Review of Washington Wines Blog
The Walla Walla World of Merlot Tastings
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 25 June 2015 13:27

On June 18-20, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance presented The World of Merlot for its annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine. Here is my report.


The Vintage Pour

On Thursday the 18th, a tasting of older vintages from numerous wineries was presented at Dunham Cellars near the Walla Walla airport. This was a great opportunity to sample wines and see how well that have aged. Out of the dozens of wines, there were some particularly noteworthy ones.

2008 àMaurice Cellars "The Tobey" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - This Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc blend showed a deep garnet color and intoxicating aromas of dried fruits, tobacco, cedar and incense, with deep, complex sweet-dry fruits and a long finish. 19+/20 points.

2007 Avigionesi "Capanella" Rosso Toscana - This 50/50 Merlot and Sangiovese combination offered a rich nose of semi dried fruits, herbs and incense, with elegantly styled complex flavors that showed great depth and structure, and a long finish. 19+/20 points.

2008 Duckhorn "Three Palms" Merlot, Napa Valley - Poured out of magnums, this was a knock-out. Ruby-garnet colored, it showed rich aromas of semi-dried fruits, roses, tobacco and incense, with mouth-encompassing, supple, multi-layered flavors, with notes of chocolate, graphite and smooth tannins, followed by a long, long finish. 19.5/20 points.

2005 Chateau Gaudet Saint-Emiion Grand Cru - Composed of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, this Right Bank Bordeaux exhibited a brilliant ruby color and intriguing aromas of wild fruits, crushed roses, tobacco and cedar with distinct gravelly minerality and a lingering finish. 19/20 points.

2006 Seven Hills Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - This was a fine example of maturing Merlot. Brilliant garnet colored, it showed a rich nose of ripe fruits, burnt leaves, incense and spice with ripe medium bodied flavors that unwound into a long, complex finish. 19/20 points.

2000 Woodward Canyon Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - This combination of Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge vineyards showed a mature profile, yet one with substantial fruit remaining, along with shadings of roasted nuts, grilled meats and toasty oak, followed by a long, silky finish. 19+/20 points.

2008 Tero Estates Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - This wine was maturing beautifully. It showed a sensuous, smoky nose of ripe fruits, tobacco and cedar, and supple flavors with notes of chocolate crust and roasted nuts, and a long finish. 19+/20 points.

2009 Spring Valley Vineyard "Muleskinner" Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - This was a fine rendition of the ripe 2009 vintage. It possessed sultry aromas of oriental perfumes and incense, along with supple, minerally, high-toned varietal flavors. 19/20 points.

2005 Long Shadows "Pirouette" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - This magnificent blend of 57% Caberent Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 5% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc showed a deep ruby color and intense aromas of black fruits, tobacco, cedar and exotic perfumes, along with deep-cored, superbly balanced flavors with a sixty second finish. 19.5/20 points.


The Winemaker Panel and Merlot Tasting

On Friday afternoon, from 3:30 to 5:30, a panel discussion was held with Sean Sullivan (Wine Enthusiast and Washington Wine Report) as moderator. Here are the panelists and the wines they made, in the order in which each was presented.

Vincent Lignac, Chateau Gaudet, Saint Emilion

Monsieur Lignac started off by saying that typically Saint Emilion goes through a warm summer, and then cools off in the fall, resulting in intense wines with considerable minerality, as revealed in this wine.

2010 Chateau Gaudet, Saint Emilion, Grand Cru - This showed a semi opaque ruby color and aromas of rich, dark fruits, attar of rose, cigar box and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with full-bore, dark, minerally fruit flavors, and notes of chocolate and French roast. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, followed by a long, authoritative finish. 19/20 points.

Virginie Saverys, Avigonesi, Tuscany

Originally from Belgium, Virginie purchased the Avignoesi property in 2006. Her Disidero came from the area of Cortona which is especially suited for Merlot.

2010 Avigonoesi "Desidero" Rosso Toscana - Blended with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Merlot exhibited a deep purplish color and seductive, smoky aromas of roasted fruits and nuts, tobacco, cedar and crushed roses. The flavors were deep and fleshy, with distinct Tuscan character, with a back palate of roasted berries and nuts, calcareous minerals and bittersweet tannins. 19+/20 points.

