Review of Washington Wines Blog
Comparing the 2012 and 2011 Vintages
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 10 February 2014 15:41

Last Wednesday, in my Review of Washington Wines Blog, I wrote that I would be reporting on "Walla Walla Breaking Wine News." The biggest news in that projected posting was going to be about the Tero Estates, Flying Trout Wines and Waters Winery ground breaking event at a new faciity to be constructed just below the Amavi Winery on Peppers Bridge Road. That event was canceled due to permit issues yet to be resolved. So this report will have to be left for later. Also, the Downtown Walla Walla winery tasting rooms are still in flux, and in some cases, nebulous. So more on that later. This leaves my report comparing the 2011 and 2012 Washington State red wines. So here's this week's article.


The 2012 and 2011 Red Wines Compared

After the protracted harvest of 2011 which went well into November, 2012 was a return to a more normal season. Harvesting began in early September and was mostly completed by the end of October. This resulted in wines with differing characteristics.

The 2011 reds have frequently been called "old world" in style. That is, wines with pronounced aromatics, resulting from the phenols that were developed during the extended "hang time" of the harvest, and with drier tannins on the finish. So far, with more 2012 reds being released, the wines seem to be more fruit forward, with the aromatics being more berrly like and less floral, and the tannins riper.

Qualitatively, the two vintages may turn out to be nearly equal, but stylistically different, which becomes more a matter of personal preference. If you like tasty, fruit forward wines, go for the 2012's. If you prefer more aromatic and structured "old world" like wines, go for the 2011's. Here are some fine examples of each vintage.

2012 Seven Hills Reserve Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, McClellan Vineyard 19+ points - January - To be released in March.

2012 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrahs - These scored 19+ to 20/20 points in the January issue

2012 Sparkman Cellars "Wonderland" Grenache, Yakima Valley - This deliciouly ripe wine is to be reviewed in the March issue. 19 points

2012 Savage Grace Syrah-Grenache, Columbia Valley 18.5+ points - At $27 a bottle, this is a super value from an up and coming new winery in Woodinville. This and other 2012 reds will be in the March issue.

2011 Cadaretta "Windthrow" Red Wine - 19+ points - January

2011 Rasa Vineyards Living in the Limelight" Petit Verdot, Columbia Valley, Dionysus Vineyard - A classic Petit Verdot with teriffic aromatics. - 19.5 points - July

2011 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - 19.5 points - To be reviewed in March.

2011 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Loess Vineyard  - Even better than the excellent 2010. 19.5 points - To be reviewed in March.





Last Updated on Sunday, 02 March 2014 18:11
Walla Walla Breaking Wine News Soon
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 13:22

As of this writing, the Walla Walla wine scene is in a state of flux. Things are changing. A couple of new wineries are emerging. And the downtown tasting rooms are playing musical chairs, with some wineries moving from one place to another. On Saturday, Tero Estates, Flying Trout and Waters will be having a "Ground Breaking" event, for just what remains to be seen. There has been a lot of speculation about that.

The next Review of Washington Wines Blog will be posted on Monday, February 10 with more news and details. There will also be a report on intial impressions of the 2012 vintage.

As an advance tip, Woodward Canyon is having 20% off on its 2012 Nelms Road Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at $20 a bottle, down from $25, until the end of the month. Both are tasty fruit-forward wines, a trait of many of the 2012's I have tasted so far. These two wines will be reviewed in the March issue.

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

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