- Written by Rand Sealey
For the third year in a row, I was invited to participate in the judging for Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. The judging was conducted by Yashar Shayan and the article about it was written by Paul Zitarelli. The panel met in early March and the article was published in the August issue of Seattle Magazine. There were no surprises about the top winners in each category, although I did not always agree with the consensus. Here are the top wines in the major categories, with my top picks.
Red Wine of the Year - 2012 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley. This, I think is a worthy consensus choice even though it was not my top scorer. The 2012 Upchurch Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was my top pick.
White Wine of the Year - 2013 Savage Grace Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Underwood Mountain Vineyard. Again, this is a estimable choice, although not my top pick (that would have been the 2012 Sixto Frenchman Hill Vineyard Chardonnay by Brennon Leighton). Michael Savage did a masterful job of showing what can be done with Columbia Gorge Riesling.
Chardonnay $16-$40 - 2013 L'Ecole No, 41 - Columbia Valley. Another good consensus pick. I found the Sixto "Uncovered" Chardonnay to have more complexity, though.
Chardonnay More than $40 - 2012 Tranche, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard - My top choice was the Sixto (see above) but Tranche was a highly respectable pick.
Merlot $21-$40 - 2012 L'Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla Valley - A good choice, although I gave the 2012 Forgeron Boushey Vineyard the edge.
Merlot More than $40 - 2012 Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot, Columbia Valley - This was a clear choice, by me as well as the panel consensus.
Red Blend More than $40 - 2012 Avennia "Sestina" Columbia Valley - My third choice (19/20 points) in a strong category. 2012 Betz "Clos de Betz" and 2010 Corliss both scored 20/20 points.
Syrah $21-40 - 2013 Savage Grace, Walla Walla Valley - Les Collines Vineyard. Again, an admirable choice although I gave the Amavi, Walla Walla Valley an edge.
Syrah More than $40 - 2012 Avennia "Arnaut," Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard. This was the standout, both in the panel's and my scoring (20/20) points.
Cabernet Sauvignon more than $65 - 2012 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley. In tasting, I found this a classic direct Cabernet. To my palate, I found the 2012 Upchurch a bit more complex. But no quarrel with this choice.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2015 Getting Under Way
On Saturday, August 8th, we attended the Tero Estate's Block Party at the Windrow Vineyard. As we walked through the vineyard, we noticed veraison, the stage of maturation where red grapes change from green to purple. In the past week or two veraison has become evident elsewhere, and white wine grapes have already turned from green to gold. It appears that this year's harvest may be even earlier than last year's. The vines appear to have had little negative impact from the heat wave of July. If anything, current weather conditions are making for quick maturing of the grapes. Some whites are already being picked and others in the next week or two. Red grapes may begin harvesting as early as the first week of September.
Tero Estates Hosts a Block Party
Tero Estates Club Block Party was accompaned by lots of food, wine and fun, as well as veraison. The guests walked around the Windrow Vineyard in the South Valley sampling appetizers along with the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Cabernet Franc (to be released in Fall). Everyone then sat at the foot of the hill for a sit down dinner. pairing the 2014 Waters "Prelude" Roussanne-Viognier (to be reviewed in the September issue of the Review of Washington Wines), the 2009 Hill Block Cabernet, and the 2012 Flying Trout Mary's Block Malbec.
Lagana Cellars Holds an Industry Party
On Monday, August 10th, Jason Fox, owner-winemaker of Lagana Cellars hosted a special gathering for wine industry friends at the winery's tasting room on 6 East Rose Street. Wines poured included the 2013 Breezy Slope Pinot Noir (to be reviewed in the September issue. Also poured were the 2014 Sagemoor Vineyard Roussanne and 2013 Minnick Hills Vineyard Syrah (both reviewed June) and two 2013 whites, a Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Congratulations to Jason for his new tasting room.
The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Begins Tomorrow
Tomorrow afternoon, August 13th, the Gentlemen of the Road's Stopover, featuring Mumford and Sons and the Foo Fighters ensembles, along with many others, begins. Over 20,000 visitors are expected over the weekend, one of the biggest events ever held in Walla Walla. Headline events will be held at the Whitman College Athletic Field and downtown Walla Walla will be blocked off for other music events, some of them to be held in winery tasting rooms. It's going to be a busy time!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Two weekends ago, July 25th and 26th, Lynn and I took an overnight trip to the Columbia Gorge. Situated around Hood River on the Oregon side and Lyle on the Washington side, it is one of two American Viticutural Areas (AVAs) that straddle the Washington-Oregon borders (the other, of course, being the Walla Walla Valley). Here, the microclimate is transitional, between the warmer Eastern Washington and the cooler Willamette Valley.
