Review of Washington Wines Blog
Can There be Too Many Tasting Rooms?
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:08

In my Review Blogs of April 30 and May 7, I mentioned that there are five tasting rooms that have opened in Downtown Walla Walla before Spring Release Weekend. The June issue of the Review of Washington Wines, which goes on line May 29, will report on these new tasting rooms. A similar proliferation has occurred in Woodinville. I was just there last Friday and noticed more tasting roomns around the vechicular roundabout by the Hollywood School. I visited new tasting rooms for Sparkman Cellars and Lauren Ashton Cellars (reports on these and others will be in the June issue).

This proliferation raises the question, "Can there be too many tasting rooms?" A few months ago, a friend forwarded an article from the Healdsburg California newspaper about locals complaining about too much traffic and too many people teeming around the downtown wine tasting rooms. Similar complaints have been voiced in Walla Walla.

The answer is simply that the wine industry, wherever it is, is a benefit to the local economy. It brings in visitors who spend their dollars, not only on wine, but on lodging and dining. It also creates jobs and grows the real estate market. All this brings in tax revenue that supports the schools, police and fire departments.

Overcrowding and environmental protection may be legitimate concerns, especially in the Woodinville area where county planners has restricted development in the agricultural areas surrounding the city. Another alarm has been sounded in Walla Walla with news of vineyard developers (with some out of state investors, including Chinese) purchasing land north of Highway 12, not far from the Spring Valley Vineyard. Some fear that the little guys might get squeezed out. To all this, I have to say that there's still plenty of room for growth. Walla Walla and Woodinville are still far away from becoming another Napa Valley or Sonoma County.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:37
Walla Walla Valley Spring Release Weekend
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 07 May 2014 13:33

In my last blog posting, I predicted that Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla would be the biggest and best ever. By all accounts, this has turned out to be the case, with a big turnout and lots of sales. Here's my rundown of our experiences. Our objectives for the weekend were to visit wineries that are open only for special events and to check out newcomers.

On Thursday, May 1, Lynn and I stopped by Tertulia Cellars which had some new Rhone-style reds and a Viognier and Rosé that will be reviewed in the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines. We also visited Dusted Valley whose new 2012's will be reviewed in July. At Abeja, we tasted the new releases which are already sold out.

On Friday, we went to Long Shadows (wines to be reviewed in July) and to the new downtown tasting rooms: Result of a Crush (Angela Reynvaan and Amanda Reynvaan Garratt), SuLei Cellars (Tanya Woodley and Elaine Jomwe), and the eponymous Gino Cuneo Cellars, and Henry Earl Estates. Previously, we had visited Mansion Creek Cellars (Julia Russell) and Studio TwoZeroTwo (Aryn Morell and Brandon Kubrock). A special report on the new tasting rooms will be in the June issue. In the afternoon, we stopped by àMaurice Cellars whose knock-out new Estate wines will be reviewed in July.

We started Satuday off by visiting Leonetti Cellar, chatted with Gary Figgins, and then tasted the new 2012 Merlot and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon to be in the June issue. In the afternoon, we drove south to Balboa (Tom and Amy Glase) for their Fiesta de Vina Blanco, for their new white releases which will be reviewed in July. In the afternoon, we went to Corliss' (Michael and Lauri Corliss) annual gathering, where a sensational 2012 Syrah was previewed along with the 2011 reds which will be released in the fall.

On Sunday morning, we went to a brunch at Cadaretta's Glass House on the high slope overlooking the Valley from the south. The new 2013 SBS White and 2011 reds will be reviewed in July. That concluded a great and eventful Spring Release Weekend.



A Grenache Tasting / More New Tasting Rooms
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 21:23

The PAWS Grenache Tasting

On Friday, April 25, Lynn and I hosted the monthly PAWS (Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers) tasting. The theme was Grenache. Seven wines were poured blind and ranked in order of preference by each taster. The lowest scoring (the total of each wine's cumulative ranking) wine was the winner, followed by the next lowest Here are the top three wines, with my notes and scores.

