Review of Washington Wines Blog
Harvest 2013 Update
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 05 September 2013 21:58

This is a brief update since my last posting of 30 August. Since then, weather in Eastern Washington has cooled a bit, but not by much with temperatures in the mid to upper eighties. A few days ago, I saw LeAnn Hughes, owner of the Patina Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. She said she was hoping for cooler temperatures, for more "hang time." What this means is that when grapes ripen quickly, they develop less phenols, and, hence, less aromatics which contribute to the wines' complexity. This is analagous to the 2009 vintage when a hot summer resulted in grapes ripening quickly, and produced ripe, fruit forward wines. There were many very fine wines in 2009, but they will not be a long lived as the 2010's from a protracted harvest year.

Nevertheless, many growers are enthusiastic about the prospects for this year's harvest, using words like "fantastic" and "incredible" along with Facebook pictures of purple grapes. Most winemakers are expecting harest to be about two weeks away, which, if things get a bit cooler, that may induce grapes to develop more extracts and phenols. Things can change quickly, and, as the saying goes, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Stay tuned!


The Next Review Blog to be on September 16th.

Tomorrow, we will be leaving Walla Walla for Chelan, where we will visit some wineries (to the reviewed in the October issue) and the Methow Valley (for some hiking). The next Review Blog will be posted after my return.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 13:42
Wine News and a Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 30 August 2013 13:18

Harvest 2013 Imminent

Around the state, winemakers and vineyard managers are gearing up for this year's grape harvest. In fact, Woodward Canyon harvested its Estate Sauvignon Blanc last Tuesday and Wednesday. Many vineyards will start harvesting right after Labor Day. Weather in Eastern Washington has been consistently seasonable with highs in the low to mid '90's. A thunderstorm on the evening of August 25th had negligible effect. The grapes are ripening quickly and wineries and growers have been posting Facebook pictures of purple colored clusters. Stay tuned!


Waters Sold to Tero Estates

On August 23rd, the sale of the Waters Winery on J.B. George Road to Tero Estates, near Milton-Freewater, was announced. Waters' winemaker, Jamie Brown, will continue to make his winery's wines. This aquisition will greatly expand the Tero/Flying Trout portfolio to inclue Syrahs and Washington whites. Tero co-owner, Mike Tembruell, is pleased to have his beloved Syrahs as well as the Bordeaux varietals of the Windrow Vineyard. I have always been impressed with Waters' wines, so this merger makes for a powerful combination.


The SOB Pinot Gris Tasting

Last Wednesday, August 28th, the Sons of Bacchus convened at Trey Busch's (Sleight of Hand) home for a tasting of international Pinot Gris whites. Fifteen wine were tasted, some from Alsace, some from Oregon and Washington, and some from the Italian Venezia and Alto Adige regions. This time, there was no taste-off of the top wines from each of the flights, so here are the top four, with my notes.

2010 Weinbach Clos de Capcins, Cuvée Ste. Catherine Pinot Gris

This was an opulent classic Alsace Pinot Gris. Medium gold colored, it emited rich aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, anise and scents of lilac and honeysuckle. On the palate, the wine was creamy textured, with touches of mango and squeezed mandarin orange, along with slatey minerals on the lingering finish. 19+/20 points.

2010 Kientzler Pinot Gris d'Alsace

Light gold colored, this offered an intriguing, smoky nose of pear, peach, lilac and wet stone. The palate showed typical Alsace Pinot Gris richness and minerality, along with notes of grape skin, creme fraiche and hazelnuts. Bright, juicy fruit acids gave the wine vibrancy. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Jermann Pinot Grigio, Venezia-Gulia

This wine showed terrrific varietal purity. Pale gold colored, it had a floral nose of pear-apple, grapefruit, lilac and wildflowers. The flavors were fairly direct, all about varietal character and slatey terroir, with a fresh, clean, lively finish. I brought this wine, purchased at Esquin for $29. 18.5/20 points.

2012 Claiborne & Churchill Pinot Gris, Central Coast

This was a surprise winner fron California in the fourth flight. It showed a medium gold color and aromas of pear, peach, anise and hazelnuts. The flavors were ripe, crisp and focused, with touches of waxy fruits, followed by a crisp, minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.

