Review of Washington Wines Blog
Summertime Whites & Rosés
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 15:01

This week, there has been a heat wave in Walla Walla (this normally happens in August, not July). Monday's high was 106, yesterday, 104 and today's forcast is 98 degrees. It will start cooling down into the 'eighties July 4, and for the weekend, but temperatures are expected to be back up in the 'nineties next week. Perfect weather for chilled white and rosé wines. Here are some new recommendations.

2012 Revelry Vintners Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($14) - This is a surprisingly good Chardonnay for the price. Light gold colored, it offers attractive aromas of apple, peach and citrus, with scents of apple blossoms. The flavors are ripe and generous, yet focused, with touches of vanilla, spice and toast. 17.5+/20 points.

2012 Revelry Vintners Riesling, Columbia Valley ($14) - Another super value, this displays a brilliant gold color and aromas of pear, peach, apricot and citrus, with scents of orange blossoms, honeysuckle, clover and wet stone. The white fruit flavors are bright and vivid, underlain with notes of grape skin, grapefruit peel and flinty minerals. Low alcohol (10.3%), racy acidity and a honeyed medium dry finish gives this wine a Mosel-like character. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Bartholomew Aligoté, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($19) - Aligoté is a white grape grown in the Burgundy region of France and this is a fine example. Brilliant gold colored, it emits intriguing aromas of pear, melon, grapefruit, lilac, jasmine and lemongrass. The white fruit flavors are well extracted, yet lively, accented by grape skin, melon rind, hazelnut, basaltic minerals and lemon zest. 18+/20 points.

2012 El Corazon "V Neck" Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($23) - Sourced from the Southwind Vineyard, this Viognier steers a mid course between the tropical and crisp styles. Medium gold colored, it shows an attractive nose of pear, peach, citrus, melon, honeysuckle and jasmine. The white fruit compote flavors are fresh and lively, with notes of grape skin, peach pit and stony minerals. The back picks up poire William liqueur, melon rind and lemon zest on the crisp, lingering finish. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Castillo de Feliciana "Vino Verano," Columbia Valley ($16) - "Vino Verano" means "Summer Wine." It is a rosé style 100% Airport Ranch Pinot Gris. Pale copper colored, it offers intriguing aromas of pink peach, apricot, Rainier cherry, orange blossoms and grapefruit peel. The flavors are brisk, accented by notes of watermelon rind, grape skin and yeast (from sur lie aging) anc chamomile tea, followed by bright fruit acids on the light, dry finish. 18/20 points.

2012 Castillo de Feliciana Rosé of Tempranillo, Columbia Valley ($18) - This one of Lynn's favorite rosés. Brilliant pink colored, it shows enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, pink grapefruit, pink lilac and tangerine peel. The flavors are well extracted, with notes of grape skin (from cold soaking before pressing) and melon rind. On the back, the wine turns juicy, yet retains the distinctive dry texture of Tempranillo, followed by a lingering dry finish that is just right. 18.5/20 points.

See the June issue for a crisp, lively 2012 Chenin Blanc from L'Ecole No. 41, and a trio of delightful 2012 whites from Bergevin Lane ("She Devil" Chardonnay, "Love Struck" Viognier, "Dream Weaver" Roussanne). In the May issue are Waitsburg Cellars' "The Aromatics" 2012 whites: Old Vine Pinot Gris, "Cheninieres" Old Vine Chenin Blanc, "Chevray" Old Vine Chenin Blanc, and Old Vine Riesling. Also, see the Blog posting of 16 May (scroll down to the bottom and click on the article) for various Rosés of the season (some may be sold out).

