- Written by Rand Sealey
In the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines, there will be sixteen red wines from the 2017 vintage. This marks the beginning of a new vintage going into the consumer market while the 2016 vintage is in full cycle and the 2015 approaching its end.
The 2017 grape harvest in Washington State was down 16% (227,000 tons) from the record 2016 harvest (270,000 tons). The harsh winter was the main reason for the lower crop size. After a wet spring, the growing season turned normal and the grape quality was high, making most winemakers happy. Dick Boushey stated, "I think I picked some of my best fruit ever last fall."
On the basis of wines tasted so far, I have found the 2017 red wines to be of consistently high quality, with many wines scoring 18.5/20 and 19/20 points. The wines are well balanced and show fine fruit and depth. It is a vintage to put into your cellar. Here are some noteworthy wines recently reviewed.
Syncline: Cinault, Horse Heaven Hills McKinley Springs Vineyard ($36) - This South Rhone variety is a rarity in the U.S. The aromas and flavors are seductive, medium bodied but mouth filling and layered. 18.5+/20 points. To be reviewed in the August issue.
College Cellars: The new 2017 releases include a Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, all tasty versions of their respective varieties. To be in the August issue. The 2017 Carmenère and Tempranillo were reviewed in the May issue.
Mark Ryan: The 2017 Dissident (18.5+/20 points) and Wild Eyed Syrah, Red Mountain (19/20 points) will be in the August issue.
Dama Wines: The 2017 Grenache is tasty, medium bodied and mouth filling (19/20 points). August.
Amavi Cellars: The 2017 Syrah and 2017 Ceres Red Wine (55% Cabernet Franc, 45% Malbec), both19/20 points are in the July issue.
Owen Roe: The 2017 "Rosa Mystica" is a fine rendition of Cabernet Franc (18.5/20 points) - July issue.
Prospice: The new Walla Walla Winery has two Syrahs, one from the Les Collings Vineyard and one from the Resurgence Vineyard both 19/20 points.
Valdemar Estates: This Spanish-owned winery has a trio of "Component Trial Syrahs one from Blue Mountain Vineyard and two from Red Mountain. All 19.5/20 points in the July issue.
Aluvé: This winery has an impressive 2017 Sangiovese (19/20 points). Reviewed in the June issue.
Time & Direction: "Diamond Cutter" Red Wine (92% Syrah) - 18.5/20 points. June issue.
Buty: The Merlot (74%) / Cabernet Franc (26%) blend is impressive (19/20 points). June issue.
Rote Cellars: The 2017 Northern and Southern Red Blends were Highly Recommended (19.5/20 points) in the May issue.
Seven Hills: This winery turned out an impressive Carmenère (19/20 points). May issue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
For the past few months, most of the wines reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines have been from the Walla Walla and Yakima Valleys. They are close to home so it's easy to stay up to date. But over the next few months, we will be exploring wineries further out. Here's what we have coming up.
Tomorrow, July 4, we will be driving to the Columbia Gorge, an area we haven't visited for almost a year. We will be making the Lyle Loop: Memaloose, Tetrahedron, Syncline, COR and Domaine Pouillon. Yes, the wineries will be open on the Fourth. A report on this visit will be in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
On July 17, we will drive to Woodinville to get up to date there. We will visit DeLille Cellars at the Carriage House. Also on our list are Avennia, William Church, Guardian and Darby. My report will be in the September issue.
Further down on the calendar are visits to Chelan and Spokane, will schedules to be determined. So there will be plenty of wines from around the state to write about.
On July 14, we will be hosting a Bastille Day Celebration with a tasting of French wines - reds, whites and rosés - from Burgundy and the Rhone Valley. A report will be in the July 15 Review Blog posting.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been exploring more French wines and international rosés. Also, I ran across three terrific new values from Walla Walla Vintners along with some great clearance deals.
