- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing (10 am, Wednesday, September 18) it is sunny with some clouds on the horizon here in Walla Walla. It has cooled down considerably since the beginning of the month. The forecast for the rest of the month is for highs in the mid 70's, cooling down to the 60's at the end of the month. These temperatures are slightly below average for this time of year, indicating a slowing down of the maturation of the grapes. Not much rain is forecast which should help. Growers are looking at picking to continue well into October.
Harvest is under way here and around the Northwest. On the warmer Red Mountain, Syrah has been picked and harvesting Cabernet is getting under way. Much of the white grapes have been picked. Woodward Canyon has brought in its Estate and Celilo Chardonnay. Sleight of Hand has brought in French Creek Chardonnay and Stoney Vine Syrah. On Horse Heaven Hills, Milo May reports "Discovery vineyard Cab hanging to more fully develop the flavors that will make this vintage a great one." One vineyard climatologist has called the 2019 harvest "slow and steady." More later!
- Written by Rand Sealey
When we're not drinking Washington wines, we often have French ones. When I started Esquin Wine Merchants in 1969, most of the wines we had were French. French wines are still one of our great loves. Here are our latest finds.
Rosé wine season is still not over yet. The French drink rosés year around and so do we. Here are a couple of winners.
2018 Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay Rosé ($27.99 - wine.com) - Marsannay is situated at the north end of the Côte de Nuits, just past Fixin. Made from Pinot Noir, this shows a brilliant pink color and lovely aromas of strawberry, red currant, tangerine, pink rose petals, pink lilac and pink incense. The flavors, as well, are captivating, with gently pressed fruits that are imbued with light grape skins and granitic minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and recurring tangerine peel, followed buy a dry, juicy finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5+/20 points.
2018 Domaine de la Modorée Tavel Rosé , "La Dame Rousse" ($39.99 - wine.com) - This is the best Tavel Rosé we've tasted so far. Composed of 60% Grenache and 20% each of Cinsaiult and Syrah, it exhibits a beautiful copper-pink color and seductive aromas of raspberry, currant, pomegranate and orange peel with scents of pink roses, lavender, Provençal herbs and spiced pink incense. The flavors are as alluring as the aromas, with vivid, perfectly extracted red fruits that are imbued with grape skins, pomegranate seeds and mas soil minerals. The back reveals framboise and cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel on the lingering precisely balanced dry finish. Lynn gives this three stars (highest rating): "Quinessential Tavel Rosé." 19.5/20 points.
2017 Château Fortia Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($44.99 - Esquin) - Most of the wine of Châteauneuf du Pape is red, but a small amount of white is produced. Produced from 70% Roussanne, 20% Clairette and 10% Grenache Blanc, this one shows a brilliant gold color and intense aromas of pear, peach, apricot, papaya, orange peel with scents of pear blossoms, honeysuckle, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors are full bodied for a white, with layers of juicy white and yellow fruits that are infused with pear skin, apricot stone and mas cobblestone minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire William and Grand Marnier liqueurs and touches of hazelnut and crème fraiche on lingering dry finish. I took this to a dinner party a few days ago and everyone was wowed by it. 19+/20 points.
2016 Brotte Châteauneuf du Pape, "Hautes de Barville" ($37.99 -Esquin) - This is a good buy in CdP. It shows a deep ruby-crimson color and rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry and black currant with scents of black roses, mulberry, tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet focused, with black and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The chewy textured back picks up roasted berries and nuts, mocha, grilled meats and charcoal, followed by a lingering ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Delas Crozes-Hermitage, "Les Launes" ($21.99 - wine.com) - This is a tasty young North Rhone Syrah. It shows a purplish-ruby color and rich aromas of black cherry, black currant, mulberry, tobacco, lavender and incense. The robust flavors are true to variety and direct, with notes of black licorice, dark cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. The intensity continues on the back with macerated berries, grilled nut meats and burnt charcoal, followed by a spiced sweet-dry tannin finish. Excellent value. 18/20 points.
