- Written by Rand Sealey
Wines Recently Tasted
Below are some wines we've drunk at home and on a recent visit to Seattle.
The Zinfandels from Ridge Vineyards have been among our favorites for over four decades. These two are outstanding.
2016 Ridge Lytton Springs Red Wine, Dry Creek Valley ($43) - Composed of 69% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Syrah, 6% Carignan and 2% Mataro (Mourvèdre) this shows a ruby color and intoxicating aromas of blackberry, cherry, huckleberry, rosebuds, brambles and wood smoke. The flavors are supple, yet vigorous with layers of red fruits, licorice, cocoa, and riverbed minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, cherry liqueur and spiced American oak on the way to a lingering ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2016 Ridge Geyserville Red Wine, Alexander Valley ($43) - A field blend of 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignan 7% Petite Syrah and 3% Alicante Bouschet, this displays a ruby-crimson color and seductive aromas of raspberries, blueberries, currants, red roses, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing with lavish red and blue fruits that are accented by licorice, cola, coffee beans and earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts, kirsch and toffee followed by a lengthy ripe, smooth tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Col Solare Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain ($80) - We had this at the Sorrento in Seattle. I ordered it because it was on the wine list for $90. Most restaurant wines are about double of retail, so the Sorrento must have gotten a super special deal from the winery. It was bold and powerful, typical of Red Mountain Cabernet, but elegantly styled, with layers of dark fruits, licorice, dark coffee and scorched earth, along with integrated oak and a long complex finish. 19.5/20 points. A full review to be in the January issue.
2014 Woodward Canyon "Artist Series" Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State - We had this at the Sunset Club. It was drinking nicely. Rich aromas and supple yet well defined medium full bodied flavors. The fruit just kept on coming, with intermixtures of licorice, cocoa, and earth, followed by a lengthy moderate tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva ($34.99 - Esquin) - From Castelnuovo Beradenga in the east of the Classico region, this is a lovely, approachable Riserva. It shows a ruby-garnet color, and enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, red plum, rose petals, tobacco, anise and incense. The flavors are supple and mouth filling, with that distinct mountainside minerality that distinguishes a Classico. The slightly nutted sweet-dry tannin finish is satiny and elegant. 18.5+/20 points.
2013 Felsina "Rancia" Chianti Classico Riserva ($59.99 - Esquin) - This top line Riserva offers a deep ruby-garnet color and an intoxicating nose of cherries, dark plums, crushed rose petals, pipe tobacco, cedar, rosemary and smoldering incense. The old vine flavors are intense and deep cored, marked by licorice, bittersweet chocolate, espresso and stony minerals. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of macerated fruits, roasted chestnuts, graphite and oak, all leading seamlessly into a lingering, satiny finish. 19+/20 points.
2014 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva - We had this at Assaggio, priced at $75. It came on as being in between the traditional and modern styles of Chianti Classico. Garnet colored, it possessed aromas of raspberry, cherry and plum with well structured classic flavors, marked by licorice, espresso and hillside minerals. The back picked up macerated fruits, roasted chestnuts and a long dryish finish. It paired beautifully with our risotto with wild mushrooms and beef tidbits. 19/20 points.
N/V Anne-Sophie Dubois "Ici et là" Vin de France ($28 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - "Ici et là" means "Here and there." This is interesting in that it is composed of 80% Gamaret (a crossing of Gamay and Reichensteiner, mostly grown in Switzerland) and 20% Gamay. It shows a ruby-crimson color and attractive aromas of raspberries, cherries, red currants. red roses, sweet pea flowers and white incense. The medium bodied flavors are bright and vivid, with notes of red licorice, cherry cola and granitic minerals. The back picks up framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a pleasingly juicy moderate alcohol (12%) and tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Fréderic et Daniel Brunier "Mégaphone" Ventoux ($24 - The Thief) - Ventoux (formerly Cotes du Ventoux - "Windy Slopes") is situated in the southwest Rhone Valley. This 80% Grenache, 20% Syrah combination shows a ruby color and aromas of raspberries, currants, mulberry, tobacco and pepper. The flavors are medium bodied yet robust, with notes of licorice, cola and wind blown scorched earth. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured, with roasted berries and nuts and charcoal, followed by a ripe, again peppery, moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2016 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas ($39.99 - Esquin) - This is an addition to our collection of Gigondas wines (see the posting of 24 October for previous ones). This one displays a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberries, currants, red plums, tobacco, garrigue, smoked meats and spiced incense. The flavors are lavish yet thick and deep cored, with black and red fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back reveals sensations of pressed fruits, roasted nuts, kidskin, creme de cassis and charcoal, followed by a long spice ripe tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 19/20 points.
