Review of Washington Wines Blog
The Compilation of Wines Reviewed July - December 2013
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 05 December 2013 14:53

Our semi annual listing of wines reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines has been published. To see it, go to the Review webisite and login. Then you will see the subscription page "Your Subscriptions." Below that, you will see "Email Messages." There will be a link to the listing, "Wines Reviewed July - December 2013" (you will already have received an email with this listing). This is a link that will be kept on the subscription page so you can access this list, as well as ones for January - June 2013 and 2012 at any time.

Upcoming postings on this Review Blog will compile additional listings and special reports.

December 12: Top Wines of 2013 - This will include all wines scoring 20/20 and 19.5/20 points.

December 19: Winter Barrel Tasting in Walla Walla - This will report on wines tasted from the barrel from the 2012 and 2013 vintages.

December 26: Best Buys of 2013 - A listing of wines scoring 19 points, costing $40 or less and wines scoring 18.5 points for $25 or less.

December 30: Looking Ahead to 2014 - This will accompany the January 2014 issue of the Review, and will include Predctions for 2014 and Wineries to Watch in 2014,

Happy Holidays!

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 15:10
The Fifth Anniversary Issue
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 29 November 2013 15:25

In December of 2008, I launched an online publication called Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines. It was devoted to describing and rating Washington Wines using the University of California Davis 20 Point System. Initially, I was going to use the more popular 100 point system until Chris Camarda convinced me otherwise during a visit to the Andrew Will Winery on Vashon Island (the wines were reviewed in the January 2009 issue). I pointed out to me that no one would buy wines scoring less than 80 points, so 100 points for all practical purposes was 20 points. Over the past five years, I have found the 20 Point System to be more consistent and less subjective than the 100 points one.

The Inaugural December 2008 issue contained 32 wines being reviewed. It included a Profile on the Reininger Winery, west of Walla Walla, where we had bought a second home near downtown in March. And other wines from around the state were included.

Since then, the number of wines being reviewd as steadily increased. in 2010, about 40 wines per issue were reviewed, then in 2012 about 45. At the begining of 2013, the number per issue rose to over 50. This is largely due to the increased number of wineries producing exceptional. Here are some of the wineries that have emerged since the inception of the Review: Tero Estates, Flying Trout, El Corazon, Glencorrie, Doubleback, Corliss, Tranche, Rotie Cellars, Corvus, Maison Bleue, Rasa, Mackey, Robison Ranch, Adams Bench, Avennia, Proper, Lauren Ashton, Convergence Zone, Eight Bells, Kevin White and many more.

In the meantime, the scope of the Review of Washington Wines has broadened as new AVA's came into being, such as Naches Heights (see the December issue for Wilridge) and new wineries emerging (such as A Broken Chair in September). The addition of a weekly Review Blog in 2009 has supplemented the monthly issues. Our move from Seattle to Walla Walla full time in February has facilitated an expanded coverage of the state as well.

Over the years, the number of subscribers has steadily increased and the renewal rate has been over 90%, with many having been with me for five years.

So this month's issue marks a milestone for this publication. It has been largely a labor of love for me, having come from the retail wine business as owner of Esquin from 1969 to 1997, and then as a consultant there until 2009. My subscription base now covers more than my expenses, although I have yet to recover all of my start-up costs. I have all my subscribers to thank for making this endeavor a success, and all my friends in the wine industry who have been so helpful and supportive.

Next week, watch for my semi annual compilation of wines reviewed from July to December 2013, and then the following weeks for listings of the Top Wines of 2013 and the Best Buys of 2013. There will also be lists of of Up and Coming Wineries, and Predicitions for 2014.



Last Updated on Friday, 29 November 2013 22:27
The SOB Amarone Tasting
Written by Rand Sealey   
Friday, 22 November 2013 16:25

Last night, November 21st, the Sons of Bacchus (SOB's for short) and a Daughter of Dionysus assembled at the home of Gilles Nicault (Long Shadows) for a tasting of Amarone wines. Amarone is a designation for specially fermented Valpolicella from the region around Verona in the Italian Veneto. The principal grape is Corvino, although some other varieties are permitted. A special guest of the group was Gino Cuneo, proprietor and winemaker of Gino Cuneo Cellars in Walla Walla, which specializes in Italian varietal wines, including amarone styled ones. He provided the group with informative insights on the wines and their winemaking.

There are two main styles of Amarone: dry, called Amarone Classico, and sweet, called Recioto della Valpolicella, although the latter becomes drier with age. Traditionally, grapes were dried on straw mats to concentrate the flavors. Today, special racks are used for the process.

Twelve wines were tasted in three flights of four. Here are the top wines from each flight, with my notes and scores.

1976 Bertaini Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone - Deep garnet colored, this wine emited pungent aromas of crushed roses, dried orange peel and peppery. Now nearly dry, it was a fine example of aged Amarone. 19.5/20 points.

1990 Bertani Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone - This comes on like a younger version of the above, with a less developed bouquet and less complex flavors, very impressive nevertheless. 19/20 points.

2008 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - The youngest Amarone tasted, this showed a deep ruby color and a rich sweet berry nose, with scents of dried roses and oriental perfumes and sturdy, direct flavors. 19/20 points.

2006 Accordino Agino Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Another younger Amarone, this showed a deep ruby color and a rich, berried nose of dried fruits and roses, oriental perfumes and incense, and deep, muscular flavors. 19/20 points.

2004 Gaspari Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone - This is a fine example of a Recioto that is just beginning to mature. Lovely aromas of crushed roses, sandalwood, and incense with elegant, sweetish-dry flavors that linger on the finish. 19+/20 points.

