- Written by Rand Sealey
More New Rosé Wines
In the September issue (on line August 25) of the Review of Washington Wines, there will be four new Rosés. Here's a preview, full reviews to be in the September issue.
2020 Northstar Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($28) - From the Northstar Estate Vineyard, this is the best Merlot Rosé tasted so far. Light copper-pink colored it possesses perfumed aromas of fraises de bois, kiwi, keymlime and orange blossoms. The flavors are simultaneously lush and crisp flavors with deftly extracted fruits and a lingering nicely juiced finish. 19/20 points.
2020 Gard Vintners "Grand Klasse" Rosé Wine, Royal Slope, Lawrence Vineyard ($25) - This 96% Grenache, 4% Mourvèdre combination offers a brilliant light pink color and aromas of strawberries, red currants, watermelon, pink roses, pink lavender with alluring light pink fruits and Royal Slope minerals, followed by a nicely fruited finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2020 Bartholomew Rosé of Counoise, Horse Heaven Hills, Coyote Canyon Vineyard ($19) - Counoise is a South Rhone variety. This version offers a light copper-pink color and aromas of strawberry, watermelon, pink flowers, pink lavender and pink incense wtih lively pink fruits that are accented by grape skins and melon rind, followed by a crisp, finely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Willamette Valley Vineyards "Whole Cluster" Rosé of Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($25) - This will be in the Values from Oregon special section. From the Dijon clone, it possesses lovely aromas of strawberry, pink cherry, red currants and pink flowers, with bright, lively flavors and precise fruit acids. Refreshing and charming. 18.5/20 points.
Other Rosés Tasted Recently
2020 Pierre-Marie Chermette Beaujolais Rosé, "Griottes" ($19.90 - Foodscape, Walla Walla) - This features a brilliant pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pink peach, tangerine, pink roses, orange blossoms and orange incense. The flavors are pleasingly light and sprightly, with notes of grape skins, peach stones and minerals. The vibrancy continues ob the back with strawberry and peach liqueurs and a raiser of orange peel in the dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Commanderie de la Bargemone Rosé, Côteau d'Aix en Provence ($18.99 - Esquin) - This shows a brilliant light copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, red currant, orange, orange blossoms, pink lavender and pink incense. The flavors are nicely delineated with light grape skin and hillside minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a dry yet nicely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Conde Valdemar Rioja Rosé ($20 Valdemar Estates) - This 70% Garnacha, 30% Mazuelo combination displays a brilliant copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, Valencia orange, orange blossoms, pink lavender and orange incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with red and orange fruits that are accented by grape skins and stony minerals. The back picks up strawberry liqueur, pomegranate sees and orange peel on the way to a crisp, nicely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Oyster Bay Rosé, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.99 - Safeway) - This amiable Rosé offers a light copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pink cherry, pink peach, cherry blossoms, clover and pink incense. The flavors are brisk and lively, with pink fruits that are accented by grape skins, peach stones and minerals. The back picks up strawberry and peach liqueurs, followed by s finely fruited, crisp finish. 18/20 points.
N.V. Chandon Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, California ($18.99 - Safeway) - This Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier combination is one of our favorites. It shows a brilliant copper-pink color, streaming bubbles and aromas of strawberry, pink cherry, tangerine, pink roses, cherry blossoms and whiffs of pink incense. The flavors are delightfully fresh and lively, with pink fruits that are accented by grape skins and cherry stones and enlivened by the CO2. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs and orange peel, followed by a true Brut finish. 18.5/20 points.
Washington Wine Deals from the Esquin Hot Sheet
A couple of days ago, I received an email from Esquin Wine & Spirits with the monthly Hot Sheet featuring Washington wine specials for the August Washington Wine month. It included several wines that have been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines.
2020 Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley ($13.99 - Regular $20) - Lemon-gold colored, this possesses aromas of pear, Crenshaw melon, citrus, summer flowers and lemongrass, with fresh, vibrant flavors that are marked by grape and pea skins, melon rind and minerals, followed by a crisp finish. Full review to be in the September issue. 18+/20 points.
2020 L'Ecole No 41 "Old Vines" Chenin Blanc, Yakima Valley ($14.99 - Regular $17) - This Vouvray style white offers a a lemon-gold color and attractive floral aromas of peach, kiwi, guava and citrus and vibrant flavors that are accented by peach stones and minerals, followed by an nicely fruited off-dry finish. Full review to be in the September issue. 18.5/20 points.
