Review of Washington Wines Blog
A Visit to New York's Finger Lakes
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 25 September 2015 13:22

A couple of days ago, Lynn and I returned from a trip through Upstate New York. During this trip, we spent a day, on September 15, from Ithaca to the Finger Lakes to stop af a few wineries in that American Viticultural Area (AVA). Our itinerary was based on recommendations from Sabrina Lueck of the Walla Walla Community College Enology an Viticulture program. She is a graduate of Cornell University, where she developed her interest in winemaking through courses there.

Up until the 1960's and 1970's, most New York wines were produced from native (labrusca, such as Concord) or hybrid (such as Cayuga abd Vignobles) varieties. It was believed that only native and hybrid grapes could survive the bitter winters of the region. But in the early 'sixties, Dr. Konstatin Frank proved that vinifera grapes would be sucessfully grown in the Finger Lakes. Now many wineries produce vinifera varieties as well as hybrids.

Our first stop was at Fox Run Vineyards (established 1990) near the northwest end of Seneca Lake. The winemaker Peter Bell, taught enology classes at Cornell, and Sabrina was one of his students. The winery is situated on a slope and is surrounded by vineyards. After our tasting, we walked over to the winery to talk with Peter Bell. Here are the most noteworhy wines tasted.

2014 Fox Run Dry Riesling ($18) - Light gold colored, this showed a steely nose of apple, pear, peach and wildflowers and crisp, spice and lemon zest accented flavors. 18/20 points.

2014 Fox Run Silvan Riesling ($25) - This wine was fermented in oak barrel, adding an intriguing element. Light gold colored, it offered ripe aromas of apple, peach and vanilla, with a silky mouth texture, counterpointed by a steely dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2013 Fox Run Cabernet Franc ($20) - Medium ruby colored, this wine showed a smoky, berried nose, with scents of tobacco and cedar. The medium bodied flavors were pleasingly supple, with touches of dried fruits and ripe tannins. 18+/20 points.

2012 Fox Run Reserve Cabernet Franc ($45) - This wine exhibited a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry and plum, and well structured true varietal flavors. The back picked up notes of roasted berries and nuts on the ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.

2011 Fox Run Dry Riesling ($30) - This showed a brilliant gold color and a rich, floral nose of pear, peach and minerals, along with mouth filling, well structured flavors, followed by a fine tuned back, accented by spices and semi dried fuits on the medium dry (2.2% residual sugar.) 19/20 points.

After Fox Run, we drove back southwest to Penn Yan down to Keuka Spring Vineyards at the north end of Leuka Lake. The winemaker, August Dimel, was a fellow student at Cornell, and noted that Sabrina liked taking graduate level courses. The winery produces a wide range of hybrid and vinifera wines.

2012 Keuka Spring Humphreys Riesling ($22) - This offered a light gold color and a floral nose pf pear, peach and anise. The flavors showed good varietal chaacter and expract, accented by notes of spices, minerals and butternut on nearlu dry finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 Keuka Spring "Dynamite" Gewürztraminer ($22) - This was a fine rendition of this grape. It showed a medium gold color and a floral, spicey nose with scents of litchi nuts. The flavors were medium bodied with a lingering, slightly nutted dry finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 Keuka Spring Cabernet Franc ($19) - This was a tasty young Cab Franc. It showed a medium crimson color and a ripe nose of raspberry and cherry, with a hint of smoke. The medium bodied flavors were pleasingly grapy, with a slighty nutted finish. 18/20 points.

2014 Keuka Spring Miller's Cove Red ($22) - This Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot blend offered a deep purplish color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry and plum, with nice, juicy, direct flavors with a hint of minerality. 18/20 points.

Then we drove south along the east shore of Keuka Lake to Ravines Wine Cellars, which Sabrina described as "being a cut above the rest." We found it worth stopping by.

2012 Ravines Dry Riesling ($18) - This showed a medium gold color and a floral, spicy nose of pear, peach and apricot, with bright, racy yet textured, dry flavors, with a touch of orange peel. 18+/20 points.

2012 Ravines Pinot Noir ($25) - This resembled a cool climate Pinot such as a Bourgogne Hautes Cotes. It showed a light brick color and engaging aromas of cherries and plums, and pleasant, direct flavors of cola, earth and spices. 18/20 points.

2012 Ravines Dry Riesling, Argetsinger Vineyard ($30) - From one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in the Finger Lakes and barrel aged, this displayed a greenish gold color and intriguing aromas of apple, pear, peach, wet stone, clover and spice. The flavors were intense and well defined, marked by chalky limestone minerality and racy acidity, tempered by a ripe pure fruit finsh. 19/20 points.

Our last stop was at Dr. Konstantin Frank, just northwest of Hammondsport. The winery overlooks a spectacular view of Keuka Lake. Dr. Frank was legendary for introducing vinifera wine growing in New York. Today, the winry is run ny Dr. Frank's grandson, Fred Frank and grandaughter Barbara Frank.

