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An Afternoon in the West Valley
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 13:33

On Saturday, October 19th, Lynn and I made an excursion out to Lowden, about 12 miles west of Walla Walla. This can be considered the birthplace of Walla Walla winemaking, in that Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole No. 41 and Waterbrook all got their start in Lowden in the 1980's, even though they were preceeded by Leonetti.

Our first stop was at L'Ecole No. 41, in the historic Lowden Schoolhouse No. 41. There, we tasted the new 2011 Stone Tree Grenache and 2012 Semillon, both to be reviewed in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines. For previous releases, especially the 2010 vintages of the Apogee and Perigee red blends, see the September issue.

After L'Ecole, we went over next door to Woodward Canyon for lunch at the Reserve House, which has been turned into a casual restaurant serving lunch Friday through Sunday. We had some delicious meatballs with potatoes and rice, along with the 2010 Woodward Canyon Merlot. Owner-Winemaker Rick Small stopped by our table and told that they were just finishing harvest and were very pleased with the outcome. Rick also talked about his and Darcey's upcoming trip to the south of France, a respite that they were very much looking forward to. Then we stopped by the tasting room to pick up a bottle of the 2012 estate Dolcetto which will be in the December issue.

Then, we drove back east and turned left off Highway 12 at Frenchtown Road and went up to Long Shadows, which is now open daily from 11 to 5, by appointment only (go to longshadows.com to make reservations). There, Rachel Riddle poured us tastes of the 2012 Poet's Leap Riesling, 2009 Saggi (see the January issue for a review), 2009 Chester Kidder Red Blend, and the 2009 Sequel Syrah (the last two to be reviewed in the December issue).

Our day was leisurely, a contrast to the hectic pace of event weekends (such as the upcoming Fall Release). Optimally, one should allow 30 to 45 minutes per visit. All this befits the casual lifestyle of the Walla Walla Valley.

 

Coming Up: Next week's blog, which goes on line on October 29th along with the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines, will have tips on wineries to visit during Fall Release Weekend, November 1 through 3. It will not be an inclusive list, but one highlighting wineries with interesting new releases.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 14:31
 
Harvest Update III / Entwine 2013
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 14:14

Harvest 2013 Update

The wine harvest gods seem to be smiling now, as fair, but cool, weather has come to eastern Washington, following the rainy weather of early October. The added hang time has ripened grapes further, adding complexity to the fruit and, ultimately, to the wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, usually harvested late, is being or is about to be harvested. Other red grapes are in the vats, fermenting and pressing is under way or about to be. Last year, harvest was continuing into November. This year, in mid October, the end is in sight. More later!

 

Entwine 2013

Entwine is the annual Dinner and Auction to benefit the Walla Walla Community College's Enology and Viticulture Program. This year, it was held on Saturday, October 12th. Guests and honorees were greeted by Dr. Alan Busacca, Director of the Enology and Viticulture Program, and WWCC President Dr. Steven VanAusdle. The 2013 Distinguished Graduates being honored were Matt Huse (Five Star Cellars) Marcus Miller (Airfield Estates) Chris Peterson (Avennia) and Tanya Woodley (SuLei Cellars). Culinary Arts honorees were Brian Mahan (Graze Catering) and Caren McIntyre (Bon Appetit). During the reception and silent auction, appetizers were served along with College Cellars" Sparkling Riesling and wines poured by participating wineries. During the four course dinner, the live auction proceeded with such items as a Dinner with Philippe Michel and Brandon Kubrock, a custom wine rack with wines (some donated by yours truly), a terroir tour with "Dr. Dirt" (Dr. Alan Busacca), and more. It was a fun filled evening, and we came home with some goodies, including four magnums and a couple of private wine tastings. All this for a good cause.

 

Coming Soon: Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend

This year, Fall Release Weekend will be early, November 1st through 3rd. We have been visiting many wineries which have been previewing their upcoming releases, many of which will be reviewed in the November issue which goes on line a few days early, October 29th, accompanied by that week's blog, lisiting recommended wineries to visit. Watch for it!

 
A Two Magnum Dinner
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 15:03

Last night, Lynn and I joined Doug and Jan Roskelley, their partner in Tero Estates and Waters Wineries, Mike Tembruell, Brian Rudin and Ashley Trout for a dinner at the Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Mike brought two magnums of wines he had been saving over the years, a 1994 Chateu L'Eglise Clinet from Pomerol and a 1994 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. It was a enjoyable and memorable dinner. Rather than decant the wines, they were carefully poured out of the magnums. First, a bit about the properties, then my tasting notes.

Chateau L'Eglise Clinet is a property located in the north part of Pomerol, not far from the famed Chateau Petrus. The soil is composed of clay and gravel, which gives the wine a distinct minerality. The vineyard is planted to 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.

Dunn Vineyards is located on Howell Mountain, northeast of Calistoga, at the north end of the Napa Valley. The winery became a cult winery early on, back in the 1980's and 1990's, known for its muscular Cabernet Sauvignons. Owner-winemaker Randy Dunn has a Walla Walla Valley connection in that he directs the winemaking for Long Shadows' Feather Cabernet Sauvignon.

1994 Chateau L'Eglise Clinet, Pomerol - Deep ruby colored, this wine showed a classic Pomerol nose of wild berries, cedar and truffles, with scents of cigar smoke and sultry oriental perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were thick and minerally and penetrated into a thick core. The back revealed sensations of roasted berries and nuts, and picked up a touch of fleshiness to complement the dried, mature fruits, followed by a lingering, nutted finish. This wine ishowed signs of age, yet was still remarkably alive. 19.5/20 points.

