Review of Washington Wines Blog
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
Five Wine Myths
Written by Rand Sealey   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:03

Here and there, you may have heard or read of myths, oversimplifications, about wines and how they should be served. Here are five myths I have found to need dispelling.

Myth #1 - Simple meals should be accompanied by simple wines. With this myth, the perception is that if you have a simple everyday meal, you should have a simple "everyday" wine. Quite the contrary, having a complex wine enhances the experience by enabling one to focus on the wine rather than the food. One night, Lynn and I had a 2010 Tero Estates "DC3" Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend with a rotiserie chicken from Harvest Foods and found the wine to be more complex and compelling that it had been the previous time we had the wine. So much so that I raised the score from 18.5+ points to 19+ (review to be published in the February issue).

Myth #2 - Wines need lots of oak and tannin to age well. While red wines need a certain amount of "structure" to age well, this works only up to a point. I have seen wines where the tannins have outlasted the fruit, resulting in austere, unattractive wines. Wines need fruit as well as structure to age well. I am not a fan of twenty year old wines which have had the fruit dried up.

Myth #3 Reds are for winter, whites are for summer. This is treating wine as a seasonal beverage akin to beer (e.g. stout in winter, IPA in summer). Wines are wines and should suit the meal or occasion regardless of the season.

Myth #4 - When it comes to whites, ABC rules. Anything But Chardonnay is followed largely by consumers who think they are being sophisticated by shunning Chardonnay in favor of more "exotic" whites such as Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. These alternatives have their merits, but there are plenty of fine Chardonnays such as those from Buty (Conner Lee Vineyard), Maison Bleue and Sleight of Hand (French Creek), and Tranche (Celilo Vineyard) and more.

Myth #5 - Great wines don't have to be expensive. This is only partly true, enough to generate a reverse snobbery on the part of consumers who exult in the discovery of "twenty dollar wines that taste like fifty dollar ones." From time to time, great wines do come up that are not expensive, and I have reviewed such wines. But they are exceptions, oftentimes less favored varieties such as Chardonnay (see above) and Riesling. By and large, the best wines do cost a good deal more than others. In the Review of Washington Wines, the wines scoring 19/20 or more points tend to run around $50 a bottle, and 19.5 point wines, higher. High quality does cost more, with the cost of grapes from top growers, such as Champoux, Ciel du Cheval and Boushey. and winemaking equipment and oak barrels and so on. By and large, one gets what one pays for.



Last Updated on Monday, 06 January 2014 16:25
Predictions for 2014
Written by Rand Sealey   
Sunday, 29 December 2013 16:01

After five years observing the wine industry with the Review of Washington Wines, I predict more exciting developments in 2014.


More Exceptional Wines

A year ago, I observed that the number of outstanding wines was increasing. Now, each monthly issue of the Review incudes fifty or more wines. This will continue through 2014. And there will be many more wines scoring 19, 19.5 and 20 out of 20 points. This testament to the growth of high quality wine making in Washington State.


Increased Recognition of Washington Wines

As their quality increases, the reputation of Washington wines is continuing to increase. Washington wines are getting more press around the country and abroad. (To see examples of what is being written these days, see Sean Sullivan's weekly news roundups in the Washington Wine Report.)


More Major Vineyard Land Acquisitions

This year's big news was the purchase of a large tract of land on Red Mountain by Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team. Whether it's for investment or for development, this signals major interest in expanding the acreage of Washingron vineyards, following as it did, last year's acquisition of the Columbia winery by Gallo. The acquisiton of 40 acres on Red Mountain by Duckhorn is another sign of growing interest in Washington state. We can expect to see more developments along these lines in the future.


Watch for the 2012's, but Don't Overlook the 2011's

The 2012 vintage is shaping up to be an exceptional one. I've tasted quite a few of the wines from the barrels, and find them to be ripe, tasty wines, indeed. See my December 19 blog below for a report on Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in Walla Walla (also see my report on the Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2012's in the January issue of the Review). But also pay attention to the 2011's which are well structured wines, more old than new world in style. And I have heard a couple of winemakers say the 2011's will age better than the 2012's.


Wineries to Watch in 2014

Balboa - This was a breakout year for Tom Glase's winery as the Eidolon Estate vineyard began to reach maturity. The 2012's from the barrel are highly promising. And there are some highly impressive 2011's.

Bunchgrass - Located off the Old Highway 12, this small winery is off the beaten track. But Tom Olander and Barb Comaree are crafting solid, exceptinal winers.

Cadaretta - Here, winemaker Brian Rudin is coming into his own with some highly impressive wines. Two exceptional 2011's will be reviewed in the January 2014 issue.

College Cellars - The student and faculty run winery of the Walla Walla Community College, is turning out some teriffic values.