2009 Dr. Konstatin Frank Brut Rosé ($35) - This sparking wine displayed a nice pink color, fine bubbles and vivid strawberry and peach flavors that led into a lively, lingering true brut finish. 18.5/20 points.

2013 Dr. Konstatin Frank Rkatsiteli ($15) - From the oldest grape known to man (3000 BC in what is now Georgia), this wine offered a brilliant gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, anise and bark, with bright, well delineated flavors and a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. 18/20 points.

2013 Dr. Konstatin Frank Grüner Veltliner ($15) - Pale gold colored, this showed intriguing aromas of grapefruit, wildflowers, lemongrass and anise, and medium bodied flavors that showed a hint of kiwi. 18/20 points.

2013 Dr. Konstatin Frank Riesling Reserve ($25) - This offered attractive aromas of pear, peach and citrus, with scents of orange blossoms and wet stone. The flavors were fresh and racy, with a lingering faintly honeyed finish. 18.5/20 points.




Last Updated on Friday, 25 September 2015 15:21
Harvest 2015 Update / Kerloo Industry Night
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 10 September 2015 14:16

Harvest 2015 Update

The 2015 Washington wine grape harvest may be one for the records: the earliest ever, and of high quality. Quantity looks to be less than last year's. Generally, hot summers (such as 2000 and 2003) lead to higher alcohol, lower acid wines, but amazingly enough the grapes came in with fine balance, with moderate alcohol and good acidiity. Temperatures currently are in the 80's to low 90's, meaning the remaining grapes to be harvested, can continue to develop evenly.


Kerloo Cellars Hosts an Industry Party

Last night (September 9) Ryan Crane hosted a party for wine industry friends. His first vintage was the 2007, and the inaugaural release event was at Va Piano (at which he was assistant winemaker at the time). Since that tine, Ryan has achieved an admirable track recored with his wines. The mainstays have been the Syrahs from the Va Piano and Les Collines vineyards, along with Tempranillo, Malbec, and occasional other varieties.

At the Industry Party, Ryan poured six library wines. Here are my notes.

2009 Tempranillo, Columbia Valley - Sourced from the Stone Tree (Wahluke Slope) and Les Collines (Walla Walla Valley) this showed a brilliant ruby color and perfumed aromas of raspberries, cherries, violets and white pepper. The flavors were deep and forceful, yet elegant, underlain with notes of minerals, coffee and burnt charcoal, followed by a lingering, dryish finish. 19/20 points.

2009 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah - Deep ruby colored, this offered a lovely nose of raspberry and cassis, with scents of sweet roses, mulberry, violets and spiced incense. The supple, generous flavors spread out on the palate, with intermixtures of cocoa, coffee and Les Collines loess, and then glided into a rich, savory, smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2012 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard - This was a Calling Club release. It showed an alluring nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, black tobacco and violets. The sturdy flavors were marked by notes of dark chocolate, French roast and minerals, followed by roasted berries and nuts and a rich, satiny moderate tannin finish. 19/20 points.

2009 Malbec, Yakima Valley, Chelle den Millie Vineyard - Opaque colored, like the "black wine" of Cahors, this emited intense aromas of wild blackberries, black cherries and plums with scents of black roses and violets. The flavors were dark and saturated, with black chocolate, minerals, roasted berries and nuts, followed by a long, tasty finish. 19+/20 points.

2010 Malbec, Wahluke Slope, Stone Tree Vineyard - Inky colored, thos possessed an intense, spicy nose of black currants, black plums, incense and black violets. The flavors were composed of deep dark fruits, marked by notes of dark chocolate, licorice and Wahluke scorched earth. The intensity contined on the back with roasted berries and nuts, mocha and a ripe, intense finish. 19+/20 points.

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Bacchus Vineyard - This showed a deep ruby color and a classic Bacchus nose of blackberries, huckleberries, black plums, crushed roses and incense. The flavors showed a velvety, yet vigorous character (also a trait of Bacchus Cab), marked by licorice, French roast and pulverized minerals, followed by a long, forceful finish. 19/20 points.

For current Kerloo Cellars releases, see the April and August issues of the Review of Washington Wines.

No Review Blog Next Week

Tomorrow morning, we will be leaving Walla Walla for a trip to Upstate New York, returning on the 23rd. The next Review Blog will go on line September 25th, along with the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 September 2015 23:40
A Visit to Spokane and Harvest 2015
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 14:30

A Visit to Spokane

Last weekend, August 21st and 22nd, Lynn and I drove up to Spokane and while there, visited the Barrister and Robert Karl Wineries. At Barrister, I tasted some fine 2013's and 2012's with Greg Lipsker, including a first time 2013 Petit Verdot, an unusually intense Sangiovese, and a distinctive multi-vintage "Barrister's Block" Red. At Robert Karl, we sampled a couple of exceptional Horse Heaven Hill Cabernet Sauvignons, a 2012 three vineyard blend and a 2011 Phinny Hill Vineyard. These and other wines will be reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.


