- Written by Rand Sealey
The 2016 Washington wine grape harvest is now well under way. Most white grapes have been harvested and Merlot and Syrah are nearly complete. Cabernet Sauvignon is due to come in during October. This is the fifth of a succession of early harvests since the protracted ones of 2010 and 2011. The cumulative degree days so far this year are below 2015's but it all looks good for another fine year. More later.
March Cellars/Vital Wine Opens a New Tasting Room
Ashley Trout's new ventures, Vital Wines and March Cellars has opened a new tasting room on Lyday Lane, just off Braden Road in the South Walla Walla Valley. Hours are Friday-Saturday from 11 to 5 and Monday-Thursday from 11 to 4. The 2015 March Cellars Chardonnay was reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington wines and the Vital Wines second release, the 2015 "The Gifted" BDX blend will be in the December issue.
Harvest Celebrations in Walla Walla
On Saturday, October 1, Tero Estates and àMaurice Cellars will be having events for club members and friends. Tero's annual Wine and Swine roast will be at the winery near Milton-Freewater, with its signature pig roast. The Schafer family will be hosting its annual Fall Harvest with pumpkin carving for the kids and Tom Schafer's guided tour of the Estate Vineyard. New releases will be featured.
In Memoriam: Mike Wallace and Scott Pontin
Recently, two Yakima Valley winemaking pioneers passed away. Mike Wallace who founded Hinzerling Cellars with his father died of complications of pneumonia and Scott Pontin of Pontin del Roza was stricken by a heart attack. It is a great loss to the Prosser wine community. These two guys did much to put the Yakima Valley on the wine map. I remember them as good friends from the 1970's before higher profile winemakers came to the fore. Washington winemaking owes much for their legacy.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On September 20th, the Sons of Bacchus (SOB's) and a Daughter of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Premier Cru White Burgundies from the Côte d'Or, comprised mainly of the communes of Aloxe Corton, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. Eight wines in all were tasted and ranked in order of preference. Here are the results with my rankings, scored and notes, in order of group preferences.
2011 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, La Romanée - This was the hands down overall winner, picked as the top wine by a majority of the participants. My notes: Brilliant gold color. Floral aromas of pear, peach and spring flower. Exquisitely wrought, with distinct mineralogy and fine balance. 19+/20 points.
2004 Domaine Vincent Girardin Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru, Les Combettes - This was surprisingly vivid for a 12 year old white. Deep gold colored. Nose of butternut, woods, stone and a hint of white smoke. The well developed flavors were strikingly vigorous, bolstered by bright fruit acids. 19/20 points. Interestingly, another Girardin wine, 2005 Meursault Geneveieres-Dessous, showed its age with noticeable oxidation and butternut.
2010 Louis Latour Chassage-Montrachet 1er Cru, Morgeot- Deep lemon gold colored, this showed a floral nose of peach, apricot, butternut, and exquisite, with well-defined mineral, slightly nutted flavors and fine fruit acids on the lingering finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 Domaine Philippe Colin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Chenevottes - This wine was fourth overall, but impressive. Still a young wine, it showed a brilliant gold color and a soft nose of pear, peach and meadow flowers. The nicely delineated flavors were stylish and upright. 18.5+/20 points. With further aging, should go to 19/20 points.
The other wines were noteworthy as well.
2010 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Charlemagne, Grand Cru - Put in for good measure, this showed a medium gold color and an exquisite nose of pear, peach and wet stone. The flavors were precise and varietally pure, with a bit of citrus and vanillin on the back. My preference for third place. 19+/20 points.
2012 Domaine Bruno Colin Chassage-Montrachet, 1er Cru, En Remilly - Rich, almost buttery nose of pear, peach and flowers. The flavors were rich, yet precise, with notes of grape skin, peach stone and minerals. 19/20 points.
2014 Domaine Antoine Jobard Meursault-Blagny 1er Cru - From the town of Blagny, adjacent to Meursault, this was another young wine that should improve with age. Brilliant gold colored, with a citrusy nose of spring flowers and hazelnut. The flavors showed distinct Burgundian character, with a nice, but not long finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2005 Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault 1er Cru, Les Charmes-Dessous - See Domaine Girardin above. 18/20 points.
Before the tasting, we had a red 1993 Domaine Piguet-Girardin Santenay 1er Cru, La Comme (compliments of Erik McLaughlin) which had held up surprisingly well for a 23 year old. Also thanks to Philippe Michel for hosting and for the fine cheeses and jambon.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As the 2016 wine grape harvest gets under way, here's what's coming up for fall in the Review of Washington Wines.
As of this writing, I have just wrapped up the October issue of the Review which goes on line the 23rd. In it, there are early fall releases from Walla Walla, including new 2013's from Balboa, Tero Estates (plus an outstanding 19.5/20 points 2011 Old Block Cabernet) and Zerba Cellars. Also previewed are Ardor Cellars' four outstanding 2014 single vineyard Syrahs, along with a blend of all four. We'll also pick up the rest of the current releases from Lake Chelan's Fielding Hills, Nefarious and Hard Row to Hoe wineries. Also featured are recent releases from Browne Family Vineyards and K Vintners. In the Highly Recommended section, there are three stellar 2014 reds from Sean Boyd's Rotie Cellars and Pepper Bridge's impressive 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and "Trine" Blend.