Have a great summer, and enjoy some refreshing whites and rosés!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 July 2013 20:25
Tasting Napa Valley & Walla Walla Valley Cabernets
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 28 June 2013 13:36

One of the highlights of Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine on June 20-22 was the Panel Tasting of Napa Valley and Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignons on Friday, the 21st. Moderated by Paul Gregutt, the panel consisted of three Napa Valley winemakers, Philip Corallo-Titus of Chappellet, Jeff Ames of Rudius and Landon Donley of Spottswoode, and Walla Walla Valley winemakers, Jean-Francois Pellet of Pepper Bridge, Rick Small of Woodward Canyon and Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar. As the wines were tasted, each winemaker discussed his wine and winemaking approach. Six wines were tasted, all from the 2009 vintage. Here are my notes and comments.


2009 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($135)

This is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, with 15% Petit Verdot and 10% Malbec. It showed a dark purple color and a smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis and incense. The dark fruits were taut and focused, with notes of licorice, espresso and gunflint. The back revealed squeezed berries, kirsch liqueur and charcoal, followed by a polished finish with evident oak. 19+/20 points.


2009 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($145)

This is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon. It showed an opaque purplish color and a classic nose of blackberry, black cherry, black olive, cigar box, fennel and black roses. The flavors were thick and saturated, full bore, with bittersweet chocolate and Italian roast. The focused back picked up roasted berries and nuts, toasty integrated oak and sweet blueberries. Smooth tannins made the wine approachable, but ageworthy. 19.5/20 points.


2009 Rudius Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($85)

This was the only 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in the group. It showed a purplish color and a rich, sweetish, smoky nose of raspberry, blueberry, cassis, attar of rose and mulberry. The flavors were fleshy and mouth saturating, yet focused, with notes of Swiss chocolate, mocha and earth. The back was warm and a bit soft and juicy, with toasty oak (70% new) and moderate tannins. Jeff Ames characterized it as having a "blueberry profile." 19+/20 points.


2009 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($60)

Purplish ruby colored, this wine showed a smoky nose of dried cherries, crushed roses and oriental perfumes. The flavors were thick and chewy textured, yet focused, with notes of French roast, mocha and silty minerals. The back showed a firm grip, with a seamless texture and a long integrated oak and spiced finish. Jean-Francois Pellet called it a "complete complex" wine. 19+/20 points.


2009 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($90)

This wine is 88% Cabernet Sauvgnon. It showed a semi opaque ruby color and an intense nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, cigar box, crushed roses and incense. The flavors showed varietal purity, interwoven with chocolate, French roast, and minerals. The back revealed macerated berries, silky integrated oak and subtle spices, followed by a long satiny ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.


2009 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($40)

This wine showed a purplish ruby color and a ripe nose of blackberry, cherry and cassis, with scents of roses and hints of orange peel and mint. The dark fruit flavors were focused, with notes of chocolate and French roast. The back picked up touches of roasted berries, dried cherries and graphite, followed by a lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.


Overall, the wines were outstanding and, while varying stylistically, were nearly equal qualitatively, scoring within a half point of each other. The big difference was in the pricing. The Walla Walla Valley Cabernets were one half to two thirds the prices of those from the Napa Valley, proof that they offer higher price-guality ratios.


The Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine - The World of Cabernet Sauvignon event was a highly successful event. People came from all over the country for it. We met a couple from Honolulu and one from Texas. The format will be continued for the most part next year, with the Syrah grape as the featured varietal. It will be held June 19-21, 2014. Put it on your calendars!



Last Updated on Friday, 28 June 2013 14:36
Tasting Older Washington Reds
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 21 June 2013 13:49

Yesterday, June 20th, I attended the Vintage Tasting which was part of the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine thee day event. This tasting gave particpants an opportunity to sample older vintages than ones currently available in the marketplace. Here are some particularly noteworthty wines.

2006 Amavi Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This wine was still going strong, with fine fruit and underlying pepper and spice. 19/20 points.

2006 Balboa Sayulith, Walla Walla Valley - Composed of 58% Cabernt Sauvignon and 42% Syrah, this showed plenty of deph and power. 19/20 points.