2019 Helix Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($21.99 - Regular $28) - This shows a medium brick red color and aromas of red fruits, plum, sun-dried tomato and herbs with charming medium bodied flavors marked by Royal Slope minerals. Full review to be in the September issue. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Freehand Cellars Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($15.99 - Regular $25) - This offers a deep ruby color with rich, smoky aromas and thick, generous yet focused flavors that pick up roasted berries and nuts, followed by a savory, satisfying finish. Reviewed April 2021. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Buty "Wildebeest" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($12.99 - Regular $20) - This combination of BDX and Rhone varieties offers rich.smoky aromas of blackberries, plums, cherries, combining the structure of BDX varieties and the mouth-filling flavors of the Rhone varieties. Reviewed May 2019. 18+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Heat Wave
So far, this summer is turning out to be the hottest on record in the Walla Walla Valley. Here's a comparison of the years 2015, the previous warmest year, and 2011. The average temperatures from April 1 to July 28 was 66.21 degrees in 2015 and 66.23 degrees in 2021. The Growing Day Degree numbers are 1961 for 2015 and 2021 for 2021. Veraison has already begun in some vineyards and the harvest is expected to be earlier than in 2015. Highs in July have usually been over 100, but moderated by cool nights. Highs are expected to ease into the 'eighties from August 5 on, which should facilitate the steady maturation of the grapes.
Tim Donahue Departs from the Community College
At the end of June, Tim Donahue departed from his position as Director of Winemaking at Institute for Enology and Viticulture at the Walla Walla Community College. where he has been since 2010. He has started his own winemaking consulting business, Horse Thief Wine Solutions. Besides his experience at the Community College, Donahue has a degree in Oenology from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and a degree in business management from the University of North Colorado. His stated aim is to be "Just a guy helping other folks' wine dreams come true."
Sabrina Leuck Named Interim Director at WWCC Wine Program
With the departure of Tim Donahue, Sabrina Leuck takes over as Interim Director of the Institute for Enology and Viticulture. She has taught there since 2011. She is from Victoria, B.C. and has a BS degree in Enology and Viticulture from Cornell University.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Over the past couple of weeks, we've been retasting some wines that I've already reviewed. Frequently, we get extra wine samples. Some wineries send two bottles of each wine with one as a backup. When we visit wineries, we usually purchase a couple of bottles or more for future reference. Since the time I wrapped up the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines, we've been revisiting these wines.
2020 Convergence Zone Cellars "Three Forks" Rosé of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Gamache Vineyard ($20) - This was reviewed in the April issue and we liked it so much that we bought three more bottles. Brilliant pink tinged copper colored, it possesses intriguing aromas of pink peach, Rainier cherry, blood orange, cherry and orange tree blossoms and orange incense. The flavors are well delineated, accented by peach and cherry stones and minerals. The back picks up cherry and peach liqueurs and orange peel, followed by a well defined finish. This still scores 18.5/20 points.
2020 Frichette "Sashay" Rosé, Columbia Valley ($30) - This is another distinctive Rosé. Produced from Merlot, it displays a brilliant copper-pink color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, pink cherry, blood orange, cherry and orange blossoms and orange incense. The flavors, as well, are striking, with grape skins, cherry stones and minerals, The back reveals framboise and cerise liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a lingering dry, finely fruited finish. The distinction of flavors gives it a plus, 18.5+/20 points, same as in the July issue.
2020 Amavi Semillon, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Semillon is an undervalued white variety. Blended with 15% Sauvignon Blanc, this one shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and a distinctive nose of Bosc pear, Key lime, Crenshaw melon, meadow flowers and white incense. The flavors are rich, almost creamy, accented by pear and grape skins and minerals. The back picks up notes of beeswax and toast, counterpointed by recurring lime zest and melon rind on a crisp yet juicy finish. Reviewed July, it scores 18.5/20 points both times.
2018 Vital Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($34) - The profits go to the Walla Walla SOS Clinic. This Syrah shows a deep ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black currant, black roses, dark tobacco, lavender, olive tapenade and spiced incense. The flavors are mouth-filling and true to variety, with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and silty minerals. The saturation continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts, creme de cassis, blueberry preserves and charcoal, followed by a lingering spiced ripe tannin finish. Tastes like a $50 Syrah. Now and last June, 19/20 points.
2018 JM Cellars Cinsault Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($35) - Cinsault is one of the grapes used in Châteauneuf du Pape, but is rarely bottled as a varietal. I bought an extra bottle as I thought it would be interesting. This version (with 15% Syrah and 10% Grenache) shows a deep ruby-crimson color and enticing aromas of raspberry, bayberry, black currant, crushed roses, sweet tobacco, lavender and incense. The flavors are ample yet substantial, with red and black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, black tea and earth. The back picks up framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe moderate tannin and acid finish. Both in June and now, 18.5/20 points.
