Review of Washington Wines Blog
Home Blind Tastings Results Revealed
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:38

Two weeks ago, I wrote about two blind tastings of two Malbecs and two Syrahs my wife and I conducted at home (to see the posting, scroll down below to the article). Now that the reviews have been published in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines, I can reveal the identities of the wines.

2011 Malbec A: Walla Walla Vintners, Columbia Valley (55% Sagemoor, 36% Summit View, 9% Dwelley)

2011 Malbec B: Kontos Cellars, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard

2011 Syrah A: Kontos Cellars, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard

2011 Syrah B: CAVU, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard

Here are some further comments in addition to those in the first article.

Differences in one wine from another of the same varietal, can be functions of terroir and/or winemaking styles. These four wines each seem to combine both of these functions. The Walla Walla Vintners Malbec is 55% Columbia Valley (just north of Pasco) and 45% Walla Walla Valley (Summit View and Dwelley). It comes on more like an Argentinan Malbec with its bold, direct fruit flavors, that also have components of Sagemoor dust and minerals and Walla Walla Valley gravel and loess. The Kontos is all Summit View and displays an earthy, aromatic character that is reminiscent of a Malbec from Cahors in France's Lot Valley. Both Syrahs are good examples of ones from different AVAs. The Kontos Cellars shows the Les Collines loess laden, sun-drenched Blue Mountain foothills terroir. The CAVU shows the floral aromatics and ripeness from the south facing slope above the Columbia River where the Alder Ridge vineyard is located. Both show varietal purity, with the Kontos leaning toward the earthy style and the CAVU toward the floral.

All this is to say that wines of the same variety can differ stylistically as a result of where the grapes come from and how they are handled. This is no single "style" of Malbec or Syrah, but rather a variety of types. This is one of the things that make Washington wines so unique, in that there is a lot of variety. This can be, at times, confusing for the consumer who wonders what kind of Malbec (Argentinian, or French styled?) or Syrah (fruit-driven, or terroir-driven?) he or she is getting. Part of a wine writer's job is to describe wines in such a way that indicates a wine's style as well as quality. This is what I try to do.


An Interesting Article about Tulpen Cellars

A couple of days ago, I ran across an article by Shannon Borg in the February issue of Seattle Magazine about Ken Hart and Rick Trumbull whose wines are reviewed in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines. It is titled "Tulpen Cellars Takes on Dry Farming of Wine Grapes." It writes about how the two manage vineyards without irrigation of the vines, a technique that is acquiring more interest. To see the article, go to seattlemag.com and then enter the keyword Tulpen on the Search line. This will take you to a link to the article. For further discussion of dry farming of vineyards, see the Review blog posting below about the Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard which is also managed by Hart and Trumbull.


Last Updated on Thursday, 30 January 2014 15:40
Walla Walla Vintners' Estate Vineyard
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 14:22

As you drive east on Mill Creek Road past K Vintners and Abeja, you will see to the north a slope planted with four rectangualar vineyards. On the northeast is Leonetti's Upland Vineyard, below it on the southeast is àMaurice. On the northwest quadrant is the Chan family's Yellow Bird Vineyard. Then on the southwest is the Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard. The Walla Walla Vintners' was the last to be planted, in 2008. The winery waited until then because the owners wanted to secure water rights before planting. An irrigation stystem was set up, but it was never used. The vineyard comprises 11 acres total, 3.75 of Merlot, 3.75 Cabernet Sauvignon, one half acre Petit Verdot, an acre of Sangiovese and two acres Syrah. Gordy Venneri, co-ower of Walla Walla Vintners, has stated, "I believe there are not very many dry land vineyards in the state of Washington so that makes this site somewhat unique. Besides Syrah, our goal at this point is to ultimately make a French type of vineyard blend with Merlot, Cabernet and Petit Verdot, and also a super Tuscan type of blend with Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot."

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Walla Walla Vintners to taste new 2011's that had been recently released (Sangiovese and Malbec, to be reviewed in the February issue). In the course of our conversation, Gordy Venneri mentioned that the winery had released a lmited amount of the 2011 Syrah from the Estate Vineyard, and gave me a bottle of it to try, and asked me to let him know what I thought of it. Here is my review:

2011 Walla Walla Vintners Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley

This is an impressive wine for fourth leaf fruit. It displays a deep purplish color and an intriguing nose of raspberry, blueberry and pomegranate, with scents of crushed roses, bayberry, orange peel, tobacco leaf and spiced white incense. On the palate, the medium bodied flavors are generous and direct, imbued with licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and earthy substrate minerals. The back picks up notes of squeezed bright young fine fruits, framboise liqueur, pomegranate seeds, and dried orange peel, all leading into a savory, lightly spiced moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.

