Review of Washington Wines Blog
Harvest Update III / Entwine 2013
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 14:14

Harvest 2013 Update

The wine harvest gods seem to be smiling now, as fair, but cool, weather has come to eastern Washington, following the rainy weather of early October. The added hang time has ripened grapes further, adding complexity to the fruit and, ultimately, to the wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, usually harvested late, is being or is about to be harvested. Other red grapes are in the vats, fermenting and pressing is under way or about to be. Last year, harvest was continuing into November. This year, in mid October, the end is in sight. More later!


Entwine 2013

Entwine is the annual Dinner and Auction to benefit the Walla Walla Community College's Enology and Viticulture Program. This year, it was held on Saturday, October 12th. Guests and honorees were greeted by Dr. Alan Busacca, Director of the Enology and Viticulture Program, and WWCC President Dr. Steven VanAusdle. The 2013 Distinguished Graduates being honored were Matt Huse (Five Star Cellars) Marcus Miller (Airfield Estates) Chris Peterson (Avennia) and Tanya Woodley (SuLei Cellars). Culinary Arts honorees were Brian Mahan (Graze Catering) and Caren McIntyre (Bon Appetit). During the reception and silent auction, appetizers were served along with College Cellars" Sparkling Riesling and wines poured by participating wineries. During the four course dinner, the live auction proceeded with such items as a Dinner with Philippe Michel and Brandon Kubrock, a custom wine rack with wines (some donated by yours truly), a terroir tour with "Dr. Dirt" (Dr. Alan Busacca), and more. It was a fun filled evening, and we came home with some goodies, including four magnums and a couple of private wine tastings. All this for a good cause.


Coming Soon: Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend

This year, Fall Release Weekend will be early, November 1st through 3rd. We have been visiting many wineries which have been previewing their upcoming releases, many of which will be reviewed in the November issue which goes on line a few days early, October 29th, accompanied by that week's blog, lisiting recommended wineries to visit. Watch for it!

A Two Magnum Dinner
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 09 October 2013 15:03

Last night, Lynn and I joined Doug and Jan Roskelley, their partner in Tero Estates and Waters Wineries, Mike Tembruell, Brian Rudin and Ashley Trout for a dinner at the Marc Restaurant at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. Mike brought two magnums of wines he had been saving over the years, a 1994 Chateu L'Eglise Clinet from Pomerol and a 1994 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley. It was a enjoyable and memorable dinner. Rather than decant the wines, they were carefully poured out of the magnums. First, a bit about the properties, then my tasting notes.

Chateau L'Eglise Clinet is a property located in the north part of Pomerol, not far from the famed Chateau Petrus. The soil is composed of clay and gravel, which gives the wine a distinct minerality. The vineyard is planted to 85% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec.

Dunn Vineyards is located on Howell Mountain, northeast of Calistoga, at the north end of the Napa Valley. The winery became a cult winery early on, back in the 1980's and 1990's, known for its muscular Cabernet Sauvignons. Owner-winemaker Randy Dunn has a Walla Walla Valley connection in that he directs the winemaking for Long Shadows' Feather Cabernet Sauvignon.

1994 Chateau L'Eglise Clinet, Pomerol - Deep ruby colored, this wine showed a classic Pomerol nose of wild berries, cedar and truffles, with scents of cigar smoke and sultry oriental perfumes. The dark fruit flavors were thick and minerally and penetrated into a thick core. The back revealed sensations of roasted berries and nuts, and picked up a touch of fleshiness to complement the dried, mature fruits, followed by a lingering, nutted finish. This wine ishowed signs of age, yet was still remarkably alive. 19.5/20 points.

1994 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain - This wine showed a deep, opaque ruby color and a dark, mysterious nose of black currants, dried plums and cherries, attar of rose and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and authoritative, characteristic of Howell Mountain, and composed of dried, yet still vibrant fruits. The intensity continued on the back and finish, with notes of roasted berries and nuts. As the wine aerated, age was evident, but occasional flashes of fruit emerged. 19+/20 points.