David "Merf" Merfeld, Northstar Winery, Walla Walla Valley

Merf stated that Northstar's signature Merlot, is carefully crafted to bring out ripe fruits and soft tannins, along with the vineyards' loess and gravel soils of the Anna Marie and Estate vineyards.

2010 Northstar Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - Composed of 81% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot, this wine showed a deep ruby color and sultry aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, tobacco and earth, with rich, fleshy dark fruit flavors, redolent of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and minerals. On the back, the wine turned ripe and creamy textured, lifted by ripe fruit acids on the long, warm finish. 19/20 points.

Casey McClellan, Seven Hills Winery, Walla Walla Valley

Casey pointed out that Merlot is more prone to the "insults of nature" than other varieties, requiring judicious vine management and wine making. Seven Hills has been making Merlot since 1982.

2012 Seven Hills Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - From old blocks, this 100% Merlot displayed a deep crimson color and seductive aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, rose petals, sweet tobacco and incense. On the palate, the flavors were deep and supple, with bnotes of licorice, Swiss chocolate, and loess and gravel minerals. The back picked up pressed fruits and bright fruit acids on the way to a long, lightly herbed and oaked finish. 19+/20 points.

Marty Clubb, L'Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla Valley

Marty stated that the winery's use of Seven Hills and Ferguson vineyards adds up to a distinctive profile for L'Ecole's Estate Merlot. Special attention is given to site managment, with careful canopy and irrigation control.

2012 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - This 80% Merlot, with 10% each of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, showed a deep ruby color and smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and cedar. The flavors were rich and plush, yet deep and structured, imbued with licorice, Swiss chocolate, French roast and minerally earth. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, framboise and cassis, followed by ripe tannins and acids. 19/20 points.

Renée Ary, Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley

Ms Ary stated that the winery's focus is on classic Bordeaux varietals, hence Merlot is an important part of the portfolio. The Napa Valley's Mediterranean-like climate is especially suited for Merlot as well.

2012 Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley - Composed of 88% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec, this wine offered a deep ruby color and smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, black roses, tobacco, cedar and mint. The flavors showed distict varietal character, with deep, supple, yet focused forward fruits. The back revealed a fleshy texture, with bright, berried fruits and kirsch and cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe tannin finish. A very pleasing, but not highly complex wine. 18.5+/20 points.

Qualitatively, all six wines were nearly equal, with only fractions of a point differences in scores. The Chateau Gaudet and Avignonesi Desidero were definitely "old world" in character, yet modern in style. The three Walla Walla Valley Merlots showed the distinctive characteristics of its AVA. The Duckhorn, being a blend from various Napa Valley and Carneros vineyards, showed less distinct terroir than the other wines. My conclusion from this illuminating tasting is that the Walla Walla Valley produces world class Merlots that merit any serious wine buff's attention.






Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2015 16:53
The SOB Cru Beaujolais Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 13:59

Last night (June 16th) Lynn and I attended the Sons of Bacchus (and Daughters of Dionysus) tasting of Cru Beaujolais. Unlike Beaujolais and Beaujolais Villages, the "Crus" are delimited Communal Appellations with distinctive terroir and microclimates. They are:




Côte de Brouilly




Moulin à Vent


Saint Amour

The grape is Gamay (also Gamay Noir) and it produces a typically fruity, medium bodied wine that is perfumed and very enjoyable to drink. We have fond memories of our soujourns in Beaujolais, the last time, in October of 2014 when we spent three nights at Château de Pizay in Morgon.

We tasted three flights of four wines. The rankings of the eleven tasters varied considerably, some ranked a particular wine first, another last. Overall, the scores had a range of only 3 or 4 points, very close. All the wines were good, ones that I would be happy to have on the table. Here are the rankings, with my notes and scores.

2013 Domaine des Chers Saint Amour - This is the wine I took to the tasting and it was a lovely.. Medium brick red colored, it possessed floral aromas of wild strawberries, red currants, and violets, with a velvety finish. I ranked this second overall, and found it very charming. 18.5+/20 points.