All in all, this came on as a complex wine, coming just short of 19 points due to the young age of the vines. As the vines mature, deeper and more complex wines are sure to come. Gordy stated, "We have some very good 2012 and 2013 vintage wines in barrel that I feel will allow us to do that."

I asked Gordy, "One more question, does the vineyard have a name, is it just 'Estate Vineyard?'" His reply was, "We want to come up with a name but for now we are just saying 'Walla Walla Vintners Estate Vineyard.'" Regardless of whatever it is, or will be called, this is a unique vineyard to be watched.


Home Blind Tastings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 13 January 2014 15:49

I usually taste wines for the Review of Washington Wines at home, one at a time. This enables me to analyze each wine on its own merits, apart from stylistic qualities which can be partly subjective. Everyone has preferences for particular syles of wines. But my purpose is to score wines qualitatively, on the basis of how well they reflect their varietal character and overall complexity. At Lynn's suggestion, we tried comparing two wines of the same variety, tasted blind. We did this twice, both times with interesting results.

The first pairing consisted of two Malbecs of the same vintage, 2011. Here are the notes taken while tasting both blind.

2011 Malbec A

This Malbec offers a deep purplish color and smoky, spicy aromas of blackberries, cherries, blueberries, mulberries, crushed roses, and black violets. The medium full-bodied black and blue fruit flavors are deep and direct, marked by notes of red licorice, cocoa and minerals. On the back, the wine turns supple textured, with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, kirsch liqueur and dried cherries. The moderate fruit acids and sweet-dry tannins on the lithe light spice (coriander, cardamom) dusted finish makes for immediate appeal. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Malbec B

This wine displays a deep purplish color and rich aromas of wild blackberry, cherry, persimmon, crushed roses, bayberry, damp earth and rubbed sage. The palate presents a thick blanket of chewy textured flavors, with notes of chocolate, black tea and silty earth. The intensity continues on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts abd dried cherries, followed by a long, savory dryish tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.

Qualitatively, both wines were nearly equal, but stylistically different. Malbec A was more perfumed and elegantly styled, while B was more bold and earthy. Tasting them blind served to point up these differences more than otherwise would have been.

The second pairing was of two Syrahs.

2011 Syrah A

This wine displays a deep purplish color and rich aromas of raspberry, mountain blueberry, persimmon, crushed roses, cigar tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. On the palate, the flavors are bold and direct, redolent of spiced fruits, intermixed with licorice, cola, roasted coffee beans, and scorched earth. The back revals sensations of roasted berries and nuts, and fruit confit., followed by a ripe, chewy sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Syrah B

Deep pruplish ruby colored, it emits seductive aromas of raspberry, blueberry, lavender and violets. On the palate, the black and blue, true to variety, flavors are thick and decadently lavish, intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and scorched earth minerals. On the back, the wine turns chewy, yet svelte, with gently squeezed fruits and notes of framboise liqueur, dried orange peel and pomegranate seeds. The richness continues on the spiced (nutmeg, clove) dryish yet smooth tannin finish. 19/20 points.

Both are meritorious, true to variety, Syrahs, qualitatively set apart by a half point. It was the perfumed aromatics that gave wine B the the edge over A.

Here, I have omitted references to the vineyard sources and AVAs for this article, in order to focuses on the stylistic diffferences which can be functions of both terroir and winemaking techniques. Full reviews of these wines will be in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines.





Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 23:35
Five Wine Myths
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:03

Here and there, you may have heard or read of myths, oversimplifications, about wines and how they should be served. Here are five myths I have found to need dispelling.

Myth #1 - Simple meals should be accompanied by simple wines. With this myth, the perception is that if you have a simple everyday meal, you should have a simple "everyday" wine. Quite the contrary, having a complex wine enhances the experience by enabling one to focus on the wine rather than the food. One night, Lynn and I had a 2010 Tero Estates "DC3" Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend with a rotiserie chicken from Harvest Foods and found the wine to be more complex and compelling that it had been the previous time we had the wine. So much so that I raised the score from 18.5+ points to 19+ (review to be published in the February issue).

Myth #2 - Wines need lots of oak and tannin to age well. While red wines need a certain amount of "structure" to age well, this works only up to a point. I have seen wines where the tannins have outlasted the fruit, resulting in austere, unattractive wines. Wines need fruit as well as structure to age well. I am not a fan of twenty year old wines which have had the fruit dried up.

Myth #3 Reds are for winter, whites are for summer. This is treating wine as a seasonal beverage akin to beer (e.g. stout in winter, IPA in summer). Wines are wines and should suit the meal or occasion regardless of the season.

