- Written by Rand Sealey
On Friday, June 16th, I attended the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine tasting which was one of the "World of Syrah": events produced by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. The tasting was moderated by Patrick Comiskey, Senior Correspondent for Wine & Spirits Magazine. The panelists included winemakers Doug Frost of Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas, Rhone Valley of France, Gary Mills of Jamsheed Wines in Yarra Valley, Australia, Helen Keplinger of Keplinger wines in the Napa Valley, and Byron Kosge of Kingston Family Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, Chile. The Walla Walla Valley winemakers were Corey Braunel of DustedValley, Nina Buty of Buty Wines and Steve Brooks of Trust Cellars.
The tasting started off with a Prologue presentation by Whitman College Geology Professor Kevin Pogue, with an overview each winery's terroir and climate. Then the moderator and panel went on through the tasting and discussion of the wines being presented. The wines showed similarities and differences due to the variety of terrors and winemaking techniques. Here's a summary of the wines tasted and the winemakers' commentary.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, Les Ruchets ($60) - This comes from the upper slopes of Cornas in the North Rhone Valley and is 100% Syrah. It showed a semi opaque ruby color and a distinctive nose of raspberry and cassis. The flavors were intense, with varietal purity and granitic minerality, imbued with licorice, dark chocolate and French roast, and a persistent dryish, savory finish. Doug Frost said that they let the wine speak for itself. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Buty Rediviva of the Stones Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Rockgarden Estate Vineyard ($60) - Composed of 80% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Mourvèdre, this showed a ruby-crimson color and a seductive, perfumed nose of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, lavender and violets. The flavors, as well, were alluring, with penetrating dark fruits that marked by "Rocks" earth and minerality. Nina stated that minimal irrigation and 80% destemming of grapes make for increased complexity. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Keplinger "Hangman Hudson" Syrah, Carneros, California ($70) - This comes from a family operation, started on 1998. Helen Keplinger said they pick for a range of ripeness and do not do a lot of handling of the wine. It showed a ruby-crimson color and a lovely perfumed nose of cherry, cassis, black roses, violets and incense. The black and blue fruit flavors were suave and grace, yet firful, marked by licorice, cocoa, earth, grilled nuts, toffee and charcoal, followed by a lingering, sweetish finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Dusted Valley "Tall Tales" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($60) - Corey Braunel said this was 70% whole cluster fermented with extended maceration for increased concentration. Semi opaque ruby colored, it possessed aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco, olive and incense. The flavors were full and generous, marked by licorice, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a firm, yet ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Jamsheed "Seville" Syrah, Yarra Valley, Australia ($53) - This comes from an area north of Melbourne, in a transitional zone. They hand harvest and use extended maceration in small batches. It showed a deep ruby color and jammy, spicy aromas of plum, cherry and black currants, with crushed roses and spices. The flavors thick and juicy, yet firm, with notes of roasted berries and nuts, scorched earth, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a lingering firm yet ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2013 Trust Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($32) - This was sourced from the Les Collines (loess soil) and the Davidson (alluvial fan) vineyards. It showed a somewhat wild and gamy nose of blueberries, currants and Marion berries, with scents of garrigue and incense. The flavors were which, chewy and direct, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa and French roast. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, dried currants and charcoal, follow by a lingering chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Kingston Family Vineyards "Lucero" Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($20) - This comes from a high elevation region. It showed a ruby-crimson color and rich aromas of raspberry, blueberry and currants with scents of crushed roses and lavender. The flavors were fairly compact and restrained, with notes of licorice, espresso and earth. The back picked up squeezed berries, toasted nuts and graphite, followed by a long, juicy, savory finish. 19/20 points.
There was not a lot of difference qualitatively in the wines, but there were stylistic differences, with the Keplinger and Kingston the most graceful. and the Cornas and Buty the fullest bodied. My favorites, albeit subjective, were the Buty Rediviva and the Colombo Cornas. The best values were the Trust Cellars and Kingston Family Vineyards (a steal at $20).
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend, June 9-11, our friends, Kim and George Suyama, former neighbors of ours in West Seattle, came over to Walla Walla to stay with us. The visit was to attend a "Garden Party Book Event," hosted by Diana Broze, featuring signings of "Rosé All Day" and "Five Ways to Cook Asparagus." The Rosé book was written by Katherine Cole, who happens to be the daughter of Doug and Kathie Raff. Doug has been our family's attorney for many years. Katherine writes about wine for the Oregonian and has been the author of three books on wine and the host of The Top Four a national food and wine podcast. "Five Ways to Cook Asparagus" is written by Peter Miller, operator of Peter Miller Books, a shop specializing in architecture and design books which was located in George Suyama's architecture offices. He is a trained chef and the author of many cookbooks, including "Canal House Cooks Every Day."
On Friday evening, we started off with wine and appetizers in Diana Broze's garden. Peter served up some sautéed asparagus and morel mushrooms, served along with some local and Oregon wines. Then we went over to the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant for dinner in celebration of Colleen Miller's birthday. I ordered the 2013 Kerloo Cellars Upland Vineyard Grenache which went nicely with each of the guests' entrees, salmon, chicken or lamb.