2018 Efestē "Paulie" Red Wine, Wahluke Slope, Stonetree Vineyard ($40) - This blend of 42% Mourvèdre, 33% Grenache and 25% Syrah was reviewed in the June 2020 issue. Now it shows a deep ruby color and an intoxicating nose of wild fruits - blackberries, mountain blueberries, brambly currants - with scents of crushed roses, tobacco, garrigue, fennel and spiced incense. The flavors, as well are dramatic, with layers of dark fruits that are infused with licorice root, dark cocoa, Sumatra Roast and Wahluke scorched earth. The wine enriches further on the back with creme de cassis, roasted nuts, leather and charcoal, followed by a lingering, spiced ripe tannin finish. Both times: 19/20 points.
2018 Longship "Once is Enough" Petite Syrah, Wahluke Slope, Weinbau Vineyard ($36) - Also known as Durif, this wine boasts a semi opaque ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black currant, crushed black roses, garrigue, cracked pepper and spiced incense. The flavors, as well, are bold, with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice root, dark cocoa, French press and Wahluke scorched earth. On the back, the wine takes a sweetish, chewy turn with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, creme de cassis and burnt charcoal (a trait of Petite Syrah), followed by a lingering spiced ripe tannin finish. Reviewed April, then and now 19/20 points.
2017 Adams Bench "Ursula" Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($58) - This is weighty Sangiovese. From grapes grown by Mike Sauer, it exhibits a semi opaque purplish ruby color and intense aromas of black cherries, black currants and black plums with scents of black roses, dark tobacco, sandalwood, anise and incense, The flavors are deep and authoritative, yet accessible, with layers of dark fruits that are marked by licorice root, dark cocoa, espresso, and alluvial minerals. On the back, the wine intensifies further with macerated fruits, roasted hazelnuts, mocha, cherry and currant liqueurs and pulverized charcoal, and then smooths out into a long sweet-dry tannin finish. Reviewed December 2020, then and now, 19.5/20 points.
2016 De la Luz Reserva Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Golden Ridge Vineyard ($60) - Victor De la Luz sent two bottles, one reviewed in the October 2020 issue. This time, it shows a deep ruby-crimson color and seductive aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, mulberry, sandalwood, olive and sweet oriental incense, The medium full bodied flavors are thick, almost opulent with layers of red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and Palouse Hills loess minerals. On the back, the wine amplifies with roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, fine ground graphite and toast, followed by a lengthy, herb dusted ripe tannin finish. Both times, 19.5/20 points.
2016 Force Majeure "Parvata" Red Wine, Red Mountain ($70) - We bought this blend of 49% Mourvèdre, 21% Syrah and 10% Grenache in May 2019 at a preview tasting at the winery in Milton-Freewater and reviewed it in the June 2019 issue. Now, it shows a deep purplish ruby color and and intense, smoky aromas of blackberry, huckleberry, brambly currants, crushed roses, pipe tobacco, sandalwood and smoldering spiced incense. The flavors are bold and fleshy, still young, with layers of dark fruits that are infused with licorice, dark cocoa, dark roast coffee and Red Mountain scorched earth. The penetration continues on the back with creme de cassis, charcoal and spices on the rich, long finish. Still has a great future. Both times: 19.5/20 points.
The following wines were revisited at lunch at the Valdemar Estates tasting room in Walla Walla.
2019 Valdemar Estates Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard ($50) - This is world class Chardonnay. It displays a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromas of pear-apple, peach, star fruit, apple blossoms, acacia flowers, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors are exquisitely balanced, with vivid true varietal fruits that are accented by grape and pear skins and Rattlesnake Hills minerals. The back reveals poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of crème brulée and toasty oak (50% new French) followed by a long, long finish, lifted by precise fruit acids. Reviewed June, both times: 19.5/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($65) - Blended with 5% Grenache, this Syrah exhibits a deep ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of blackberry, mountain blueberry, black currant, crushed roses, pipe tobacco, lavender, violets and oriental incense. The flavors are intense, laser-like with dark fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa powder, French roast and silty minerals. The penetration continues on the back with macerated fruits, mocha, crème de cassis and pulverized charcoal, all extending into a long, focused spiced sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points. Reviewed June 2020 (wrongly listed as 2017) , then and now, 19.5/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard ($80) - This is Red Mountain Cabernet at its best. It displays a semi-opaque ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of blackberry, black cherry, black plum, black roses, dark tobacco, sweet pea flowers, sandalwood, olive, anise and spiced incense. The flavors are intense yet refined, with dark fruits that are infused with licorice, dark chocolate, French press and Red Mountain scorched earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of roasted fruits and walnuts, kirsch, pencil shavings, integrated oak (60% new French) and touches of caramel and toast, followed seamlessly by a lengthy firm yet sweetish tannin finish. 19.5/20 points, now and June 2021.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A week ago, I reported on the news that Ste Michelle Wine Estates (SMWE) was being acquired by Sycamore Partners, a private equity company, for approximately 1.2 billion dollars. There had been a lot of commentary about this news. The best analysis I've read is that of Sean Sullivan, reviewer of Washington wines for the Wine Enthusiast magazine. Go to winemag.com and then to Industry News for the article in BevarageIndustryEnthusiast. Here's my take on this news and what it means.
