- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend, December 1 and 2, I tasted several 2016 reds during Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It is shaping up to be a highly promising vintage. Here are my notes in order of tasting.
2016 Woodward Canyon "Artist's Series" Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State - Deep purplish colored, this possesses an intoxicating nose of young fruits - blackberries, cherries, black currants - with scents of roses, sweet tobacco, cedar, spice, sage and incense. Well structured and focused this should develop into an elegant Cabernet. 19+/20 points.
2016 Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, XL Vineyard - This shows a deep purplish color and an intense nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, bayberry, tobacco, cedar, mint and incense. The flavors, as well, are deep and penetrating, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and ripe tannins. 19+/20 points.
2016 Saviah Cellars "The Stones Speak" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Deep ruby colored, this possesses an intriguing nose of raspberry, blueberry, cassis, crushed red roses, tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are generous and ample, red focused, with red licorice, cocoa, French roast and Rocks minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, creme de cassis and ripe tannins. 19+/20 points.
2016 Saviah Cellars "The Funk" Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Fermented with 10% Viognier, and one third whole cluster, this showed a deep ruby color and a perfumed nose of raspberries, cherries, blueberries, black currants, crushed roses, tobacco and violets. The flavors are well structured, wth loads of black and blue fruits and distinct Rocks minerality. The back picks up pressed berries, nuts, toffee, leather and ripe tannins. Great potential. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Devium Mourvèdre, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard ($34) - Devium is Sleight of Hand assistant winemaker Keith Johnson's project. Just bottled, it shows a ruby color and a sultry, smoky (typical of Mourvèdre) nose of raspberry, blackberry and cassis, with scents of roses, mulberry, brambles and spiced incense. The medium bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with supple, yet forceful fruits, minerals, charcoal and dryish tannins. To be reviewed in February. 19/20 points.
2016 Sleight of Hand Cellars "The Illusionist" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - To be bottled in June, this displayed a deep ruby color and an intriguing nose blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, rose petals, mulberry, mint and incense. The flavors are full bodied and well endowed, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and minerals. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, toffee and graphite, followed by a long, long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Time & Direction "Old School" Syrah, Columbia Valley, Solaksen Vineyard ($36) - This is Alleromb assistant winemaker Steve Well's project. From part of the Lawerence Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills and fermented with 5% Viognier, this showed an inky purple-ruby color and an intense, unmistakable Syrah one of wild blackberries, blueberries, cassis, black roses, tobacco garrigue and violets. The flavors are deep and well structured with notes of chocolate, coffee and minerals. Being sold as futures, with release in May. 19/20 points.
2016 Ardor Cellars "Quaternarium" Syrah, Columbia Valley - Brandon Kubrock's plan is to make this the winery's flagship wine and produce less of the single vineyard bottling. A combination of Lawrence, Den Hoed, Red Heaven and Stoney Vine vineyards, this shows a deep crimson-ruby color and a rich, spicy nose of dark wild fruits - blackberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of roses, tobacco, garrigue and incense. The flavors are well packed and multi layered, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals, followed by a long, complex finish. 19.5/20 points.
2016 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard - Semi opaque ruby colored, this possesses an intense, classic nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, black roses, mulberry, tobacco, cedar, olive and incense. The flavors are deep and penetrating, with layers of dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and minerals, followed by a lengthy, deftly naked satiny tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2016 Aluvé Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard - Blended with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this shows a brick red color and a lovely, perfumed nose of raspberry, cherry and currant, with scents of red roses, mulberry, red lilac, olive and sage. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with supple medium bodied yet deep and focused red fruits, underlain with licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee and minerals. The back picks up pressed berries and roasted nuts, followed by a sweet-dry Tuscan like finish. 19/20 points.
2016 Aluvé Estate Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - The Menozzi Vineyard produced enough Merlot in 2016 to produce a varietal bottling. It shows a crimson-ruby color and lovely floral aromas of wild berries, cherries and plums, with scents of red roses, mulberry and wet stone. The flavors are pleasingly bright and ample, yet focused, with underpinnings of licorice, cocoa, French roast and varietal minerality. With ripe, silky tannins and a long complex finish, this will be a real beauty. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the past couple of months, there has been a lot going on in the wine scene in Walla Walla. Here's the latest news.