2006 Buty Columbia Redivida, Horse Heaven Hills - This showed a complex bouquet and thick, generous flavors. 19/20 points.

2005 Buty Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley - This showed a lovey bouqet of maturing fruits and rose petals and solid flavors. 19/20 points.

2004 Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - Classically-styled, this had superb structure and aromas of crushed roses, tobacco and cedar. 19+/20 points.

2006 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon XII, Columbia Valley - Another classic with a lot of varietal character and depth. 19/20 points.

2001 L'Ecole No. 41 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - From the Seven Hills Vineyard, this wine has aged well, showing a complex bouquet and just a bit of drying up. 19/20 points.

2005 Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - This was focused and finely fruited, approacing maturity. 19+/20 points.

2005 Otis Kenyon Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - This wine shows that Merlot can age well. This displayed plenty of elegance and flair. 19/20 points,

2003 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley - This is a fine rendition of a warmer than normal vintage. Ripe and generous, yet deep, focused and complex. - 19/20 points.

2003 Reininger "Desiderata," Walla Walla Valley - This blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere was one of four wines scoring 20 points in 2012. It still showed superbly with a lovely, complex bouquet and elegant, seamless flavors and a long, long finish. 20/20 points.

2003 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley - Silky textured, yet sturdy, this is another fine example of the elegant 2003's now reaching maturity with almost ten years' aging. 19/20 points.

2006 Spring Valley Vineyard "Uriah" Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley - This Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend showed beautifully, a gorgeous wine with ample, yet focused flavors and a long, complex finish. Overall, it had great depth and finesse. 19.5/20 points.


Next week: On Friday, June 28th, I will report on the Winemaker Panel which will be discussing Walla Walla and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons. The July issue of the Review of Washington Wines will also be going on line.


Last Updated on Friday, 21 June 2013 14:31
Virginia Wines & Alsace Rieslings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 14 June 2013 13:43

Wine Tasting in Virginia

Two days ago, we returned from a trip to Maryland and Virginia. While in Virginia, we visited a few wineries north of Charlottesville and found some respectable wines, and some not so respectable ones. Here are some highlights.

Barboursville Vineyards - Located in Barboursville, about 20 miles north of Charlottesville, this winery makes a wide range of estate grown wines. The 2011 Viognier Reserve ($22) was floral and tropical, a pleasant wine. 17.5/20 points. The 2010 Cabernet Franc Reserve ($25) was smoky, ripe and supple, with bright medium-bodied raspberry, cherry and currant flavors. 18/20 points.

Reynard Florence Vineyard - A few miles south of Barboursville, this winery is owned by Dee and Rae Allison. Their specialty is Petit Manseng, a white variety originating in the southwest of France. The 2012 ($24) exhibited intriguing aromas of pear, peach and litchee nuts, with flavors of dried fruits and tangerine, followed by a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. 18/20 points.

Horton Cellars - Situated between Gordonsville and Barboursville, this winery produces a range of dry and sweet wines. The most interesting wine was a 2011 Norton ($15) from a native (non vinifera) variety. It showed a crimson color and attractive aromas of rose petals and smoke with well rounded plum and cherry flavors, finishing sweet-dry. 17.5/20 points.

Prince Michael Vineyard and Winery - We stopped here, north of Madison, on the way to Dulles. The best wines were a 2009 Mountain View Estate Cabernet Franc ($30) which was Loire-like with supple medium-boded raspberry and blueberry flavors, with notes of anise and chocolate. 18/20 points, and the 2007 Mt. Juliet Estate Petit Verdot ($30) which showed raspberry, cassis and rose petal aromas and well focused dark fruit flavors. 18+/20 points.

Some said that Viognier and Cabernet Franc are Virginia's most promising varietals. I would agree. The Viogniers were pleasant and floral. The Cabernet Francs resemble Loire Valley versions in their medium-bodied, raspberry-like flavors.