A Wine Grammar Lesson
In reading wine writing by others, I run across words that have been misused. Here are a few examples.
Variety and varietal. These two words have been used as being interchangeable. That is incorrect. Variety is a noun as in "Merlot is a grape variety." Varietal is an adjective as in "This wine has good varietal character." Varietal modifies the word character. The addition of ly makes the word varietally an adverb, as in "This wine is varietally correct." Recently, I saw in a winery brochure this sentence: "Don't be fooled by the Hollywood movies and perception that merlot is not as superior as other varietals." It should be varieties, not varietals.
Pallet, palate and palette. These are homonyms, words that are similar in pronunciation, but have different meanings. But I have seen the incorrect word used in describing a wine, as in "This wine has a tasty pallet." A pallet is what one stacks cases of wine on, not a palate. A palate is in the mouth, where one tastes wine. A a palette is a plate on which an artist mixes paints. Palette can also be used to indicate variety of flavors, as in "This wine has a wonderful palette of delicious flavors."
Here is a sentence that illustrates the correct usage of these words: "The winemaker fork lifted a pallet of his wine which had a tasty palate and a palette of complex flavors."
End of wine grammar lesson of the day.
Be sure to have plenty of American wine, especially Washington ones for this American traditional dinner. See last week's Review Blog below for my selections for Thanksgiving.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2018 Declared a Success
The 2018 wine harvest has come to an end and everyone is happy with the crop. Growers finished harvesting in late October and early November. The quality is believed to be high. Here's what some winemakers have posted on Facbook:
Aluvé (Kelly and JJ Menozzi): "The last of our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot was harvested Monday [October 19]. We are excited about how the 2018 vintage is tasting now."
Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand) called it "one for the ages! Quality is through the roof, and we had a picture perfect Autumn to lead us into November."
Jan Roskelley (Tero Estates): "Yes, the grapes were cold. Yes, they were tasty! They will be gorgeous in the bottle...years from now!"
Walla Walla Vintners (November 6): "As the final lots are pressed out and the last of the barrels are being filled...the end is in sight. 2018 has been one beautiful vintage."
What We're Drinking for Thanksgiving
Every year, I get annoyed when grocery stores and liquor stores recommend foreign wines for Thanksgiving. The main motivation seems to be that retailers want you to buy what they want to sell. Thanksgiving is distinctly an American holiday and should be celebrated with our own wines.
Three years ago (2015) we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Walla Walla with Ted and Joyce Cox and other friends. I supplied the wines, a selection of wines suitable for the Thanksgiving dinner. I will be doing the same again this year. Here's what I'll be bringing.
A couple of bottles of Washington sparkling wines from Treveri to go with the appetizers.
A couple of bottles of Washington Rieslings (Long Shadows and Eroica) for those who like a slightly sweet white wine.
A couple of bottles of "GSM" wines L'Ecole No. 41 and The Walls). The combination of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre is made to order for the savory spices and herbs of Thanksgiving.
A couple of bottles of Washington Syrah for those liking a bolder yet compatible red. A Reynvaan will provide just the right amount of Rocks earthiness and a Waters will offer suppleness and spice.
A Seven Hills Late Harvest Riesling and a Whidbey's Port for dessert.
When you choose wines for Thanksgiving, think aromatics, wines whose aromas and flavors can complement the spice and herb aromas and flavors of the turkey and all the fixings. Steer away from dry whites such as Chardonnay and tannic wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want a "Bordeaux" wine, try a Carmenère or a Cabernet Franc.