Cayuse Recalls 2015 Wines
One of the biggest stories has been the announcement that Cayuse Vineyards will not be releasing most of its 2015 reds. Apparently, there were defective corks that were used in bottling a large batch of 2015s. The defect was not due to TCA, the most usual defect, but the paraffin coating on the corks. It is not unusual to use coated corks for bottle closures. The coating helps make sliding the corks into and out of the bottle necks easier. What is unusual, though, is the excessive amount of paraffin on the corks Cayuse used. The result has been described as an oily film on the wines which clearly detracted from the product. This discovery led to the decision to not release the affected wines. This is a great disappointment as the Cayuse 2015's were outstanding at the winery's barrel sample tasting last April. It is to Cristophe Baron's highest credit that the wines are not being released.
Walla Walla Lands the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference
For the second time in less than a decade. Walla Walla has been selected as the venue for the Annual Wine Bloggers Conference. The Conference will be held October 4-7 at the Marcus Whitman Conference Center. It will be a joint effort of Visit Walla Walla, the tourism agency, and the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, the winery industry association.
Billo Naravane Named Master of Wine
Recently, Billo Naravane, co-owner and winemaker of Rasa Vineyards, has been named a Master of Wine, a high honor held by only 369 persons in the world. He recently went to London to be inducted into the organization. His Research Thesis topic was "Anthrocynanin Sequestration." Billo is also winemaker for Sinclair Estate Vineyards. See the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines for reviews of Rasa Vineyards' fall Releases. The Sinclair Estate wines will be in the January 2018 issue. Congratulations to Billo!
Côtes de Ciel Opens a Tasting Room in Downtown Walla Walla
The Côtes de Ciel winery opened its tasting room on the corner of East Rose and Second Avenue in conjunction with G Cuneo Cellars in November. The Estate bottled wines come from the Holmes Family's Ciel du Coeval Vineyard on Red Mountain. The winemaker is Richard Holmes. The current Côtes de Ciel releases will be reviewed in the January issue.
Gordy Venneri Retires from Walla Walla Vintners
Three weeks ago, Gordy Venneri retired as co-owner of Walla Walla Vintners on the Mill Creek Road east of Walla Walla. He and Myles Anderson started the winery in 1995, after making their own wine while on the faculty of the Walla Walla Community College. Anderson sold his interest in the winery in February 2017 to Scott Halladay of Portland. Then, just recently it was announced that Gordy would be departing as well. Best wishes to Gordy upon his retirement, a reward well deserved.
Todd Bernave and Jason Fox to Partner at Lagana Cellars
Yesterday, it was announced that Todd Bernave, formerly assistant winemaker at Walla Walla Vintners, is joining Jason Fox at Lagana Cellars. Todd's press release states, "It was my privilege and honor to work under Walla Walla wine legends Miles Anderson and Gordy Venneri for almost a decade. Their knowledge and guidance helped forge my love of wine and for that, I will always be thankful. I look forward to the challenges this opportunity affords, and I couldn't ask for a better partner than Mr. Jason Fox." This looks like a win, win situation for both partners. Watch for reviews of Lagana Cellars' "Nox Perpetual" wines in the January issue.
Time & Direction to Debut Soon
Steve Wells new personal project, Time & Direction Wines, will be debuting during the Walla Walla Valley Holiday Barrel Weekend, December 1-2. The wines will be previewed at M & L Productions (the location of Aryn Morell Wines, at which Steve is assistant winemaker) on 1489 West Rose Street. For more information, go to www.timeanddirectionwines.com. I will be attending the preview and will be reporting on it next week.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Sunday, November 19, thirteen SOBs (Sons of Bacchus) assembled with two daughters of Dionysus for a tasting of wines representing "Archetypes of Region and Variety." It was an interesting tasting, partly a guessing game as to what each wine was, all being served blind, as well as a ranking of tasters' preferences. Here's what we had, in order of tasting, with my note, scores and comments.
First, there was a flight of four white wines which turned out to be the following.
2014 E. Guigal Saint Joseph Blanc - This comes from a North Rhone appellation just south of Côte Rotie, produced from Marsanne and Roussanne. It showed a brilliant gold color and aromas of peach and citrus. The flavors were full bodied and rich, flinty, almost austere. 19/20 points. It was my favorite of the four whites and I guessed it was a Rhone white which was correct.
2009 Konnigsaard Chardonnay, Napa Valley - This was decidedly different from the other whites, I guessed a rather oaky White Burgundy, with a rich, almost smoky nose and intriguing, piercing oriental flavors. 19/20 points. This could be considered an Archetype of Napa Chardonnay with some age.
2016 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé - The pinkish copper color of this wine was a give away and nearly everyone guessed Bandol. It showed classic aromas of raspberry and orange peel with dry, precise flavors from beginning to end. Tempier is considered the best producer. 19/20 points.
2015 Stephane Ogier Condrieu, Cuvée Vernon - This North Rhone Viognier also stood out, Lemon gold colored and highly aromatic with floral aromas. The flavors were laser like, flinty and saline with a long dry finish. My second favorite. 19+/20 points. I did not correctly identify this wine.
