Review of Washington Wines Blog
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
A Day in Seattle and a Northern Italian Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 16:11

A Day in Seattle

Yesterday, Monday, March 2nd, I flew to Seattle for a day trip occasioned by a wine judging for Seattle Magazine's Washingtion Wine Awards and other activities. Here's my account of the day.

I got up at 4 a.m. and got to the Walla Walla Airport for the 6:05 flight to Seattle which arrived five minutes early. I took a taxi to the Full Pull Wines warehouse in the SODO district (South of Downtown). There, I found Paul Zitarelli (Full Pull owner), the wine judging host, and Yashar Shayan (Impulse Wines), the judging organizer for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. Once the other judges arrived, we all proceeded to taste about 100 wines, alternating between whites and reds, finishing at about 12:30. The judging results will be reported in the August issue of Seattle Magazine, with the Red and White Wines of the Year and the best wines in various categories. When that issue is published, I will report on it with my comments.

After the judging, I walked north up First Avenue South to the Pioneer Square district and went to the Little London Plane, a bistro and wine tasting bar on Occidental Avenue South. There C & G Wines, a wholesale distributor, put on a tasting of French wines, mostly from the Loire Valley, along with some Alsace and Languedoc wines. Here are the most noteworthy wines.

2011 Domaine Clos Marie, Pic St. Loup "Glorieuses" - Pic St. Loup is an appellation in the Pays de l'Herault in South France. This Cuvée consists of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. It showed a deep color and intriguing aromas of wild blackberries, blueberries, cassis, lavender, Provençal herbs and incense. The flavors consisted of abundant sweet-dry fruits, followed by notes of burnt leaves, roasted berries and nuts, followed by a savory ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2012 Domaine Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, "Silex" - The late Didier Dagueneau was a legendary producer of intense Sauvignon Blancs. This one showed a medium gold color and rich floral aromas of wildflowers and butternut, with a characteristic "gout sauvage" (from wild yeast fermentation). The flavors were delciously rich and creamy, with notes of minerals and fig, followed by a long vivid finish. 19.5/20 points.

2012 Domaine Roland Schmitt Riesling Grand Cru, "Altenberg de Bergbieten" - This was an exquisite Alsace Riesling, showing a pale gold color and lovely aromas of pear, peach, and wildflowers, with elegant spicy fruits and stony minerals dancing on the palate. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Domaine Roland Schmitt Gewürztraminer Grand Cru, "Altenberg de Bergbieten" - This showed a light gold color and enticing aromas of pear, peach, honeysuckle, and clover. The flavors were rich, creamy and minerally, but without the gutteral character of many Gewürztraminers, followed by long, spicy faintly honeyed finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Nicolas Joly Savennières, "Roche aux Moines, Clos de la Bergerie" - This Loire appellation is known for its fine dry Chenin Blancs. This one showed a medium gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, apricot, clover, white lavender and oriental perfumes. The flavors were rich, dry and concentrated, with lots of mineral and extracts, followed by a long hazelnut tinged finish. 19+/20 points.

1998 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon - This is a striking example of aged, botrytis-affected Chenin Blanc. This one showed a medium gold color and a rich, floral nose of pear, spiced peach, apricot. The flavors, as well were rich and concentrated, yet, wth its bracing acidity, was still fresh and vibrant. 19/20 points.

After the C & G tasting, I walked up Yesler Way to the Pioneer Square Station, where I got on the Sound Transit light rail train back to the SeaTac Airport. I got off at the SODO Station and walked over to Esquin Wine & Spirits (which I owned until 1997 when I sold it to Chuck LeFevre) on Fourth and Lander. There, I put in my order for some Burgundies, and wines from the C & G tasting, to be picked up later in the month. Then I got back on the train for the rest of the ride to the airport. After dinner at Anthony's Seaport Restaurant, I boarded the Alaska Airlines evening flight back to Walla Walla. The plane landed on time, and I drove home, arriving about 9:25, ending an evenful day in the big city of Seattle.


The Whitehouse Crawford Northern Italian Tasting

On Wednesday, February 25th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla continued its series of wine tastings with a selection of North Italian wines. Here are the most interesting wines.

The white wines included some nice ones from the Alto Adige, but the most interesting one was from the Piedmont.

2013 Giovannue Almondo Roero Arneis ($19) - Arneis is a dry white from the commune of Roero. This one showed a light greenish gold color and intriguing aromas of apple, wet stone, mountain wildflowers and lemon peel. The flavors were fresh and brisk, with calcarous clay undertones and an invigoriating lemon zest tinged finish. 18+/20 points.

Instead of the typical wines of the Piedmont, Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo, the tasting featured less well known DOC's from the Province of Novara northeast of Torino. Two particularly stood out.

2008 Le Piane Boca ($58) - This is composed of 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina (a Novarese variety). The 2008 showed a brick red color and enticing aromas of wild cherries and red currants, with scents of crushed rose petals, orange peel and orential perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were simultaneously silky and tightly woven, with notes of bittersweet chocolate, Italian roast coffee and volcanic minerals. The back picked up ground roasted nuts and charcoal on the way to a dry, yet agreeable, tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2005 Azienda Sella Lessona, "San Sebastiabi allo Zoppa" ($45) - Also 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina, this showed a deep ruby-garnet color and an alluring nose of dried fruits - cherries, currants, raspberries - crushed roses, burnt bramble bush, violets and incense. The dried fruit flavors spread across the palate, with sandy earth undertones. The back picked up notes of roasted chestnuts and dried orange peel, followed by a lingering, dry, but not overly austere, tannin finish. Just beginning to smooth out. 19/20 points.

From the region of Pavia in Southwestern Lombardy, was this nice, attractively-priced little gem.

2011 Fattoria Cabanon Pinot Nero ($15) - This brick red colored wine showed an unmistakable Pinot Noir nose of red cherries and caiis, with scents of cedar, tobacco and crushed roses. The flavors were medium bodied, yet well delineated, with notes of cocoa, tea and stony minerals, and persisted on the back with pressed fruits and a clean finish. 18+/20 points.

From the Veneto, was this Valpollicella that came on as being more elegant and restrained than is typical of Amarone.

2007 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($60) - Deep garnet colored, this showed lovely aromas of cherries, red currants, anise, crushed roses, orange peel and oriental incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with dried fruits that were intermingled with licorice, herbal tea, and basalt and gravel minerals. The dried yet well fruited character continued on the back with notes of roasted nuts, dried grapeskins, and burnt almonds. The lingering, elegant finish gave restraint to the 16.5% alcohol, making for a fine Amarone. 19+/20 points.




Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 21:27

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