No. 1 - (34 points) - 2010 No Girls Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, Palencia Vineyard - This is a Cayuse Vineyards project. It showed a deep garnet color and seductive aromas of raspberry, strawberry, pomegrnate, crushed roses, oriental incense, and rich, complex, dry, slightly nutted flavors and a long finish. My ranking first, score 19.5/20 points.

No. 2 - (41 points) - 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle "Limited Release" Grenache, Columbia Valley - This was a surprise runner-up that shows that Grenache can age well. Not my favorite (my ranking, sixth), but the well developed flavors can explain the overall ranking. It showed a direct varietal character, medium body, and a rich, grainy texture. My score 18.5/20 points.

No. 3 (42 points) - 2010 Rotie Cellars "Little G" Grenache, Columbia Valley - With a total score of just one point more than the above, this came in a near tie. It displayed a deep ruby color and an attractive nose of dark berries, tobacco and violets. To me, it came on as being sort of Syrah-like with ripe dark fruits and notes of blueberries and creme de cassis on the back. My ranking, second, 19/20 points.


More New Tasting Rooms in Downtown Walla Walla

In addition to the tasting rooms mentioned in my last blog posting of April 25th (see below), two more are slated to open Friday, May 2nd for Spring Release Weekend:

Result of A Crush, 134 W. Poplar Street - This is a side project of Matt Reynvaan's sisters, Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt, producng attractively priced wines for frequent enjoyment.

Henry Earl Estate and Russell Creek, 25 E. Main Street (next to Otis Kenyon) - Henry Earl is new to the Walla Walla, so it will be interesting to see what the winery has to offer.  The Russell Creek winery is located near the Airport, and is now offering another tasting venue downtown.

Special Events - Other wineries are hosting events over Spring Release Weekend. Balboa, on J.B. George Road is having its Festa de Vino Blanco to showcase its new whites. Tranche Cellars is having a Bonfire at the winery on Berney Drive, Friday evening. Locati Cellars, Don Carlo Vineyard and Tero Estates/Flying Trout will be open at their wineries west of Milton Freewater. Mansion Creek and Castillo de Feliciana are having Paella Parties on Friday evening. Waters and Sleight of Hand will be having winemaker dinners on Saturday.

This year's Walla Walla Valley Spring Release Weekend looks to be bigger and better than ever.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 22:26
Washington Whites Get Serious
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 25 April 2014 12:24

Walla Walla Valley Spring Release Weekend Preview

Next weekend, May 2-4 is Spring Release Weekend, the Walla Walla Valley's biggest wine event of the year. Many wineries will be pouring new releases. For suggested wineries to visit, check the March, April and May issues of the Review of Washington Wines. In addition, I recommend three other wineries that will be reviewed in June: Gramercy Cellars (new whites, a rosé and two reds), El Corazon (some knockout reds) and Rotie Cellars (Northern and Southern Red and the new 2013 Southern White).

There are some new tasting rooms in Downtown Walla Walla to visit: Tre Nova (Gino Cuneo, whose wines have been reviewed in the March issue), Precept Brands, representing Browne Family, Cavatappi, Ross Andrew and Waitsburg Cellars (Paul Gregutt's wines which are made at Precept), Mansion Creek (Julia Russell), Su Lei Cellars (Tanya Woodley and Elaine Jomwe), and Gallery Two Zero Two (202 East Main) representing Ardor Cellars (Brandon Kubrock) and Aryn Morell's wine portfolio (Alleromb, Tenor, Matthews Cellars and others). This year's Spring Release Weekend witll be bigger and better than ever.


Our First 20/20 Points White Wines

The May issue of the Review of Washington Wines has two firsts - the first two white wines scoring 20 out of 20 points. Hitherto, all 20 points wines have been reds. They are the 2013 àMaurice Cellars "Sparrow" Estate Viognier and the 2012 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Queen's Road" White from the In the Rocks Vineyard. Both are compelling wines that meet the U.C. Davis 20 Point System criteria for 20 points, flawless and balanced wines, including 4 points for "Wines of 'noble' quality, with distinct and distinguishing character."