In the November issue, I will be reporting on my visit to the Olympic Peninsula, with reviews of wines from Wind Rose Cellars in Sequim, Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles, and Westport Cellars near Aberdeen. On the way home, we will be stopping at Owen Roe in Union Gap. Also in November will be visits in Woodinville to Avennia (2015 Oilaine Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Arnaut Boushey Syrah and Le Corbeau Discovery Vineyard Syrah), Two Vintners, and others. Fall releases from Walla Walla will also be reviewed, including Balboa's 2014's, Spring Valley Vineyards' 2013's and more.
Looking ahead into December, there will be reports on a visit to Spokane (Barrister and Robert Karl), more Fall releases from Walla Walla, sparkling wines and more.
In upcoming Review of Washington Wines blogs, there will be updates on the 2016 harvest, wine tasting reports and more.
No Review Blog Next Week
On Sunday, we will be leaving for Woodinville and the Olympic Peninsula (see above). So there will be no blog next week. The next posting will be on Monday, September 19th, and the next one after on the 23rd, along with the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Officially, the first grapes to be picked for the 2016 grape harvest were Sauvignon Blanc from the Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain for the Auclair Winery on August 13th, with Pinot Gris for the Westport Winery not far behind. On August 19, Chardonnay was picked at 18-19 Brix for Karma Winery's sparkling wine. On the 31st, Syrah was picked at the Ziggy Stardust Block at the Elevation Vineyard in the southeast corner of the Walla Walla Valley for Sleight of Hand Cellars and co-fermented with 5% Marsanne.
Historically, white grapes are the first to be harvested each vintage - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay. Chardonnay was picked on the French Creek Vineyard north of Prosser for Sleight of Hand at the end of August. Of the reds, Syrah is usually the first to be picked. The Red Heaven Vineyard on Red Mountain started picking yesterday. Then comes Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Rhone varietals. The slow ripening Cabernet Sauvignon is usually the last to get picked.
After one of the warmest Augusts on record, temperatures have abated to normal levels with highs in the 70's and forecast for the next ten days. Hardly any rainfall is predicted as well. This will allow grapes to ripen gradually and evenly, ideal conditions for a successful harvest which will be in progress through September and October.
Updates will be posted on this blog during the coming weeks.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The September issue of the Review of Washington Wines which is now on line includes eleven 2025 whites and eight 2014 reds. More will be in the October issue and then more in the following months. This is the beginning of another vintage cycle as the new releases of 2014 whites and 2013 reds taper off. Here's how the new vintages are shaping up.
The 2015 harvest for whites was a tricky one. Timing was everything. A hot summer led to an early harvest in late August and early September. The white grapes ripened quickly, with sugar levels rising and acid levels dropping. So it was essential to get the grapes to the crush pad at just the right times. Getting them in too late resulted in high alcohol, low acid wines. That said, I have found most 2015 whites to be rich and fruity, yet well balanced. A case in point is Rotie Cellars Rhone-style whites. Owner-winemaker Sean Boyd purposely picked for fruit acid levels rather than sugars. The Northern White Marsanne and Grenache Blanc (in the September issue) were fermented dry to 11.2% alcohol, lower than usual. But the results were balanced wines with just the right fruit acid levels.
Most of the 2015 whites released so far have been the Rhone varietals (Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc), Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling. In my reviews, most scores have been in the 18+ to 18.5/20 points range. The most outstanding wines so far are the Mark Ryan Viognier (19 points) and the Rotie Cellars whites (19 points). Until now, I have not been a big fan of Sauvignon Blancs (oftentimes pleasant but uncomplex) but there have been some impressive 2015's, especially Savage Grace's Sancerre-like one from the Celilo Vineyard (reviewed August), Seven Hills, Ch. Ste.. Michelle's Horse Heaven and Browne Family (these three to be in the October issue).
It's still to early for the 2015 Chardonnays to be released (although a nicely balanced one from College Cellars is in the August issue). But I have tasted several promising ones from the barrels at The Walls (see the blog of 24 May) with Ali Mayfield, and a striking one from the Rosekamp Vineyard with Co Dinn. These will be reviewed when they are released.
For the 2014 reds, the harvest was another early, warm one with much of the picking completed by the end of September. The 2014's seem to be a bit more structured than the 2013's (also from a warm year) with more phenolics, which result in more complex aromatics (perfumes, tobacco, incense, etc.). The 2014 Syrahs and other Rhone red varietals are especially impressive. See the Rotie Cellars reviews in the August and October issues and watch for Ardor Cellars' 2014's in the October issue. Also noteworthy are Mark Ryan's Mourvedre and Syrah (September) and L'Ecole No. 41's Stone Tree Grenache (September). Some very nice Malbecs and Cab Francs were made in 2014. For the "BDX" reds, the Mark Ryan Dissident shows promise for the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon based blends. More later!
Next Week: A First Look at the 2016 Harvest