The whites were followed by a flight of five reds.
2013 John Duval "Eligo" Shiraz, Barossa Valley - The inky color and intense aromas of dark fruits, tobacco and bacon suggested a Syrah or a Priorat to me. It turned out to be Australian, with a minerally, tightly structured character. 19/20 points. Duval's wines are considered Archetypes of Barossa Shiraz. This was brought by Gilles Nicault who works with Duval on the Long Shadows Sequel Syrah.
2009 E. Guigal "Château d'Ampuis" Côte Rôtie - This is produced by Guigal all from Domaine grapes. Deep ruby-coffee colored with intense aromas and loads of dark, complex fruits and a long finish, I guessed this to be a Côte Rôtie. 19.5/20 points. My second choice in the flight. I took this wine, recalling a visit to Guigal in 2014.
2014 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - With a brick red color, a rich, earthy nose of raspberry and cherry, and deep, penetrating velours flavors, I mistook this for a Grand Cru Burgundy. 19.5/20 points. Kevin Pogue brought this and put it into a Cabernet bottle to throw tasters off, but I didn't notice the shape. My first choice, with Guigal close.
2008 Pe Franco Monastrell, Jumilla - Monastrell is the Catalan name for Mourvèdre. It showed a deep color and smoky aromas of semi dried fruits, with a fleshy, minerally texture. I mistook it for a South Rhone with some age such as a Gigondas or Chateauneuf du Pape. 19+/20 points.
2012 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino - Deep ruby colored with a smoke and dust nose and minerally dried cherry flavors and sturdy tannins, I pegged this as Italian but couldn't decide if it was Barolo or Brunello. 19/20 points.
The second flight of reds consisted of the following.
2014 Etna Rosso (forgot name of producer) - This comes from the volcanic slopes below Mount Etna in Sicily, made from the indigenous Novello grape. It showed a medium ruby color and intriguing aromas of strawberry, cherry, anise, orange peel with velvety sweet-dry fruit flavors and a a satiny tannin finish. It was hard to identify, being from not well known DOC. I guessed Châteauneuf du Pape from the minerally character. 19/20 points.
2008 Produttori di Barbaresco Cru Rabaja - This showed a deep ruby color and a smoky, nose of semi dried fruits, tobacco and coffee with deep somewhat tannic flavors. While it was quite estimable, it did not come on as archetypical as some of the top producers. 19/20 points.
2010 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape - Beaucastel is considered one of the archetypical producers. This showed a deep ruby color and aromas of dark fruits, tobacco, and coffee with thick mouth filling flavors that showed distinct mas (cobblestone) character. I correctly identified it as CdP. 19+/20 points.
2014 Domaine Rostaing "Ampechum" Côte Rôtie - Rostaing is a highly respected producer. It displayed a deep ruby color and a smoky tobacco, cedar and sandalwood nose and deep, direct and well structured flavors that showed considerable refinement. I identified it as a young Côte Rôtie. 19+/20 points.
2002 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley - Semi opaque colored, this wine possessed intense aromas of dark fruits, mushroom, tobacco, cedar and dried roses. The dark maturing fruit flavors were intense and focused, with a hedonistic finish. I thought it might be a Medoc such as a Pauillac or St. Julien. 19/20 points. The Caymus Special Selection is famous as an Archetypical Napa Cabernet.
Finally, Philippe Michel brought a Port served blind.
1995 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port, Quinta de Vargellas - This showed a deep ruby color and a rich, aromatic nose of orange peel and old wood. The flavors were thick and chewy, not too sweet, with a long, complex finish. I guessed it to be a vintage Port from the mid 1990's. Quinta de Vargellas is bottled in vintages not declared. 19+/20 points.
Thanks to Billo Naravane for organizing the SOB tastings and to Jamie Kennedy for hosting what turned out to be a memorable tasting.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On October 20, we hosted a tasting of wines from all fourteen American Viticultural Areas in the State of Washington. AVAs are geographical wine grape growing regions in the United States. Their boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and established at the request o wineries or other petitioners. Washington's AVAs are comprised of the following.
Horse Heaven Hills
Walla Walla Valley
I was able to procure two wines from each AVA with the exception of Naches Heights which was represented by one wine, a Port-style wine from the Wilridge Winery. Here, I won't list all the wines tasted, but these are the most noteworthy ones, with distinctive terroir characteristics.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes ($35) - This comes from a cooler climate area, producing excellent whites including this one. Reviewed October.
