Review of Washington Wines Blog
Holliday Barrel Tasting in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 08 December 2014 15:30

December 5-7 was Holliday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It was a festive occasion as many wineries had tasting rooms decorated with lights and greenery. Some also poured barrel samples of upcoming vintages. Here are some highlights.

On Friday, the morning of the 5th, I drove out West to Lowden to visit L'Ecole No. 41 and Woodward Canyon.

2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley (Barrel Sample) - This is a combination of Seven Hills and Ferguson vineyards, composed of 80% Merlot and 10% each of Cabernets Sauvigonon and Franc. It showed a brilliant crimson color and lovely aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, rose petals, tobacco and incense. The flavors were deep cored, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate and basaltic minerals. The wine turned chewy on the back with macerated fruits, kirsch and roasted nuts, followed by a lingering sweet-dry tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2005 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - The tasting room also poured a Magnum from the winery library. It showed beautifully. Deep ruby colored, it possessed an evolving nose of wild berries, tobacco, cedar, dried roses and incense. The flavors also showed maturing development, with notes of dried berries, toast, earth, chocolate, graphite. The back picked up roasted nuts, semi dried fruits and a lingering complex finish. 19+/20 points.

At Woodward Canyon, I tasted three new releases (to be reviewed in the January issue of the Review of Washington Wines), a delicious 2013 Chardonnay, a tasty 2012 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2012 "Erratic" Rhone-style red. Then, I headed back East and stopped at Reininger where I tasted the newly releasred 2012 Syrah and Helix "SoRho" red blend, both to be reviewed in February. Chuck Reininger also presented this barrel sample.

2013 Syrah, Walla Valla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (Barrel Sample) - This most likely will be blended with Seven Hills for the winery's 2013 Walla walla Valley Syrah. It showed a deep ruby color and earthy, peppery aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, crushed roses. lavender and spiced incense. The flavors were dense and mouth encomplassing, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and gravel and loess earth. The back picks up notes of dried blueberries and creme de cassis. The final blend, combining the aromatics of Pepper Bridge with the structure of Seven Hills is likely to be a classic. 19/20 points.

In the afternoon, Lynn and I went to the Tero/Waters/Flying Trout tasting room in the Marcus Whitman Hotel for a book signing of Cate McIntyre Walker's, "Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History." It is a delightful book about the history of winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley, replete with stories, recipes, pictures and more. A fuller review will be in an upcoming Review blog. Afterwards, we went across the street to Kontos Cellars' new tasting room. The Kontos brothers will be bidding farewell to the Incubators location near the airport. We also tasted the new 2012 Les Collines Syrah and 2010 Alatus Red Blend which will be reviewed in January.

The next morning, Saturday, the 6th, I drove over to Walla Walla Vintners where a barrel sample of the 2013 Cabernet Franc was presented.

2013 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley (Barrel Sample) - To be released next Spring, this showed a brilliant ruby color and enticing aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, mulberry, brambles, tobacco and smoldering incense. The medium bodied flavors were bright and chewy, intermixed with licorice, cocoa and minerals and loam. The wine turned chewy textured on the back, with notes of pressed berries, roasted nuts, and dried spiced cherries, followed by a ripe sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.

Next, I stopped at Dunham Cellars, where I tasted these upcoming 2013's with winemaker Daniel Wampfler. They were highly impressive.

2013 Dunham Cellars Merlot, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard (Barrel Sample) - Deep, brilliant ruby, colored, this possessed an intriguing nose of wild raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors were bold and dark fruited, intermixed with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and alluvial minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, mocha, kirsch and dried plums, followed by a long, chewy finish. 19+/20 points.

2013 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard (Barrel Sample) - This is a knock-out Syrah. Opaque purplish colored, it emited unmistakable varietal aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, attar of rose, sandalwood, tobacco, lavender, violets and incense. The full-bodied flavors matched the aromatics, with loads of dark fruits that were permeated with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast coffee beans, and alluvial minerals. The intensity continued on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, and creme de cassis, followed by a lavish, yet structured,  lingering spiced ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.

