of dark fruits, intermixed with chocolate, coffee and "Rocks" minerals, followed by a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.

2014 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc (Release April) - Brilliant ruby colored, this wine offers a typical nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, roses, mulberrt and earth, with chewy textured red fruits, marked by notes of licorice, chocolate, and loam. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2014 Tero Estates Charbono, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - Charbono is a rarity. Christian Brothers and others used to make it in the Napa Valley in the '60's. This one shows a crimson color and perfumed aromas of blackberry, cranberry and cassis, with scents of wild roses, tobacco and spiced incense. The mouth enveloping flavors are deep and robust, yet silky, with notes of fruit liqueurs and charcoal on the back, followed by a chewy, piquant, ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2013 Kontos Cellars "Beckett" Red Wine (Release May, 2017) - Composed of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 20% Syrah, this is a striking wine. It offers a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of wild berries, roses, tobacco and incense. The flavors are thick and massive, yet velvety, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee, loam and gravel and silt minerals, followed by a long finish. 19+/20 points (possiblely 19.5).

2014 Flying Trout "Mary's Block" Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - This may be the vineyard's best Malbec to date. It shows a deep purplish color and rich aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, crushed roses and violets. The black and blue fruit flavors are alluring as well, mouth encompassing, bold, yet velvety, with a long, true varietal finish. 19.5/20 points.

The following four wines are available from the wineries at futures pricing.

2014 Gino Cuneo Cellars "Bonatello Riserva" Sangiovese - This wine is exquisitely wrought, with a deep ruby color and seductive aromas of cherry, currant, orange peel, roses and incense. The flavors are deep and bright, with silky red fruits and a long finish. 19/20 points.

2013 Gino Cuneo Cellars "Seccopasso" Red Wine - This is the only Amarone style wine made in the U.S. It shows a deep garnet color and intoxicating aromas of wild berries, cherries, walnuts, dried cherries and oriental incense. The flavors, as well, are deep and complex, with notes of dried fruits, cherry liqueur and spices, followed by an intense, dry true Amarone finish. 19.5/20 points.

2013 Salida Cellars Malbec - This wine exhibits Malbec's traits of a dark purplish color and aromas of black fruits, currants, earth, crushed roses, and violets. The flavors are deep and chewy textured, more old world than new, recalling the "Black Wine" of Cahors. 19/20 points.

2013 Salida Cellars "Voila Walla Espagnol" Red Wine - This wine is an intriguing blend of Petite Sirah, Malbec, Tempranillo and Mataro. It shows a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberry, blueberry and plum with scents of roses, tobacco, vanilla and incense. The flavors are thick and well textured, with lots of dark fruits, a liqueur imbued back and a long finish. 19+/20 points.

 

Next WeeK - The Top Wines of 2015 - Wines scoring 20/20 and 19.5/20 points - Monday, December 14.

 
Holiday Recommendations: Sparklers & Dessert Wines
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 01 December 2015 15:06

Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, this is the time to think about wines for the upcoming Holidays. With all the new releases this Fall, we haven't had space to review sparkling wines and dessert wines, so here are my recommendations.

 

Sparkling Wines

Some of the best values in bubbly comes from Treveri Cellars in Wapato. Most are $20 or less.

Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Extra Brut ($15) - This is a bone dry (zero dosage) 100% Chardonnay, with streaming bubbles and aromas of citrus and apple along with stony minerals. 18/20 points.

Treveri Cellars Rosé Sec ($18) - A blend of Chardonnay and Syrah, this offers an eye of the partridge color and attractive aromas and flavors of strawberry, pink pear, orange peel and wildflowers. The finish is off-dry (22 grams per liter dosage). 18.5/20 points.

Treveri Cellars Blanc de Noirs Brut ($20) - Made from Pinot Noir, this shows a pale pinkish color, streaming bubbles, and lovely strawberry, cherry and citrus flavors. The dosage is 8 grams per liter, making it an elegant Brut. 18.5/20 points.

Treveri also makes fine sparklers from Gewurztraminer, Muller-Thurgau and a distinctive, frothy Syrah.

Other fine sparklers are:

2012 Hard Row to Hoe "Good in Bed" Sparkling Wine, Lake Chelan ($42) - Produced from Estate Pinot Noir grapes, this shows a brilliant pale copper color, streaming bubbles and enticing scents of strawberries and white lilac, with fresh, vibrant flavors and bright fuit acids. 19/20 points.

2014 Isenhower Cellars Roussanne Sparkling Wine, Extra Brut, Yakima Valley ($39) - This was a hit at our Thanksgiving dinner. Sourced from the Olsen Ranch Vineyard, it offers a medium gold color and a fine mousse along with semi-tropical and litichi nut aromas and flavors. Very dry (Extra Brut) and crisp, with tangerine and lemon notes. 19/20 points.

2011 Annalema Blanc de Noirs Brut, Columbia Gorge, Avatus Vineyard ($56) - I picked up a couple of the last few bottles of the 2010 when visiting the winery last summer. Three to four years on tirage, the 2011 Blanc de Noirs (Pinot Noir) offers a pale pinkish gold color and floral aromas of strawberry, citrus, and wildflowers, with leesy, toasty flavors and fine bubbles. 19+/20 points. Also available from Full Pull ($50)

In real Champagne, our go-to bubbly is from Gaston Chiquet, a fine recoltant-manipulant (grower-producer) in Dizy.