2016 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage ($35.99 - wine.com) - This is a step up qualitatively from the above wine. It offers a deep purplish-ruby color and enticing aromas of raspberries, plums, black currants, crushed roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco, lavender, sage, anise and spiced incense. The medium full bodied flavors show terrific Syrah purity, with fleshy black and blue fruit that are infused with licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and earth. The wine thickens on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, framboise and cassis liqueurs, grilled meats and charcoal, followed by a satisfying ripe tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay ($13.99 - Safeway) - From the birthplace of Chardonnay, this shows a brilliant gold color and pleasing aromas of apple, peach, citrus, apple blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. Unencumbered by oak, the flavors are bright and true to variety, with notes of grape skin, peach stone and granitic minerals. The back picks up touches of pêche liqueur, hazelnut and creme fraiche on the way to a crisp finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages ($13.99 - Safeway) - This is an amiable Beaujolais. It displays a purplish ruby color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, currant, red roses, mulberry and whiffs of spiced incense. The medium bodied flavors are pleasingly plump, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, and a bit of earth. The back reveals fraise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a savory, nicely fruited soft tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Lapierre + Pacalet "Cousins" Juliénas ($31.99 -wine.com) - From one of the top Crus Beaujolais, this wine offers a deep ruby color and expressive aromas of fraises de bois, black currants, black plums, crushed red roses, mulberry, tobacco leaf, orange peel and incense. The flavors, as well, are dramatic, with robust black and blue fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa powder, black tea and granitic minerals. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, mocha, recurring orange peel and pencil, lead, followed by a smooth moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
For the past and next couple of weeks, I have been and will be visiting wineries in the Walla Walla Valley to get previews of their Fall releases. These wines will be reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
On the morning of Saturday, August 24, we attended the opening of JJ and Kelly Menozzi's new Aluvé tasting room and production facility on Mill Creek Road where we tasted a lovely 2018 Estate Chardonnay and 2017 Estate Red and Petit Verdot. On the way back, we stopped at àMaurice also on Mill Creek Road to taste the winery's 2018 Gamache and Estate Viogniers along with 2017 Boushey and 29016 Estate Syrahs. At Walla Walla Vintners, we tasted the 2017 Dwelley Dolcetto and 2016 Sagemoor Cabernet. In the afternoon, we went to the Armstrong Family tasting room on Main Street for the 2017 Viognier and 2016 reds. Then we headed south to Balboa where we previewed the 2016 Sangio, 2015 Caremenère, 2016 Summit View Grenache and 2014 Beresan Yellow Jacket Syrah.
Yesterday, September 3, I went to Vital Wines and Brook & Bull to pick up Ashley Trout's new releases: 2017 Vital Chardonnay and the Vital and Brook & Bull 2017 reds. They are mighty tasty wines. Today, I will go to Rôtie Cellars to taste the 2017 Little g Grenache, dre Mourvèdre and Homage Rhone style blend. Tomorrow, I have an appointment to visit Saviah Cellars for a preview of the Fall Releases. On Friday, I will visit Va Piano and Northstar and on Saturday, Castillo de Feliciana and Tertulia.
Watch for the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines which goes on line September 25.
- Written by Rand Sealey
During the past couple of weeks, we've been drinking some other wines in addition to those from Washington State. Here are my notes.
2018 Châteaux Pradeaux Bandol Rosé ($36 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - This is one of the deepest colored Bandol Rosés I've seen - deep copper. The aromas are intriguing: fraises de bois, blood orange, pomegranate, orange blossoms, herbes de Provence and spiced incense. The flavors are deep and vivid, marked by grape skins, orange tea and minerals. The back reveals pressed fruits, fraise liqueur, recurring orange peel, dried pomegranate seeds and touches of lanolin and hazelnuts, followed by a lingering lightly spiced dry finish. Lynn gives this three out of three stars. 19/20 points.
Here are three more Cru Beaujolais from the exceptional 2017 vintage.