Then I drove back to Mill Creek Road to K Vintners where Charles Smith poured this Rhone-style blend, named for his daughter, Charlotte. To be released in the Fall, it is now available as futures for $50 a bottle.

2012 K Vintners "Charlie" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley (Barrel Sample) - A blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaault, and Picpoul, this showed a deep, brilliant ruby color and an exotic, earthy nose of wild raspberries, cranberries, black currants, crushed roses, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with deep red and blue fruits that were imbued with licorice, cocoa powder, black tea, silt and loam, The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, mocha, creme de cassis, kidskin leather and a bit of funk, all leading into a thick, savory sweet-dry tannin finish. At 14% alcohol, it showed balance as well as power. 19+/20 points.

In the evening, we went to the annual Tero/Waters/Flying Trout Winemakers' Dinner. All three winemakers, Doug Roskelley (Tero Estates), Jamie Brown (Waters) and Ashley Trout (Flying Trout) were present, and a fabulous dinner, prepared by the Marcus Whitman chefs and accompanied by superb wines, was served.


Last Updated on Monday, 08 December 2014 16:57
Year-end Countdown to 2015
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 01 December 2014 15:09

As we enter the last month of 2014, we are going into our annual year-end wrapup for the Review of Washington Wines. Here's what we have coming up in our Blog postings this month.

December 1 - The Compilation of Wines Reviewed July - December 2014. This is our semi annual listing of wines reviewed for the second half of the year. An email has already been sent to subscribers with this list. It can also be found on the subscription page (under "Your Subscriptions") by clicking on "Wines Reviewed July - December 2014" under "Emails." If you are an expired subscriber, go to the signup page of the Review Website to renew. You can do this without missing a single issue.

December 8 - Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in Walla Walla - The weekend of December 5 - 7 is a festive event, with many wineries offering tastes from the barrels and recent releases amid festive holiday decor. Next Monday's Blog posting will report on wines tasted then.

December 15 - Top Wines of 2014 - This will be a listing of all wines scoring 20/20 or 19.5/20 points for the year in the Review of Washington Wines.

December 22 - Best Buys of 2014 - This will list all wines scoring 19/20 points for $40 or less, and 18.5/20 points for $25 or less.

December 29 - The January 2015 Issue and Looking Ahead to 2015 - Our first issue for 2015 will go on line along with Predictions for 2015 and Wineries to Watch in 2015 in the week's Review Blog.

More later, and Happy Holidays!

Drink Washington Wines for Thanksgiving
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 24 November 2014 14:13

Every November, I become annoyed when grocery stores and liquor stores recommend foreign wines for Thanksgiving. The main motivation seems to be that retailers want you to buy what they want to sell. Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday, giving thanks for our country's bounty, and should be celebrated with our own wines. Here are some of my suggestions.

White wines can be tricky. Aromatic ones work better than Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Try Gewurztraminer, such Dowsett's or Domaine Pouillon's, both from the Columbia Gorge, or Waitsburg Cellars' "Chevray" Chenin Blanc or Riesling. Rhone style whites such as DeLille Cellars' Doyenne Roussanne or Nefarious Cellars' Roussanne-Marsanne, or Rotie Cellars' Southern White can work well.

For red wines, steer away from Cabernet Sauvignons which may have tannins that are a bit too agressive. Try a Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc dominated wine, such as Fielding Hills' "Tribute" REd, Tero Estates' (although the winery is located in Oregon, it is part of the Walla Walla Valley AVA) Cabernet Franc or "DC3" blend, Long Shadows' "Pedestal" Merlot. Some Rhone-style reds can work well, too, such as Kevin White's Fraternité, Nefarious Cellars' "Rx3" or Betz Family's "Besoleil" red. Syrah works only if it is not in too bold a style, such as those from the Walla Walla Valley's Les Collines Vineyard - Forgeron or Kontos Cellars - or the Red Willow Vineyard - Eight Bells - or ones with a "feminine" side such as Rotie Cellars' Northern Red, or Waters' "Tremolo" Syrah. For those of you who want something more distinctive, try Carmenère, the smoky "lost grape" of Bordeaux, such as the ones from Seven Hills or Trio Vintners.