Ste. Michelle has been owned by a tobacco company, Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, maker of the world's largest selling cigarette brand, Marlboro, along with other brands including U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company which owned Ste. Michelle until it was taken over by Altria in 2008. So Ste. Michelle has been a tobacco company subsidiary since 1974 when it was acquired by U.S. Tobacco.
Under U.S. Tobacco ownership, Ste, Michelle has undergone management changed over the years. Allen Shoup went on to found the Long Shadows winery in Walla Walla. Ted Basler retired in 2018 and was succeeded by Jim Mortensen, an Altria executive, and in 2020, David Dearie took over. Ste. Michelle had steady growth over the decades, but saw a sales decline from 2016 to 2020, due to increased competition and the COVID 19 pandemic. The current leadership realizes the need for creative management for future growth.
So, what's in the future for Ste. Michelle? David Dearie came to SMWE with wine experience at Treasury Wine Estates whose portfolio includes Penfolds and Lindemans in Australia and Beringer, Beaulieu Vineyards, Acacia and Chateau St. Jean in California. So being headed by a wine industry rather than tobacco industry person should benefit Ste. Michelle. With a portfolio that includes prestige wineries such as Northstar and Spring Valley Vineyard, and extensive vineyard holdings around the state, SMWE is positioned to continue to be a leader in much the same way as Beringer is a leader in California with its breadth of products from White Zinfandel to Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Another asset for Ste. Michelle is its economies of scale and production capabilities (over three million cases a year) which makes it the giant of the Washington wine industry. Ste. Michelle turns out the best values in Washington wines. In the August issue of the Review of Washington, there will be four Ste. Michelle wines in the Best Buys section. The product line, however, should be focused on quality. I think SMWE should consider dropping the lower tier brands such as Snoqualmie and Two Vines.
Back in 1967, it was Vic Allison (see the Review Blog posting of 21 January) who had the vision to make Ste. Michelle a prestige producer of quality wines. if Sycamore Partners and the current SWME management continues this vision, the company should continue to be an industry leader.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On June 30, I received an email press release from Heather Bradshaw, Communications Director of The Washington State Wine Commission announcing the approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of Washington State's newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), Goose Gap. This follows the approval of the previous two AVAs in Mid June of White Bluffs and The Burn of Columbia Valley. These are significant and overdue additions to the list of Washington AVAs.
This is Washington's 19th AVA. It is situated within the Yakima Valley AVA and is located near the juncture of Interstate 82 and I-182. The name is for a saddle of land known as "Goose Gap." a flyway for geese. The orientation is east to west with vineyards on the north and northeast slopes. The soils are predominately Warden series wind-blown loess over stratified Missoula Food deposits with rooting depths of six feet or more, ideal for vineyards. The principal grower-winery is Goose Ridge.
The Burn of Columbia Valley
The 18th Washington AVA is located between the Columbia Gorge and the Horse Heaven Hills AVAs. It is so called for a burned-over area in the AVA. Soils (basalt and loess) are similar to those of the Walla Walla Valley AVA but with slightly warmer and milder temperatures, cooled by winds coming from the Gorge. The principal growers are Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Mercer Ranches.
The 17th Washington AVA is located north of Pasco, comprised of two plateaus above the plains of the Pasco Basin. White Bluffs gets its name for a layer of lakebed sediment referred to as a Ringold formation with a whitish appearance. The soils are sedimentary Missoula Flood deposits with no basalt contact for grapevines. The principal vineyards are Sagemoor, Bacchus and Dionysus which were first planted in the 1970's by wine growing pioneer, Alec Bayless.
For more information about these new AVAs, go to www.washingtonwine.org/press/.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates to be Acquired by Sycamore Partners
Another piece of big news this week was the announcement that Ste. Michelle, a subsidiary of the Altria Group, was to be acquired by Sycamore Partners Management, a private equity company for approximately 1.2 billion dollars. Of course, this is big news because Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is the Washington wine industry giant which includes Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Crest and other brands including Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and importation agreements with Antinori and Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte. Ste Michelle's President and CEO, David Dearie looks forward to working with Sycamore Partners.
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