1994 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain - This wine showed a deep, opaque ruby color and a dark, mysterious nose of black currants, dried plums and cherries, attar of rose and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and authoritative, characteristic of Howell Mountain, and composed of dried, yet still vibrant fruits. The intensity continued on the back and finish, with notes of roasted berries and nuts. As the wine aerated, age was evident, but occasional flashes of fruit emerged. 19+/20 points.

All the diners had various meat entrees, pork, lamb, beef, expertly cooked, sauced and served. The wines complemented the meal very nicely. Nearly all preferred the Pomerol to the Cabernet, but found the Dunn Vineyards to be admirable as well. Another observation about the wines is that bottling in magnums (1.5 liters) enhances the ageworthiness of the wines greatly. If they had been regular 750's, they most likely would have been over the hill. If you want to have a wine that will age twenty years or more, it pays to get magnums.

Thanks to Mike Tembruell for hosting this fabulous event!

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 17:27
 
Harvest 2013 Update II
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 13:40

In my blog of September 5, I wrote that winemakers and growers were excitied about the prospects for the 2013 grape harvest, using words such as "fantastic" and "incredible." Now, with cooler weather and more rain, things are looking more worisome. Maturing grapes can handle rainfall so long as it is intermittent, allowing the clusters to dry out, keeping the skins intact. But the sunbreaks have become less frequent, to the point that there is real concern about moisture diluting the intensity of the grapes. The harvest is about 50% completed at this point, with most white grapes and some reds (mostly Syrah and Merlot) brought in. If the current weather patterns continue, the situation may become problematic for later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. For more about the concern about grape dilution, see Andy Perdue's post of September 28 in greatnorthwestwine.com. As of today, the Walla Walla weather forecast is for partly cloudy or sunny for the next ten days, with temperatures in the 60's and 0 to 20% chances of rain. There are similar forecasts for Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley. Hopefully, this respite will give grapes time to dry out and get more hang time for full maturity. Lets keep our fingers crossed and remember that it still too early to make predictions. As I stated in my previous Harvest Update, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 16:20
 
The "Awe-inspiring" Syrah Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:56

Last night (Tuesday, Sept. 24), the Sons of Bacchus (S.O.B.s), with two Daughters of Dionysus, got together at Kevin Pogue's home for a tasting of "Awe-inspiring" Syrahs from anywhere in the world. Wines were poured blind from all over the world: Australia, the Rhone Valley, Washington, California and even Idaho. There were sixteen wines in all, in four flights of four. Here are the top wines, followed by other outstanding and noteworthy wines, with my notes.

2010 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Funkadelic" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley. - Here the "Rocks" of the South Valley really rocked. Deep crimson colored, it offered a lseductive nose of wild raspberries, cherries, cassis, black roses, violetsand spiced incense. The flavors were thick and mouthfilling, with chocolate, Sumatra roast and Rocks minerals, followed by a richly testured dryish finish. 19.5/20 points.

2007 Reynvaan "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Brilliant ruby colored, this emited aromas of wild berries, plum, cassis and earth. The flavors were thick and almost jammy, underlain with chocolate, French roast and "Rocks" earth and minerals. The back revealed sensations of squeezed berries, creme de cassis and plum presrves, followed by a lingering fruit and terroir driven finish. 19.5/20 points.

2004 Basel Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley - Trey Busch was a double winner with his Funkadelic (above) and this, which he made while on his stint before starting Sleight of Hand. Composed of Lewis, Portteus and Minick fruit, it showed a deep ruby-garnet color and a spicy nose of raspberry, cassis, incense and oriental perfumes. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with fine varieal purity and minerality. The lingering finish showed considerable oak (70% new) for a Syrah. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Koenig Vineyards Syrah, Cuvée Amelia, Snake River - This was a surprise winner from Idaho. It displayed an opaque ruby color and intense, brooding aromas of black fruits, dried cherries and incense. The dark fruit flavors were deep and full-bore, exuding pure Syrah varietal character, followed by an intense, minerally finish. 19.5/20 points.

The following four were among my favorites:

2011 Silverback Vineyards Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley - Here, Charles Herrold's wine, produced from two barrels, showed an opaque ruby color and smoldering aromas of wild blackberries, black cherries and black currants. The massive flavors were deep and full-bore, with a meaty, earth texture and great varietal purity. The finish was long, intense and spicy. 19.5/20 points.

2009 Reynvaan "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was, coincidentally, in the same flight as the 2007 Contender, above. The group consensus favored the '07, but I preferred the '09, both served blind. It exhibited a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, cassis, orange peel, crushed roses and smoldering incense. The flavors were chewy textured and lavish, with notes of charcoal and spiced dark fruits. The back picked up notes of kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by a lingering "Rocks" mineral finish. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Lillian Syrah, Santa Barbara County - This entry from California showed a deep ruby color and the aromas showed the feminine side of Syrah, with wild berries and ethereal oriental perfumes and incense. The deep, brawny flavors, however belied the femininity, with the dark fruits underlain with chocolate, roast coffee and a finish that went on and on. 19+/20 points.

2007 Domaine Muginis Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvée Amedienne - This North Rhone Syrah showed a deep, semi-opaque crimson color and elegantly perfumed aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco and violets. On the palate, the flavors were thich and sweetish, with notes of licorice and French roast. The finish was long and intense with typical minerality and earthiness. 19+/20 points.

After the tasting, there was a bonus wine:

2004 Cayuse "Bionic Frog" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was an awesome wine. Deep colored, with aromas of roasted berries and nuts, smoldering incense and violets, it was thick and chewy. The intensity reflected the low yields of the 2004 vintage. The back revealed notes of dried fruits, orange peel, roasted meats and burnt charcoal, with a long, rich finish. 19.5+/20 points.

This was one of the best S.O.B. tastings ever, with truly "Awe-inspiring" wines.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:06
 
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