- Written by Rand Sealey
We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon is king, and other varietals such as Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. What what others are trendy, ones which are growing in popularity. Here's my list, with wineries specializing in them.
Grenache - This is the principal grape of the South Rhone Valley. It produces medium bodied reds with nice supple fruits and rich aromatics. It makes a tasty and more consistent alternative to the more variable Pinot Noir.
Specialists: Ocelli Cellars (Grenache is all they make. Reviewed July 2017), Rotie Cellars ("little g." Reviewed December), Beresan (To be reviewed in March), Rasa Vineyards ("Primus inter Pares" Reviewed September).
Mourvèdre - This is the other main variety of the South Rhone and also of Bandol. It is typically medium to full bodied, with a spicy, smoky character. It goes well with grilled meats.
Specialists: Rotie Cellars ("Dre." Reviewed December), Tapteil (October, 2017), Mark Ryan ("Crazy Mary." To be reviewed April).
The above two varieties are often used in the so-called GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre).
Malbec - This is an increasingly popular varietal, with many generic versions on the market (Waterbrook, reviewed in the February issue) largely due to the ubiquity of Argentina Malbecs. It is also included in "BDX" blends, even though little Malbec is grown in Bordeaux today. Most French Malbec comes from Cahors in the Lot Valley, where it is called "the black wine."
Specialists: Flying Trout (August 2017), Seven Hills, Flying Trout (May 2017), àMaurice (December 2017).
Carmenère - This has been called "the lost grape of Bordeaux," almost extinct there, wiped out by the phylloxera devastation of the 1870's. It produces intense wines, smoky, perfumed (roses, violets), peppery (a distinct trait) that lend themselves well to flavorful dishes. Because of limited production and high grape prices, Carmenère is not cheap.
Specialists: Beresan ("Snowy Owl" label, to be reviewed March), Bartholomew (to be reviewed March), Tertulia (Phinny Hill Vineyard), College Cellars (one of the Best Buys in this variety).
Petit Verdot - This is another variety that has largely gone out of favor in Bordeaux. Most of the vines were killed off by the deep freeze of 1956 and little was replanted. It does well in Washington State, producing deep, perfumed wines.
Specialists: Seven Hills Tero Estates, Tierra Labrada (One of the best versions of this variety in Washington. Reviewed October 2017).
There is one white variety worth mentioning as there is a growing trend toward drier whites.
Albariño - This is a grape originating in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. It produces aromatic, chalky (from limestone cliffs) almost bone dry wines, ideal with seafood.
Specialists: Castillo de Feliciana, Adamant Cellars (July 2017), Coyote Canyon (May 2017).
- Written by Rand Sealey
Four weeks ago, in my Review Bog posting of 29 December, 2017, "Looking Ahead to 2018," I predicted that more wine industry acquisitions would be taking place in the coming year. Since then, halfway through the first month of the year, four major deals have already been made. Here they are.
Tamarack Cellars has been sold to Vintage Wine Estates of California whose portfolio includes Clos Pegase, Cosentino, Viansa Snonoma and other properties. This sale caps a 25 year career in the wine industry for Ron Coleman who started his winery with his wife in the Walla Walla Airport District. Personnel will be retained. The sale includes inventory and wine grower contracts. The deal was put together by Metis, an Exvere Company, advising business mergers and recapitalizations, focusing on wine, beverage and hospitality industries.
Also brokered by Metis is the acquisition of the Red Lion Inn in Walla Walla by Columbia Hospitality, another California company. The Red Lion will be renovated this year into an upscale lodging facility, to reopen in 2019 that will cater to the burgeoning wine tourism clientele.
Another major deal is the Weidert Property near Nine Mile Hill west of Walla Walla which was put up for sale last fall by an Indiana owner. Te 6000 plus acre property was auctioned off and the winning bid was from Farmland LP which owns properties in Oregon's Willamette Valley and Northern California, specializing in agricultural sustainability. The Nine Mile property will be put to diverse crops, including grape vines.
Still another deal is the purchase of Jon and Amy Meuret's Maison Bleue Winery in Walla Walla by Willamette Valley Vineyards. Jon has already been making wines for Willamette Valley's Pambrun Wines. Meuret stated, "When they offered a solution to allow me to focus more on vineyards and winemaking, and the opportunity for Maison Bleue to have an estate vineyard in the Rocks, it brought to life ideas I've wanted to pursue for years."
All these acquisitions are indications that Washington State wineries and vineyards are promising avenues for expansion by investors to the south of the state. More later!
Next Week: The February issue of the Review of Washington Wines goes on line Thursday, January 25. For a preview, see last week's Blog below. Also on line will be a Blog posting about the latest varietal wine trends.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines (on line January 25) there will be reviews of wines from some wineries that merit watching in 2018. Here they are, and why.
Walla Walla Vintners - With the retirements of Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri, the direction of WWV is moving toward a broader range of wines. Last Fall, the winery introduced its first white wine, a 2016 Vineyard Select Chardonnay and two estate reds. The winery also has reached out to Red Mountain with a Carmenère and a Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in the February issue.
Lagana Cellars - With the partnership of Jason Fox and Todd Bernave, Lagana Cellars looks forward to making a bigger impact in the Walla Walla wine scene. The "Nox Perpetua" (Perpetual Night) line is striking. See the upcoming issue for the 2015 Patina Syrah and Seven Hills Cab Franc.
Eight Bells - This Roosevelt-Ravenna winery continues to make well made wines from the partnership of Tim Bates, Andy Shepherd and Frank Michaels. Most of the wines are sourced from Mike Sauer's Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, including the standout 8 Clones Syrah and David's Block Red.