More French Wines
2017 Paul Thomas Sancerre "Les Comtesses" ($29.99 - wine.com) - This comes from Chavignol, one of the best climats of Sancerre and Paul Thomas is a respected producer. Produced from Sauvignon Blanc, this shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and perfumed aromas of pear, peach, lime, gooseberry, white flowers, wet stone and white smoke. The flavors are saline and precise, with notes of pear skin, lime peel and white chalk. The resonant finish is finely fruited and crisp. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Paul Thomas Sancerre Rouge ($25.99 - wine.com) - Most Sancerre is white, but some red is produced from Pinot Noir. This one shows a medium ruby-crimson color and lovely aromas of fraises de bois, red currants, pomegranate, red roses, mulberry and whiffs of brambles and wood smoke. The medium bodied flavors are appealing as well, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder, tea and upper Loire alluvial minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs on the way to a pleasingly supple soft tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Château de Coulaine Chinon ($33 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - This 100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley shows a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of raspberries, cherries, plums, black roses, mulberry, tobacco, anise and incense. The flavors are thick and chewy with ample yet focused red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and alluvial minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and kirsch, followed by a satisfying ripe finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Anne-Sophie Dubois Fleurie, "L'Alchemiste" ($29 - The Thief) - This Cru Beaujolais features a ruby color and enticing aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, crushed roses, wildflowers, and whiffs of sweet incense. The flavors are medium bodied but substantial, brimming with red fruits that are imbued with licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee beans and granitic minerals. On the back, the wine turns velvety textured, with sensations of gently pressed berries and fraise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a silky moderate tannin finish. A real charmer. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($39.99 - wine.com) - This Roussanne-Grenache Blanc combination displays a deep gold color and a voluptuous nose of ripe fruits - pear, peach, apricot - and intriguing scents of pear tree blossoms, jasmine, butternut, anise and meadow grass. The flavors, as well, are distinctive, with notes of pear skin, peach stone, herbal tea and minerals. On the back, bright fruit acids counterpoint notes of creme fraiche and toffee, along with poire and pêche liqueurs, all melding together into a long, again voluptuous yet precise finish. 19/20 points.
2016 Alain Jaume Gigondas, "Terrasses de Montmirial" ($35.99 - wine.com) - Predominately Grenache, this South Rhone wine shows a deep purplish-ruby color and an intoxicating nose of blackberry, black plum, black currant, black roses, sweet tobacco, lavender, olive tapenade and spiced incense. The dark fruit flavors are big and bold, infused with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and Montmirial stony earth. On the back, the wine turns sweetish, yet firm, with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, creme de cassis and charcoal, followed by a savory, ripe chewy tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2016 Les Pallières Gigondas, "Terasse du Diable" ($35.99 -wine.com) - This 90% Grenache (with 5% each of Mourvèdre and Clairette) wine shows a deep ruby color and an intense, smoky nose of black currant, blackberry, blueberry, black roses, lavender, anise, garrigue and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are deep and penetrating (from 50 year-old vines) with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, black tea, and granitic minerals. The wine intensifies on the back with roasted berries and nuts and charcoal, and then fleshes out with touches of mocha and lanolin on the smooth tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
More International Rosés
2018 Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto ($18 - The Thief) - Bardolino is situated on the east shore of Lake Garda in Northern Italy and Chiaretto is the Veronese name for rosé. Copper-pink colored, this emits fresh aromas of strawberry, cherry, tangerine, rosebuds and cherry blossoms. The flavors are bright and lively, with red fruits that are accented by touches of red licorice, kirsch and tangerine peel, followed by a crisp, nicely fruited dry finish. "Pretty from beginning to end," says Lynn. 18+/20 points.
2018 Maison L'Envoyé Beaujolais Rosé, "Le Saint Pâle" ($15.99 - wine.com) - Produced from Gamay Noir, this attractively priced Rosé shows a light pink color and fragrant aromas of strawberry, red currant, tangerine, spring flowers, orange blossoms, and pink incense.The flavors are fresh and sprightly, with notes of fraise and cassis liqueurs and recurring tangerine peel on the nicely juiced finish. 18/20 points.
2018 Domaine Collette Marsannay Rosé ($21 - The Thief) - Marsannay is situated at the north end of the Côte d'Or. Produced from Pinot Noir, this shows a brilliant pink color and lovely aromas of strawberry, red currant, tangerine, red roses, wildflowers and pink incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with nicely extracted red fruits that are accented by tangerine peel and granitic minerals, followed by fraise and cassis liqueurs on a pleasingly juicy finish. 18+/20 points.
2018 Pascal & Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre Rosé ($26 - The Thief) - Produced from Pinot Noir, this displays a light pink color and lovely aromas of strawberries, cherries, red currants, pink rose petals, cherry blossoms and white smoke. The flavors are fresh and vibrant, with notes of grape skin, fraise and cassis liqueurs and saline minerals, followed by a pleasingly juicy and resonant dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 HITO Rosado, Ribera del Duero ($18- The Thief) - Light pink colored, this Tempranillo Rosé possesses floral aromas of strawberries, cherries, orange peel, cherry blossoms, lavender and whiffs of lightly spiced pink incense. The flavors are bright and deft, nicely extracted, with notes of strawberry and cherry liqueurs and recurring orange peel on the crisp, dry finish. 18/20 points.
