- Written by Rand Sealey
A year ago, in my blog for Thanksgiving Week, I wrote: "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, and it should be celebrated with our own wines."
This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving here in Walla Walla with Ted and Joyce Cox and other friends. I will be supplying the wines. Here's what I'll be bringing:
A couple of bottles of Washington sparkling wines to go with the appetizers. Isenhower Cellars' Marsanne Brut and Hard Row to Hoe "Good in Bed."
A couple of bottles of Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling for those who like a slightly sweet white (the 2014 clocks in at 1.25% residual sugar - just right).
A couple of bottles of "GSM" wines: the combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre seems to be made to order for the savory spices and herbs of Thanksgiving.
A couple of bottles of Washington Syrah for those liking a bolder, yet compatible red. A Reynvaan will provide just the right amount of Rocks earthiness to match the turkey, and a Waters will offer suppleness and spice.
For dessert, I will take a Washington Port-style wine from the Thurston-Wolfe Winery.
When you choose wines for Thanksgiving, think aromatics, wines whose aromas and flavors can complement the spice and herb aromas and flavors of the turkey and all the fixings. Steer away from dry whites such as Chardonnay and tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want a "Bordeaux" wine, try a Carmenère or a Cabernet Franc.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On November 3, the Sons of Bacchus and Daughters of Dionysus assembled for a tasting of red wines scoring 96 to 100 points in the leading wine rating publications, The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, International Wine Cellar and the Wine Enthusiast. It was a memorable tasting as all the wines were outstanding, some more so than others. Because there were so many different types and varieties involved, there was no attempt to score a "winner." Here are the wines in order of tasting, with my notes. This time, I used the 100 point scale instead of my usual 20 points.
2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chareauneuf du Pape - Deep ruby colored, this showed a lovely perfumed nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis and orange peel, with deliciouly silky, mouth-encompassing sweetish flavors. 96 points.
2010 Domaine Charavin Chateauneuf du Pape - Deep ruby colored, this wine possessed a smoldering nose of dark fruits and dried roses, The flavors were deep and minerally, with notes of licorice, coffee and spices, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 97 points.
2011 Chapoutier Saint Joseph, Le Clos - This showed a deep crimson color and aromas of crushed roses, blackberry, blueberry and cassis. The flavors were classically structured, yet fleshy, the essence of Syrah, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 96 points.
2009 Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac-Leognan - This Bordeaux showed a deep crimson color, with aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum. The deep. penetrating flavors were tightly structured, with Cabernet dominant, with tannins evident, but unobtrusive, followed by a long, complex, deftly oaked finish. 97 points.
2001 Castel Giancondo Brunello di Montalcino - This was a lovely wine, brilliant crimson colored, with seductive aromas of bright red fruits, orange peel and perfumes. The flavors were fleshy, yet taut, with touches of leather and toast, followed by a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 97 points.
2006 Bodegas Muga "Prado Enea" Rioja Reserva - This is Muga's top wine. It showed a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of dark fruits and a hint of tar. The mid palate was weighty, again expressing dark fruits, laced with oak and dryish tannins counterpointed by a creamy finish. 97 points.
2005 Chateau Rausan-Segla, Margaux - This Bordeaux was a stunner. It offered a deep, purplish color and a rich dark fruit nose of blackberry, cherry and currant, with scents of roses and violets. The flavors were deep and full-bore, well-oaked and spice, with a long, long, complex finish. 98 points.
1994 Dominus, Napa Valley - This came on as being somewhat earthy and rustic, with a nose of ripe, maturing fruits, along with notes of spice and orange peel. The flavors were more thick and deep than complex. 94 points.
2012 Clos Morgander Priorat - This Spanish red exhibited a deep crimson color and perfumed aromas of dark fruits, roses and violets, with deep, spicy firmly structured, yet fleshy flavors, with super ripe tannins. 94 points.
2010 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello di Montalcino, Vigna Pianrosso - I brought this wine (rated 97 points by the Wine Advocate). It did not show as boldly as some of the other wines, but was lovely. Medium ruby colored, it offered seductive aromas of rose petals and orange peel, with elegant, almost feminine, medium-bodied flavors, with touches of leather and spice on the long finish. 96 points.
2006 Deus ex Machina Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos St. Jean - This "God out of the Machine" showed a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of dark berries and plums, with scents of sweet tobacco and cedar. The flavors were deep and concentrated, with doses of sweet oak and satiny, dry tannins. 96 points.