2012 Château Thivin Côte de Brouilly - This was a striking wine. Medium brick red colored, it emited smoky aromas of blackberry, plum and cassis, with deep, direct ripe fruit flavors and a rich, earthy finish. The Côte de Brouilly is a high slope, and the wine's ripeness reflected this exposure. 18.5+/20 points.

2013 Domaine Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly - It is interesting to note that two Côte de Brouilly wines came in the top three. It's a fine, although not well known, appellation. This one showed a light brick red color and lovely aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, crushed roses with silty medium bodied flavors. 18.5/20 points.

2011 Villa Porchagaso "La Reserve" Fleurie - Fleurie is typically perfumed and elegant, as was this one. It showed a medium brick red color with lovely scents of roses and violets and a charming mélange of red fruits, followed by a long, supple finish. This was my top choice. 19/20 points.

There were two other noteworthy wines, ones that I picked first in their respective flights, but didn't make it into the final flight. The rankings of all twelve wines were very close, though, so just about any wine could have been in the top group.

2009 Domaine de las Bruyierre Moulin à Vent - This was one of the most "Burgundian" wines of the tasting. Deep ruby colored, it emited rich smoky aromas of blackberry and cassis, with ripe, fleshy, minerally flavors. Well structured and balanced, I found this impressive. 19/20 points.

2011 Domaine de Gaudets Morgon, Côte de Py - This showed a brilliant cherry red color and an attractive nose of raspberry, cassis, red roses, violets. The flavors were thick, chewy and direct (typical of Morgon) with a long, satisfying finish. The aromatics gave it a plus. 18.5+/20 points.

This was a fine tasting of wines from a region that is not widely heralded. Thanks to Nina Buty for being a gracious host.

Correction (18 June) - I have learned that the final four rankings above is incorrect. First place was the Thivin Côte de Brouilly and the the de Chers Sain Amour second. There, however, was a difference in score between the two wines of ony one point, so it was a near tie.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 17:17
A Visit to Rôtie Cellars' "Rocks" Vineyard
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 14:04

A couple of weeks ago, Lynn and I had friends from Seattle, Kim and George Suyama, who were once neighbors of ours, stay with us. They are also mutual friends with Sean Boyd, owner-winemaker of Rôtie Cellars in Walla Walla. Sean invited the four of us to visit the Boyd family's vineyard in the newly-approved Rocks District of Milton Freewater American Viticultural Area.

We met up at the corner of highway 11 and Sunnyside Road in Oregon. From there, we drove west on Sunnyside, past Cayuse Vineyards (Christophe Baron's properties that put "The Rocks" on the viticultural map). A quarter of a mile further, we came to the Rôtie Estate Vineyard. There, we saw vines, comprising seven acres, five planted to Syrah, two to Viognier. They are now in their fourth leaf which means the first crop will be harvested this fall. The terrain - "terroir" - consisted of cobblestones ranging from three to six inches in diameter strewn all over the level yet well drained soil, on what was once the ancient riverbed of the Walla Walla River before it changed to its present course about 10,000 years ago. This is in a truly distinctive terroir.

The long range plan for the vineyard site is the planting of an additional eight acres and a state of the art winery. Production at the site is projected for about eight years from now, so what we saw is the first phase of the project.

After our walk about, we decided to drive across the Valley floor and up the north facing slope to the Cadaretta "Glass House." There, we could see a sweeping vista of the South Valley floor over Cadaretta's vineyards, surrounded by other premier vineyards, L'Ecole's Ferguson and Doubleback's. Here, at this wind-blown elevation, the soil consists of a thin layer of loess overlaying basalt, where the vines have to grown roots deep through the rock fissures.. It was a marvellous view, encompassing what will be a great future for the Walla Walla Valley. Then we drove gingerly down the gravel road to the valley below. Many thanks to Sean for taking us on this striking excursion.

On our way back, we stopped at Tero Estates where we were greeted by Jan and Doug Roskelley who treated us to two upcoming Fall releases, a delicious 2013 "ST" Cabernet-Sangiovese blend and an awesome 2011 Estate Nebbiolo, which showed classic aromas of roses and tar. Thanks, Jan and Doug!

