- Written by Rand Sealey
This winter in the Walla Walla Valley has been one of the coldest on record. There have been two week-long spells of sub zero temperatures and much more snow than usual (which is typically an inch or two, not six to twelve inches). Twice Graybill Pond in front of our house on Kendall Road froze solid. One morning, our thermometer registered minus 2.6 degrees. Our January heating bill was horrendous. We spent ten days in Southern California (with two days of heavy cold rain in Pasadena) and returned to Walla Walla for another six inches of snow the next day.
The winter weather has had an impact on the wine industry as well. There was an article in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin about how local businesses experienced a downturn. Icy streets have deterred people from going out of their homes. This has affected wine tasting rooms as well. A couple of wineries reported that sales were down 30%. The same for restaurants. January and February are normally slow months, but this year has been slower than usual. There was a February for Foodies promotion and we attended a winemaker's dinner at Forgeron Cellars which was very nicely done. The 2012 Anvil Cabernet Sauvignon was a hit (to be reviewed in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines - 19.5/20 points).
Another concern with the extremely cold weather has been about the grape vines. Fortunately, the vines went into dormancy in November and December, before the freezing weather hit. But some younger vines may not make it, and will have to be replaced. Also, some varieties are less hardy than others. We will have to wait until bud break in the Spring to assess the extent of damage.
Things are starting to get back to normal. Temperatures have been in the 30's, with early morning lows in the 20's. Spring will be coming before long!
March Cellars and Vital Wines at the Oscars
On another winter note, Ashley Trout's March Cellars and Vital Wines will be poured for attendees at the February 25 pre-Oscars gifting event at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This is a first for a Walla Walla Valley winery. Vital Wines provides medical care for seasonal winery workers at the SOS Clinic, funded by proceeds of the sales of wines produced from donated grapes, equipment and supplies. March Cellars is Ashley's own winery, a tribute to those who moved westward in the 1800's.
March Cellars and Vital Wines is offering "The Oscar Pack" for $150 (plus 1 cent for shipping). It consists of three bottles of the 2015 Vital Wines "The Gifted" Red Blend, two 2014 March Cellars Chardonnay and one 2014 March Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon-Cabernet Franc. (See the October and December 2016 issues for reviews of these wines.) www.marchcellars.com.
Our Valentine's Day Wine
On yet another winter note, Lynn and I had filet mignon with a 2012 Domaine de la Charbonnière Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Vieilles Vines. From 80 to 100 year-old Grenache vines, with a bit of Mourvèdre, it was superb, with intoxicating aromas of wild berries, orange peel, lavender and oriental incense. The flavors comprised an intricate composition of of multilayered fruits, robust yet velvety, marked by pepble minerals and a long complex finish. 19.5/20 points.
Next Week: On February 22, the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines goes on line along with a Review Blog posting about current wine trends.
- Written by Rand Sealey
College Cellars is the educational winery of the Walla Walla Community College's Center for Enology and Viticulture, founded in 2000 by Stan Clarke and Myles Anderson. The current administration is composed of Tim Donahue, Enology Instructor and Winemaker, Joel Perez, Director of Viticulture Manager, Danielle Swan-Froese, EV Program Coordinator, and Sabrina Lueck, Assistant Enologist. The instructors and students work at winemaking in projects on individual wines. The grapes come from the winery's estate vineyards (Clarke, Anderson) or from donated grapes. Many of College Cellars' graduates are now working at wineries around the world. Here is a listing of College Cellars' current vintages that have been or will be reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines. All are great values.
2014 Barbera, Walla Walla Valley, Anderson Vineyard ($18) - 18+/20 points - April 2016
2014 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Anderson Vineyard ($20) - 18+/20 points - April
2014 Carmenère, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - 18+/20 points - April
2015 Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($16) -18/20 points - August 2016
2015 Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley ($20) 18+/20 points - August
2015 Semillon, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($14) - 18/20 points - January 2017
2014 Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - 18/20 points - January
2014 Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($24) - 18.5/20 points - January
2016 Rosé of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Reed Vineyard ($16) - One of the first of the season rosés, made from Pinot Gris grapes that were given extended hang time, resulting in a copper hued color and distinctive flavors. 18/20 points. A full review to be in the March issue.