- Written by Rand Sealey
During Fall Release Weekend, the Reynvaan Family Vineyards celebrated its Tenth Anniversary with a retrospective tasting of Syrahs from the In the Rocks Vineyard. The Reynvaan family - parents, Mike and Gale, winemaker son, Matt, daughters Amanda and Angela, and other family members - hosted the event at the winery on the end of Cottonwood Road.. The vintages poured were from 2007, when the winery was started, to a barrel sample of the 2017 vintage. Here are my notes and scores.
2007 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This showed a deep garnet color and rich aromas of semi-dried fruits, orange peel and smoldering incense. The flavors were maturing beautifully with depth and complexity, followed by a long, slightly nutted finish. 19/20 points.
2008 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - Garnet colored, this possessed smoky aromas of dried berries, roasted nuts orange peel and incense. The flavors were rich and smooth, beautifully matured, with notes of mocha, coffee grounds, distinct Rocks minerality and a long, long, complex savory finish. 19.5/20 points.
2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This showed a ruby-garnet color and rich, smoky aromas of semi-dried berries, burnt leaves, sandalwood and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, with distinct Rocks minerality, slightly nutted, followed by a long, complex dried finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This was one of the Reynvaan's best vintages, from a cooler year. It showed an intoxicating nose of wild berries, dried lavender, herbs and smoldering incense. The flavors were deep and penetrating, underlain with maturing fruits and cobblestone minerals and loamy, followed by a seemingly endless finish. 19.5/20 points.
2011 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This showed a brilliant ruby color and a rich nose of wild berries, garrigue and incense. The flavors were supple yet well structured, with layers of elegant fruits, that picked up roasted nuts and orange peel on the way to a long, dryish finish, typical of the 2011 vintage. Slow maturing, this will need more time. 19+/20 points.
2012 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - Medium ruby colored, this wine has developed nicely with floral aromas of raspberry, chassis, lavender and incense. On the palate the wine was pleasingly rich and supple, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and Rocks minerals, followed by a long, dryish finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This vintage displayed a medium ruby color and a warm, rich nose of raspberries, blueberries, currants, tobacco, lavender and white incense. The medium bodied flavors came on elegantly, with notes of licorice, cocoa powder and earth, followed by touches of orange peel and pencil shavings on the toasty, lightly herbed finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - Deep ruby-crimson colored, this possessed sultry, smoky aromas of semi-dried fruits, orange peel, garrigue and oriental incense. The medium full bodied flavors came on well structured, with considerable varietal purity, accompanied by notes of dark cocoa, French roast and Rocks minerality, followed by a lingering, savory ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - This showed a deep ruby-crimson color and a lovely, perfumed nose of wild fruits, lavender, violets and oriental incense. The flavors were deliciously ripe and supple, yet focused, with notes of licorice, cocoa powder and loamy cobblestone minerals, followed seamlessly by a long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard - Deep crimson-purple colored, this possessed an almost ethereal nose of wild fruits, pomegranate and cassis, rose petals, lavender and incense. The stylish flavors were medium bodied yet elegant and well delineated, marked by cocoa powder, earth, orange peel and charcoal, followed by a spice dusted dryish finish. 19+/20 points.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks Vineyard (Barrel Sample) - This showed a deep ruby color and the nose was a bit closed. The medium full bodied flavors were replete with wild fruits (Boysenberries, huckleberries, currants) and notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth, followed by pressed berries, nuts, lanolin and charcoal, followed by a long finish. Great potential, should go to 19.5/20 points with age.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A few weeks ago, Doug and Jan Roskelley generously gave us six bottles of Tero Estates wines from the 2008 vintage. In 2007, the Roskelley, along with Mike Tembruell, acquired the Windrow Vineyard in the south Walla Walla Valley adjacent to Seven Hills. Some wines were made that year, but it was in 2008 that the winery's operations got into full swing. Last Sunday, October 18th, we hosted a tasting of these 2008s along with some other vintages. The Roskelleys were also present and Doug talked about the wine. Here are my notes.
2008 Tero Estates Windrow Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - This is a field blend of the same percentages of varieties as those planted on the vineyard - 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 6% Malbec. It showed a ruby-garnet color and rich aromas of semi-dried berries, sandalwood, dried roses, and incense. The flavors were mature, with some residual fruit, along with a long, complex Bordeaux-like finish. 19/20 points.