See the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines for Rôtie Cellars' 2013 reds. For pictures, see the Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 June 2015 16:43
About the Wines Reviewed January - June Compilation
Written by Rand Sealey   
Tuesday, 02 June 2015 14:08

On the "Your Subscriptions" page of the Review of Washington Wines website, you will find under "Email Messages" a link to Wines Reviewed January - June 1015 (erroneously named "Your subscription" as the subject).  This lists alphabetically all wines reviewed during the first six months of this year with their scores on the U.C. Davis 20 Point System and the months in which each wine was reviewed. For your quick reference, you may want to print out a copy of this Email.

This is the most monumental compilation to date of wines reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines since its inception in December 2008. There are 304 wines listed, of which 3 scored 20/20 points and 32, 19.5/20 points. Here is a listing of these top scoring wines.


20/20 Points

2012 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - May

2009 Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - January

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - January


19.5/20 Points

2012 Adams Bench "Ursula" Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - May

2011 Alleromb Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Scarline Vineyard - February

2011 Buty "Rediviva of the Stones" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Rockgarden Estate Vineyard - January

2012 Col Solare Red Wine, Red Mountain - June

2009 Corliss Red Wine, Columbia Valley - January

2012 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Rouge, Red Mountain - May

2012 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Red Wine - Snipes Mountain

2012 Flying Trout "Mary's Block" Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - March

2012 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Vineyard Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - June

2013 Leonetti Cellar Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - June

2012 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley - June

2012 Maison Bleue "Bourgeois" Grenache, Columbia Valley - May

2012 Maison Bleue "Voyageur" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - May

2012 Mark Ryan "Old Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - April

2012 Mark Ryan "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain - April

2012 Proper Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - May

2012 Rasa Vineyards "Doctrina Perpetua" Syrah, Columbia Valley, Bacchus Vineyard - June

2012 Rasa Vineyards "Fianchetto" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, XL Vineyard - June

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Foothills Reserve" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - January

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Unnamed" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - January

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - January

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - January

2012 Rotie Cellars "Swordfight" Red Wine, Washington State - January

2012 Rotie Cellars "dre" Mourvèdre, Washington State - January

2013 Rotie Cellars Northern Blend, Washington State - June

2012 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard - February

2012 Seven Hills "Pentad" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - May

2012 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Illusionist" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - May

2012 Upchurch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain - June

2012 Va Piano "Black Label" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard - February

2012 Va Piano "Black Label: Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard - May

2010 Waters Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - February


Emerging Stars

Included in the listing of wines reviewed are ones from a number of wineries which are turning out exceptional wines that merit special attention. Here is a listing.

Amelia Wynn - Paul Bianchi has been making wine on Bainbridge Island since 2008, but has been somewhat under the radar until recently. See the June issue for reviews.

Andrew Januik - Mike Januik's son debuted with an impressive 2012 "Stone Cairn" Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain. Reviewed in June.

Don Carlo Vineyard - Tim and Lori Kennedy's winery is off the beaten track, near Milton Freewater, but the wines are worth seeking out. Reviewed March.

Full Pull & Friends - Paul Zitarelli's negociant label delivers 19/20 point wines for $30. See the April issue for a report.

Lagana Cellars - Walla Walla Community College Enology graduate, Jason Fox has turned out a very nice 2014 Roussanne and 2013 Syrah, both reviewed in June.

Nota Bene - Tim Narby and Carol Bryant have turned out a range of 2011 Rhone and BDX style wines scoring 18.5-19 points in the $25-40 price range.

somme des parties - David Rudnik has debuted with three very nicely done reds, all scoring 19 points, reviewed in the June issue.







Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 19:18
The 2014 Rosé Wines Wrapup
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 13:40

Three weeks ago, I reported on Mike Eberle's tasting of Rosés from Walla Walla Valley wineries. Last evening (May 26), Mike put on another tasting of the top Rosés from the first two rounds, the "Best of the Best." Ten wines were tasted blind in two flights, and then the top five were retasted in a final round. Here are the top five in order of overall preference by the participants.