2013 Domaine Pouillon Estate Syrah, Columbia Gorge ($50) - From Alexis and Juliet Pouillons property above Lyle, this was well extracted, with notes of volcanic minerals and charcoal.
2014 Nefarious Cellars Estate Syrah, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard ($35eptember) - From a vineyard situated above the South Shore of Lake Chelan, with glacial soils and minerals. Reviewed October.
2015 Clearwater Canyon Merlot, Lewis-Clark Valley ($25) - This comes from from a winery in Lewiston. The grapes come from both sides of the AVA. Reviewed September.
2016 Lopez Island Vineyards Siegerribe, Puget Sound ($25) - The Puget Sound AVA is best suited to early ripening white hybrids such as Siegeribbe, a crossing of Riesling and Madeline Royale. Reviewed September.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Red Mountain, Klipusun Vineyard ($20) - From vines planted in the 1980's, this showed the calcareous minerality of Red Mountain. Reviewed November.
2010 Mark Ryan "Crazy Mary" Mourvèdre, Red Mountain - This was one of the two favorites in the tasting. Rich and savory, It showed what can be done with Mourvèdre on Red Mountain.
2014 Kerloo Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($40) - The Upland Vineyard is situated above the Missoula Flood line. Grenache grows beautifully there.
2007 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Red Wine, Yakima Valley - This was not labeled as Snipes Mountain although it was from there. It became an AVA in 2009. Deep and complex, this was one of the top wines of the tasting.
2012 Owen Roe Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard, Chapel Block - Mike Sauer was the first to plant Syrah in Washington State. This one possessed beautiful perfumes and complex flavors.
2012 Betz Family "La Serene" Syrah. Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard - Dick Boushey was the next to plant Syrah in the Yakima Valley.This was a bit beefier than the Red Willow, but also very complex.
2014 K Vintners "The Deal" Syrah, Wahluke Slope, Sundance Vineyard ($40) - The warm Wahluke Slope is especially suited for Syrah. Charles Smith has worked with this vineyard for some years.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 "GSM" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($36) - This is a new addition to the L'Ecole line up. A blend of 34% Grenache and 33% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, it was rich and tasty, picking up the silty soil of Seven Hills. Being from the Oregon side, this is technically not from a Washington AVA, but generally I include wines from bi-state AVAs in the Review of Washington Wines. Reviewed October.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This year, Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley was November 3-5. It was also the time of year when some of the most exclusive wineries introduced their new releases to list members. Also, many boutique wineries were pouring their hand crafted wines. Here's a run down of the wineries we visited over the weekend. A special report will be in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines which goes on line November 24.
On Friday morning, we drove over to Abeja on Mill Creek Road where we tasted a world class 2016 Chardonnay, the 2015 Malbec and 2014 Heather Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Then we went further east on Mill Creek to Aluvé where Kelly Menozzi poured a delicious 2016 Estate Chardonnay and a tasty 2015 Lewis Vineyard Sangiovese. Watch for the December issue for reviews of these wines.
In the afternoon, we went up Cottonwood Road to Reynvaan where we barrel tasted the 2016 Syrahs from a superlative vintage. A report will be in an upcoming Review Blog. Also poured was Matt and Lauren Reynvaan's special project, the MTR Productions 2012 "Memory Found" Syrah from The Rocks, to be reviewed in the December issue. Then we went on to Rótie Cellars where we tasted the stellar 2015 "little g" Grenache "Swordfight" Mourvèdre-Syrah, and 2014 "Homage" GSM blend, all scoring 19.5 points.
On Saturday morning, we went down Powerline Road to Rasa Vineyards to taste the winery's highly impressive new releases, all 19+ to 19.5/20 points. In the afternoon, we headed to The Walls where outstanding 2015s were poured along with the highly anticipated "Concrete Mama" (a nod to the Walla Walla Penitentiary) Syrah from the Rocks. Then we stopped at the Gesa Powerhouse Theater to taste Rasa Vineyards cellar master Noé Martinez's 2014 Xenolith "GSM" Red. In the evening, we went to the Corliss annual Fall Release event where the stellar 2012 Corliss Red and Cabernet Sauvignon were poured, both scoring 20/20 points.
Sunday afternoon, we went to College Cellars to sample the fresh new 2017 semi sparking Muscat and the promising 2016 Grenache and GSM reds, both potentially 19/20 points wines. To be reviewed in December.
There were so many outstanding wines at Fall Release along with other recent releases from Walla Walla that the December issue will be the biggest ever, with 64 wines reviewed, along with wines from Spokane from Barrister and Robert Karl plus the rest of the ones from Nota Bene in Seattle. Watch for it on November 24th!