- Written by Rand Sealey
Last week, Lynn and I were on the west side of the State (which is why there was no Review Blog posting). First, we drove from Walla Walla to Bellevue for lunch and then to Chuckanut Drive, south of Bellingham for two nights. We had two delicious seafood meals at the Chuckanut Manor and the Chuckanut Oyster Bar. On Thursday, we went back to Seattle. We tasted wines at Structure Cellars, Latta and Kerloo on Friday at the SODO Urban Works Wineries south of Spokane Street. Reviews will be in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
The big event was Saturday, October 12 from 11 to 5, when Esquin Wine Merchants celebrated 50 years as a wine retailer. I was the founder back in 1969 and ran the store for 27 years until I sold it to Chuck Lefevre in 1997. I worked as a consultant for ten years after that, mainly writing the Esquin newsletter. It was an event that I couldn't miss. It was a really big celebration: all wines and spirits on sale, food, wine tastings, raffle prizes, the works. Chuck and his daughters Stephanie and Alisha (who now run the business) were on hand. And I got to meet former Esquin customers all the way back to the beginning (when the store was on First Avenue South and had an underground cellar). The wine tastings were first rate. Pasternak Imports poured some very fine Bordeaux: 2015 Chateau de Pez, St. Estephe, Ch. Bourgneuf, Pomerol, 2015 Reserve de la Comtesse and 2012 Ch. Pichon Lalande from Pauillac. I bought a few bottles of these wines. Another table had some impressive Italian wines including the 2014 Alba Rocco Barbaresco. I also found a 2014 Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, from a legendary winery. Long Shadows poured a new Sauvignon Blanc, along with the Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedestal Merlot and Chester-Kidder Red Blend. Washington State was also represented by Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole No. 41 and others. A highlight was a tasting of Gaja wines, including the 2015 Barbaresco, 2015 Sito Moresco Langhe Red and 2016 Magari Bolgheri Red Blend. At the end of the event, I congratulated Chuck for continuing the Esquin tradition and he congratulated me for getting it started.
On Sunday, we went to Woodinville to visit the Warehouse and Artisan Districts wineries which are open weekends only. These included Kevin White, Savage Grace, Tinte Cellars, Three of Cups and Finn Hill. These will be reviewed in the November Review of Washington Wines. On Monday, we drove back to Walla Walla.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last Sunday, September 29, Lynn and I hosted a singles wine tasting. In my wine collection is a medley of single bottles. Some were given to us by friends and some are extras from samples received as well as remnants from purchased bottles from around the world. I assembled a selection of these wines for what turned out to be an interesting and exceptional wine tasting. Here are the highlights.
2012 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Bâtard-Montrachet, Grand Cru - This really stood out. Deep gold colored, it possessed a rich, almost spicy nose of semi-dried fruits and minerals. At seven years of age, it was still finely fruited and developing the complexities of a mature white Burgundy, turning nutty delicate and lingering on the finish. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Georges Vernay "Coteau de Vernon" Condrieu - This was the other standout white, produced from the Viognier grape. Coteau de Vernon is Vernay's top cuvée. It showed a deep gold color, turning amber and luxuriant aromas of semi dried fruits, orange peel and perfumes. The flavors were rich yet laser-like with plenty of backbone to carry it over seven years. With touches of hazelnut and lemon peel, the finish was complex and exquisite. 20/20 points.
2015 Louis Jadot Chambolle Musigny Les Baudes, Premier Cru - This was a lovely red Burgundy. Medium brick colored, it emitted lovely, perfumed aromas of strawberries, cassis, violets and incense. The flavors were medium bodied and mouth caressing yet forceful, with touches of nougat and toast accenting the red fruits, followed by a long, complex finish. Tasted even better the next day. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Bressandes, Grand Cru - This was a beautifully matured Burgundy from a fine but not great vintage. It showed a brick red color with an edge of garnet and rich, earthy bouquet, evocative of the Bois de Corton, along with whiffs of wood smoke. The flavors were medium bodied but full and round, with a long, elegant finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Domaine de la Charbonnière Châteauneuf du Pape, "Les Hautes Brusquières" - This South Rhone red showed a brick red color with garnet edges. The flavors were beginning to mature, with a smoky bouquet and rich, round fruits that were turning slightly nutty, showing the masculinity of old vines in the long, fleshy finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino - This was the star of the Italian wines tasted. Garnet colored, it possessed aromas of semi dried fruits, dried rose petals, tobacco and smoke. The flavors were authoritative, rich, sweet-dry, followed by a long, complex finish of hazelnuts and Amaro. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Pio Cesare Barolo - This was classic Nebbiolo from the Italian Piedmont Langhe. Garnet colored, it had a classic nose of semi-dried fruits, dried rose petal and tar. The flavors were in the traditional style, but with flair. The back picked up roasted berries and hazelnuts, followed by a long finish that was imbued with dried fruits and Amaro. 19+/20 points.