All in all, when selecting wines for Thanksgiving, think aromatics, wines whose aromas and savory flavors can complement the spice and herb aromas and flavors of turkey and all the fixings. Happy Thanksgiving!

Last Updated on Monday, 24 November 2014 14:44
Three Recent Wine Tastings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 17 November 2014 15:36

Over Fall Release Weekend and the following week, I attended three interesting wine tastings. Here are my reports on them.


A Corliss Red Wine Vertical

On Saturday, November 8th, Croliss held its annual Fall Release Event. For that event, the winery poured its newly released 2009 Corliss Red Wine (a combination of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec). Also poured from Magnums, were the 2006, 2005 and 2004 Red Wines, also various combinations of the five varietals.

2009 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($75) - Deep ruby colored this wine offered seductive aromas of wild strawberry, cassis, mulberry, and cedar along with dark mouth encompassing fruits and earth minerals, followed by a long, vigorous, lip-smacking finish. 19.5/20 points. (A full review will be in the January 2015 issue of the Review of Washington Wines, along with the 2009 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon.)

2006 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - This vintage showed a deep ruby-garnet color and complex aromas of dried fruits, sage,bay leaf and spiced incense. The flavors were deep and fleshy, with essential minerality. The back showed expressive viscosity to counterpoint the dried fruits, followed by tannins that were beginning to smooth out. 19+/20 points.

2005 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - Deep ruby-garnet colored, this wine emited intoxicating aromas of dried fruits, orange peel, cedar, tobacco and incense. On the palate, the fruits were still vibrant and resonant, wiht notes of cocoa, black tea and earth. The back picked up roasted berres and nuts, followed by a lingering satiny tannin finish. 19+/20 points.

2004 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($180 - 1.5L Magnum) - This is a wine that is approaching maturity. It showed a deep garnet color and smoldering aromas of dried fruits - blackberry, cherry, plum - and dried rose petals, tobacco and cedar. The flavors were still rich, round and fleshy, with notes of chocolate, French roast and minerals, followed by a long, plush finish. 19.5/20 points.


An Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting

On the afternoon of Sunday, November 9th, we attended a tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs, organized by Gary and Pam Gormley, who came from Beaverton, Oregon for Fall Release Weekend. Twelve wines were poured, six provided by Gary, all from the Willamette Valley except two, one from California's Santa Lucia Highlands and one from the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley. Here are the wines I found to be the most noteworthy.

2008 Et Fille Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains, Nicholas Vineyard ($34) - This wine showed a brick red color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, bayberry and incense, with rich, ripe, textured roasted fruit flavors, followed by a lingering sweet-dry moderate tannin finish. Very well put together. 19/20 points.

2008 Carabella "Inchinnian" Pinot Noir, Chehalem Mountains ($54) - Brick red colored, this wine showed a true to variety nose of wild strawberries, cherries and cassis, with scents of crushed roses and incense. The medium bodied flavors offered plenty of charm, with earthy notes and glided effortlessly from beginning to end. 19+/20 points.

2012 Toil Pinot Noir, Oregon ($50) - This was produced by the Figgins Winery of Walla Walla. It displayed a medium brick red color and enticing aromas of cherry, raspberry, cassis and orange peel, with scents of oriental perfume and white incense. The svelte flavors were rich and chewy, with touches of dried cherries and satiny tannins. 19/20 points.