Eight Bells - This winery is putting out some outstanding wines, especially ones from the Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. See the November issue for a report.

Frichette - With their 2011's Greg and Shae Frichette are off to a promising start at their Red Mountain winery. There will be a report in the January 2014 issue.

Kevin White - This winery is continuing to turn out amazing values. Kevin's 2011's (long sold out) scored 19 points for $25 or less. Watch for his 2012's which are sure to go fast.

Seven Hills - Casey McClellan showed his winemaking skill in turning out highly exceptional 2011's. Look for more fine wines next year.

Silverback - Working at the Artifex winemaking facility, Charles Herrold has been making truly striking wines. Watch for the 2011's and 2012's I tasted from the barrels last Spring.

Treveri - The Grieb family has been turning out well-made and attractively-priced sparkling wines at their Wapato facility in the Yakima Valley.

Waitsburg Cellars - Here, my wine writing cohort, Paul Gregutt, has ventured into producing wines, custom made by Precept Brands. See the May issue for a report on the first releases. More are to come.

Wilridge - This winery has been giving definition to the recently approved Naches Heights AVA. See the December issue for a report.

Waters - Its acquisiton by Tero Estates is giving this winery a new direction. Expect some fine new releases from winemaker Jamie Brown in the future.



Last Updated on Monday, 30 December 2013 15:46
Best Buys of 2013
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 15:58

Below, we list wines that give the biggest "bang for the buck'" ones scoring 19/20 points for $40 or less and ones scoring 18.5/20 points for $25 or less. Some of these wines may be sold out.


Wines Scoring 19 Points for $40 or Less

2010 Abeja Estate Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($30) - July

2010 àMaurice Malbec, Columbia Valley, Gamache Vineyard ($35) - June

2010 àMaurice "The Graves" Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($35) - June

2010 àMaurice Syrah/Grenache, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($38) - June

2011 Array "Dijon Clone" Chardonnay, Yakima Valley ($30) - March

2011 Array Chardonnat, Columbia Valley, Conner-Lee Vineyard ($30) - March

2011 Avennia "Justine" Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($38) - October

2012 Balboa Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($30) - August

2012 Balboa "Mith" White Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($30) - August

2008 Bunnell Family Cellar Petit Verdot, Wahluke Slope, Northridge Vineyard ($34) - March

2009 Bunnell Family Cellar Petite Sirah, Wahluke Slope, Northridge Vineyard ($40) - March

2008 Bunnell Family Cellar Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey-McPherson Vineyard ($40) - May

2012 Buty Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($40) - November

2009 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($40) - March

2011 Ch. Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen "Erioica" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($22) - February

2009 Ch. Ste. Michelle Merlot, Columbia Valley, Cold Creek Vineyard ($35) - July

2009 Corvus Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($39) - May

2010 DeLille Cellars Doyenne "Signature" Syrah, Yakima Valley ($39) - January

2010 DeLille Cellars "D2" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($40) - January

2010 Efesté "Ceidleigh" Syrah, Red Mountain ($39) - February

2010 Efesté "Joilie Bouche" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($39) - February

2011 Eight Bells "8 Clones" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($32) - November

2010 El Corazon "Blueprint" Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - March

2011 El Corazon "Tiger's Blood" Carmenère, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - April

2010 Flying Trout Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills, Phinny Hill Vineyard ($38) - November

2010 Flying Trout "Mary's Block" Malbec, Walla Walla Valley ($39) - November

2009 Forgeron Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley ($30) - February

2010 Guardian Cellars "The Alibi" Red Wine, Red Mountain ($39) - January

2012 Helix by Reininger Viognier, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($33) - September

2010 Hestia Cellars Malbec, Columbia Valley ($30) - January

2010 JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley ($34) - May

2011 Kerloo Cellars Grenache, Horse Heaven Hills ($40) - September

2011 Kerloo Cellars Malbec, Wahluke Slope, Stone Tree Vineyard ($40) - September

2011 Kevin White Winery "Fraternité" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($20) - September

2011 Kevin White Winery "En Hommage" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($25) - - September

2009 Laurelhurst Cellars "El Humidor" Petite Sirah, Horse Heaven Hills ($38) - January

2012 Maison Bleue "La Famille" Rosé of Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley ($20) - August

2012 Maison Bleue "Jaja" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - August

2011 Maison Bleue "Jaja" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($30) - August

2011 Maison Bleue "La Montagnette" Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($40) - November

2010 Manu Propria "Ex Animo" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($35) - February

2012 Mark Ryan Viognier, Columbia Valley ($30) - December

2008 McCrea Cellars Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Grand Cote Vienayrd ($36) - March

2008 McCrea Cellars "Cuvee Orleans" Syrah, Yakima Valley ($40) - March

2012 Nefarious Cellars Riesling, Columbia Valley, Stone's Throw Vineyard ($19) - October

2011 Nefarious Cellars Syrah, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard ($30) - October

2010 Northstar Estate Malbec, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - October

2010 Northstar Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley ($40) - October

2010 Pamplin Family Winery J|R|G Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($33) - February

2012 Rasa Vineyards "The Composer" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($30) - August

2011 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, Columbia Valley ($40) - July

