- 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.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The last time rosé wines were reviewed in this Blog, was in the 14 May posting. Since then, we have tasted more rosés from Washington State and elsewhere. Here are my notes and scores.
2018 Amavi Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - This 100% Cabernet Franc Rosé shows a copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberries, cherries, tangerine, rose petals and cherry blossoms. The flavors are bright and sprightly, with note of grape skin, tangerine peel and silty minerals, followed by a lush, crisp finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Prospice Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Breezy Slope Vineyard ($22) - This field blend of Grenache and Counoise displays a light copper-pink color and aromas of strawberry, cherry, tangerine, pink lilac. The flavors are delicate yet well delineated, with notes of fraise and cerise liqueurs and tangerine peel on the back. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Grosgrain Vineyards Rosé, Yakima Valley, Angolina Farm Vineyard ($20) - Whole cluster fermented Grenache, this shows a light pink-gold color and aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, pomegranate, tangerine. The flavors are light but well delineated, with touches of nougat and tangerine peel. 18+/20 points.
2018 K Vintners Rosé Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Phil Lane Vineyard ($20) - Copper-pink colored, this possesses aromas of strawberry, raspberry, tangerine and wildflowers. The flavors are medium bodied but characterful, with saline minerals and fraise and framboise liqueurs. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Revelry Vintners Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - This 83% Cabernet Franc, 17% Grenache combination offers a copper pink color and aromas of strawberry, red pear, pink pear, cherry blossoms and lilac. The flavors are fresh and sprightly, accented by grape skins and stony minerals. 18+/20 points.
2018 Trust Cellars Rosé Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($18) - This 100% Cabernet Franc shows a light copper-pink color and aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry, tangerine, cherry blossoms and white incense. The flavors are dry and crisp, yet well fruited, with notes of framboise and kirsch liqueurs. 18+/20 points.
2018 Tertulia Cellars Estate Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Produced from 100% Tempranillo grapes, this shows a copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, pink roses, lavender and incense. The flavors are deftly extracted and the finish nicely juiced yet textured. 18.5/20 points.
Full reviews of the above wines to be in the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
2018 Mas de la Dame "La Gourmande" Les Baux de Provence Rosé ($22 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - This combination of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% each of Mourvèdre and Cinsault, shows a brilliant peach color and rich aromas of raspberry, peach, tangerine, orange blossoms, lavender and white incense. The flavors, as well, are striking, with red and orange fruits that are accented by grape skin, tangerine peel and Les Baux mas minerals, followed by a well textured nicely fruited and spiced finish. 18+/20 points.
2018 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé ($36) - From near Marseille, this Rosé (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsault) shows a medium copper-pink color and enticing aromas of wild strawberry, pomegranate, red currant, red rose petals, tangerine and lavender. The flavors are beautifully fruited, with notes of fraise and currant liqueurs, pomegranate seeds and recurring tangerine peel, followed by a fresh, lightly spiced finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2018 Château Soucherie Rosé de Loire ($23 - The Thief) - Made from Cabernet Franc, this shows a light pink color and perfumed aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, cherry blossoms, red roses and wildflowers. The flavors are delightfully fresh and lively, with tangy red fruits, with notes of kirsch and fraise liqueurs and a touch of orange peel, followed by a crisp, racy finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Château de l'Eperonnière Rosé de Loire ($24 - The Thief) - Also made from Cabernet Franc, this shows a copper hued pink color and attractive aromas of raspberry, cherry and red currant with scents of cherry blossoms and pink lilac. The flavors are pleasing, with bright red fruits that are accented by framboise and cerise liqueurs, tangerine peel and alluvial minerals on the way to a resonant, juicy dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Pascal & Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre Rosé, "Terre de Maimbray" ($26 - The Thief) - Produced from Pinot Noir, this displays a brilliant pink-rose color and lovely aromas of strawberries, cherries, red currants, pink roses, cherry blossoms and tangerine peel. The flavors are fresh and vibrant, with notes of grape skin, fraise and cerise liqueurs and saline minerals, followed by a pleasingly juicy and resonant dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2018 G.D. Vajra Vino Rosato, "rosabella" ($18 - The Thief) - From blocks facing the Alps, this Italian Rosè shows a brilliant copper-pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, orange peel, rosebuds and pink lilac. The flavors are fresh and lively, direct, with red fruits that are accented by cherry and strawberry liqueurs and touches of hazelnut and dried orange peel on the dry finish. 18/20 points.
2018 Conde Valdemar Rioja Rosé ($20) - This was purchased at the Valdemar Estates winery in Walla Walla. Composed of 70% Garnacha and 30% Viura, it displays a light pink color and enticing aromas of raspberry, red currant, pomegranate, orange peel, orange blossoms, Spanish lavender and violets. The flavors are delicate but well delineated, with notes of red fruits and lactose, followed by a fine finish that is accented by bright fruit acids. 18+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night, Thursday May 30, I joined the Sons of Bacchus and Daughters of Dionysus for a tasting of French Sauvignon Blancs. It was a very interesting tasting. Sauvignon Blanc is largely thought of as a Bordeaux white varietal, but more is grown in the Loire Valley. The tasting was comprised of 18 wines (too many!)for 12 tasters. Below are the wines that were of the greatest interest, with my notes and scores.