The following two Washington Rosés are to be reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Here are capsule reviews.
2018 Three Rivers Estate Cabernet Franc Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - Light pink colored this has floral aromas of strawberry, Rainier Cherry and pink grapefruit. The flavors are light and refreshing with notes of grape skin and citrus peel, followed by a crisp finish. 18/20 points.
2018 Helix by Reininger Sangiovese Rosé, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($20) - Copper tinged pink, this emits aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry and pink grapefruit with scents of pink flowers and pink incense. The flavors are fresh and sprightly, leading the way to crisp, nicely fruited finish. 18+/20 points.
Super Bargains from Walla Walla Vintners
Last Saturday, I visited Walla Walla Vintners to check out their new Bello Rosso wines from the Heart of the Hill Vineyard on Red Mountain. They are called an "exclusive limited-run line of Red Mountain wines." Priced at $15 a bottle, they are bargains that are not to be missed. They are intended for the winery club, but if you go there, you may be able to obtain them.
2016 Bello Rosso Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Heart of the Hill Vineyard ($15) - This 50/50 combination offers a deep ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, tobacco leaf and whiffs of incense. The flavors are medium bodied and direct, yet robust, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder and Red Mountain calcareous earth. The back picks up macerated berries and toffee, followed but a Tuscan-like dryish moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2016 Bello Rosso Carmenère, Red Mountain, Heart of the Hill Vineyard ($15) - Semi opaque ruby colored, this possesses a rich, smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, Damson plum, black roses, dark tobacco, mint and incense. The flavors are thick and direct, with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and minerals. The wine tightens up a bit on the back with roasted berries and nuts and charcoal on the finish. 18/20 points.
2015 Bello Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Heart of the Hill Vineyard ($15) - This is a thick and direct Cabernet. Deep ruby colored, it emits rich aromas of blackberry, cherry and plum with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and wood smoke. The flavors are mouth filling, with generous yet focused dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cola and Red Mountain scorched earth. The wine soften up a bit on the back with roasted berries and nuts, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On June 14, I attended the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine - The World of Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Panel Presentation & Tastings at the Marcus Whitman Hotel. This was the latest of of a succession of annual events which alternate with Merlot and Syrah as the Walla Walla Valley's signature grape varieties. This year's panel consisted of Moderator Owen Bargreen of the International Wine Report, Daniel Wampfler, winemaker at Abeja, JJ Menozzi of Aluvé and Josh McDaniels of Doubleback in the Walla Walla Valley. From the Napa Valley were Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock and Christopher Tynan of Cliff Lede. Rounding out the panel was Nicolò D'Affilitto of Frescobaldi in Tuscany, Italy. Six wines were tasted, one from each of the six winemakers on the panel. Here are the wines tasted with my notes and scores.
2015 Abeja Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Heather Hill Vineyard ($68) - This 100% varietal wine showed a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of sweet fruits - blackberries, cherries, plums, currants - with scents of crushed roses, tobacco, sweet pea flowers, rosemary, sage and wood smoke. The flavors were deep and full bore, with layers of dark fruits intermixed with licorice, cacao, French roast and silty minerals. On the back, the wine gained intensity with roasted berries and nuts, integrated oak (70% new French) and touches of kidskin and graphite followed by a lingering opulent yet firm finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Aluvé Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Menozzi Vineyard ($52) - Composed of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon with 7% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot, this show an inky ruby color and an intense nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, roses, tobacco, sandalwood, olive, vanillin and incense. The flavors were thick and opulent, yet deep and focused, marked by licorice, dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans and silty earth. The wine firmed up a bit on the back with notes of roasted berries and nuts, graphite and moderate oak (40% new French) followed by a long finish. 19+/20 points.