2011 Rotie Cellars Northern Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - July

2012 Rotie Cellars Northern White Marsanne, Washington State ($28) - August

2010 Seven Hills Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, McClellan Estate Vineyard ($32) - August

2011 Seven Hills Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($35) - September

2009 SYZYGY Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($37) - July

2009 Tero Estates Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - February

2010 Tero Estates "Herb's Block" Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard ($39) - October

2010 Thurston Wolfe Reserve Petite Sirah, Horse Heaven Hills, Zephyr Ridge Vineyard ($30) - August

2010 Tildio Malbec, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($35) - October

2008 Tranche Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($40) - July

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Syrah Brut, Columbia Valley ($19) - December


Wines Scoring 18.5 Points for $25 or Less

2012 A Broken Chair Cellars Roussanne-Viognier, Columbia Valley ($25) - September

2011 Array Chardonnay, Washington State ($25) - March

2012 Basel Cellars Estate Semillon, Walla Walla Valley, Double River Ranch ($24) - July

2010 Bergevin Lane "She Devil" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($24) - January

2012 Bergevin Lane "Dreamweaver" Roussanne, Columbia Valley ($24) - June

2011 Board Track Cellars "Suicide Shift" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - July

2011 Board Track Cellars "The Chief" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - December

2011 Brian Carter Cellars "Oriana" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($24) - July

2012 Buty Semillon-Sauvignon-Muscadelle, Columbia Valley ($25) - November

2012 Cadaretta "SBS" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($22) - August

2012 Cairdeas "Nellie Mae" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($22) - October

2012 Ch. Ste. Michelle "Mimi" Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills ($20) - September

2012 College Cellars Carmenère, Walla Walla Valle, Clarke Vineyard ($18) - October

2012 College Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - November

2012 Convergence Cellars "Sunbreak" Chenin Blanc, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($19) - November

2010 Coyote Canyon Primitivo, Horse Heaven Hills ($25) - September

2012 Dunham Cellars "Shirley Mays" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($24) - October

2010 Eight Bells Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($25) - May

2012 Forgeron Cellars "Ambiance" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - August

2012 Gramercy Cellars Rosé, Columbia Valley, Olsen Vineyard ($25) - May

2010 Guardian Cellars "Chalk Line" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - January

2012 Hard Row to Hoe "Nauti Bouy" White Wine, Lake Chelan ($22) - October

2012 Hard Row to Hoe White Meritage, Lake Che;an ($22) - October

2012 Helix by Reininger Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($21) - December

2009 Jones of Washington Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope ($25) - March

2012 Laurelhurst Cellars "Vinum Vidua" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($24) - November

2012 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($21) - September

2009 Locati Cellars Barbera, Columbia Valley ($25) - October

2010 Lost River Nebbiolo, Wahluke Slope ($25) - November

2012 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Rosé, Yakima Valley, Angolina Farm Vineyard ($24) - May

2010 McKinley Springs Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills ($24) - September

2010 McKinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills ($24) - September

2010 Milbrandt "The Estates" Malbec, Wahluke Slope, Northridge Vineyard ($25) - March

2011 Milbrandt "The Estates" Ancient Lakes Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard ($17) - March

2009 Nine Hats Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - February

2012 Novelty Hill Roussanne, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($23) - July

2012 Ott & Murphy "Possesion" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($19) - October

2012 Robison Ranch Cellars Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($19) - September

2012 Rotie Cellars Southern White, Columbia Valley ($20) - June

2010 Seven Hills Merlot, Columbia Valley ($22) - January

2011 Seven Hills Merlot, Columbia Valley ($22) - September

2012 Tempus Cellars Riesling, Ancient Lakes, Evergreen Vineyard ($16) - August

2010 Tero Estates Tero Red, Columbia Valley ($25) - June

2011 Three Rivers Riesling, Columbia Valley ($15) - February

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Rosé Sec, Columbia Valley ($18) - December

Treveri Cellars Gewurztraminer Sparkling Wine, Columbia Valley ($17) - December

2012 Waitsburg Cellars "Cheninières" Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ($17) - May

2012 Waitsburg Cellars "Chevray" Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ($17) - May

2012 Waitsburg Cellars Old Vine Riesling, Columbia Valley ($15) - May

2011 Waitsburg Cellars "Three" Merlot Malbec Mourvèdre, Columbia Valley ($25) - May

2012 William Church Viognier, Columbia Valley ($23) - July



Last Updated on Thursday, 27 February 2014 16:45

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