Myth #4 - When it comes to whites, ABC rules. Anything But Chardonnay is followed largely by consumers who think they are being sophisticated by shunning Chardonnay in favor of more "exotic" whites such as Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. These alternatives have their merits, but there are plenty of fine Chardonnays such as those from Buty (Conner Lee Vineyard), Maison Bleue and Sleight of Hand (French Creek), and Tranche (Celilo Vineyard) and more.

Myth #5 - Great wines don't have to be expensive. This is only partly true, enough to generate a reverse snobbery on the part of consumers who exult in the discovery of "twenty dollar wines that taste like fifty dollar ones." From time to time, great wines do come up that are not expensive, and I have reviewed such wines. But they are exceptions, oftentimes less favored varieties such as Chardonnay (see above) and Riesling. By and large, the best wines do cost a good deal more than others. In the Review of Washington Wines, the wines scoring 19/20 or more points tend to run around $50 a bottle, and 19.5 point wines, higher. High quality does cost more, with the cost of grapes from top growers, such as Champoux, Ciel du Cheval and Boushey. and winemaking equipment and oak barrels and so on. By and large, one gets what one pays for.



Last Updated on Monday, 06 January 2014 16:25
Predictions for 2014
Written by Rand Sealey   
Sunday, 29 December 2013 16:01

After five years observing the wine industry with the Review of Washington Wines, I predict more exciting developments in 2014.


More Exceptional Wines

A year ago, I observed that the number of outstanding wines was increasing. Now, each monthly issue of the Review incudes fifty or more wines. This will continue through 2014. And there will be many more wines scoring 19, 19.5 and 20 out of 20 points. This testament to the growth of high quality wine making in Washington State.


Increased Recognition of Washington Wines

As their quality increases, the reputation of Washington wines is continuing to increase. Washington wines are getting more press around the country and abroad. (To see examples of what is being written these days, see Sean Sullivan's weekly news roundups in the Washington Wine Report.)


More Major Vineyard Land Acquisitions

This year's big news was the purchase of a large tract of land on Red Mountain by Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. Whether it's for investment or for development, this signals major interest in expanding the acreage of Washingron vineyards, following as it did, last year's acquisition of the Columbia winery by Gallo. The acquisiton of 40 acres on Red Mountain by Duckhorn is another sign of growing interest in Washington state. We can expect to see more developments along these lines in the future.


Watch for the 2012's, but Don't Overlook the 2011's

The 2012 vintage is shaping up to be an exceptional one. I've tasted quite a few of the wines from the barrels, and find them to be ripe, tasty wines, indeed. See my December 19 blog below for a report on Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in Walla Walla (also see my report on the Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2012's in the January issue of the Review). But also pay attention to the 2011's which are well structured wines, more old than new world in style. And I have heard a couple of winemakers say the 2011's will age better than the 2012's.


Wineries to Watch in 2014

Balboa - This was a breakout year for Tom Glase's winery as the Eidolon Estate vineyard began to reach maturity. The 2012's from the barrel are highly promising. And there are some highly impressive 2011's.

Bunchgrass - Located off the Old Highway 12, this small winery is off the beaten track. But Tom Olander and Barb Comaree are crafting solid, exceptinal winers.

Cadaretta - Here, winemaker Brian Rudin is coming into his own with some highly impressive wines. Two exceptional 2011's will be reviewed in the January 2014 issue.

College Cellars - The student and faculty run winery of the Walla Walla Community College, is turning out some teriffic values.

Eight Bells - This winery is putting out some outstanding wines, especially ones from the Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. See the November issue for a report.

Frichette - With their 2011's Greg and Shae Frichette are off to a promising start at their Red Mountain winery. There will be a report in the January 2014 issue.

Kevin White - This winery is continuing to turn out amazing values. Kevin's 2011's (long sold out) scored 19 points for $25 or less. Watch for his 2012's which are sure to go fast.

Seven Hills - Casey McClellan showed his winemaking skill in turning out highly exceptional 2011's. Look for more fine wines next year.

Silverback - Working at the Artifex winemaking facility, Charles Herrold has been making truly striking wines. Watch for the 2011's and 2012's I tasted from the barrels last Spring.

Treveri - The Grieb family has been turning out well-made and attractively-priced sparkling wines at their Wapato facility in the Yakima Valley.

Waitsburg Cellars - Here, my wine writing cohort, Paul Gregutt, has ventured into producing wines, custom made by Precept Brands. See the May issue for a report on the first releases. More are to come.

Wilridge - This winery has been giving definition to the recently approved Naches Heights AVA. See the December issue for a report.

Waters - Its acquisiton by Tero Estates is giving this winery a new direction. Expect some fine new releases from winemaker Jamie Brown in the future.



Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 15:46

Page 8 of 52

Login Form