Array Cellars - Since 2010, Henry Smilowics's Array Cellars has been producing some fine Chardonnays from the Conner Lee, Celilo and Otis Harlan vineyards under the direction of Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi. The 2013's are highly impressive, drinking beautifully (18.5/20 for the Washington State, and 19 and 19.5 points for the Celilo and Otis Harlan) and remarkable in a market where most Chardonnays are 2015s and 2016s.
Convergence Zone Cellars - Now located in North Bend, Scott and Monica Greenberg's winery continues to turn out fine values. The 2015 "Sunbreak" Chenin Blanc and "Drizzle" Pinot Gris are terrific white wine bargains. And two fine Malbecs will also be in the February issue.
Gard Vintners - In November, this winery, located near Royal City, opened a tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla. The wines, produced from the family owned Lawrence Vineyards in the Frenchman Hills, are exceptional. Look for the 2014 "Grand Klasse" Riesling, 2013 Syrah and Cabernet as well as a 2013 Malbec and 2014 Don Isidro Red in February.
Co Dinn - Coman - "Co" - Dinn released three new wines from his Sunnyside winery in December, a 2015 French Creek Chardonnay, a 2015 "GSM" Red from Limestone Springs Ranch, and a 2015 Elephant Mountain Red Blend, all Highly Recommended (19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
While most of the wines we drink are from Washington State (that's my job), we like to drink French wines from time to time, especially Burgundy and Rhone ones. Our first loves in wine were ones from Burgundy and we have visited the region numerous times over the years. It is because of this that I have been stocking up on 2015's which have turned out to be even greater than the 2005's.
In 2015, a heat wave in July and August resulted in high quality, but less wine. Because of the drought grape clusters were smaller than normal, resulting in wines of great concentration, with abundant tannins and polyphenols. In the Côte d'Or, the reds are more consistent than the whites. According to Decanter magazine, "the reds and whites of the Côte Chalonnaise are a great success." Beaujolais was also a great success. The Château de Jacques (a Jadot property) Morgon Côte de Py and Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegres are the most concentrated Beaujolis wines I have ever run across.
From the Côte d'Or, I have laid in a goodly number of Premier and Grand Crus, mostly from Maison Louis Jadot, a highly reliable negociant and property owner. From the Chalonnaise, I purchased Domaine Faiveley's Mercurey, Clos de Myglands From Beaujolais, I have the above mentioned Château de Jacques plus some Domaine bottlings from Duboeuf.
Further south, the Rhone Valley was a great success in 2015 as well. a classic vintage, especially in the southern part. I have picked up wines from Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.
What about Bordeaux? We do enjoy a Claret once in a while, but it is the elegance and finesse of the wines of Burgundy that we cherish highly. The 2015 vintage was a great success in Bordeaux, and the wines will be sought after. The vintage is currently being offered as futures to be delivered later in the year.
So, if you like French wines and want to augment your cellar, you could do no worse than to stock up on 2015s.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As the year 2017 draws to a close, here's what ahead for Washington wine in 2018.
More Consolidation and Ownership Changes
The acquisition of Walla Walla Vintners by a Portland investor, signaled a sign of the times of consolidation in the Washington wine industry. The retirements of WWV founders Miles Anderson and Gordy Venneri is indicative of the trend of new players coming into the industry. Other acquisitons are sure to take place in the coming year. The Seattle based Metis, an Exvere Company has emerged as a major player with its role as a "Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory Services" organization. The Metis Walla Walla office is headed by Erik McLaughlin along with Philippe Michel. We will be seeing more of them in 2018.
More New Washington AVAs
There are applications pending with the U.S. Treasury TTB (Trade & Tobacco Bureau) for four new American Viticultural Areas as follows.
Candy Mountain - With 815 acres of vineyards, this will be Washington's smallest AVA. It is located at the northeast junction of Interstates 182 and 82, just west of Richland. The area has 53.7 acres of vines, most of the fruit going to Long Shadows and L'Ecole No. 41.
Royal Slope - This will be a sub AVA of Columbia Valley. It is located in east central Washington, near Royal City. It ha 1400 acres of vineyards planted, including Stillwater Creek, Lawrence and Stoneridge (the source of K Vintners Royal City Syrah).
The Burn of Columbia Valley - Located in south central Washington, between the Columbia Gorge and Horse Heaven Hills AVAs, it will comprise of 16.780 acres of which 1261 are under vine. Much of the plantings are Cabernet Sauvignon
White Bluffs - This will be another sub appellation of the Columbia Valley, located in south central Washington, north of Richland. It takes its name from the white sedimentary escarpments. The area encompasses 93.738 acres, of which 1127 are under vine. Well known vineyards in the proposed AVA are Sagemoor, Gamache and and Claar.
Approval of these new appellations which will expand the list of Washington AVAs to eighteen will take time. But it is a sign that Washington grape vine growing is expanding and new names are emerging.
Growth in Vineyard Plantings
Along with the growing list of Washington AVAs, there is growth in vineyard planting. The SeVein vineyard in the Walla Walla South Valley continues to add acreage. And there is the Va Piano Eritage project north of Highway 12 which will include a destination resort and restaurant. There is also the Widert property near Nine Mile Hill, a 6100 acre site up for sale by an Indiana owner. This could dramatically increase vineyard acreage in the Walla Walla Valley.
Plantings in other parts of the state will continue to grow as wineries look for increased sources for grapes. Watch for niche varieties as well, such as Picpoul, Counoise, Cinsault, Souzão, Tannat, and more.
More Later! And Happy New Year!