- Written by Rand Sealey
It seems that a few years ago, Rhone varietals could get no respect. More and more "BDX" wines kept appearing on the market, as well as "Bordeaux" varietals such as Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère, even though little of these grapes are being grown in Bordeaux any more. Many blends are five or six varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. But there seems to ba a sameness to many (but not all - there are superb renditions such as those from Seven Hills, Corliss, Figgins and Owen Roe).
The Rhone varieties - Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre - however, I think, are making a comeback. With better site selection and understanding the vinification of these varieties, more interesting and complex wines are being made. Here's my rundown of those wineries that are at the forefront of this resurgence.
Cayuse - Christophe Baron is the pioneer of bringing Rhone varietals to the "Rocks" with his single vineyard Syrahs and the alluring God only Knows Grenache.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd's aptly named winery has made a name for itself with its Northern and Southern Blends and the "little g" Grenache and "dre" Mourvèdre.
Reynvaan Vineyards - The Reynvaan family's winery has acquired cult status with its Syrahs from the Rocks and the Foothills vineyards.
Kerloo Cellars - Ryan Crane staked his reputation on Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre (although he also makes a fine Malbec).
Maison Bleue - Jon Meuret has been making Rhone-style wines since starting in 2007. Since moving to Walla Walla, his emphasis is on Walla Walla Valley fruit.
And then there are the vineyards that are contributing to the increasing popularity of Rhone varietals. The pioneers were Mike Sauer (Red Willow Vineyard) and Dick Boushey in the Yakima Valley, and later Lewis Vineyard. Then came Patina and Les Collines in the South Walla Walla Valley. Then those in the Rocks of Milton-Freewater: Funk, Stoney Vines, Rotie and Rockgarden. Tertulia's Riviere Galets Vineyard deep in the southeast valley is a ringer for Cote Rotie with its steep, rock strewn slope. And more plantings are on the way.
Wineries now are making noteworthy "GSM" (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) wines in the style of the South Rhone Valley, such as Vacqueyras and Cheateauneuf du Pape. Noteworthy recent versions are Forgeron's "Façon Rouge", Balboa's "Pandemonium" Syrah-Grenache), Tertulia's "Great SchisM" and others. There also are a bevy of Grenaches and Mourvèdres out there as well. All is well with Rhone varieties these days.
- Written by Rand Sealey
At this point, the 2015 wine grape harvest is coming to an end. A few more picks this week and next will bring it to a close. This is a far departure from 2011, a protracted late harvest. In 2011, picking began the first week of October for most wineries, this year it ended the first week of this month. Moderate highs in the upper 70's and low 80's have enabled growers to see grapes maturing evenly up to picking. Quality seems to be high, despite the 100 degree days from late June to the end of July. After veraison, the begining of grapes turning color, the grapes developed plenty of bright fruits and aromatic phenols. All this leaves growers and winemakers smiling.
A Grand Cru Chablis Tasting
Last night the SOB's (Sons of Bacchus) assembled at the Seven Hills Winery for a tasting of Grand Cru Chablis which consist of the best vineyards in that region of northeast Burgundy. These vineyards, above the town of Chablis, are located on a southwest exposure and on sites with the heaviest concentration of calcium which gives Chablis a distinctive minerally taste. All but two of the wines tasted were of high quality. Here are what I found to be the most exceptional ones.
2010 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru, Bougros - This was the top favorite of the group. It showed a medium gold color and a flinty nose of apples and citrus. It came on strong on the palate entry with sturdy acids and steely minerals and a bone dry finish. 19/20 points.
2010 La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru, Bougros - La Chablisienne is the well-run cooperative of Chablis. This version showed a bright, fruity apple, pear and peach nose and chalky, steely classic flavors with a fine sense of balance and depth that kept on going through the finish. I preferrred it to the Fevre. 19+/20 points.
2012 Maison Dampt Chablis Grand Cru, Bougros - This negociant bottling offered a brilliant gold color and a floral apple and lemon nose with ripe, steely, saline flavors. The back showed a bit of restraint, coming on like a fine young Grand Cru. 19/20 points.
2009 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru, Les Blanchots - This showed a brilliant gold color and a distinctive nose of apples and peaches. The flavors started out soft, Meursault-like, then built up on the back with fine acidity and a steely dry finish. Interestingly, it was the only wine with a screwcap finish. This was the group favorite in its flight and my second choice. 19+/20 points.
2008 Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses - This showed a brilliant color and aromas of apple, peach and citrus. Highly extracted, it showed deep, almost austere flavors with saline minerals and a bone dry finish. 19/20 points.
There was one ringer in the group, the 2011 Woodward Canyon Washington State Chardonnay. It was a fine wine in its own right (19/20 points), but stood out as being different from the others. Two wines, the 2006 William Fevre Les Preuses and 2007 Willaim Fevre Vaudesir were showing some oxidation.
Thanks to Casey McClellan and Erik McLaughlin for hosting this fine tasting.
- Written by Rand Sealey
With Fall Release Weekends coming up, we are going to see more red wines from the 2013 vintage coming out. The cycle for the 2012's (see the 15 March blog posting) has passed its peak, and the 2013's are coming through the pipeline.
The 2013 vintage comes from an uneven year weatherwise. After a cool spring, weather warmed up in the summer, with some periodic heat waves, and was followed by a cool autumn that saw occasional rain showers, which, fortunately, were brief enough to let the grapes dry out. The harvest progressed from mid-September to late October, one of those down to the wire vintages. The result were supple, fruit-forward yet structured wines. Vicky McClellan (Seven Hills Winery) described the 2013's as being "friendly wines," and I agree.
So far, I have tasted 2013's from Balboa, Barrister, Flying Trout, Mark Ryan, Owen Roe, Seven Hills, Long Shadows and others. Among the varietals, the Syrahs and Malbecs are particularly appealing, as well as some Grenaches and Petit Verdots. Here are some particularly noteworthy 2013's already reviewed.
2013 Mark Ryan "Wild Eyed" Syrah, Red Mountain (reviewed July - 19+/20 points)
2013 Mark Ryan "Crazy Mary" Mourvedre, Red Mountain (July - 19 points)
2013 Rasa Vineyards "In the Limelight" Petit Verdot (July - 19+ points)
2013 Owen Roe Syrah, Yakima Valley, Union Gap Vineyard (August - 19+ points)
2013 Owen Roe Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vinryard (August - 19+ points)
2013 Seven Hills Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, McClellan Vineyard (September - 19 points)
2013 Seven Hills Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard (September - 19 points)
2013 Long Shadows "Saggi" Red Wine, Columbia Valley (September - 19.5 points)
2013 Long Shadows "Sequel" Syrah, Columbia Valley (September - 19.5 points)
2013 Barrister Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley (October - 19 points)
2013 Balboa Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Eidolon Vineyard (October - 19 points)
2013 Balboa Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard (October - 19+ points)
2013 Balboa "Pandemonium" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley (October - 19 points)
2013 Flying Trout Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills, Konnowac Vineyard (Ooctober - 19 points)
To be reviewed in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wins are:
2013 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard (November - 19+ points)
2013 Seven Hills Vintage Red Wine, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (November - 19+ points)
2013 Isenhower Cellars "Jongleur" Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley (November - 19 points)
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache, Wahluke Slope, Stone Tree Vineyard (November - 19 points)
2013 Kontos Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard (November - 19 points)
Over the next few yays, I will be tasting more 2013's from Sleight of Hand, Mark Ryan, Frichette (Red Mountain), Walla Walla Vintners, Forgeron, and àMaurice. I expect more exceptional wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
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.
- Written by Rand Sealey
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.