2008 Tero Estates Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - The vines were originally planted by Herb Hendricks home and then transplanted at Windrow in the late '80's. This vintage showed some age, but held up nicely with aromas and flavors of semi-dried berries and roasted nuts. The texture came on as rich and round, with silty minerals, roasted nuts and a dryish finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2008 Tero Estates "S. T." Red Wine, Columbia Valley - "S. T." stands for "Super Tuscan," a blend of 51% Sangiovese and 49% Cabernet Sauvignon. It showed a medium garnet color and an intriguing nose of roasted walnuts, orange peel and incense. The flavors were silky textured, with chewy undertones and a smooth tannin fans. 18.5/20 points.
2008 Tero Estates Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard - When the Roskelleys decided to make a Petit Verdot, a grape not commonly produced as a varietal, they turned to the Les Collines Vineyard in the south Valley. It showed a garnet color and sultry aromas of dried fruits and spices. The medium bodied flavors showed some remaining fruit, finishing smooth and slightly nutted. 18.5/20 points.
2008 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards, Hill Block - From a block planted in 1998, this vintage showed a deep garnet color and a complex bouquet of dried fruits and flowers, sandalwood, cedar and incense. The flavors were velvety and complex, with a bit of graininess that extended to the back, with roasted nuts, a bit of toffee and coffee grounds, followed by a long finish. Elegant and superb. 19.5/20 points.
2008 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards, Old Block - This comes from one of the first significant plantings, in 1981, of Cabernet Sauvignon in the South Valley. It showed a brilliant garnet color and a lovely bouquet of sweet-dry fruits, samdalwood, dried orange peel and smoldering oriental incense. The flavors were full and fleshy, with considerable remaining ripe fruit, followed by a long finish with a bit of tannin. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Tero Estates "DC3" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - This wine takes its name from Dr. Herb Hendricks' Dugger Creek Cattle Company (DC3) part of which is where the Windrow Vineyards were planted. Composed of 59% Merlot and 41% Cabernet Franc, it showed a deep ruby-garnet color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry, plum and orange peel. The flavors were pleasingly ripe, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and silt, followed by a nice ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Tero Estates Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - Cab Franc is something of a Tero specialty. This showed a deep color and a rich nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, orange peel, sandalwood, rosemary and sage. The flavors were chewy and vivid, fruit forward, with intermixtures of cocoa, coffee and silt, followed by a long finish. 19./20 points.
2010 Tero Estates Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - Deep ruby colored, this possessed smoky aromas of semi dried fruits, sandalwood, tobacco and incense. The flavors were medium bodied, yet framed by deep fruits, intermixed with licorice, cacao and coffee grounds, all leading intro a long spice and herb dusted finish. 19/20 points.
2011 Tero Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyards - This is a product of a protracted harvest. It showed a deep ruby color and an intoxicating nose of blackberries, dark cherries, black currants, orange peel, tobacco and incense. The flavors were deep and focused with complex undertones and a long finish. It needs more time to develop fully at which time it should score 19.5/20 points.
This was a highly rewarding tasting and all enjoyed it. Our thanks to Doug and Jan Roskelley for helping make this happen.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Sometime in the early 1990s, I ran across an article by Eric Asimov, the wine writer for the New York Times about what he called the Gigondas test. In it, he suggested that wine shops that had at least a couple of Gigondas wines from the South Rhone Valley were ones that could be taken seriously, ones that offered more than the usual ones from Bordeaux, Burgundy, North Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape. I don't remember how many we had at Esquin at the time. But I have had several encounters with Gigondas over the fifty years that I have been in the wine industry.
First, what is Gigondas? It is one of the principal Appellations de Origines Controloée of the South Rhone Valley. Situated northeast of Avignon, in the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirial, tooth shaped peaks rising above the Pays du Vaucluse, comprised of limestone. The principal grape is Grenache, usually up to 80 percent, with the balance Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault, the same varieties as those used in the more famous Chateauneuf du Pape. The wines are made in a variety of styles, from medium to full bodied and spicy.
My first encounter with Gigondas was with one that Esquin Wine Merchants carried when I first started the Seattle store in 1969. It was Château Raspail from Domaine Ay. We picked it up from the Esquin store in San Francisco. The catalog we published had a paragraph blurb about the wine and it sold well, customers being intrigued with it. A couple of years later, the Château changed distributors and the product was no longer available.