2010 Clos de L'Oratoire Saint Emilion Grand Cru - This 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc from Bordeaux' Right Bank showed a ruby-garnet color and smoky, earthy aromas of roasted berries and nuts. The medium full bodied flavors were fine and fleshy, rounding out nicely and marked by notes of roasted coffee and steely minerals, followed by a long sweet-dry finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Chateau Lascombes, Margaux - This Haut Medoc red was composed of 48% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. It melded these varieties together nicely, with rich aromas of semi dried fruits and wood smoke and flavors of roasted berries and nuts, mocha and toffee, followed by a lingering finish with the tannins smoothing out. 19/20 points.
2011 Pavelka Dunaj Vino Cervené Red Wine - This Slovenian wine was quite interesting. I researched Slovenian wines, but was unable to determine the varieties in this wine. It showed a deep ruby color and an earthy nose of dried fruits and wood smoke. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with notes of licorice, cocoa and grilled meats. The finish showed considerable depth and length. 19/20 points.
2016 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard. - This was left over from samples sent. This came on as being highly distinctive, with classic Cabenet aromas and deep authoritative flavors, well structured, yet expansive, marked by dark fruits, integrated oak and an incredibly long finish. This is testimony to Mike Sauer;s viticultural expertise.It will have a great future. My score: 20/20 points, based on potential, the same as in my Review in the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
When buying French wines, we are looking for value, wines that offer exceptional quality for the price. The Classified Growths of Bordeaux and the Premier and Grand Crus of Burgundy are expensive and are reserved for special occasions. But there are plenty of affordable French wines that offer high quality for their prices. Here are some such wines that we have tasted recently.
While the Classified Grand Vins of the Medoc are costly. there are fine values from the Right Bank of the Gironde, from communes such as Fronsac, Saint Emilion and its satellites such as Montagne-Saint Emilion and Cotes de Francs. From south of Bordeaux, there is Graves and in the Haut Medoc, affordable Crus Bourgeois can be found. Recently, I purchased a bunch of Bordeaux wines from wine.com. Here are our finds.
2016 Clos du Roy, Fronsac ($15.99) - Fronsac is situated northeast of Pomerol. This version is comprised of 90% Merlot and 5% each of Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon. It shows a purplish ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, tobacco and incense. The medium full bodied flavors are akin to those of Pomerol, with thick, generous red and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The back picks up pressed fruits, roasted hazelnuts and kirsch, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2016 Château Marsau, Francs-Côtes de Bordeaux ($!9.99) - The Côtes de Francs is situated north of Saint Emilion. All Merlot, this wine offers an opaque purplish-ruby color and rich, almost sweet aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed black roses, mulberry, tobacco and smoke. The flavors are thick and generous, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and black earth. The saturation continues on the back with roasted berries and nuts, mocha, lanolin ("legs") and graphite, followed by a slightly grainy ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Château La Bastienne, Montagne-Saint Emilion ($19.99) - As the appellation suggests, this comes from the mountain above Saint Emilion. This 100% Merlot displays a deep purplish ruby color and an intense nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with generous, yet focused red and blue fruits that are infused with red licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and hillside earth and minerals. On the back, the wine turns deliciously velvety, with sensations of pressed fruits, roasted nuts, mocha and pencil shavings, followed by an herb dusted moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Château de Pressac, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé ($34.99) - This is a blend of 71% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% each of Carmenère and Malbec. Deep purple-crimson colored, this wine emits sensuous aromas of blackberry, cherry, plum, cassis, rosebuds, pipe tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors are simultaneously lavish and muscular, with notes of licorice, chocolate, French roar and gravelly minerals. The penetration continues on the back with roasted berries, grilled nuts, mocha and graphite, followed by a grainy yet opulent ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2016 Château Fonroque, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classé ($39.99) - Composed of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine exhibits a ruby-crimson color and a seductive nose of wild fruits - raspberries, old tree cherries and plums - with scents of rose petals, mulberry, sweet tobacco, sweet pea flowers and sweet incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with copious red fruits that are infused with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and calcareous minerals. On the back, the wine invigorates with sensations of macerated berries, roasted pecans, framboise and cerise liqueurs and graphite, followed by a lingering, decadent yet firm sweet-dry tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2015 Château Senéjac, Haut Medoc ($18.99) - A mix of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this shows a deep ruby color and a smoky nose of blackberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, tobacco and spiced incense. The flavors are robust and direct, with notes of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, roasted coffee beans and earth. The intensity continues on the back with macerated berries, roasted nuts and graphite, followed by a slightly grainy sweet-dry tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18+/20 points.