2004 Achaval Ferrer Finca Altimiri, La Consulta, Mendoza - This was a striking Argentina wine, from 80+ year old vines. Opaque purplish colored, it emited sweetish aromas of dark fruits, crushed roses, and violets. The flavors were massive, yet fleshy, packed with licorice, chocolate and earth, followed by a long, deep, penetrating finish. 98 points.
2010 Chateau Lynch-Bage, Pauillac - This was the star of the evening. Deep crimson colore, it possessed rich aromas of cedar, roses, violets. The flavors were beautifully structured, with vivid dark fruits that enveloped the palate. The back picked up integrated toasty oak and ripe tannins, followed by an endless finish. Will have a great future. 99 points.
Thanks to Brian Rudin and Ashley Trout for hosting this spectacular tasting at their new home on School Avenue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This year, Lynn and I took in Fall Release Weekend (November 5-8) in a quick, short pace. Due to having been in Seattle on Friday, we started making our rounds on Saturday. First, at Reynvaan Family Vineyards, the 2014 Syrahs were previewed. It was an interesting vintage: the wines came on as being elegantly styled, with perfumed aromas and classic structure. A full report will be in the January 2016 issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
After Reynvaan, we went to Jon Meuret's Maison Bleue downtown. There, the 2011 "Le Midi" Upland Vineyard Grenache and the 2012 "Bourgeois" Walla Walla Valley Grenache (reviewed May) were poured. The 2011 was more aromatic and structured, and the 2012 more openly fruity and fleshy, characteristic of the respective vintages. We also stopped at Kerloo Cellars where we tasted the 2013 Upland Vineyarrd Grenache and the 2013 Stone Tree Vineyard Malbec (both fine wines, to be reviewed in January). Lynn stayed on at Maison Bleue to help out while I drove over to Long Shadows to taste the superb (19.5/20 points) 2013 Pedestal Merlot, Pirouette Red and Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in the December issue.
In the afternoon, I went over to Billo and Pinto Naravane's Rasa Vineyards on Powerline Road. There, I tasted the outstanding (19+ to 19.5 points) 2012's: QED Convergence GSM Red, Principia Reserve Syrah, Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon, Creative Impulse Cab-Merlot, and in Order to form a more perfect Union Red, all to be reviewed in January. In the evening, Lynn rejoined me at the Corliss Fall Release event. Previews of the 2013 Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were served from the barrels. Library magnums of the 2005 Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabermet Sauvignon were also poured, delicious, elegan wines, just maturing. I especially liked the rich, earthy, aromatic Cabernet Franc. The newly released 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (reviewed November) was also poured.
The turnout and activity for Fall Release was excellent, particularly on Saturday afternoon when the tasting rooms were crowded. Wineries also said Sunday was busy as well, and even on Monday.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This weekend - November 6-8 - is Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla. It is when most wineries officially release their new vintages for autumn. Here is my listing of wineries that I recommend visiting.
Tero Estates / Flying Trout - Here, Jan and Doug Roskelley and Ashley Trout have a bunch of new vintages, including the highly impressive Tero 2010 Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon (19.5/20 points) and Flying Trout 2013 Konnowak Malbec (both reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines).
Seven Hills - Some new 2013's (reviewed November) will be poured, along with some library wines.
Forgeron Cellars, Kontos Cellars, Mark Ryan, El Corazon, Isenhower, Sleight of Hand - New releases, reviewed in November, will be poured at these downtown and South Valley wineries
Walla Walla Vintners, àMaurice - These two wineries off Mill Creek Road, east of Walla Walla will be having their new Fall Releases from the 2013 vintage. Reviewed November
To be reviewed in the December issue:
Buty - Two new whites and the highly impressive 2013 Rockgarden Estate Red and 2012 Rediviva Red.
K Vintners - New 2013 and 2012 Rhone style wines, including the knock-out 2012 "Hidden" Northridge Syrah (19.5 points) and 2012 "Cattle King" Upland Syrah (20/20 points).
Dusted Valley - Some new 2013's, including a tasty Petite Sirah from the Wahluke Slope.
Tamarack Cellars - A new 2013 "Spicebox" Rhone-style red and a tasty 2013 Petit Verdot.
Gramercy Cellars - The 2013 "Third Man" Grenache, 2013 "The Deuce" Syrah, and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ardor Cellars - Brandon Kubrock will have some new 2013 Rhone-style reds, including the impressive Lawrence Vineyard (19 points) and Art den Hoed (19+ points) Syrahs.
Foundry Vineyards - Some fine 2012's, including a Sangiovese, Syrah, and BDX Artisan Blend.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd will have stellar new 2013's - "Swordfight" 50/50 Mourvedre/Syrah, "Homage" (75% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 10% Grenache) and "Little g" Grenache - all scoring 19.5/20 points.