Over the years, there were other encounters with Gigondas. In the early 1980s, Bordeaux and Burgundy prices were sky high and we were looking for better values in French wines. One time, Karl Peterowsky, a former owner of Esquin-San Francisco, showed me a Gigondas that was rich and flavorful, yet robust. "Peppery," Karl called it. We took it on and it sold well.
Later, Château Raspail-Ay re-emerged, introduced by Raintree Imports in Seattle. The Raintree rep, Daniel Block, thanked me for our support. It filled a niche in the burgeoning market filled with Italian, French, California and Washington wines.
Another encounter with Gigondas was in 1981 on a trip to France. We visited some friends in Marseille and Henri had a friend who had a property in Gigondas. So we drove up one day to the property to visit it. It turned out to be a disappointment. The wines were thin and lacking in character. Apparently, the owner, who was new to the area, did not have any idea of what exceptional wine was. There a wide range of quality at the time, from mediocre to excellent.
In the late 1980's, we were loading and unloading pallets of Bordeaux and Italian wines (Burgundy remained high priced) at unbelievable prices ($13.99 for Château Talbot), so Rhone wines took a back seat. Then in the 1990s, we ran across a Gigondas from Château de Beaucastel, a property well known for its Châteauneuf du Pape. It was priced just above the Domaine's Côtes du Rhone and a better value.
In 1997, I sold Esquin to the present owners so my encounters with Gigondas as a wine merchant came to an end. But I did come across it from time to time. When in restaurants, I would often order a Gigondas because I knew it offered good value. Raspail-Ay emerged again at Corvino's in Kansas City last spring where we had it with fried chicken (a Midwestern specialty). It was delicious. And then we found it at the Thief Bottle Shop in Walla Walla (sadly, it is no longer available).
Having rediscovered Gigondas, I set out to sample and purchase wines from that appellation. Here are some from retailers that meet Erc Asimov's Gigondas test that I especially recommend.
2016 Moulin de Gardette Gigondas, "Tradition" ($34.99 - Esquin) - Composed of 80% Grenache and 10% each of Cinsault and Mourvèdre, fermented and aged in concrete, this shows wonderful purity, deep colored with a rich nose of blackberry, raspberry and black currant, and scents of crushed roses, garrigue, olive tapenade and incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet focused, with notes of licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, creme de cassis and burnt charcoal, followed by a ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points. New Review.
2015 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas ($34.99 - wine.com) - Composed of 78% Grenache and the balance, Cinsault and Mourvèdre, this offers a deep purplish color and intense aromas of raspberry, blackberry, plum, cassis, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are robust, yet generous, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and stony minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, grilled nuts, creme de cassis and plum preserves, followed by a ripe sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points. New Review.
2016 Alain Jaume Gigondas, "Terrasses de Montmiral" ($37.99 - wine.com) - This is one of the top Gigondas wines tasted so far. It boasts a deep ruby-crimson color and an intense nose of wild fruits, crushed roses, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are full and generous, yet focused, with a lingering ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points. Reviewed in 02 October Review Blog.
2015 Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas, "Les Sauterelles" ($41 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - Composed of 80% Grenache with 10% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, this displays a deep ruby color and an intoxicating nose of wild fruits, garrigue and incense. The flavors are thick and chewy, with a vigorous yet elegant finish. Mouth filling from beginning to end. 19/20 points. Reviewed in 04 September Review Blog.
2015 Domaine Saint Damien Gigondas, "Vieilles Vignes" - ($34.99 - Esquin) - This 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre combination offers a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of blackberry, cherry and black currant, with scents of tobacco, lavender and incense. The flavors are thick and robust, yet velvety, underlain with scorched earth and macerated berries, followed by a warm but not hot ripe tannin finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points - 10 July Review Blog.
2015 Domaine Grand Montmiral Gigondas, "Les Deux Juliette" ($23.99 - wine.com) - Deep ruby colored, this features a deep ruby color and rich, spicy aromas of raspberries, pomegranates and currants, with scents of crushed roses, tobacco and garrigue, and loads of plush, direct black and blue fruits, all leading into a satisfying ripe tannin finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points. 10 February Review Blog.