2015 Château Ferran, Pessac-Léognan ($24.99) - Situated south of Bordeaux, the commune of Pessac-Léognan in Graves is famed for its Château Haut-Brion. This blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild raspberries, old tree cherries, black currants, crushed black roses, mulberry, tobacco, sandalwood and incense. The flavors are thick and savory, with notes of black licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and calcareous earth and gravel. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of macerated fruits, grilled nut meats and pencil lead, followed by a rich sweet-dry tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
The Côtes du Rhône offer many fine values, especially in the southern part of the Valley. Here are some recently tasted ones that are especially recommended.
2018 Château d'Aqueria Tavel Rosé ($19.99 - wine.com) - New Review. Composed of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Clairette, this is an extraordinary value. It shows a brilliant copper-pink color and enticing aromas of strawberries, pomegranates, currants, tangerine, rose petals, orange blossoms, lavender and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with beautifully extracted red fruits that are accented by tangerine peel and mas minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and pomegranate seeds, followed by a pleasingly juicy, lightly spiced dry finish. Lynn: three stars (highest rating). 19/20 points.
2018 Château de Ségeriés Tavel Rosé ($22.99 - wine.com) - The 2017 Ségeries was one of our favorites last year. This vintage does not disappoint. Brilliant pink-rose colored, it possesses effusive aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, currant, crushed red roses, tangerine peel, lavender and spiced pink incense. The flavors are crisp and vivid, with notes of grape skins, pomegranate seeds and mas soil stony minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of fraise and cassis liqueurs, recurring tangerine peel and light spices on the dry finish that is lifted by balanced fruit acids. Lynn: three stars. 19/20 points.
2017 Delas "Les Launes" Crozes-Hermitage ($21.99 - wine.com) - This 100% Syrah offers a lot of varietal purity for the price. Reviewed in the 11 September Blog. In retasting, it advanced from 18/20 to 18+/20 points.
2016 Les Pallières "Terasse du Diable" Gigondas ($36.99 - wine.com) - This Brunier-Kermit Lynch collaboration scored 19/20 points in the 14 August Blog.
2015 Domaine de la Charbonnière Vacqueyras ($29.99 - Esquin) - From near Gigondas this predominately Grenache red offers a lot for the price. Reviewed in the 14 Blog - 18.5/20 points.
The Crus of Beaujolais come from the best communes in the region. Produced from the Gamay grape, they are pleasingly fruited and very enjoyable to drink. Here are four of our favorites, all from the exceptional 2017 vintage.
2017 Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon, "Les Charmes" ($23.99 - wine.com) - First reviewed in the 14 May Blog, we retasted this wine recently and found it absolutely charming, with lovely aromas and fresh, vibrant fruit flavors that resonate from beginning to end. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 La Soeur Cadette Chénas ($26.99 - wine.com) - This wine is charming yet vigorous, with deep, generous flavors. We reordered more of this. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Domaine Piron & Lameloise Moulin-a-Vent ($23.99 - wine.com) - The commune of Moulin-à-Vent produces some of the fullest bodied Beaujolais. This is a fine example. Reviewed 25 August - 18.5/20 points.