2016 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($85) - This blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot offered a deep ruby-crimson color and a perfumed nose of wild blackberries, blueberries, cherries, plums, black roses, pipe tobacco, cedar, violets and incense. The flavors were bold and structured, underlain with licorice, 85% cacao, French roast and silt and basalt minerals. The penetration continued on the back with roasted berries and walnuts, mocha, toffee, integrated oak (85% new French) and pencil shavings, followed by a lingering firm yet sweetish tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Chimney Rock Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($100) - From the Stag's Leap District, this 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot combination showed a deep ruby-crimson color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, Damson plum, black roses, sweet tobacco, cedar, sandalwood, a hint of mint, and oriental incense. The flavors were well framed, marked by notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French press and compact earth. The intensity continued on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, touches of vanilla oak (50% new French) and leather, and burnt charcoal, followed by a long, firm yet ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cliff Lede Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($98) - Also from the Stag's Leap District, this blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec, 7% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc offered a deep ruby-crimson color and rich aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, huckleberries, cherries, plums - with scents of crushed roses, sweet tobacco, violets and incense. The flavors were bold yet velvety, with notes of black licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and earth. On the back, the wine firmed up a bit, yet stayed velvety, with notes of roasted berries and walnuts, mocha, fine grained oak (80% new French) all leading seamlessly into a long satiny tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Frescobaldi Mormoreto Rosso Toscana, Castello Nipozzano ($90) - Composed largely of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and a touch of Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and an opulent nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, currant, black roses, sweet tobacco, cedar and sweet incense. The flavors, as well, were opulent, yet authoritative, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, Italian roast, and rocky hillside minerals. The back picked up roasted berries and hazelnuts, mocha, toffee and graphite, followed by a long dry yet rich finish, all conveying a sense of Tuscan elegance. 19.5/20 points.
All the wines were qualitatively nearly equal. The only differences were structural and stylistic, each reflecting a distinct terroir and varietal character.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines, I reviewed some sparking - "frizante" - wines from Foundry Vineyards "Pét-Nat Project." In the July issue, there will be two Pét-Nats from Grosgrain Vineyards. Is this the start of a new trend? First, what is Pét-Nat?
Pétillant Naturel - "Pét-Nat" for short - wines are bottled before completing the first fermentation, allowing carbon dioxide to be produced by the natural sugars in the grapes. This is the "méthode ancestral" used in the Limoux region of France. This is unlike the Champenoise method in which a secondary fermentation takes place with the addition of yeast and sugar. Also unlike Champagne, Pét-Nar not disgorged and may or not be filtered upon completion of fermentation. Pét-Nats are usually sealed with crown caps, like those used for cider.
Because they do not produce as much dissolved carbon dioxide, Pét-Nats are not as bubbly as methode Champenoise sparkling wines. Hence, they are called "pétillant," or frizante. They can be very enjoyable wines, slightly frothy, especially suitable for summer.
The Foundry Vineyards "Pét Project" is the creative endeavor of winemaker Jay Anderson. It is comprised of three Pét-Nats: the 2018 Grüner Veltliner from the Soluna Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge, the 2018 Pinot Gris Rosé from the same vineyard, and the 2018 Roussanne from the Conley Vineyard. See the June issue of the Review of Washington wines for reviews.
Grosgrain Vineyards is a new winery owned by Matt and Kelly Austin and is located on Half Acre Lane, off the Old Milton Highway. They make two Pét-Nats:
2018 Grosgrain Vineyards "Pet-Nat" Chenin Blanc, Yakima Valley, Willard Farms ($26) - From a vineyard planted in 1980, this features a gold color, frothy bubbles and floral aromas. The flavors are bright, fresh and resonant, with notes of saline minerals and brioche, followed by a bone dry (no dosage) finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Grosgrain Vineyards "Pet-Nat" Lemberger, Red Mountain, Kiona Vineyard ($26) - From old vines (planted 1976) this displays a copper rosé color, frothy bubbles and aromas of berries, cherries, tangerine and a lively mouth feel, with the CO2 tingling the palate along with notes of grape skin, peach stone and minerals. 18.5/20 points.
Full reviews of the above two wines to be in the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
For comparison, I picked up a bottle of Cremant de Limoux, made by the methode ancestral method (see above) at the Thief Bottle Shop in Walla Walla for $28. It was capped with a harnessed cork, like Champagne, but it uncorked with a whoosh instead of a pop, indicating less carbon dioxide than in a Champagne. Here are my notes.
Michèle Capedepon Cremant de Limoux, Brut - Lemon gold colored, this possesses light streaming bubbles and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, citrus, hazelnut, wildflowers and a hint of clover. The flavors are well delineated and extracted, with notes of peach stone, pear skin, lemon zest and a touch of creme fraiche, followed by a dry true Brut finish. 18.5/20 points.