Our first stop on this excursion was the Memaloose tasting room in Lyle, where we tasted the Memaloose and Idiot's Grace wines. We then went up the hill to Domaine Pouillon where we tasted with owner-winemaker Alexis Pouillon. Then back down to Cor Cellarns and then Syncline. Reviews will be in the September issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
In the afternoon, we drove east to Underwood Mountain to AniChe Cellars, run by mother-daughter team of Rachael Horn and Anais Mera. The wines' names have literary themes such as Macbeth's "Three Witches" (to be reviewed along with others in September). Then we drove over the Columbia River on the Bridge of Gods, to Analemma in Mosier, six miles east of Hood River, owned by Steven Thompson and Kris Fade. They make two fine Gewurztraminers and a Pinot Noir (to be reveiewed in September).
The next morning, as we headed back to Walla Walla, we stopped at the Jacob Williams Winery near Wishram. The winemaker is John Haw, who has been in the industry for 42 years. The 2010 Syrah and 2010 Reserve Zinfandel will be reviewed in September.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Whitehouse Crawford Loire Wine Tasting
On Sunday, July 26th, the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla resumed its series of tastings with wines from France's Loire Valley. General manager Jenna Bicknell selected the wines and provided tasting sheets. Here are the most outstanding wines.
2013 Domaine Lucient Crochet Sancerre ($35) - From the Upper Loire, this 100% Sauvignon comes from Bué, Vinon and Crézancy and is organnically grown. Fermented and aged sur lie, this wine showed a pale gold color and aromas of pear, citrus, quince, blueberry, and wet stone, with scents of white flowers. The flavors comprised the crisp essence of Sauvignon Blanc, with fresh, well extracted fruits. 18.5/20 points.
2011 Dagueneau "Pur Sang" Pouilly Fumé ($120) - The late Didier Dagueneau was legendary for his intense, pure Sauvignon Blancs from across the river from Sancerre. This top of the line cuvée, exhibited a brilliant gold color and intense perfumes - white flowers, white lavender and smoke - with a mélange of intense, laser-like, yet soft and delicate flavors that showed piercing limestone minerality, yet again, warm and elegant. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Nicolas Joly Savennieres, Clos de la Coulée de Serrant ($120) - Coulée de Serrant is dry Chenin Blanc of extraordinary depth and intensity. This one biodynamically grown, showed a deep gold color and an intoxicating nose of pear, peach, apricot, honeysuckle, pear blossoms and white incense. The mouth encompassing flavors were highly extracted, rich, yet dry, with piercing minerality, perfectly ripened, with precise natural acidity on the endless fine ground spice (nutmeg, cardamom, clove) finish. 20/20 points.
2002 Moulin Touchais Coteaux du Layon ($69) - Coteaux du Layon produces sweet Chenin Blanc. This one, from 20% underipe, high acid grapes and 80% late harvested grapes (for as long as 120 days) which go through a slow fermentation process. resulting in wines of extraordinary oulence. This one showed a brilliant gold color and intense aromas of pear, peach, apricot, butternut, honeysuckle and wildflowers. The flavors were lavish and super ripe, with fine acidity, and notes of pêche melba, butternut, citrus and créme brulée, followed by a long, long leesy, unctrous, yet elegant and precise sweet finish. 19.5/20 points.
The Whitehouse Crawford French Rosé Tasting
The next evening, July 27th, Jenna Bicknell put on another inpromptu tasting of French Rosés. Here are my top picks.
2014 Domaine Sorin Côtes de Provence Rosé ($13) - This was the best value of the wines tasted. It showed a light copper color and attractive aromas of raspberry,cherry and melon, with a nice, delicate mouth feel and good acidity and length. 17.5/20 points.
2014 Chateau Trinquevedel Tavel Rosé ($19) - Tavel is situated across the Rhône River from Chateauneuf du Pape and produces only rosés. Composed of 45% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 15% Clairette, 10% Mourvèdre and 6% Syrah, this showed a pink color and a fresh, lovely nose of strawberry, cranberry, pomegranate, pink flowers and white incense. The flavors were lively and well delineateed, with a persistent dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2014 Domaine de la Chanteleusserie Bourgeuil Rosé ($16) - Produced from Cabernet Franc, this Loire Rosé offered a light pink color and fresh ("frais") aromas of strawberry, cherry, wildflowers and light smoke. The flavors were light and well fruited with a crisp, vivacious finish. 18/20 points.