2017 La Tour du Fief Saint-Amour ($24.99 - wine.com) - Saint-Amour ("Holy Love") is a beautiful name and the wine is too. Reviewed 25 August - 18.5/20 points.
Other French Wines
Other regions of France produce excellent values, especially Alsace, the Lore Valley and the Southwest. Here are a few that we've tried recently.
2017 Trimbach Riesling, Vin d'Alsace ($25 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - Trimbach is a respected producer in Ribeauvillé. Made in a dry style, this shows a brilliant gold color and floral aromas of pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, white lilac and wet stone. The flavors are bright and precise, with notes of peach stone, grape skin and flinty minerals. The back picks up poor William and pêche liqueurs on the way to a persistently minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer, Vin d'Alsace ($24 - The Thief) - Owned by the Barthlemé, this Domaine is located in Wettolsheim in the heart of the Vosges. This wine displays a brilliant gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, apricot, a hint of papaya, pear blossoms, butternut, clover, anise and spiced white incense. The flavors are rich and spicy ("gewurz") yet restrained, with notes of licorice, semi dried fruits and stony minerals. The back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs, lanolin ("legs") and roasted nuts followed by an initially sweet, then dry spiced finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Domaine Paul Thomas Sancerre, "Les Comtesses" ($29.99 - wine.com) - Reviewed 31 May, this was recently retasted. It shows an exceptional expression of upper Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc with a brilliant lemon-gold color and a perfumed nose of pear, peach, lime, gooseberry, white flowers and white smoke. The flavors are exceedingly precise, with notes of grape and pear skins and saline minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and quince preserves, followed by a long, steely but finely fruited dry finish. 19/20 points.
2017 Domaine Paul Thomas Sancerre Rouge, Chavignol ($25.99 - wine.com) - Red Sancerre is made from the Pinot Noir grape and Chavignol is the best commune. Brick red colored, this possesses lovely, perfumed aromas of strawberry, cherry, currant, red rose petals, sweet pea flowers, orange peel, and whiffs of incense. The flavors are medium bodied and charming but substantial, with notes of red licorice, cocoa powder and alluvial minerals. The back picks up gently pressed fruits, fraise and cerise liqueurs and toasted nuts, followed by a pleasing soft tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine de la Lande Saint Nicolas de Bourgeuil ($27 - The Thief) - Produced from Cabernet Franc, this Loire red shows a deep ruby color and engaging aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum, crushed roses, purple lilac, tobacco leaf and sage. The medium full-bodied flavors mirror the aromatics with notes of red licorice, cocoa, black tea and alluvial minerals. On the back, the wine turns bright and juicy, with sensations of pressed fruits, framboise and cerise liqueurs and soft pencil lead, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. A vin de plaisir. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Clos Siguier Cahors, "Les Camille," Vieilles Vignes ($23 - The Thief) - This Malbec from the Lot Valley in southwest France offers a deep ruby color and rich aromas of raspberry, blueberry, cherry and plum with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are generous yet substantial, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and calcareous minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts, framboise and kirsch liqueurs and plum, preserves, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing (10 am, Wednesday, September 18) it is sunny with some clouds on the horizon here in Walla Walla. It has cooled down considerably since the beginning of the month. The forecast for the rest of the month is for highs in the mid 70's, cooling down to the 60's at the end of the month. These temperatures are slightly below average for this time of year, indicating a slowing down of the maturation of the grapes. Not much rain is forecast which should help. Growers are looking at picking to continue well into October.
Harvest is under way here and around the Northwest. On the warmer Red Mountain, Syrah has been picked and harvesting Cabernet is getting under way. Much of the white grapes have been picked. Woodward Canyon has brought in its Estate and Celilo Chardonnay. Sleight of Hand has brought in French Creek Chardonnay and Stoney Vine Syrah. On Horse Heaven Hills, Milo May reports "Discovery vineyard Cab hanging to more fully develop the flavors that will make this vintage a great one." One vineyard climatologist has called the 2019 harvest "slow and steady." More later!
- Written by Rand Sealey
When we're not drinking Washington wines, we often have French ones. When I started Esquin Wine Merchants in 1969, most of the wines we had were French. French wines are still one of our great loves. Here are our latest finds.