2017 La Tour du Fief Saint Amour ($24.99 - wine.com) - Purplish crimson colored, this emits seductive aromas of strawberries raspberries, currants, wild roses, sweet pea flowers, violets and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are medium bodied yet substantial, with vivid red fruits dancing on the palate, along with red licorice, cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. The back reveals gently pressed berries and fraise and cassis liqueurs , followed by a pleasingly juiced moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine Piron & Lameloise Moulin-a-Vent ($23.99 - wine.com) - This one features a ruby-crimson color and lovely perfumed aromas of raspberries, cherries, currants, crushed roses, violets and incense. The flavors are bright and vivacious, with mouth filling red fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and schist minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, roasted nuts, and framboise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a pleasing juicy slightly grainy soft tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Daniel Boulard Côte de Brouilly, "Cuvée Melanie" ($36 - The Thief) - This wine exhibits a deep purplish ruby color and seductive aromas of fraises de bois, cerises, cassis, wild roses, violets and oriental incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with delicious red fruits that are endowed with licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and granitic minerals. The pleasure continues on the back with pressed fruits, fraise and cerise liqueurs, kirsch and soft pencil lead, followed by a juicy yet chewy moderate tannin finish. As a vin de plaisir, this gets a plus. 18.5+/20 points.
2016 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso ($16.99 - Esquin) - The Langhe is the region surrounding Barolo and Barbaresco. The back label states this is "sourced from native vines." It shows a ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, red roses, tobacco, dried orange peel and incense. The flavors are bright and generous, with notes of red licorice, cola, black tea and Langhe hillside earth. The back palate is direct and chewy, with pressed berries, roasted hazelnuts and dried cherries, followed buy a juicy moderate tannin and acid finish. 18/20 points.
2016 M. Mareno Dolcetto d'Alba ($19.99 - Esquin) - This Piedmont wine shows a deep purplish-ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, purple lilac and violets. The flavors are mouth filling, brimming with vivid red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, Toblerone chocolate and Alban hills minerals. The chewy textured back picks up pressed berries, and cherry liqueur on the way to a juicy, satisfying finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Castellare de Castellino Chianti Classico ($25 - The Thief) - This is an amiable young Sangiovese. It shows a ruby-garnet color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberries, cherries, currants, crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco, orange peel and incense. The medium bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with ample yet focused red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, chocolate, Italian roast and hillside minerals. The back reveals roasted berries and nuts, mocha, recurring orange peel, and pencil lead, followed by a sweet-dry tannin finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale ($23.99 - Safeway) - Ruby-garnet colored, this wine possesses rich aromas of raspberries, cherries, currants, crushed roses, tobacco leaf, orange peel, rosemary and wood smoke. The flavors are generous and fleshy, yet focused, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, black tea and minerals. The back pick up roasted fruits and nuts and semi-dried cherries and recurring orange peel, followed buy a dryish ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2014 Tascante Novello Mascalese "Ghia Nero," Sicilia - This was given to us by a friend. This vintage shows a ruby-garnet color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, dried orange peel, tobacco and wood smoke. The medium-full bodied flavors, as well, are distinctive, with semi dried fruits that are intermixed with licorice, roasted coffee beans and Sicilian mountain minerals. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, recurring orange peel and charcoal, followed by a dry yet finely fruited finish. The 2016 vintage is available from wine.com for $24.99. 18.5/20 points.
Two Iconic California Wineries from the 'Eighties
Back in the mid 1980's, when I owned Esquin Wine Merchants, we witnessed the debut of many California wineries. Among these were Ferrari-Carano in Sonoma and Frog's Leap in the Napa Valley which became California Icons. Esquin was the first store in Seattle to carry their wines. I ran across these two producers at Safeway and I bought these two wines to see what they are up to today.