As for the rest, the Washington and Oregon versions were pleasant, uncomplicated wines, along with some ripe Alsatians and fairly direct northern Italian ones.

Afterwards, Erik McLaughlin (Seven Hills Winery) uncorked this phenomenal Alsatian dessert wine:

2000 Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg de Turckheim Pinot Gris, Vendange Tardive

Deep copper hued, this wine had an opulent, seductive bouquet of super ripe pear, peach, apricot and papaya, with scents of roasted nuts, orange peel and oriental perfumes. The flavors were rich and sweet, yet never cloying, retaining vibrant fruit acids. The back revealed sensations of spiced spiced orange peel, creme brulée and toasted nuts, with the acids continuing to impart grip through the lingering, decadent finish. 20/20 points.




Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 14:23
More on the 1980's Washington Wine Decade: Waterbrook
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 22 August 2013 16:32

Two weeks ago, my Review of Washington Wines Blog posting was about "The 1980's: a Pivotal Decade for Washington Wines." In it, I should have mentioned one winery that had a tremendous impact: Waterbrook. Last week, I received the following email from Chuck Reininger of Reininger Winery:

"I enjoyed your "1980's" blog but thought that I must give a plug for Waterbrook which started in 1984 with a focus on high quality affordable wines (Cab, Merlot and Chardonnay). Eric Rindal and Janet Byerley were very magnanimous and instrumental in the start of of many Washington wineries.

Here are some of them:

L'Ecole No. 41 - Eric was the Fergusons' cellarmaster when they started in 1983.

Seven Hills - Waterbrook made the first couple of vintages of Seven Hills Winery for Dr. McClelland and Dr. Hendricks.

Glen Fiona - Rusty Figgins made his first wines at Waterbrook

Reininger - Eric, Janet and Brian Carson were my mentors, From its start, I worked on and off at Waterbrook until starting Reininger.

Cayuse - Christophe, not knowing English, came from France to intern at Waterbrook and in 1997 began making his wines there with much help from them. He made his wines at Waterbrook under the tutelage of Eric for several vintages.

Tamarack - Ron Coleman worked in marketing for Waterbrook and received considerable guidance from them.

Three Rivers - It produced its first vintages there with Charlie Hoppes as winemaker. Charlie was once Waterbrook's assistant winemaker before he became a winemaker for Ste. Michelle.

Januik - After leaving Ste. Michelle, Mike Januik started his winery at Waterbrook.

JM Cellars - This winery was started at Waterbrook.

The above is only a partial list. Eric Rindal's and Janet Byerley's tremendous involvement and impact on the formative years of the Walla Walla Valley AVA and the Washington Wine industry, sadly, are being forgotten."

Thanks, Chuck, and I have this to add:

Waterbrook is now part of the Precept Brands portfolio and is the name of a 250,000 case capacity winery on Highway 12, twelve miles west of Walla Walla. The brand is ubiquitous on supermarket wine shelves. Few consumers are aware that the winery was founded in 1984 by an adventurous young couple.

I remember in the 1980's, that Eric would came to Esquin from time to time to pour his wines and talk about them. That was a part of the Waterbrook contribution to the growth of the Washington wine industry during that pivotal decade of the 1980's.


Bryant House and Bryant Barn Vacation Rentals

Coincidentally, yesterday evening, Lynn and I were at an Open House for Janet Byerley's (co-founder of Waterbrook) vacation rental properties on Bryant Avenue in Walla Walla. The Bryant House unit is a spacious craftsman style bungalow with a patio, large yard and pool. This can be seen at www.vrbo.com/393713. The Bryant Barn has a contemporary open concept living space with a loft bedroom (and an additional bed in the large wine barrel outside!). Go to www.vrbo.com/485602. They're very nicely done.







Last Updated on Thursday, 22 August 2013 17:42
Walla Walla Restaurant Reviews
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 14 August 2013 15:25

The past couple of times we've eaten out, it occured to me that it's been at least two years since I've written about the restaurant scene in the Walla Walla Valley. Here are my reports on a few restaurants we've dined at recently.


Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen - As the name suggests, Saffron takes its culinary approach from the the old world and gives the food a modern touch. There are tasty veggie and seafood appetizers on the menu, pizza-like flatbreads, pastas and entrees. The pasta dishes are generous - the Agnolotti with rabbit ragout that I had would have been enough for two. There is a diverse wine list, weighted to Italy and Spain, all well priced.

