- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in March, I was one of the judges for the Seattle Magazine Washington Wine Awards. So I was greatly interested in the results when the award winners were announced last Friday, July 22nd. I found many of the winning wines to coincide with my picks, or closely so. Here's a rundown of the results along with my preferences.
Winemaker of the Year: Gilles Nicualt, Long Shadows
I voted for Gilles in the Washington Wine Awards poll for this category. I know Gilles personally and have found his wines to be highly impressive. See the September and December, 2015 issues of the Review of Washington Wines for reviews of the Long Shadows 2013 reds. See also the January 2016 issue for the Nine Hats wines, also produced by Long Shadows.
Vineyard of the Year: Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge
This one of the premier vineyards in the state for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Some fine Grüner Veltliner also comes from there.
Winemaker to Watch: Morgan Lee, Two Vintners
Morgan has turned out impressive wines, including the Red Wine of the Year, below.
Best Emerging Winery - Savage Grace Wines
I have known for some time that Michael Savage is an up and coming winemaker. See the July and August issues for reviews of his current releases.
Coolest Wine Label - NumbSkull
The skulls on the label are truly striking, evoking the Grateful Dead. The wines as well are attention-getting. See the April issue for the 2014 BDX and GSM blends.
White Wine of the Year: 2014 Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling
I scored this 19/20 points in the wine judging. My notes say "Floral, pear & peach, clover, viscous."
Chardonnay $15-40: 2014 Ashan Barrel Fermented, Columbia Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. My notes: "Gold color, rich, almost smoky."
Chardonnay over $40: Côte Bonneville, DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. "Hint of butterscotch, ripe yet crisp and balanced." My top pick in this category was the 2013 Tranche Cellars, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard, 20/20 points. "Pear, peach, citrus refined & balanced." This is to be released this fall.
Red Wine of the Year: 2013 Two Vintners "Some Days Are Stones" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard
This is an estimable winner. I scored it 19/20 points. "Ruby color, ripe roasted berries, chewy, fleshy, leather." But my top pick in the Syrah category was the 2013 Avennia "Arnaut" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard. "Crimson, Intoxicating aromas, lavender violets, superb elegance. 20/20 points. (Also scored 20/20 points in the May issue).
Merlot $20-40: 2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 18/20 points (would have been 18.5 if fractional points were allowed in judging). My top pick was the 2013 Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla Valley 19/20 points. "Rich, pleasing nose & flavors, dark back." It scored 18.5/20 points in the November issue.
Merlot over $40: 2013 Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. "Tight, almost austere style." My top pick was the 2013 Fidelitas Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 20/20 points. "Intense nose, perfumed, exotic, fleshy. Long finish."
Red Blend over $40: 2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Estate, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. It scored 19.5/20 points in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines. My top pick in the judging was the 2012 Cadence Red Mountain, Bel Canto Vineyard. 20/20 points. "Deep ruby, blackberry, cherry, cassis, incense. Full bore, long finish." Scored 19+ points in the May issue.
Cabernet Sauvignon $25-65: 2013 Woodward Canyon, Artist's Series, Columbia Valley
This was also my top pick, 19/20 points. "Dark, intoxicating, tobacco, incense. Full flavored, deep." Scored 19+/20 points in the January issue.
Cabernet Sauvignon over $65: 2013 Upchurch Red Mountain, Estate Vineyard
Also my top pick. "Blackberry, cherry, plum, thick, tremendous elegance." 20/20 points. Also 20/20 points in the March issue. The 2013 Mark Ryan, Lonely Heart, Red Mountain also scored 20/20 in the judging. "Intense nose, tobacco, cedar, deep cored, dark fruits, minerals." Also 20/20 in the April issue.
Corrected version after autocorrect misspelled Celilo as Cello and Boushey as Bushy in previous version.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday, July 18th, one week after his passing, a memorial service was held for Duane Wollmuth, the late Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. It was held in the ballroom of the Marcus Whitman Hotel and nearly 400 attended to pay their respects, myself included. At guests entered, they picked up short pours of local wine. When the service began, after a few remarks by officiants, a toast was lifted to Duane.
The service was officiated by the Reverend Robert McCoy and friends and associates delivered their memories of Duane. A video tribute was presented, showing Duane the Family Man, the Outdoors Man and the Wine Man. Memorial letters from his two daughters were read. The service was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.
Ron Williams Hired as Walla Walla Tourism Director
This week, it was announced that Ron Williams is taking over as Executive Director of Visit Walla Walla, the Valley's tourism ages, funded by the city's lodging tax. Ron is also Executive Director of Shakespeare Walla Walla and will be wrapping up this job over the next few weeks. He replaces Ron Peck, who left to take a similar position with the Port of Seattle. Williams brings to Visit Walla Walla a strong background in arts, wine and tourism, having been retail manager of Waterbrook Winery, managing director of the Gesa Power House Theatre, and CounterPoint Design & Development.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday morning (July 11) Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, died. He was jogging when he suffered a heart attack. He was 60. This is a great shock to the Valley's wine industry.