2014 Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon Rosé ($20) - Chinon is situated next to Bourgeuil, and also grows Cabernet Franc. This possessed a copper-pink color and a lovely, perfumed nose of raspberry and cherry with wildflowers and a whiff of smoke. The crisp, well-defined flavors danced on the palate, with grape skin extracts and minerals, followed by a fine, persistent finish. 18.5/20 points.
A Few More Rosés
Here are a few wines that I tasted over the past few weeks.
2014 Chateau de Campuget, Costierès de Nimes Rosé ($10) - I purchased this at Safeway for $8.99. Not the best Rosé, but a bargain at the price. It showed a light pink copper color and an attractive nose pf raspberry, cherry and red corrants, with scents of Mediterranean wildflowers. The flavors was light, right, juicy and dry. 17.5/20 points.
2014 La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé ($23) - Bandol is located in Provence, and is produced from Mourvèdre. This one showed a brilliant light copper color and intriguing aromas of strawberry, cherry. pomegranate, and tangerine, with scents of cherry blossoms, meadow flowers and Provençal herbs. The flavors were ripe and vivid, with notes of grape skin, fraise liqueurs and bright fruit acids on the lingering spice ad herb accented finish. The depth and terroir gives ths a plus. 18.5+/20 points.
2014 Mansion Creek Cellars "The Rocks" Vino Rosado, Walla Walla Valley ($16) - This an attractive Rosé of Sangiovese. It offered a light copper hued color and intriguing aromas of Rainier cherry and tangerine peel, with scents of dried roses and herbs and flavors of grape skin, cherry liqueur and recurring tangerine peel. followed by a dry finish. 18/20 points.
2014 Bunchgrass Grenache Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Here, Tom Olander has come up with a winner. Pink salmon colored, it possessed attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, pomegranate, and watermelon, with scdents of wildflowers and cherry blossoms. The flavors were enticing, with fresh, lively fruits, intermixed with grape skins and pomegranate seeds and followed by a dry, lightly herbed and spiced Provemçal like finish. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In my posting of 8 July, I reported on a number of Walla Walla Valley wine news items. Here are a few more.
The Heat Wave Abates, but Weather Stays Tinder Dry
Last week and this week has seen more normal temperatures, with highs in the eighties and nineties. But the tinder dry conditions remain a concern. On Monday, a wildfire in the Blue Creek area consumed 3,000 acres, and forced the evacuation of residents on Biscuit Ridge and in Scott Canyon. Rainfall this month has been negligible. This means wine growers still have to constantly monitor the watering of the vines. The vines survived last month's heat wave, but will still need irrigation to keep them going.
Another indication of the impact of this summer's drought is the report that the quality of this year's winter wheat crop is below average. The grains have developed more protein to carbohydrate than normal, making them less suitable for milling into flour for baking.
Lagana Cellars Opens New Tasting Room
In my post of 8 July, I reported that Jason Fox's Lagana Cellars would be opening a new tasting room on East Rose Street, in the location formerly occupied by Glencorrie. The tasting room opened two weeks ago. I stopped by a few days ago and tried the 2013 Breezy Slope Pinot Noir, which was a pleasurable wine, with ripe aromas and supple, yet well defined medium bodied flavors. 18.5/20 points. A full review to be in the September issue of the Review of Washington Wines. See the June issue for reviews of previous releases.
The Woodward Canyon Reserve House now Open for Summer
Last Saturday, we had lunch at the Woodward Canyon Reserve House restaurant. It features local, natural ingredients, prepared flavorfully. Sager Small, Rick and Darcey's son is the chef. At out table, two of us had the Ditalini e Ceci, tube pasta with chickpeas, pomodoro, pimenti and rosemary, the other two, Torchiette with Local Peas, ribbon pasta in a sauce of mint, geeen onion and grana padano. I had my ditalini with a glass of 2013 Estate Dolcetto (to be reviewed in the September issue). This restaurant is highly recommended.
Walla Walla Gears Up for Gentlemen of the Road
The biggest event this summer in Walla Walla will be the two days of rock concerts produced by Gentlemen of the Road, featuring Mumford & Sons, Foo Fighters, and other ensembles. To be held Friday and Saturday, August 14 and 15, this even will being thousands into Walla Walla. Downtown businesses, restaurants and wine tasting rooms have Gentlemen of the Road posters on their windows. Tasting room staffs will be beefed up in expectaction of the crowds.