Gaston Chiquet Champagne N/V Brut Tradition ($49.99 at Esquin) - Medium gold colored, with a fine mousse and aromas of pear, peach strawberry, orange peel and pear blossoms and an intermingling of white and red fruits (40% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir) with a creamy texture. No oak, so the complexity speaks for the wine. 19+/20 points.

Chiquet also makes a fine Blanc de Blancs and Rosé.

 

Dessert Wines

2009 Dusted Valley Late Harvest Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($35 - 375 ml.) - This was another hit at Thanksgiving. It showed a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberry and cassis, with deep, spicy varietal flavors, in a slightly sweet (5.1 grams per 100 ml. residual sugar) format, making it a delightful accompaniment to tarts. 19/20 points.

Two Washington wineries, Thurston Wolfe and Brian Carter Cellars make fine Port-style wines from Portuguese varietals such as Touriga Nacional, Souzao and Tinto Cao.

2010 Thurston Wolfe JTW's Port ($12.50 - 375 ml.) - This is a Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon combination. It shows a deep ruby color and rich aromas and flavors of boysenberries, cherries, chocolate and spice. The residual sugar is 10%, makeing it sweet, but not cloying. 18.5/20 points.

Thurston Wolfe Tawny 8 Year Old Port ($16 - 375 ml.) - This is produced from Zinfandel that was stored outdoors, exposing it to the elements over eight years. It offers rich, spicy aroms and flavors of cherry liqueur and almonds, with rich, nutty sweetnes. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Brian Carter Cellars "Opulento" ($22 - 375 ml. $40 - 750 ml.) - This is as close to Portugese Port as you can get - 48% Touriga Nacional plus others, aged in French oak (20% new). Inky colored, it possesses aromas of caramel. orange peel and coffee, with spacious dark fruit flavors. 19/20 points. Available from Full Pull for $17.99.

 

For other bubblies and stickies, check out Full Pull's offering of November 30th. The wines had me drooling, and I will be placing an order.

 

Countdown to the Year's End

Early next week, I will be emailing our semi-annual  alphabetical complilation of wines reviewed from July through December. Then here is the timetable for upcoming Review Blogs.

December 8 - Holiday Barrel Tasting in the Walla Walla Valley

December 15 - Top Wines of 2015 - Wines scoring 20/20 and 19.5/20 points

December 22 Best Buys of 2015 - Wines scoring 19/20 points for under $40 & wines scoring 18.5/20 points for under $25.

December 29 - The January issue of the Review of Washington Wines & Looking Ahead to 2016

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 December 2015 17:11
 
What We're Drinking for Thanksgiving
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 24 November 2015 15:28

A year ago, in my blog for Thanksgiving Week, I wrote: "Every November I become annoyed when grocery stores and liquor stores recommend foreign wines for Thanksgiving. The main motivation seems to be that retailers want you to buy what they want to sell. Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, and it should be celebrated with our own wines."

This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving here in Walla Walla with Ted and Joyce Cox and other friends. I will be supplying the wines. Here's what I'll be bringing:

A couple of bottles of Washington sparkling wines to go with the appetizers. Isenhower Cellars' Marsanne Brut and Hard Row to Hoe "Good in Bed."

A couple of bottles of Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling for those who like a slightly sweet white (the 2014 clocks in at 1.25% residual sugar - just right).

A couple of bottles of "GSM" wines: the combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre seems to be made to order for the savory spices and herbs of Thanksgiving.

A couple of bottles of Washington Syrah for those liking a bolder, yet compatible red. A Reynvaan will provide just the right amount of Rocks earthiness to match the turkey, and a Waters will offer suppleness and spice.

For dessert, I will take a Washington Port-style wine from the Thurston-Wolfe Winery.

When you choose wines for Thanksgiving, think aromatics, wines whose aromas and flavors can complement the spice and herb aromas and flavors of the turkey and all the fixings. Steer away from dry whites such as Chardonnay and tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want a "Bordeaux" wine, try a Carmenère or a Cabernet Franc.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 
The 96-100 Points Wine Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 17 November 2015 15:08

On November 3, the Sons of Bacchus and Daughters of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of red wines scoring 96 to 100 points in the leading wine rating publications, The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, International Wine Cellar and the Wine Enthusiast. It was a memorable tasting as all the wines were outstanding, some more so than others. Because there were so many different types and varieties involved, there was no attempt to score a "winner." Here are the wines in order of tasting, with my notes. This time, I used the 100 point scale instead of my usual 20 points.

2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chareauneuf du Pape - Deep ruby colored, this showed a lovely perfumed nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis and orange peel, with deliciouly silky, mouth-encompassing sweetish flavors. 96 points.

2010 Domaine Charavin Chateauneuf du Pape - Deep ruby colored, this wine possessed a smoldering nose of dark fruits and dried roses, The flavors were deep and minerally, with notes of licorice, coffee and spices, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 97 points.