The next afternoon was the Book Signing event in Diana Broze's garden. Lots of people came and many copies were sold and signed. A selection of Washington Rosé were poured, along with a few from Oregon. Here's what each book has to offer.
Subtitled "The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine," "Rosé All Day" is a virtual compendium of the Rosé wines of the world, including ones from exotic places such as Morocco, the Canary Islands, Lebanon and India. The different rosé winemaking techniques - blending red and white wine, direct press of red grapes, short pressing to tank or barrel, or saignée, bleeding off red juice - are explained. The book then explores the rosé wines of the world, including the popular ones of Southern France, the New World and more. Descriptions of various rose wines are included. Washington State gets five pages, including rosés from Tranche and Waters. Appendices include on line retailers and the top five rosé in five categories.
"Five Ways to Cook Asparagus (And Other Recipes)" is subtitled, The "Art and Practice of Making Dinner." It includes not only five ways to cook asparagus, but also broccoli, carrots, onions and cauliflower. Also legumes, rice, pasta and more. Then also "Five Ways to Bring the Beasts, Birds and Fish to Dinner. Additional sections include Weekend Cooking, Toolbox: Five Essential Skills, Menus: Five Ways to a Meal, and "A Sweet End to the Meal, A Dessert of Fresh Fruit. The recipes discussed are creative and imaginative. This book will provide a tasty experience for any cook.
After the book signing, several of us gathered at Jim German's Passatempo Taverna for an Italian style dinner. All kinds of antipasto, pasta, entrees and verdure (including asparagus of course) were served along with some Italian whites and reds, including a Syrah from Campania. This concluded a memorable weekend of Rosé Wine and Asparagus.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last week on Facebook, I noticed that Sleight of Hand Cellars and Tero Estates were celebrating their Tenth Anniversaries, both having been founded in 2007. Here's how they started.
In 2007, Trey Busch was the winemaker at Basel Cellars when he got together with Jerry and Sandy Solomon to start Sleight of Hand Cellars. The marketing concept was eye catching labels of magicians creating their illusions, and fine winemaking. In 2011, S of H moved from a downtown storefront location to its present one on JB George Road. An additional barrel room was added in 2014 and the winery's capacity is now close to 9000 cases. As fans of Pop Rock, especially Pearl Jam, the team's motto is "Good wine, and music, and lots of fun, that's the recipe for the Sleight of Hand lifestyle."
In 2006, Doug and Jan Roskelley and Mike Tembruell got together to form TR Wines (Tembreull and Roskelley) and in June 2007 the Hendricks Windrow Vineyard in the South Valley, adjacent to Seven Hills,was purchased. Subsequently, the two names were combined into one brand name, Tero Estates. Doug had previous experience making wine in Woodinville with John Bigelow and the Tero launch was off to a quick start. In 2010, the Flying Trout brand was added and later, Waters. Today, there are two tasting rooms, one on Peppers Bridge Road (Flying Trout, Waters) and the other at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.
This year also marks another tenth anniversary of sorts. In March of 2007, Lynn and I stopped in Walla Walla on our way home to Seattle from skiing in Idaho. We visited several wineries and became attracted to the Walla Walla Valley lifestyle. In December we looked at houses for part-time living in Walla Walla and purchased a renovated 1906 craftsman near downtown in January 2008. Later that year, I started the Review of Washington Wines and in 2013, we moved to Walla Walla to live full time.
The significance of these anniversaries is that it was around 2007 and in the following years that winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley saw tremendous growth and consumer awareness. Since then, Walla Walla has become a a mecca for wine lovers.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As we near the end of the first half of the year, I have looked back at the January through June issues of the Review of Washington Wines to see what the most compelling wines were. These are wines that really stand out, especially for their respective categories. Here is a list of such wines and why they are so compelling. This is not by any means a complete list. There are more wines that are truly outstanding. The ones picked out are ones that call out to be really noticed.
2013 Woodward Canyon Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($79) - This is an outstanding and unique version of a BDX blend, 33% Merlot, 33% Petit Verdot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. It pulls together the distinctive varieties into a highly complex combination. 19.5/20 points. Reviewed January.
2013 Charles Smith "King Coal" Cabernet-Syrah, Washington, Northridge Vineyard ($100) - A powerful combination of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah from near Royal City. Vigorous and complex from beginning to end. 19.5/20 points. February.
2014 Mark Ryan "Lost Soul" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($46) - This is a stellar vintage from the first vineyard in the state to be planted with Syrah. Seductive and saturated, it is a superb expression of Washington Syrah. 19.5/20 points. February.
2014 Mark Ryan "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($95) - From the Quintessence and Obelisco vineyards, this 100% Cabernet is deep and concentrated, a superb expression of Red Mountain Cab that shows elegance from beginning to end. 19.5/20 points. April.