The Bank and Grill - This is located in Milton-Freewater, eight miles south of Walla Walla, in a renovated bank building (hence the name) on Main Street. Paul Freeman is a master griller, He can make any cut of beef or pork and make it tender and tasty. And Jeannine Gordon's slaw is a classic. Much of the time, the team is in demand for catering for events such as Balboa Winery's Barn Dance last month. But the restaurant is open Wednesday and Thursday (you must call in your reservation by 2 p.m.). Twenty dollars gets you a generous cut of meat, a baked potato and Jeannine's famous slaw. Wine corkage is a mere ten dollars. This is definitely worth the drive down to M-F for.

The Marc - This is the Marcus Whitman hotel's signature restaurant. Chef Antionio Campolio is a recipent of the James Beard Foundation Award and orchestrated a fabulous dinner at the James Beard House last December which we attended. If you like king salmon, the Marc is the place to go. There are also other delicious dishes to choose from. The wine list is extensive, with many Walla Walla Valley wineries represented.

The Vineyard Lounge - This is the Marcus Whitman's casual drinking and dining locale. It is a popular after work hang out for winery folks.

Public House 124 - Located at 124 East Main Street, this is another popular after work hangout. It has a well-stocked bar and limited selection of local wines. It serves up colossal tasty burgers among other casual dining options. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Brasserie Four - This is a French bistro-style restaurant on 4 East Main Street. The scallops and mussels are delicious. And the daily specials are well-chosen. There are good wine by the glass choices and one can select a wine off the shelf to have by the bottle, or a sparkler or white from the cooler. This is a great place for lunch as well as dinner.



Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 16:24
The 1980's: a Pivotal Decade for Washington Wines
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 17:45

Recently, Washington wine events of the early 1980's have been noted, particularly the 30th anniversary of the Yakima Valley American Viticultural Area, established in 1983. Looking back, I see that decade as a pivotal one for Washington wines, one in which the state emerged as a significant wine producing region. Here's my year by year retrospective of highlights of the period, from one who has been in the wine business during that decade.

1980 - This was the year of the Mount Saint Helens volcanic eruption. It also marked the tenth anniversary of Esquin Wine Merchants which I owned from 1970 to 1997. Back then, I sold mostly French and German wines and only a handful of ones from Washington.

1981 - In that year, there were 20 wineries, including Woodward Canyon which was founded by Rick Small. Statewide, two million gallons of wine was produced.

1982 - Riesling is still king, but Merlot becomes the premier red grape, largely due to the success of Leonetti Cellar in pioneering that variety.

1983 - The Yakima Valley becomes Washington state's first American Viticultral Area, designated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). That year, Baker and Jean Ferguson founded L'Ecole No. 41 in the Walla Walla Valley. This year, the present owners Megan and Marty Clubb celebrated the winery's 30th anniversary. Doctors McClellan and Hendricks began planting the Seven Hills Vineyard.

1984 - The Walla Walla Valley and Columbia Valley AVA's were established, meaning Washington wines no longer had to be marketed as "Washington State" wines.

1985 - Esquin begins carrying a wider selection of Washington Wines, including Leonetti and Woodward Canyon, but the selection is still dwarfed by European wines.

1986 - Syrah rises as an important red varietal, especially since Mike Sauer's plantings at the Red Willow vineyard, at the behest of Columbia Winery's David Lake.

1987 - The Washington Wine Commission is formed to raise awareness of Washington wines through targeted marketing and promotions.

1988 - The First Annual Auction of Washington Wines is held, raising money for Children's Hospital. The Seven Hills Winery is founded by fourth generation Walla Walla Valley farmer, Casey McClellan.

1989 - This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the "California Wine Law" which allowed private retailers to sell out of state wines, besides Washington state ones. This milestone was commemorated by Saluté, a wine industry seminar and dinner that I helped organize.

This decade marked the expansion of the Washington wine industry. The following decade, the number of wines grew to 150, and then grew exponetially to over 750 today. The growth of Washington wine has been built on the developments of the 1980's. I witnessed those times and know how momentous they were.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 August 2013 18:26

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