2018 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County ($14.99 - Safeway) - This Sauvignon Blanc is called Fume Blanc because it is made in an Upper Loire style like a Pouilly-Fume. This shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and fresh aromas of pear, white peach, Crenshaw melon and grapefruit, with scents of apple blossoms, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors are bright and vibrant, with white and yellow fruits that are accented by pear skin, peach stone and saline minerals. The back picks up melon rind and grapefruit peel on the way to a crisp, resonant finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Frog's Leap Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($29.99 - Safeway) - This Zin features a ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, brambles, rosebuds, and spiced wood smoke. The flavors are rich and generous, yet focused, with bright red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and Napa dusty earth. The back reveals macerated berries, kirsch, charcoal and spices (nutmeg, clove) followed by a moderate (13.5%) alcohol and smooth tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the next issue of the Review of Washington Wines (on line Monday, August 25) there will be six Grenache wines. Grenache is a variety that is increasing in popularity. Here's a bit more about that grape.
Grenache is believed to have originated in Aragon in the twelfth century. The Spanish name is Garnacha. Over the centuries, the grape spread to Sardinia and Southern Italy which were under the rule of the Kingdom of Aragon, and then to the Langeuedoc-Roussillon, South Rhone and Provence regions of France where it was called Grenache.
Grenache is especially suited to Mediterranean climates and terroir, benefiting from the warm sun and rocky soils. The wines can be at the same time velvety and muscular. Transposed to America, the grape does well in the warm, terroir-driven parts of California and Washington.
We especially like Grenache because it fits Northwest cuisine especially well. We think it makes a better companion to salmon or chicken than Pinot Noir., And yet it can be robust enough for beef and lamb.
Here are some noteworthy producers of Washington Grenache.
The Walls - "Concrete Mama" - 2016 vintage reviewed December 2018.
Rotie Cellars - Southern Blend (70% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah) - 2017 reviewed April 2019. "Little g" Grenache - 2016 reviewed October 2018.
Gramercy Cellars - "The Third Man" (75% Grenache, 13% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre) - 2016 reviewed May 2019.
Ocelli Cellars - This winery makes only Grenache, 100% varietal. - The 2014s to be reviewed in the September issue.
Isenhower Cellars - "Rara Avis" - 2016 reviewed April 2019.
Castillo de Feliciana - This Spanish varietal specialist calls it Garnacha.
Below are some Spanish, Sardinian and French Grenache wines tasted recently.
2016 Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud ($12.99 - Safeway) - From a region in southwest Catalonia, this shows a ruby color and smoky aromas of black cherry, black currant, plum, black roses, tobacco, Spanish lavender and incense. The flavors are intense and direct, with black and blue fruits intermixed with licorice, coffee beans and minerals. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts and burnt charcoal, followed by a ripe, chewy dryish tannin finish. Excellent value. 18/20 points.
2016 Terroir Históric Priorat ($36 - The Thief) - Priorat is situated in Aragon in the district of Zaragosa. This Garnacha is deep ruby colored and emits intoxicating aromas of raspberries, black currants, mulberries, black roses, tobacco, Spanish lavender, tarragon and wood smoke. The flavors mirror the aromatics with generous yet deep and taut red and black fruits that are infused with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, chicory coffee and fractured rock minerals. The saturation continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts, fruit liqueurs and pulverized charcoal, followed by a chewy sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2016 Argiolas "Costera" Cannonau de Sardegna ($25 - The Thief) - The Sardinians claim the Garnacha grape (which they call Cannonau) originated on their island. But it is most likely from Aragon. This displays a deep ruby color and engaging aromas of raspberry, black cherry, plum, black roses, mulberry, lavender and incense. The flavors are medium bodied yet substantial, with notes of licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and stony minerals. The back picks up macerated fruits, roasted hazelnuts and charcoal, followed by a satisfying moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2016 Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas, Vieilles Vignes, "La Louisiane" ($39.99 - wine.com) - From 80% Grenache planted in 1942, plus Mourvèdre and Cinsault, this boasts a semi opaque ruby-crimson color and intoxicating aromas of wild raspberries and strawberries, black currants, lavender, forest carpet, violets and white pepper. The flavors are simultaneously muscular and velvety, with layers of red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and Montmirial minerals. The back reveals macerated fruits, roasted nuts, framboise and cassis liqueurs, charcoal and lanolin ("legs"), followed by a lingering, grainy ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
See last week's Review Blog for South Rhone wines previously tasted.