Does this signal a new direction toward higher quality Washington whites? Well, yes and no. There are outstanding white wines already being made in Washington State, so this is not something really new. There are already a goodly number of exceptional 19 points Chardonnays from the Conner Lee (Guardian Cellars, Bookwalter, Buty), French Creek (Maison Bleue, Sleight of Hand) and Celilo (Tranche) vineyards. The Dowsett Family Cellars' 2012 Gewurztraminer from the Celilo Vineyard scored a highly impressive 19.5/20 points (August, 2013). Abeja and Mark Ryan have excelled with Viognier, and Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica and Long Shadows Poet's Leap are outstanding old vine Rieslings. Maison Bleue and Rotie Cellars have been making extraordinary Rhone-style whites from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Stellar Sauvignon Blancs have been made by Efesté and Tenor. On the other hand, there seems to be more serious interest in white wines from the winemaker and consumer standpoints. Two wineries, Array and Ashan are dedicated to making outstanding Chadonnays. See the March 2013 issue for reviews of Array's Charodnnays. I have samples on order of the Ashan Chardonnays (made by Chris Gorman), and the wines will be reviewed in a future issue. Another winery which has stirred considerable anticipation is Charles Smith in Walla Walla which hired Brennon Leighton from Efesté to make white wines at the former Whitman Cellars facility. Given Brennon's talents, the wines are expected to be stunning. Jason Fox's Lagana Cellars is also focusing on whites and his 2013 Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc (to be reviewed in June) mark an auspicious debut for a young winemaker. All this suggests that there is, indeed, a new direction for Washington whites, one that is more focused and dedicated to high quality. More later!



Last Updated on Friday, 25 April 2014 14:45
The Playing Matchmaker Seminar at Taste Washington
Written by Rand Sealey   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014 13:53

On Saturday March 29th, before Taste Washington, Lynn and I attended a seminar called "Playing Matchmaker - Pairing Food and Wine to Your Palate." It was moderated by Jamie Peha who has a blog, "Table Talk Northwest," a forum for Northwest wine and food (tabletalknorthwest.com). The panelists were Jameson Fink, contributing editor od the Grape Collective, Lenny Rede, Esquin Wine & Spirits, Reggie Daigneault, Wine Technology Coordinator at South Seattle Community College, Sean Hails, Winemaker at Columbia Winery, and Harry Mills, Executive Chef of Purple Cafe and Wine Bar.

The seminar was stimulating and informative. Six wines were served along with innovative food pairings. The first wine was the 2012 Treveri Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling wine along with pasta in a gruyere cheese and truffle butter. The crispness of the sparkler counterpointed the richness of the pasta. Jameson Fink commented that he likes to experiment with sparkling wines for stimulating combinations. Next, an Airfield 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay was served with a meatball in tomato and mushroom sauce. The natural (unoaked, moderate alcohol) richness of the Chardonnay complemented the acidity of the meatball sauce. Lanny Rede pointed out that high alcohol makes foods seem hotter and rich wines moderate acidity. The third wine was a 2013 W.T. Cellars Gruner Veltliner from Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. This offbeat varietal paired nicely with chicken and rice in a Thai peanut sauce. Columbia winemaker Sean Hails commented that when making wines, he also thinks about what dishes they would go with. The fourth wine was a 2008 Cavatappi Cellars Sangiovese with beef in a sweet-sour reduction sauce, which brought out the savory, dry character of the wine. The 2011 Patterson Cellars Cabernet Franc also went well with the braised beef which had an apple component to the sauce. Reggie Daigneault said she likes Cabernet Franc which is a great food wine, earthy, sweetish and complex. The final wine was the 2012 Columbia Winery Merlot. The direct, minerally character of Merlot which does well in Washington, makes a fine food wine, accrding to Sean Hails. Purple Cafe chef, Harry Mills concluded by saying that he constantly thinks about wine when creating new dishes. This seminar showed how well Washington wines play well with food.


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