2014 Avennia Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard, 1985 Block ($95) - This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in 100% new French oak. The flavors are wide ranged and complex, showing perfection in balance and complexity. 20/20 points. May.
2014 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Ferguson Vineyard ($65) - This blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% - Merlot and 6% each of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, is deep and penetrating, with basaltic minerality and a long, powerful finish. 19.5/20 points. May.
2014 Alleromb Grenache, Columbia Valley, Scarline Vineyard ($65) - Full of mouth caressing flavors and superb balance, this is one of the best Washington Grenaches I've run across. 19.5/20 points. May.
2012 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard, Plateau Block ($55) - This is a big, powerful Cabernet with intense aromas and penetrating flavors, all superbly integrated and balanced. 19.5/20 points. May.
2014 Waters "Old Stones" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($50) - Full and brawny, with lots of flavor and back palate saturation, this is a superb expression of "Rocks" terroir. 19.5/20 points. May.
2014 Canvasback "Grand Passage" Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($80) - This "Reserve" Cabernet from Duckhorn shows a wide array of complex flavors and varietal precision throughout. 20/20 points. June.
2014 Gramercy Cellars "John Lewis" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard ($85) - From Block 16 and cluster fermented, this is Les Collines Syrah at its best, full and fleshy, yet focused, all flowing seamlessly. 19.5/20 points. June.
2014 Adams Bench "Ursula" Sangiovese, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($52) - This is world class Sangiovese, in the caliber of a Brunello di Montalcino, deep and intense, yet smooth and satiny. 19.5/20 points. June.
2014 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard ($70) - Composed of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot, this is a knockout. With a full array of aromatics and flavors, it is tall, dark and handsome. 20/20- points. June.
2014 Maison Bleue "Frontière" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Waliser Vineyard ($65) - This is Jon Meuret's first foray into "Rocks" Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows intense aromatics and distinct, powerful, yet supple flavors that all pull together admirably. 19.5/20 points. June.
2013 DeLille Cellars Grand Ciel Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($160) - A big, powerful 100% Cabernet, intensely aromatic, with compact and intense, yet smooth flavors and a two minute finish, this has it all. 20/20 points. June.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Sauternes is one of the most remarkable wines of Bordeaux. Produced from white grapes, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, it is usually a sweet wine. With the warm, humid climate, the grapes become infected with Botrytis cinerea, "the noble rot," a mold that causes grapes to become partially raisined, producing wines of considerable sweetness. This does not always occur. In some years only semi sweet or dry wines are produced depending in the growth of Botrytis cinerea. Sweet Sauternes age well. In youth, they are amiable sweet wines, suitable with desserts, especially tarts. As they age, they become drier as the sugars oxidize and acquire a caramelized taste, with the botrytis imparting a distinctive, fungal, nutted taste. These aged Sauternes make superb accompaniments to foie gras and Roquefort cheese.
On Thursday, May 18th, Philippe Michel hosted a tasting pf Sauternes from the 2005 and older vintages for the SOB (Sons of Bacchus) wine tasting group. Philippe supplied most of the wines from his cellar and others brought interesting wines. Because of the nature of Sauternes, there was not much agreement as to the favorites. That depended on individual preferences for highly botrytised wines or higher fruit acid ones. Here is a rundown of the most interesting wines, with my notes and scored, not in any particular order.
2003 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes - This showed a deep amber color and a maturing nose of dried fruits and banana flambé, with nuts and spices. Elegantly styled, with considerable botrytis, a bit low in acid. 19+/20 points.
2003 Chateau Coutet, Sauternes-Barsac - Deep amber colored with an oxidative nose of dried fruits and butterscotch. The flavors were viscous, nearly dry, with nutted botrytis undertones and a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2005 Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes - Deep amber colored, with a nutted nose of dried flowers and fruits. The flavors showed notes of honey, clover and creme brulée, and a long botrytis finish. A classic. 19.5/20 points.
1988 Chateau Lafaurie-Peraguey, Sauternes - This was a fine example of an aged Sauternes. Amber colored, it showed complex aromas of dried fruits, orange peel and caramel, with faintly honeyed flavors. Fine acidity has enabled this wine to age well, even though from a drier year without much botrytis. It was one of my favorites, but not by most tasters. 19.5/20 points.
2005 Chateau La Tour Blanche, Sauternes - Medium amber colored, this showed floral aromas of wildflowers, nuts and a hint of butterscotch. The flavors were rich and viscous, with a long, complex, spiced, nutted finish. Exquisitely styled. 19+/20 points.
1989 Chateau Sudiraut, Sauternes - This was an interesting example of an aged Sauternes. Medium copper colored, it showed a mature nose of dried flowers and fruits. The flavors were nearly dry, with a distinctive nuttiness. Past its peak, it lacked fruit acidity and complexity. 18.5/20 points.
Thanks to Philippe Michel for hosting this tasting and supplying nuts, dried fruits, Roquefort cheese and unforgettable mousse de foie gras. A superb tasting.