2015 Riesling, Walla Walla Valley, Loess Vineyard ($15) - 18/20 points - To be reviewed March
2014 Malbec, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($22) -18.5/20 points - March
The following two wines are in limited supply and are reviewed here.
2016 Muscat Ottonel, Walla Walla Valley, Red Boar Vineyard ($16) - Sourced from chef Greg Schnorr's vineyard, this is a fun wine. Slightly effervescent (with a cider cap), it possesses pear, peach and citrus aromas with scents of honeysuckle and spiced incense. The slightly sweet flavors (6% residual sugar) are balanced by bright acidity. 18+/20 points.
2014 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard ($28) - This was made as a special project and only 25 cases were produced. It shows a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of wild raspberries, mountain blueberries, and black currants, with scents of wild roses, mulberry, lavender, olive, violets and spiced incense. On the palate, the flavors are generous, yet focused, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and loess minerals. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts, toffee, framboise and cassis liqueurs, and charcoal, followed by a savory ripe tannin finish. This wine delivers a lot of satisfaction which gives it a plus. 18.5+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On January 19, Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission and Josh McDonald, executive director of the Washington Wine Commission, briefed the State Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee in Olympia about the impact of the state's wine industry. At one point, the committee chairman, Senator Michael Baumgartner (R - Spokane) asked, "You're telling me that wine is gonna be bigger than wheat?" Steve Warner replied, "It's gonna be big bigger."
Warner and McDonald told the committee that Washington has approximately 900 wineries, with about four new ones each month. The state has about 350 grape growers with approximately 53,000 acres. In 1915, 222,000 tons of grapes were produced, with a revenue of $254.2 million. The 2016 wheat harvest from 2.2 million acres reaped $600 million in sales. The 2016 grape harvest has been estimated to be 20% higher than the previous year. It's not going to be very long before Washington Wine becomes "bigger than wheat."
There are quite a few good reasons why Washington Wine is becoming bigger than wheat:
High quality-price ratios - Washington wines offer higher quality for their prices than any other wine producing state. The ratings in the Review of Washington Wines and other publications are evidence of that.
Plenty of available acreage and water access - There are hundreds of thousands of acres of land that are suitable for grape growing and there is good access to water, unlike drought plagued California. No wonder out of state investors are buying vineyard land here.
Reasonable farming costs and profit margins - Well managed vineyards and wineries have good chances of success in this state.
Growing awareness of Washington Wines - National and international press has created more awareness of Washington State as a producer of quality wines.
Education for developing talent and research - Viticulture and enology programs such as those of the Walla Walla Community College and Washington State University are training students to be skilled workers in the wine industry. Research at the WSU Prosser Extension and other institutions helps maintain the industry's progress.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In my last Review of Washington Wine Blog posting of 12 January, I wrote, "It is no secret that white wine grapes command lower price than red wine grapes. Red wines get more respect than white ones." While they cost more than white wines, there are still some reds that are great values. Most of them come in at the $25 price point. I rarely come across a red scoring 18.5/20 points for under $20. Also, there are few varietal wines in this category with the exception of Syrah, a less fashionable grape than Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. Most will be blends. Also, these wines generally are "stretched" with some press juice. The trick, though, is not to put in too much press wine in the blend. Too much results in an astringent wine. I have rejected many reds for this. All this said, here are some recently reviewed wines that offer fine value for $25 or less.