2010 Domaine Gerard Boulay Sancerre, Clos Beaujeu - This showed that Sauvignon Blanc can age well. It showed a gold color and a floral nose of pear, peach, citrus, pear blossoms, lemon verbena and flint stone. The flavors were distinct, dry and saline with a dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Guiraud Bordeaux Blanc Sec - This is a dry white from Chateau Guiraud in Sauternes. It showed a light gold color and intriguing aromas of pear, peach, melon, lemon curd and wet stone. The flavors were crisp and minerals, with fine delineation. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Gittau Pouilly-Fumé Clos Joanne d'Orion ($35) - Pouilly-sur Loire is across the river from Sancerre and the wines are similar. This one displayed a light gold color and flowery aromas of white lilac, wildflowers, wet stone and whiffs of smoke. The flavors comprised typical Upper Loire Sauvignon, with notes of minerals and precise fruits. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre, "Les Baronnes" ($29.99 - wine.com) - Henri Bourgeois is a respected producer in Sancerre. The cuvée showed a light gold color and typical aromas of pear, peach, wet stone and smoke, with nicely fruited and delineated flavors that finish dry and balanced. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre, "Les Monts Damnées" ($36.99 - wine.com) - This tête cuvée was outstanding. It showed a lemon-gold color and aromas of apple. gooseberry, lemon curd, jasmine, wildflowers and smoke. The flavors were elegant and finely delineated, with notes of flint stone and grape skins, followed by a long, precise finish. 19/20 points.
2016 Château Carbonnieux Graves Blanc ($36) - This was by far the best Bordeaux Blanc of the tasting. Composed of 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon, it exhibited a medium gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, lime, meadow flowers and jasmine. The flavors were saline and precise, marked by the classic "Graves" mineralogy. The finish was long, dry and invigorating. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Thomas Sancerre, "Les Comtesses" ($29.99 - wine.com) - This was another fine Sancerre. Lemon gold colored, it possessed a nice perfumed nose of pear, peach, lime, gooseberries, white flowers and white smoke. The flavors were saline and precise, with a long, steely but finely fruited finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Blanc de Chasse Spleen Bordeaux Blanc - This was another fine Bordeaux Blanc. Brilliant lemon-gold colored, it emitted floral aromas of apple, citrus, peach and lemon verbena. The flavors were balanced and precise, with notes of straw and minerals, and a touch of toasty oak. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine Fleuret Sancerre, "Côte de Marloup" - This was a nicely aged Sancerre. It showed a gold color and a smoky nose of pear, peach and gunflint. The flavors were well delineated, underlain with a fine richness and a long, crisp, finely balanced finish. 18.5+/20 points.
There also were two other Bordeaux Blanc wines, a 2017 and 2016 Blanc de Lynch Bages. Both came on as being pleasant but uncomplex and middleweight. Given the prestige of Lynch Bages, it is outrageous that such wines should be offered at $60 a bottle.
I brought two bonus wines, a 2018 Sancerre Rosé from Isabelle Garrault and a 2017 Domaine Thomas Sancerre Rouge. Sancerre is thought of as being white wine, Sauvignon Blanc. But some red and rosé is produced from Pinot Noir. Everyone liked both wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Sunday, May 19, there was Celebration of Rand Sealey's Fifty Years in the Wine Industry. Over seventy guests attended the event, held at the Foundry Vineyards Gallery on Abadie Street in Walla Walla. Food from Hattaway's was served and lots of wine, mostly French and Italian with some German and American ones, were poured. Sheets were handed out with my story about how I got into the wine industry in 1969. Here it is:
How I Got into the Wine Industry
I spent the summer of 1968 in Europe. I bought a Triumph Spitfire roadster which I picked up in Coventry. I drove around England and Scotland, then took the car ferry to Calais and drove through France where I visited Burgundy and the North Rhone. I continued on to Italy and Germany and along the way, visited wineries and drank wine at restaurants. That trip is what initiated by interest in wine.
The following years, the Washington State Legislature passed a law allowing retailers to sell out of state wines as well as those of Washington. My father and I became interested in exploring the wine business. I was a graduate History student at the University of Washington, but the idea of selling wine seemed more appealing than an academic career. In May, we visited Esquin Imports in San Francisco and one of the owners, Karl Petrowsky, asked us if we would be interested in opening an Esquin store in Seattle. Sure, we were! One thing led to anther and in June, 1969, we reached an agreement to start an Esquin store in Seattle.
My Father had his eye one a building next door to his medical clinic on First Avenue South and Atlantic Street in Seattle. It was a five story building which had an underground basement - perfect for wine storage. The San Francisco store also had underground storage. We went through the incorporation, liquor license application and lease agreement processes and just six months later, we opened in December of 1969.
Another model adopted from Esquin-San Francisco was the publication of newsletters mailed to customers describing wines I offered. That's how I became a wine writer. Esquin-Seattle's marketing, though, was not limited to newsletters. There were numerous attention-getting newspaper and magazine ads created by David Horsfall and Terri Nakamura.
Over the ensuing years, I was a wine merchant at Esquin-Seattle. Initially, I had a partner, but two years later, I bought him out and ran the business solo, churning out those newsletters and selling wine. Many trips to California, Europe and once to Australia were involved. Karl Petrowsky left Esquin-San Francisco and I continue to work with the other owner, Ken Kew, who eventually sold his store. For a while, I had another partner, Jim Kunz, help me until he sold his interest.
After 27 years in the business, I sold Esquin to Chuck LeFevre in 1998. For the following 10 years, I worked as his consultant, writing the Esquin newsletter. The 2008 recession necessitated laying me off. After that, I decided to begin an on-line newsletter about Washington State wines. By that time, my wife, Lynn, and I moved part-time to Walla Walla, and then in 2013, full-time. Wine writing, therefore, became a continuing career in the wine industry. It is still a rewarding endeavor - with the encouragement of Lynn, many friends consumer and wine industry people. I am highly grateful and I thank you all.