2006 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva - Opaque purplish color, this came on like a elegantly styled younger Amarone. It possessed lovely aromas of dried roses, orange peel and violets, with lush sweet-dry fruit flavors. It will have a great future. 19+/20 points, potential 19.5+.

Afterwards, there was a bonus 13th wine. It showed a deep purplish color and a lovely perfumed nose of roses and violets and tasty sweet-dry fruit flavors. It was Gino Cuneo's 2011 "Nebarro" Red Wine, a "secco" style blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera (hence, the name). I will be visiting Gino in the near future and will be reviewing his wines.

Thanks to Gilles for his hospitality and to Gino for his insights.


Last Updated on Friday, 22 November 2013 17:05
Tasting with the 20 Point System
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 14 November 2013 22:27

Last niight, Lynn and I hosted at wine tasting at our home in Walla Walla. The theme was to taste blind six different varietal wines as see how the guests' scores compared with those of mine in my previously published reviews. Our guests were Tom Olander and Barb Comaree (Bunchgrass Winery), Steve Robertson (SJR Vinevard in the "Rocks"), Sabrina Leuke and Tim Donahue (College Cellars). Generally, guests scored the wines lower (17-19/20 points) than I did (18.5-19.5). I think that may be because winemakers and growers tend to be more critical of their and others' wines. Some of my scores were a bit lower (.5 point) than when originally reviewed. Scores can vary bit when tasted in a different setting. Everyone found using the University of California Davis 20 Point System to be interesting and useful, in comparison to the more widely used 100 points.

After the tasting, during supper, there were some stimulating discussions. One of the wines tasted was a Syrah from the proposed new AVA, "The Rocks District of Milton Freewater" which showed distinct characterisics of that terroir. Tim Donahoue theorized that it could be from amino acids associated with the soil although there isn't proof of that. Steve Robertson brought up the subject of the need for more of an identity for the Walla Walla Valley AVA. All of us agreed that something needed to be done about that. I suggested there needed to be more focus on the Walla Walla Valley's wines, setting them apart from those of, say, Red Mountain which seems to get a lot of press although it is not a real destination locale with lots of wineries, spas, restaurants and so on. How to make Walla Walla a destination is what needs to be figured out. Walla Walla has plenty going for it, the word just needs to get out more.

It was a fun and stimulating evening. Getting together and tasting and talking about wines, and about the future of Walla Walla wines is a recurring theme in the Valley.


Wine Writing as Poetry

Yesterday, in the process of getting Review of Washington Wines copy proofed, to check for accuracy and possible ommissions, I emailed copy on the Betz Family Winery for the December issue to Bob Betz. I got the following reply: "You are quite a poet. Not only are the facts correct, but your descriptions make me want to rush out an try these wines. Well done, well stated and much appreciated." I replied, "It is very kind of you to call me 'quite a poet." When I write about wines such as yours, I try to convey a sense of character and style, like poetry in a bottle." Then I got this reply from Bob: "You hit it spot on, Rand." Thanks again, Bob.


Last Updated on Friday, 15 November 2013 05:32
Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend
Written by Rand Sealey   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 14:13

This year's Fall Release Weekend, November 1-3, was another fun-filled event even even though the weather was not particularly cooperative (inntermittent rains). Here's a rundown of the weekend's happenings.

On Friday, the 1st, we first went to Long Shadows where we tasted the 2009 Chester Kidder Red and the 2009 Sequel Syrah, both to be reviewed in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines. There, directing winemaker, Gilles Nicault also took us to the back where we tasted the newly fermented 2013's from the tank. They showed marvelous aromas and fruit, showing promise for an outstanding vintage. Then we stopped by Bunchgrass to taste with Tom Olander the new 2012 Whispering Owl White and 2010 Windrow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in December. That evening, we attended Robsion Ranch Cellars' Club dinner.

On Saturday morning, we went to Tranche Cellars at the Blue Mountain Vineyard to taste with Griffin Frey. Then we drove up to the end of Cottonwood Road to the Reynvaan Family Vineyards winery. All the Reynvaans were there and previewed the 2012's which will be reviewed in January. Then we went on to Isenhower, then Rasa and MacKey on Powerline Road. The wines will be reviewed in the December issue. The premier event of the evening was Corliss' Fall Release party, where a fantastic 2009 Syrah was previewed (to be released in 2014). There, all had a good time with plenty of stimulating conversation.

On Sunday afternoon, we had a great time at Northstar's "Blending Experience." There, Lindsey Dean guided us through a tasting of six 2009's: four Merlots from different AVA's and a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Petit Verdot. Then each participant put together a blend of their favorite wines. Lynn put together a blend of 70% Horse Heaven Hills Merlot and 30% Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. My blend consisted of 70% Walla Walla Valley Merlot, 10% Red Mountain Merlot, 10% Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Petit Verdot. I was pleased with my result. Here's my review:

2009 Northstar "Rand's Blend" Merlot, Columbia Valley - Deep purplish ruby colored, this blend offers a perfumed nose of wild blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, violets and white incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with supple, yet structured, red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, Swiss chocolate, French roast and silt and loam minerals. The back picks up notes of squeezed berries, kirsch liqueur and creme de cassis, followed by supple tannins and light spices on the lingering finish. 19/20 points.

Each of us botted our wine and got to take it home. The Blending Experience is held periodically and reservations are required. The cost is $65 for club members and $85 for non members.

As a fun post Fall Release Weekend event, the Mark Ryan Winery had an Industry Night party on Monday at the downtown Walla Walla tasting room on Main Street. Mark McNeilly grilled beef burger sliders on ciabatta buns to go with the newly released 2012 Viognier and 2011 reds (to be reviewed in the December issue). Again, there was a lot of conversation and a great time.


Last Updated on Thursday, 07 November 2013 15:08

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