2013 Cavatappi "San Pietro" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) 18.5/20 points - October 2016
2014 Wind Rose Cellars Primitivo, Columbia Valley, Stone Tree Vineyard ($25) 18.5/20 points - November
2015 Eight Bells Marquette, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($25) - 18.5/20 points - November
2012 Eight Bells Merlot, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard ($25) - 18.5/20 points - November
2014 Les Trouvées Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - November
2015 Vital "The Gifted" Red Wine Blend, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - December
2012 Tranche Cellars Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard ($25) - 18.5/20 points - January
2012 Tranche Cellars Tempranillo, Yakima Valley, Blackrock Vineyard ($25) - 18.5/20 points - January
2014 College Cellars Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($24) - 18.5/20 points - January
2014 Kerloo Cellars "Majestic" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - January
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley ($24) - 18.5/20 points - February
2014 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley ($24) - 18.5/20 points - To be reviewed March
2014 Structure Cellars "Newel" Red Blend, Columbia Valley ($24) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Structure Cellars "Bauhaus" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Nine Hats Merlot, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Nine Hats Syrah, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Nine Hats Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 Nine Hats Malbec, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - March
- Written by Rand Sealey
It is no secret that white wine grapes command lower prices than red wine grapes. It is simply a matter of supply and demand. Red wines get more respect than white ones. But there are "noble" white varieties that can offer as much complexity as red ones. These can be terrific values as well. Here's a selection of such white wines that have been recently reviewed.
Riesling - This is the "noble" grape of Germany and Alsace. There are sone very fine Washington versions for around $20 or less. Here are a few examples.
2015 Long Shadows "Poet' Leap" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($20) - 19/20 points - October 2016
2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle-Dr. Loosen "Eroica" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($22) - 19/20 points - October
2015 Nine Hats Riesling, Columbia Valley ($12) - 18.5/20 points - To be reviewed March
Pinot Gris - Most Washington Pinot Gris is made more in an Alsatian than an Italian style, dry and crisp, yet ripe.
2015 Nine Hats Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($14) 18.5/20 points - To be reviewed March
Semillon - This Bordeaux variety is highly undervalued, some offering much complexity at ridiculously low prices.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon, Columbia Valley ($14) - Not yet reviewed, but offers fresh, ripe aromatics and a typical varietal creaminess. 18+/20 points.
Sauvignon Blanc - This is the other white grape originating in Bordeaux. There are two styles, "BDX" and the crisp Sancerre-like version.
2015 Browne Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley ($18) - 18.5/20 points - October - Sancerre-like.
2015 Seven Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley ($19) - 18.5/20 points - October - Blended with 18% Semillon.
2015 Barrister SauvignonBlanc, Red Mountain ($19) 18.5/20 points - December - From vine planted in 1982.
Chenin Blanc - Originating from the Loire Valley, this grape produces wonderfully fragrant wines. Many of the vines in Washington State were planted in the 1980's.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ($14) - 18.5/20 points - June
Waitsburg Cellars also makes a couple of fine Chenin Blancs. The 2015s will be reviewed in March.
Rhone White Varietals - Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc offer full flavored wines that can be excellent values.
2015 Nefarious Cellars Viognier, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard ($20) - 18.5/20 points - September
2015 Bunnell Family Cellar Viognier ($24) - 18.5/20 points - To be in the February 2017 issue.
2015 Zerba Cellars Roussanne, Walla Walla Valley, Cockburn Vineyard ($24) - 18.5/20 points - February 2017
2015 Cairdeas Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($24) - 18.5/20 points - September
2015 Bunnell Family Cellar Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley ($24) -19/20 points - February 2017 - This is a steal.
Chardonnay - In the consumers' minds, at least, this is the Washington white varietal that has the greatest claim to being "noble."
2015 Eight Bells Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($25) 18.5/20 points - November
2015 Westport "Shorebird" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner-Lee Vineyard ($26) - 18.5/20 points - November - From a premier vineyard for Chardonnay.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley ($24) - 18.5/20 points - November
No Review Blog Next Week
On Saturday, we will be leaving Walla Walla for the warmer climes of San Diego and Pasadena, returning January 23rd. The next blog will be on Wednesday, January 25, along with the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines.