- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing, I am wrapping up the September issue of the Review of Washington Wines which will go on line August 26th. This issue has been in the works for over a month, including planning the issue and its content, tasting wines at wineries and then retasting and so on.
Each issue starts with planned articles (you will see the next month's articles at the end of each issue). Some of them are ones that recur from year to year, such as reports on Taste Washington, Spring Release in Walla Walla and Fall Release. I make periodic visits around the state - Red Mountain, Prosser, the Columbia Gorge, Woodinville and elsewhere. Some places get reported the next month, others may take two months to be written up. We will go to the Olympic Peninsula in mid September, by which time the October issue will have been wrapped up, so that visit will be in the November issue.
Once each issue is written up from tasting notes and checking websites and winery tasting sheets, copy is emailed to each winery to check the accuracy of the information given in the reviews, pricing, percentages of varieties in blends, vinification, barrel programs and so on. Once that is done, I recheck copy for diction, typographical errors and omissions. Then the copy goes to our website manager, Amy Kinney at Advantagecom Networks in Walla Walla, who has done a great job for nearly eight years, ever since the first issue in December 2008. She gets a lot of credit for what the Review of Washington Wines stands for.
During the production process, I take breaks to write the weekly Review Blogs (such as this one). The blogs are usually topical with special tasting reports, wine industry news, accounts of trips and more.
Once an issue has been put together for on line publication, I receive by email a proof of that issue for final checking. Then it goes "live" for subscribers to see. Emails are sent out to Full Subscribers announcing the publication of that issue. In the meantime, the next month's issue will already have gone into production. Right now, the October issue is under way. Such is the life of on line wine journalism.
Credit also goes to our subscribers, without whom this would not be possible. Many are subscribers from the beginning, and the renewal rate of subscriptions has been about 90 percent. And to the wineries and winemakers, and others in the industry, who have been so helpful in hosting tastings and providing valuable information. And, finally, to my wife, Lynn, who has been with me on many winery excursions, and has been extremely supportive.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A week ago (July 27th) Lynn and I drove up to Lake Chelan to catch up on the wine scene there. That afternoon, our first visit was Hard Row to Hoe (which takes its name from the boat to Port Lovely's brothel) on the North Shore. There, owner-winemaker Judy Phelps took us through ten new releases including attractive 2015 whites and tasty 2014 reds, along with a delightful Pinot Noir Rosé and terrific Vermouth (see below). After Hard Row, we stopped at Cairdeas (pronounced Cardis) to taste with owner-winemaker Charlie Lybecker some nice Rhone-style wines, a Grenache Blanc, Consult an "Tri," a GSM blend, to be in the September issue. We spent the night at the Mountain View Inn on Wapato Point and dinner at the North Shore Café in Manson.
The next day, we drove to the South Shore of Lake Chelan. We first went to Nefarious Cellars where we went through the full range of whites and reds and a rosé with co-owner/co-winemaker Dean Neff. All were excellent, and the two Estate Syrahs, one from the South Slope Defiance Vineyard and the other from the Rocky Mother Vineyard in the Methow Valley, were knockouts. Look for them in the September issue. We had lunch at Karma Vineyards down Lakeshore Road. There, we had sparkling wines (to be reviewed in November) and a Grenache and Mourvèdre (September). Then we went back over to Fielding Hills to taste with tasting room manager, Don Elsing (former sommelier at Sun Mountain Resort). Sourced from the RiverBend Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, the wines were impressive (reviews in September and October). Our last stop was at Tunnel Hill whose buildings were built with rock blasted from the Knapps Hill Tunnel in 1933. The 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé (below) and 2014 Pinot Noir and Syrah (September) were very nicely done. We then drove down Highway 97 to Wenatchee for the night.
The next morning, we drove west on Highway 2 to Leavenworth to visit Rob Newsom's Boudreaux Cellars tasting room. There, Keely Newsom, Rob's daughter, poured us a number of wines, includiung a 2012 Syrah, a 2010 Cabernet and a 2010 Reserve Cabernet, all to be in the Highly Recommended section of the September issue. We then left Leavenworth and drove south on Highway 97 over Blewett Pass and down to Ellensburg and on to Walla Walla.
Four Rosés and a Vermouth from Lake Chelan
Among the wines we tasted, there were some delightful rosés that are especially recommended. At Hard Row to Hoe, we also tasted a Vermouth-style wine that is not to be missed if you like an exceptional aperitif wine.
2015 Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir Rosé, Lake Chelan ($18) - From the Clos Chevalle Vineyard on the South Shore, this offers a light salmon color and enticing aromas of fraises de bois, Rainier cherry and tangerine with lightly extracted, yet well delineated fresh fruit flavors, that pick up fraise and kirsch liqueurs on the way to a dry finish. This is reminiscent of a Bourgogne Rosé from Marsannay in the north end of the Cotes de Nuits. 18+/20 points.
2015 Tunnel Hill Pinot Noir Rosé, Lake Chelan ($20) - Brilliant light cherry colored, this possesses attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, rosebuds and orange peel. The flavors are nicely extracted, with notes of fraise liqueur, recurring orange peel and minerals. A squeeze of cherry juice enlivens the finish. 18+/20 points.
2015 Nefarious Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé, Lake Chelan, Evans Vineyard ($22) - Sourced from across Lakeshore Road, this rosé shows a copper color (from overnight skin contact) and intriguing aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, rosebuds, tobacco leaf and a whiff of smoke. The flavors are deftly extracted, with notes of grape skin, kirsch and minerals. On the back, gently pressed strawberries preface a dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Fielding Hills Estate Cabernet Franc Rosé, Wahluke Slope, RiverBend Vineyard ($24) - Brilliant copper colored, this rosé possesses intriguing aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry, rhubarb, tangerine, rose petals and whiffs of spiced incense. The flavors are fresh and slightly puckery (fermented dry) with notes of grape skin, herbal tea and minerals. Touches of dried orange peel and spiced cherries preface the dry, balanced finish. 18.5/20 points.
Hard Row to Hoe "Lucerne" Vermouth ($28) - Produced from Pinot Gris, infused with 16 botanticals, and fortified to 18% alcohol, this shows a deep amber color and intense aromas of ripe fruits - pear, peach, papaya and lemon - with scents of spiced orange peel, fennel, and oriental incense. The penetrating flavors are comprised of dried fruits that are infused with dried anise, bitterroots, cardamom, clove and other spices and botanicals. The dry finish lingers on and on. Drink chilled or on the rocks with a twist of lemon or orange. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in March, I was one of the judges for the Seattle Magazine Washington Wine Awards. So I was greatly interested in the results when the award winners were announced last Friday, July 22nd. I found many of the winning wines to coincide with my picks, or closely so. Here's a rundown of the results along with my preferences.
Winemaker of the Year: Gilles Nicualt, Long Shadows
I voted for Gilles in the Washington Wine Awards poll for this category. I know Gilles personally and have found his wines to be highly impressive. See the September and December, 2015 issues of the Review of Washington Wines for reviews of the Long Shadows 2013 reds. See also the January 2016 issue for the Nine Hats wines, also produced by Long Shadows.
Vineyard of the Year: Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge
This one of the premier vineyards in the state for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Some fine Grüner Veltliner also comes from there.
Winemaker to Watch: Morgan Lee, Two Vintners
Morgan has turned out impressive wines, including the Red Wine of the Year, below.
Best Emerging Winery - Savage Grace Wines
I have known for some time that Michael Savage is an up and coming winemaker. See the July and August issues for reviews of his current releases.
Coolest Wine Label - NumbSkull
The skulls on the label are truly striking, evoking the Grateful Dead. The wines as well are attention-getting. See the April issue for the 2014 BDX and GSM blends.
White Wine of the Year: 2014 Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling
I scored this 19/20 points in the wine judging. My notes say "Floral, pear & peach, clover, viscous."
Chardonnay $15-40: 2014 Ashan Barrel Fermented, Columbia Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. My notes: "Gold color, rich, almost smoky."
Chardonnay over $40: Côte Bonneville, DuBrul Vineyard, Yakima Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. "Hint of butterscotch, ripe yet crisp and balanced." My top pick in this category was the 2013 Tranche Cellars, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard, 20/20 points. "Pear, peach, citrus refined & balanced." This is to be released this fall.
Red Wine of the Year: 2013 Two Vintners "Some Days Are Stones" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard
This is an estimable winner. I scored it 19/20 points. "Ruby color, ripe roasted berries, chewy, fleshy, leather." But my top pick in the Syrah category was the 2013 Avennia "Arnaut" Syrah, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard. "Crimson, Intoxicating aromas, lavender violets, superb elegance. 20/20 points. (Also scored 20/20 points in the May issue).
Merlot $20-40: 2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 18/20 points (would have been 18.5 if fractional points were allowed in judging). My top pick was the 2013 Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla Valley 19/20 points. "Rich, pleasing nose & flavors, dark back." It scored 18.5/20 points in the November issue.
Merlot over $40: 2013 Pepper Bridge, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. "Tight, almost austere style." My top pick was the 2013 Fidelitas Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard 20/20 points. "Intense nose, perfumed, exotic, fleshy. Long finish."
Red Blend over $40: 2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Estate, Walla Walla Valley
I scored this 19/20 points. It scored 19.5/20 points in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines. My top pick in the judging was the 2012 Cadence Red Mountain, Bel Canto Vineyard. 20/20 points. "Deep ruby, blackberry, cherry, cassis, incense. Full bore, long finish." Scored 19+ points in the May issue.
Cabernet Sauvignon $25-65: 2013 Woodward Canyon, Artist's Series, Columbia Valley
This was also my top pick, 19/20 points. "Dark, intoxicating, tobacco, incense. Full flavored, deep." Scored 19+/20 points in the January issue.
Cabernet Sauvignon over $65: 2013 Upchurch Red Mountain, Estate Vineyard
Also my top pick. "Blackberry, cherry, plum, thick, tremendous elegance." 20/20 points. Also 20/20 points in the March issue. The 2013 Mark Ryan, Lonely Heart, Red Mountain also scored 20/20 in the judging. "Intense nose, tobacco, cedar, deep cored, dark fruits, minerals." Also 20/20 in the April issue.
Corrected version after autocorrect misspelled Celilo as Cello and Boushey as Bushy in previous version.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday, July 18th, one week after his passing, a memorial service was held for Duane Wollmuth, the late Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. It was held in the ballroom of the Marcus Whitman Hotel and nearly 400 attended to pay their respects, myself included. At guests entered, they picked up short pours of local wine. When the service began, after a few remarks by officiants, a toast was lifted to Duane.
The service was officiated by the Reverend Robert McCoy and friends and associates delivered their memories of Duane. A video tribute was presented, showing Duane the Family Man, the Outdoors Man and the Wine Man. Memorial letters from his two daughters were read. The service was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.
Ron Williams Hired as Walla Walla Tourism Director
This week, it was announced that Ron Williams is taking over as Executive Director of Visit Walla Walla, the Valley's tourism ages, funded by the city's lodging tax. Ron is also Executive Director of Shakespeare Walla Walla and will be wrapping up this job over the next few weeks. He replaces Ron Peck, who left to take a similar position with the Port of Seattle. Williams brings to Visit Walla Walla a strong background in arts, wine and tourism, having been retail manager of Waterbrook Winery, managing director of the Gesa Power House Theatre, and CounterPoint Design & Development.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday morning (July 11) Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, died. He was jogging when he suffered a heart attack. He was 60. This is a great shock to the Valley's wine industry.
Wollmuth came to the executive director job in 2011 with impressive credentials. He worked in the cell phone industry before launching the Three Rivers Winery on the old Highway 12 in 1999. He also owned the Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, near Dixie, with his wife, Mary, where they made their home. In 2008, Three Rivers was sold to the Foley Estates wine group of California. Wollmuth remained as general manager until he took over as executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association before leaving to take the job with the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.
Wollmuth took the broad view in promoting Walla Walla Valley wine. Representing a cross-state AVA, he worked closely with both the Washington State Wine Commission and the Oregon Wine Board and had many friends across the border. Under his direction, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance took some successful marketing initiatives. One was the Taste and Tote program with Alaska Airlines whereby the airline would check a passenger's case of wine for free. Another was Celebrate Walla Walla Wine, which brought international winemakers to Walla Walla for a panel tasting and discussion comparing the Valley's wines with others. The fourth annual one last June, featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, was a sold-out success.
Duane was a consumate gentleman. He was always warm and helpful, always there for everyone. I, myself, have spoken with him numerous times. He will be sorely missed.