Wollmuth came to the executive director job in 2011 with impressive credentials. He worked in the cell phone industry before launching the Three Rivers Winery on the old Highway 12 in 1999. He also owned the Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, near Dixie, with his wife, Mary, where they made their home. In 2008, Three Rivers was sold to the Foley Estates wine group of California. Wollmuth remained as general manager until he took over as executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association before leaving to take the job with the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.
Wollmuth took the broad view in promoting Walla Walla Valley wine. Representing a cross-state AVA, he worked closely with both the Washington State Wine Commission and the Oregon Wine Board and had many friends across the border. Under his direction, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance took some successful marketing initiatives. One was the Taste and Tote program with Alaska Airlines whereby the airline would check a passenger's case of wine for free. Another was Celebrate Walla Walla Wine, which brought international winemakers to Walla Walla for a panel tasting and discussion comparing the Valley's wines with others. The fourth annual one last June, featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, was a sold-out success.
Duane was a consumate gentleman. He was always warm and helpful, always there for everyone. I, myself, have spoken with him numerous times. He will be sorely missed.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Columbia Gorge is a distinctive American Viticultural Area (AVA). It straddles Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River, around Lyle, WA and Hood River, OR. The climate is transitional, between the dry region to the east and the cooler, wetter area to the west. Much of the terroir is volcanic, from ancient eruptions of Underwood Mountain and Mount Hood. The slopes offer good drainage, and cooling breezes from the Columbia River temper the summer heat. All this adds up to a highly suitable are for wine grape growing, especially, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner.
On Thursday, June 23rd, we drove westward from Walla Walla to Lyle. Our first stop was at Tetrahedron Cellars on Highway 14, just as one enters Lyle. This new winery is owned by Darren Michaels and his fiancée, Kelly Johnson. Its inaugural releases include a Chardonnay and a Charbono, to be reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Also on State Street (Highway 14) is the Memaloose tasting room which features wines from the Idiot's Grace and Mistral Ranch estate vineyards. Then we drove up above Lyle to the Cor Cellars and Syncline wineries on the Old Highway 8. Up there, the view of Mount Hood and the Columbia River is breathtaking. Reviews of these and other wines tasted on our trip will be in the August issue. Then, we drove about 17 miles west to Little Buck Creek Road on Underwood Mountain to visit AniChe Cellars, owned and run by Rachel Horn and Anïas Mera.
We spent the night at the Best Western Hood River Inn where we had a delicious Columbia River King Salmon dinner at the Riverside Restaurant with a nice Oregon Pinot Noir. The next morning, we drove back up above Lyle to Domaine Pouillon. There, we tasted several wines, current and future releases, with Alexis and Juliet Pouillon, including an Alsace-style blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling called "Edelzwicker" (to be reviewed, with others, in the August issue). Our last stop was on the Oregon side at Analemma in Mosier. There, we tasted some fine Gewürztraminers, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Atavus and Oak Ridge vineyards. Afterwards, we drove eastward to home in Walla Walla.
Watch for the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines, on line July 22, for reviews of wines tasted.
- Written by Rand Sealey
With Independence Day coming around soon, what better way to celebrate than with American wines, especially ones from Washington State? Here are some recommendations for Holiday.
Robust reds are especially suitable, especially Syrah, Malbec, GSM blends, and BDX blends. From recent issues of the Review of Washington Wines, I suggest.
2013 Alexandria Nicole "Jet Black" Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, Destiny Ridge Vineyard ($28) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 College Cellars Carmenere, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - 18+/20 points - April
2014 Sleight of Hand Cellats "The Spellbinder" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($20) - 18+/20 points - June
2013 Milbrandt Vineyards "The Estates" Malbec Wahluke Slope ($26) - 18.5/20 points - July
2013 Forgeron Cellars Facon Rouge, Columbia Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($35) - 18.5/20 points - July
For casual outdoor entertaining bright, aromatic whites are more appropriate than Chardonnay.
2014 Cadaretta "SBS" White Wine, Columbia Valley (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon) ($23) - 18.5 points - March
2014 Forgeron Cellars "Façon Blanc" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2015 Rôtie Cellars Southern White, Washington State (Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne) ($32) - To be reviewed August
See the June 15 Blog posting below for recommended rosés. In addition, here are four more.
2015 Domaine Pouillon Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills ($20) - Composed of 65% Grenache and 35% Mourvèdre, this offers a copper color and attractive aromas of peach, cherry and tangerine, with bright fruits and a lightly spiced Provençal-like dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Syncline Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, McKinley Springs Vineyard ($20) - This combination of 39% Cinsault, 36% Carignan and 25% Grenache comes on like a Tavel Rosé from the South Rhone. Copper-pink colored and fragrant, with ripe, slatey fruits, this is a delightfully lively rosé. 18+/20 points.
2015 Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Brilliant copper-pink, this wine possesses ripe aromas of cherry, raspberry and tangerine and nicely extracted flavors with notes of grape skin and kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a dry yet juicy finish. 18+/20 points.
2015 Walla Faces "Art" Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - This 90% Estate Syrah and 10% Viognier combination offers a light copper color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, orange peel and white incense. The flavors are fresh and mouth filling, with undertone of grape skin and orange peel, followed by a juicy, dry lightly spiced finish. 18+/20 points.