All the diners had various meat entrees, pork, lamb, beef, expertly cooked, sauced and served. The wines complemented the meal very nicely. Nearly all preferred the Pomerol to the Cabernet, but found the Dunn Vineyards to be admirable as well. Another observation about the wines is that bottling in magnums (1.5 liters) enhances the ageworthiness of the wines greatly. If they had been regular 750's, they most likely would have been over the hill. If you want to have a wine that will age twenty years or more, it pays to get magnums.

Thanks to Mike Tembruell for hosting this fabulous event!


Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 October 2013 17:27
Harvest 2013 Update II
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013 13:40

In my blog of September 5, I wrote that winemakers and growers were excitied about the prospects for the 2013 grape harvest, using words such as "fantastic" and "incredible." Now, with cooler weather and more rain, things are looking more worisome. Maturing grapes can handle rainfall so long as it is intermittent, allowing the clusters to dry out, keeping the skins intact. But the sunbreaks have become less frequent, to the point that there is real concern about moisture diluting the intensity of the grapes. The harvest is about 50% completed at this point, with most white grapes and some reds (mostly Syrah and Merlot) brought in. If the current weather patterns continue, the situation may become problematic for later ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. For more about the concern about grape dilution, see Andy Perdue's post of September 28 in greatnorthwestwine.com. As of today, the Walla Walla weather forecast is for partly cloudy or sunny for the next ten days, with temperatures in the 60's and 0 to 20% chances of rain. There are similar forecasts for Sunnyside in the Yakima Valley. Hopefully, this respite will give grapes time to dry out and get more hang time for full maturity. Lets keep our fingers crossed and remember that it still too early to make predictions. As I stated in my previous Harvest Update, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 16:20
The "Awe-inspiring" Syrah Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 25 September 2013 13:56

Last night (Tuesday, Sept. 24), the Sons of Bacchus (S.O.B.s), with two Daughters of Dionysus, got together at Kevin Pogue's home for a tasting of "Awe-inspiring" Syrahs from anywhere in the world. Wines were poured blind from all over the world: Australia, the Rhone Valley, Washington, California and even Idaho. There were sixteen wines in all, in four flights of four. Here are the top wines, followed by other outstanding and noteworthy wines, with my notes.

2010 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Funkadelic" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley. - Here the "Rocks" of the South Valley really rocked. Deep crimson colored, it offered a lseductive nose of wild raspberries, cherries, cassis, black roses, violetsand spiced incense. The flavors were thick and mouthfilling, with chocolate, Sumatra roast and Rocks minerals, followed by a richly testured dryish finish. 19.5/20 points.

2007 Reynvaan "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Brilliant ruby colored, this emited aromas of wild berries, plum, cassis and earth. The flavors were thick and almost jammy, underlain with chocolate, French roast and "Rocks" earth and minerals. The back revealed sensations of squeezed berries, creme de cassis and plum presrves, followed by a lingering fruit and terroir driven finish. 19.5/20 points.

2004 Basel Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley - Trey Busch was a double winner with his Funkadelic (above) and this, which he made while on his stint before starting Sleight of Hand. Composed of Lewis, Portteus and Minick fruit, it showed a deep ruby-garnet color and a spicy nose of raspberry, cassis, incense and oriental perfumes. The flavors were deep and penetrating, with fine varieal purity and minerality. The lingering finish showed considerable oak (70% new) for a Syrah. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Koenig Vineyards Syrah, Cuvée Amelia, Snake River - This was a surprise winner from Idaho. It displayed an opaque ruby color and intense, brooding aromas of black fruits, dried cherries and incense. The dark fruit flavors were deep and full-bore, exuding pure Syrah varietal character, followed by an intense, minerally finish. 19.5/20 points.