2011 Saviah Cellars Pinot Noir, Walla Walla Valley, Couse Creek Vineyard ($45) - This came from a tiny vineyard in the foothills of the Blue Mountans at 1900' elevation. It showed a medium brick red color and rich, smoky aromas of cherry, plum, cassis, orange peel and incense. The medium bodied flavors were velvety, yet well defined, with notes of chocolate and alluvial earth and minerals, followed by a ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.


A North Coast California Pinot Noir Tasting

On Wednesday, November 12th, the Sons of Bacchus and two Daughters of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of Pinot Noirs from the Sonoma North Coast, including Green Valley, Anderson Valley and Russian River Valley. Here are the most impressive wines.

2010 Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Narrows Vineyard - Goldeneye is part of the Napa Valley's Duckhorn portfolio. This showed a deep brick red color and rich aromas of cherry, black currant, tobacco, and crushed roses. The medium full-bodied flavors were nice and fleshy, with lavers of dark fruits, followed by a lush finish. 19/20 points.

2011 Goldeneye Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Gowan Creek Vineyard - From a warmer site, this wine showed a deep brick red color and rich aromas of wild raspberry, cherry and forest carpet, with rich, direct, minerally flavors that were marked by notes of licorice, coffee and dried fruits. The finish was long and complex, deftly oaked and spiced. 19+/20 points.

2012 Gary Farrell "Dijon Clone" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Halberg Vineyard - This displayed a semi opaque brick red color and rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, crushed roses, sweet tobacco and incense. The classically styled flavors were round and chewy, well focused, and marked by ripe, dryish tannins. 19+/20 points.

2008 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Klopp Ranch Vineyard - This was a dark, intense Pinot with a deep color and a smoky, earthy nose of raspberry, cherry and cassis. The flavors were eathy, chewy and tannic, with considerable depth and structure, making it ageworthy. 19/20 points.

Thanks to Lee Sanning for hosting this fine tasting.



Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 16:44
Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 10 November 2014 14:32

Last weekend, November 7-9, was Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It was a busy and successful weekend for everyone, the wineries, the visitors and the community. Here are my highlights.

On Friday morning we drove up to the end of Cottonwood Road to Reynvaan Family Vineyards. There, we tasted the winery's 2013 Syrahs which will be released next fall. They are knock-out wines, with extraordinary depth and completeness. A report will be in the January 2015 issue of the Review of Washington Wines. In the afternoon, we stopped at Rotie Cellars, where two new wines were unveiled, a 2012 "Dre" 100% Mourvèdre and a 2012 "Swordfight" 50/50 Mourvèdre/Syrah blend, both to be reviewed in January. In the evening we went to Foundry Vineyards' tasting room/art gallery and saw the opening of Marie Watt's stacked and hanging blankets installation, and tasted the winery's new releases, also to be reviewed in January. Afterwards, we went to Robison Ranch for the winery's club party.

On Saturday, at Long Shadows, some fabulous new 2012's were poured, all 19.5/20 points wines, to be reviewed in the December issue. Afterwards, there was a stop at Gramercy Cellars where Greg Harrington's new 2012's were stellar, also to be in the December issue. Then in the evening, we went to Corliss' annual Fall Release Event where a vertical tasting of the 2009, 2006, 2005 and 2004 Estate Red wines was presented (a report will be in next week's blog).

On Sunday morning, we went to Tertulia Cellars where we tasted four impressive new 2012's by Ryan Raber (winemaker) and Ryan Driver (vineyard manager). These will be in the January 2015 issue. Then we stopped at Gifford Hirlinger where we tasted a delicious 2012 Estate Malbec with Melissa Berghan, also to be in the January issue. In the afternoon, we  joined Gary and Pam Gormley for a tasting of Oregon Pinot Noirs, along with onesies from California and the Walla Walla Valley (a report to come in the next blog). I also tasted two fine 2010's from Fort Walla Walla Cellars that will be reviewed in January.

More later!



Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 17:11

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