2014 Palencia Pinot Noir Rosé, Ancient Lakes - This wine seemed to have wide appeal for its floral aromas and vibrant strawberry and watermelon flavors. I found it to be very nice, but not paricularly complex. See below for my full review.

2014 CAVU Barbera Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard - I found this to be the most interesting Rosé in the final round and ranked it first. See full review below.

2014 Seven Hills Dry Rose, Columbia Valley - Predominately Cabernet Franc (with 8% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot), this came on as and attractive, balanced Rosé, and I ranked it third. Reviewed in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines.

2014 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard - This was a nice rendition of South Rhone style Rose with bright fruits and a dry finish. See review below.

2014 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Gris Rose, Horse Heaven Hills, Benches Vineyard - Made from Pinot Gris grapes that were given extended hang time to produce its copper hue, this was a pleasant wine. Reviewed April.

It were my observatons at the two tastings I attended that ranking Rosés depends, to a large degree on personal preference. Some like them drier, some a bit sweeter. When tasting Rosés, I look for complexity, which seems to be found more often in those made in the Rhone or Provence style. Interestingly, the 2014 College Cellars Mourvèdre Rose was ranked number one overall by the three wine professionals on the tasting panel, Tim Donahue (College Cellars), Mike Eberle (Maison Bleue) and myself (Review of Washington Wines). See the June issue for my review of that wine.


New Rosé Wine Reviews

2014 Palencia "Vino la Monarcha" Pinot Noir Rosé, Ancient Lakes ($15) - This is an excellent value for those who prefer a less dry Rosé. Light copper-pink, it possesses charming aromas of wild strawberries, watermelon, tangerine, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are light and sprightly, marked by Ancient Lakes minerality, and accented by touches of fraise liqueur, melon rind and orange peel, followed by bright fruit acids on the off-dry finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 CAVU Barbera Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($20) - Light copper colored, this offers intriguing aromas of strawberry Rainier cherry and plum, with scents of cherry blossoms, rosebuds and spiced white incense. The flavors are bright and lively, with sensations of pressed juices, grapeskin and stony minerals, followed by an orange peel imbued bone dry finish. 18.5/20 points.

2014 Saviah Cellars Rosé Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Dugger Creek Vineyard ($18) - This 50/30 Sanviovese and Barbera combination shows a brilliant pink color and enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainer cherry, and tangerine, with scents of cherry blossoms, pink lilac and white incense. The flavors are fresh and lively, brimming with summer fruits and creekside minerals. The appeal continues on the back with fraise and cerise liqueurs, followed by a juicy, lighlty spiced finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($21) - Pink-copper hued, this offers attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainir cherry, pink peach and tangerine peel, with scents of cherry blossoms, jasmine and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, are enticing, with bright fruits that are accented by peach stone, grape skin and Horse Heaven minerality. The back picks up touches of fraise and cerise liqueurs on the way to a lingering, Provençal-like lightly herbed and spiced finish. 18+/20 points.

2014 Gärd "Grand Klasse" Grenache Rosé, Columbia Valley, Lawrence Vineyard ($25) - I picked this up at Studio TwoZeroTwo in downtown Walla Walla. It shows a light peach color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pink peach, Rainer cherry, pink lilac, jasmine and spiced white incense. The flavors brim with bright summer fruits that are imbued with peach stone, grape skin and alluvial minerals. The back picks up fraise, pêche, and cerise liqueurs, followed by a juicy, dry finish. It evokes a South Rhone Rosé such as a Tavel. 18.5/20 points.

2014 Ardor Cellars Mourvèdre Rose, Walla Walla Valley, Nostra Terra Vineyard ($22) - Also from Studio TwoZeroTwo, this Rosé shows a copper hued pink color and exotic aromas of raspberry, pomegrante, orange peel, rose petals and spiced oriental incense. The flavors, as well, are intriguing, with bright fruits that are imbued with peach stone, grape skin and stony minerals. The back picks up framboise liqueur, pomegranate seeds, and recurring orange peel on the way to a dry finish that recalls a Bandol from Provence. 18+/20 points.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 16:57

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