The following four were among my favorites:

2011 Silverback Vineyards Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley - Here, Charles Herrold's wine, produced from two barrels, showed an opaque ruby color and smoldering aromas of wild blackberries, black cherries and black currants. The massive flavors were deep and full-bore, with a meaty, earth texture and great varietal purity. The finish was long, intense and spicy. 19.5/20 points.

2009 Reynvaan "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was, coincidentally, in the same flight as the 2007 Contender, above. The group consensus favored the '07, but I preferred the '09, both served blind. It exhibited a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, cassis, orange peel, crushed roses and smoldering incense. The flavors were chewy textured and lavish, with notes of charcoal and spiced dark fruits. The back picked up notes of kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by a lingering "Rocks" mineral finish. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Lillian Syrah, Santa Barbara County - This entry from California showed a deep ruby color and the aromas showed the feminine side of Syrah, with wild berries and ethereal oriental perfumes and incense. The deep, brawny flavors, however belied the femininity, with the dark fruits underlain with chocolate, roast coffee and a finish that went on and on. 19+/20 points.

2007 Domaine Muginis Crozes-Hermitage, Cuvée Amedienne - This North Rhone Syrah showed a deep, semi-opaque crimson color and elegantly perfumed aromas of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco and violets. On the palate, the flavors were thich and sweetish, with notes of licorice and French roast. The finish was long and intense with typical minerality and earthiness. 19+/20 points.

After the tasting, there was a bonus wine:

2004 Cayuse "Bionic Frog" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - This was an awesome wine. Deep colored, with aromas of roasted berries and nuts, smoldering incense and violets, it was thick and chewy. The intensity reflected the low yields of the 2004 vintage. The back revealed notes of dried fruits, orange peel, roasted meats and burnt charcoal, with a long, rich finish. 19.5+/20 points.

This was one of the best S.O.B. tastings ever, with truly "Awe-inspiring" wines.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 September 2013 15:06
A Few Up and Coming Wineries
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 16 September 2013 13:28

As of this writing, I have just returned from a trip from Walla Walla to Chelan and the Methow Valley, and then on to Seattle and back. Over this week, I will be wrapping up the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines, so I have time for just this short posting.

During my recent travels, I ran across a few wineries that are either promising, or which have made recent strides. Here's a rundown on them.

Cairdeas Winery - Cairdeas ("Car-dess") is an ancient Gaelic word meaning friendship and goodwill. The winery was started by Charlie and Lacey Lybecker in 2009 in West Seattle, then moved to Manson on Lake Chelan's North Shore in 2012. The three wines that will be reviewed in the October issue are impressive for such a young winery.

Hard Row to Hoe - The wines continue to be excellent, but I would like to mention that Don and Judy Phelps have turned out an excellent "Good in Bed" bubbly wine which will be in a special sparkling wine report in December. The other new releases will be in the October issue.

Lost River Winery - I have visited this winery in Winthrop in each of the past three years and found John Morgan's wines to be well-made. The 2010 "Cote Wall," a Syrah co-fermented with 8% Viognier is up a notch qualitatively over the 2009 and is almost a dead ringer for a savory, earthy Cote Rotie. Lost River also has a nice 2010 Nebbiolo. Both wines are to be reviewed in November.

Bartholomew Winery - I rediscovered this winery a few months ago when I had Esquin send me the 2012 Aligoté and 2009 Tempranillo which were reviewed in July (Aligoté in the July 3 Blog). I stopped by the tasting room located in the Old Rainier Brewery on Airport Way South. I was impressed by owner-winemaker Bart Fawbush's 2010 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Reciprocity Red, both to be reviewed in November.

College Cellars of Walla Walla - I also would like to mention the Walla Walla Community College's Enology and Viticulture Program. A few months ago, Sabrina Leuke previewed the upcoming releases which I found impressive. I will be revisiting them soon, and will report on them in November. Dr. Alan Busacca is now the Director, and is sure to take the College to the next level. Entwine, a benefit dinner and acution for the Program, to be held on October 12 is also very worth attending. We plan to go. For information go to www.entwine.wwcc.edu.


Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 14:35

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