The Alsace Grand Cru Riesling Tasting

Last night, I joined the Sons of Bacchus (SOB's) for a tasting of Grand Cru Rieslings from the best vineyards in the fifty mile long strip of the Alsace Appellation Controlée area. Ten wines were tasted (one corked wine was eliminated). Here are the top wines.

2005 Trimbach Clos Ste Hune - Officially, this is not a Grand Cru, but it should be. It showed a floral bouquet, steely classic flavors and a long, finish. 19/20 points.

2008 Michel Fonné Grand Cru, Mambourg - This tied with the Clos Ste. Hune for first place. It showed aromas of pear, peach and wildflowers with citrusy, steely flavors and notes of lemon custard and nuts, all exquisitely styled. 19/20 points. At $25 (half the price of the Ste. Hune) this was clearly the best buy of the tasting.

2010 Beck-Hartweg Grand Cru, Frankstein - This showed an intense nose of pear and peach with oriental perfumes and precise, minerally flavors and a long steely finish. 19/20 points.

2011 Hubert Meyer Grand Cru, Winzenbrg - This one showed a somewhat less floral nose, with a hint of petrol, but with a penetrating, minerally palate that led to a lingering nutty-dry finish. 18.5/20 points

One wine stood out as being "different" from the others, the 2010 Zind-Humbrecht Heimbourg, also not officially a Grand Cru. It showed a rich peach and papaya nose with scents of butternut and banana and a bit of botrytis and creme brulée, although not labeled as a vendage tardive. It was an over the top sort of wine. For what it is, it gets 19/20 points.



Last Updated on Friday, 14 June 2013 14:39
Midyear Musings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 31 May 2013 13:22

As we go into the sixth month of the year, I want to share some observations and thoughts with you.


Coming Up: The January-June Compilation of Reviews

I am in the process of compiling a list of the wines reviewed during the first half of 2013. When the Review of Washington Wines was inaugurated in December of 2008, about 30 wines a month were reviewed. Then each issue grew to about 40 a month. Now, each issue has 50 or more. This is testimony to how much Washington wines have advanced in four and a half years. The six month compilation will include twelve wines scoring 19.5 points and two receiving 20/20 points. The compilation will be emailed to subscribers tomorroe, June 1st, and will be posted on your subscription page.


Is there a Signature Washington Wine?

In his on line publication, Washington Wine Report (www.wawinereport.com) Sean Sullivan has asked subscribers "What is Washington's Signature wine?" So far, the polling has been 39 out of 83 for Syrah, with blends and "no signature wine" tied at 13 votes each. While, here, Syrah is the clear favorite, there is a myriad of grapes grown in Washington. Forty years ago, Riesling was the "signature" grape, and thirty years ago, Merlot (thanks, largely, to Leonetti). But, today, with so many grape varieties and winemaking styles, there is no clearly definable style of a "signature" wine (for a discussion of this in regard to Syrah, see my blog of October 1). So my conclusion is that Washington has no single "signature" wine. Oregon has its signature wine with Pinot Noir, and California has two, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. But what does Washington have except a wide range of distinctive wines? All this may be confusing to out of state consumers, but why not celebrate diversity and encourage experimentation?


Dunham Cellars' Mike Dunham Passes Away

On May 18th, Michael Dunham, founder of Dunham Cellars, died of cancer after a battle lasting over two years. He started his career in the insurance business, and then went into winemaking with the encouragement of Walla Walla friends. He approached the wine business with the same gusto that characterized his lifestyle. Today, his work is carried on by his son, Eric Dunham and winemaker Dan Wampfler. There was a Celebration of Mike's Life at the winery on Friday, May 24th and hundreds of friends, including ourselves, were on hand to remember a fine, generous man. He will be missed.


No Blog next Week

On June 4th, we will be flying east to attend a grandhephew's high school graduation in Maryland, and then going to northern Virginia, returning on the 12th. So, the next Review of Washington Wines Blog will be on June 14th. Watch for it!


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