2011 Chapoutier Saint Joseph, Le Clos - This showed a deep crimson color and aromas of crushed roses, blackberry, blueberry and cassis. The flavors were classically structured, yet fleshy, the essence of Syrah, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 96 points.

2009 Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac-Leognan - This Bordeaux showed a deep crimson color, with aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum. The deep. penetrating flavors were tightly structured, with Cabernet dominant, with tannins evident, but unobtrusive, followed by a long, complex, deftly oaked finish. 97 points.

2001 Castel Giancondo Brunello di Montalcino - This was a lovely wine, brilliant crimson colored, with seductive aromas of bright red fruits, orange peel and perfumes. The flavors were fleshy, yet taut, with touches of leather and toast, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 97 points.

2006 Bodegas Muga "Prado Enea" Rioja Reserva - This is Muga's top wine. It showed a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of dark fruits and a hint of tar. The mid palate was weighty, again expressing dark fruits, laced with oak and dryish tannins counterpointed by a creamy finish. 97 points.

2005 Chateau Rausan-Segla, Margaux - This Bordeaux was a stunner. It offered a deep, purplish color and a rich dark fruit nose of blackberry, cherry and currant, with scents of roses and violets. The flavors were deep and full-bore, well-oaked and spice, with a long, long, complex finish. 98 points.

1994 Dominus, Napa Valley - This came on as being somewhat earthy and rustic, with a nose of ripe, maturing fruits, along with notes of spice and orange peel. The flavors were more thick and deep than complex. 94 points.

2012 Clos Morgander Priorat - This Spanish red exhibited a deep crimson color and perfumed aromas of dark fruits, roses and violets, with deep, spicy firmly structured, yet fleshy flavors, with super ripe tannins. 94 points.

2010 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello di Montalcino, Vigna Pianrosso - I brought this wine (rated 97 points by the Wine Advocate). It did not show as boldly as some of the other wines, but was lovely. Medium ruby colored, it offered seductive aromas of rose petals and orange peel, with elegant, almost feminine, medium-bodied flavors, with touches of leather and spice on the long finish. 96 points.

2006 Deus ex Machina Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos St. Jean - This "God out of the Machine" showed a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of dark berries and plums, with scents of sweet tobacco and cedar. The flavors were deep and concentrated, with doses of sweet oak and satiny, dry tannins. 96 points.

2004 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altimiri, La Consulta, Mendoza - This was a striking Argentina wine, from 80+ year old vines. Opaque purplish colored, it emited sweetish aromas of dark fruits, crushed roses, and violets. The flavors were massive, yet fleshy, packed with licorice, chocolate and earth, followed by a long, deep, penetrating finish. 98 points.

2010 Chateau Lynch-Bage, Pauillac - This was the star of the evening. Deep crimson colore, it possessed rich aromas of cedar, roses, violets. The flavors were beautifully structured, with vivid dark fruits that enveloped the palate. The back picked up integrated toasty oak and ripe tannins, followed by an endless finish. Will have a great future.  99 points.

Thanks to Brian Rudin and Ashley Trout for hosting this spectacular tasting at their new home on School Avenue.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 16:19
 
Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 10 November 2015 15:06

This year, Lynn and I took in Fall Release Weekend (November 5-8) in a quick, short pace. Due to having been in Seattle on Friday, we started making our rounds on Saturday. First, at Reynvaan Family Vineyards, the 2014 Syrahs were previewed. It was an interesting vintage: the wines came on as being elegantly styled, with perfumed aromas and classic structure. A full report will be in the January 2016 issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

After Reynvaan, we went to Jon Meuret's Maison Bleue downtown. There, the 2011 "Le Midi" Upland Vineyard Grenache and the 2012 "Bourgeois" Walla Walla Valley Grenache (reviewed May) were poured. The 2011 was more aromatic and structured, and the 2012 more openly fruity and fleshy, characteristic of the respective vintages. We also stopped at Kerloo Cellars where we tasted the 2013 Upland Vineyarrd Grenache and the 2013 Stone Tree Vineyard Malbec (both fine wines, to be reviewed in January). Lynn stayed on at Maison Bleue to help out while I drove over to Long Shadows to taste the superb (19.5/20 points) 2013 Pedestal Merlot, Pirouette Red and Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in the December issue.

In the afternoon, I went over to Billo and Pinto Naravane's Rasa Vineyards on Powerline Road. There, I tasted the outstanding (19+ to 19.5 points) 2012's: QED Convergence GSM Red, Principia Reserve Syrah, Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon, Creative Impulse Cab-Merlot, and in Order to form a more perfect Union Red, all to be reviewed in January. In the evening, Lynn rejoined me at the Corliss Fall Release event. Previews of the 2013 Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were served from the barrels. Library magnums of the 2005 Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabermet Sauvignon were also poured, delicious, elegan wines, just maturing. I especially liked the rich, earthy, aromatic Cabernet Franc. The newly released 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (reviewed November) was also poured.

The turnout and activity for Fall Release was excellent, particularly on Saturday afternoon when the tasting rooms were crowded. Wineries also said Sunday was busy as well, and even on Monday.

 
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