I will be visiting Reynvaan (reviews of the 2014's to be in the January 2016 issue), Rasa Vineyards, Corliss and Maison Bleue (new Domaine Meuret "Burgundy-style" wines). Next week, I will have a report on these.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Which grape varieites grown in Washington are trendy and which ones aren't? Here's my guide to them. I have indicated their directional positions using the face a clock. Twelve or one o'clock indicates a very trendy grape, Two o'clock is moderately so. Three o'clock is neutral and four or five o'clock means declining popularity. Here's my rundown:
Chardonnay - Three o'clock. The state's most widely planted variety is neither trendy nor declining in popularity. There are some highly impressive Chardonnays from specialists such as Array and Ashan, though.
Vioginier - Four o'clock. The trend for this grape has past its peak due to proliferation and quality variability. Some, suck as àMaurice and Reynvaan do continue to impress.
Riesling- Four o'clock. This is an underated variety and continues to be so. Most fans prefer the sweeter versions. But there are some fine Alsace-style dry ones. I recently tasted a superb version from Chris Dowsett (to be reviewed in December).
Sauvignon Blanc - Four o'clock - This variety produces fine dry wines, but tend to be eclipsed by the more prestigious Chardonnay grape.
Semillon - Four o'clock - Like Sauvignon Blanc, there are some noteworthy wines, but generally low profile.
Gewurztraminer - Three o'clock. This is another low profile grape that doesn't stant out. But for cognoscenti, some specialists such as Dowsett and Annalema turn out attention-getting wines.
Chenin Blanc - Three o'clock. - This variety remains in neutral, although L'Ecole No. 41 and Waitsburg Cellars make some fine ones, and excellent value.
Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul - Two o'clock. These are too recent to be really trendy, but there is growing interest in varieties originating in the Rhone Valley
Red "BDX" Varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon - One o'clock. Cabernet Sauvignon is still considered the "king" of red wines. The best ones continue to burnish that variety's reputation. There are, however, a lot of mediocre commercial ones.
Merlot - Three o'clock. This variety was highly trendy two decades ago, but now remains in neutral, taking a back seat to Cabernet Sauvignon. There are wineries making very fine Merlots, but few are staking their reputations on it.
Cabernet Franc - Two o'clock. This is somewhat trendy, but not catching on fire.
Petit Verdot - Two o'clock. This has been billed at a Bordeaux variety and often put in "BDX" blends. But hardly any Petit Verdot is grown in Bordeaux, but the grape does grow well in Washington State.
Malbec - Two o'clock. This, too has often beem represented as a "Bordeaux" grape, although little is grown there. It is grown principally in Cahor, in France's Lot Valley. There are some Malbec specialists such as Ashley Trout and Anna Schafer (àMaurce) to make it a noteworthy grape.
Red Rhone Varieties
Syrah - Two o'clock. This is considered the "king" of Rhone varietals, not as much so as Cabernet Sauvignon, but enough to make it trendy. The cult Syrahs from Cayuse, No Girls and Reynvaan are on waiting lists and register at twelve o'clock.
Grenache - Two o'clock. This is somewhat trendy, mainly as a niche medium bodied wine. The cult versions - Cayuse God only Knows, No Girls, K Vintners "The Boy." register one o'clock.
Mourvèdre - Two thirty o'clock. This seems to be just semi-trendy, not as exciting as Syrah or Grenache, but, from some wineires, well regarded. Used more in "GSM" blends than as a varietal.
Cinsault, Counoise - Three o'clock. These two Rhone varietal are so low profile, that they are in neutral. There are some interesting versions.
Petite Sirah - Two o'clock. This isn't either a Rhone variety or a Syrah, but Duriff, originating in South France. But it grows well in Washington and makes interesting robust wines, such as those from Thurston Wolfe and Dusted Valley.
Pinot Noir - Three o'clock. Oregon's Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs are eclipsing those from elsewhere. But there are some fine ones from the Columbia Gorge and some small pockets of the Walla Walla Valley.
Sangiovese - Three o'clock. Tuscany's premier grape, is more of a niche variety here. Mostly medium bodied wines, without great popularity. There are some nice ones, though.
Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera - Three o'clock. Not much of these Piedmont varieties are grown in Washington State, so there is not enough to indicate a trend.
Tempranillo - Two thirty o'clock. Spain's premier grape has made limited impact in Washington State, so just semi-trendy. Gramercy Cellars, Kerloo Cellars and Salida (Doug McCrea) make some noteworthy ones.