The 2015 Harvest Beginning

The 2015 harvest looks to be like the earliest on record. Some grapes have already been harvested (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah). Varieites that are normally harvested in mid October are projected to come in by mid September. Brix levels are already at the 23.5-24.5 degree levels. They need just a bit more time to get the optimum ph levels. Overall quality levels are expected to be high.


Gentlemen of the Road Stopover a Great Success

The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, featuring the Mumford & Sons, and the Foo Fighters, brought in over 20,000 visitors to Walla Walla the weekend of August 14th-16th. Downtown was packed with street concerts and other events. Lynn helped out at the Maison Bleue tasting room which was busy. The visitors made great guests.

The 2015 Seattle Magazine Washington Wine Awards
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 14:24

For the third year in a row, I was invited to participate in the judging for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. The judging was conducted by Yashar Shayan and the article about it was written by Paul Zitarelli. The panel met in early March and the article was published in the August issue of Seattle Magazine. There were no surprises about the top winners in each category, although I did not always agree with the consensus. Here are the top wines in the major categories, with my top picks.

Red Wine of the Year - 2012 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley. This, I think is a worthy consensus choice even though it was not my top scorer. The 2012 Upchurch Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was my top pick.

White Wine of the Year - 2013 Savage Grace Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Underwood Mountain Vineyard. Again, this is a estimable choice, although not my top pick (that would have been the 2012 Sixto Frenchman Hill Vineyard Chardonnay by Brennon Leighton). Michael Savage did a masterful job of showing what can be done with Columbia Gorge Riesling.

Chardonnay $16-$40 - 2013 L'Ecole No, 41 - Columbia Valley. Another good consensus pick. I found the Sixto "Uncovered" Chardonnay to have more complexity, though.

Chardonnay More than $40 - 2012 Tranche, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard - My top choice was the Sixto (see above) but Tranche was a highly respectable pick.

Merlot $21-$40 - 2012 L'Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla Valley - A good choice, although I gave the 2012 Forgeron Boushey Vineyard the edge.

Merlot More than $40 - 2012 Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot, Columbia Valley - This was a clear choice, by me as well as the panel consensus.

Red Blend More than $40 - 2012 Avennia "Sestina" Columbia Valley - My third choice (19/20 points) in a strong category. 2012 Betz "Clos de Betz" and 2010 Corliss both scored 20/20 points.

Syrah $21-40 - 2013 Savage Grace, Walla Walla Valley - Les Collines Vineyard. Again, an admirable choice although I gave the Amavi, Walla Walla Valley an edge.

Syrah More than $40 - 2012 Avennia "Arnaut," Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard. This was the standout, both in the panel's and my scoring (20/20) points.

Cabernet Sauvignon more than $65 - 2012 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. In tasting, I found this a classic direct Cabernet. To my palate, I found the 2012 Upchurch a bit more complex. But no quarrel with this choice.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 August 2015 17:46
Harvest 2015 Begins / Walla Walla Wine Events
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 13:47

Harvest 2015 Getting Under Way

On Saturday, August 8th, we attended the Tero Estate's Block Party at the Windrow Vineyard. As we walked through the vineyard, we noticed veraison, the stage of maturation where red grapes change from green to purple. In the past week or two veraison has become evident elsewhere, and white wine grapes have already turned from green to gold. It appears that this year's harvest may be even earlier than last year's. The vines appear to have had little negative impact from the heat wave of July. If anything, current weather conditions are making for quick maturing of the grapes. Some whites are already being picked and others in the next week or two. Red grapes may begin harvesting as early as the first week of September.


Tero Estates Hosts a Block Party

Tero Estates Club Block Party was accompaned by lots of food, wine and fun, as well as veraison. The guests walked around the Windrow Vineyard in the South Valley sampling appetizers along with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Cabernet Franc (to be released in Fall). Everyone then sat at the foot of the hill for a sit down dinner. pairing the 2014 Waters "Prelude" Roussanne-Viognier (to be reviewed in the September issue of the Review of Washington Wines), the 2009 Hill Block Cabernet, and the 2012 Flying Trout Mary's Block Malbec.


Lagana Cellars Holds an Industry Party

On Monday, August 10th, Jason Fox, owner-winemaker of Lagana Cellars hosted a special gathering for wine industry friends at the winery's tasting room on 6 East Rose Street. Wines poured included the 2013 Breezy Slope Pinot Noir (to be reviewed in the September issue. Also poured were the 2014 Sagemoor Vineyard Roussanne and 2013 Minnick Hills Vineyard Syrah (both reviewed June) and two 2013 whites, a Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Congratulations to Jason for his new tasting room.


The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Begins Tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon, August 13th, the Gentlemen of the Road's Stopover, featuring Mumford and Sons and the Foo Fighters ensembles, along with many others, begins. Over 20,000 visitors are expected over the weekend, one of the biggest events ever held in Walla Walla. Headline events will be held at the Whitman College Athletic Field and downtown Walla Walla will be blocked off for other music events, some of them to be held in winery tasting rooms. It's going to be a busy time!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 August 2015 14:42

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