Rosé wine season is still not over yet. The French drink rosés year around and so do we. Here are a couple of winners.
2018 Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay Rosé ($27.99 - wine.com) - Marsannay is situated at the north end of the Côte de Nuits, just past Fixin. Made from Pinot Noir, this shows a brilliant pink color and lovely aromas of strawberry, red currant, tangerine, pink rose petals, pink lilac and pink incense. The flavors, as well, are captivating, with gently pressed fruits that are imbued with light grape skins and granitic minerals. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and recurring tangerine peel, followed buy a dry, juicy finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5+/20 points.
2018 Domaine de la Modorée Tavel Rosé , "La Dame Rousse" ($39.99 - wine.com) - This is the best Tavel Rosé we've tasted so far. Composed of 60% Grenache and 20% each of Cinsaiult and Syrah, it exhibits a beautiful copper-pink color and seductive aromas of raspberry, currant, pomegranate and orange peel with scents of pink roses, lavender, Provençal herbs and spiced pink incense. The flavors are as alluring as the aromas, with vivid, perfectly extracted red fruits that are imbued with grape skins, pomegranate seeds and mas soil minerals. The back reveals framboise and cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel on the lingering precisely balanced dry finish. Lynn gives this three stars (highest rating): "Quinessential Tavel Rosé." 19.5/20 points.
2017 Château Fortia Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc ($44.99 - Esquin) - Most of the wine of Châteauneuf du Pape is red, but a small amount of white is produced. Produced from 70% Roussanne, 20% Clairette and 10% Grenache Blanc, this one shows a brilliant gold color and intense aromas of pear, peach, apricot, papaya, orange peel with scents of pear blossoms, honeysuckle, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors are full bodied for a white, with layers of juicy white and yellow fruits that are infused with pear skin, apricot stone and mas cobblestone minerals. The resonance continues on the back with sensations of poire William and Grand Marnier liqueurs and touches of hazelnut and crème fraiche on lingering dry finish. I took this to a dinner party a few days ago and everyone was wowed by it. 19+/20 points.
2016 Brotte Châteauneuf du Pape, "Hautes de Barville" ($37.99 -Esquin) - This is a good buy in CdP. It shows a deep ruby-crimson color and rich, smoky aromas of raspberry, cherry and black currant with scents of black roses, mulberry, tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet focused, with black and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerals. The chewy textured back picks up roasted berries and nuts, mocha, grilled meats and charcoal, followed by a lingering ripe tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2017 Delas Crozes-Hermitage, "Les Launes" ($21.99 - wine.com) - This is a tasty young North Rhone Syrah. It shows a purplish-ruby color and rich aromas of black cherry, black currant, mulberry, tobacco, lavender and incense. The robust flavors are true to variety and direct, with notes of black licorice, dark cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. The intensity continues on the back with macerated berries, grilled nut meats and burnt charcoal, followed by a spiced sweet-dry tannin finish. Excellent value. 18/20 points.
2016 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage ($35.99 - wine.com) - This is a step up qualitatively from the above wine. It offers a deep purplish-ruby color and enticing aromas of raspberries, plums, black currants, crushed roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco, lavender, sage, anise and spiced incense. The medium full bodied flavors show terrific Syrah purity, with fleshy black and blue fruit that are infused with licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and earth. The wine thickens on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, framboise and cassis liqueurs, grilled meats and charcoal, followed by a satisfying ripe tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2018 Louis Jadot Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay ($13.99 - Safeway) - From the birthplace of Chardonnay, this shows a brilliant gold color and pleasing aromas of apple, peach, citrus, apple blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. Unencumbered by oak, the flavors are bright and true to variety, with notes of grape skin, peach stone and granitic minerals. The back picks up touches of pêche liqueur, hazelnut and creme fraiche on the way to a crisp finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages ($13.99 - Safeway) - This is an amiable Beaujolais. It displays a purplish ruby color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, currant, red roses, mulberry and whiffs of spiced incense. The medium bodied flavors are pleasingly plump, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, and a bit of earth. The back reveals fraise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a savory, nicely fruited soft tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Lapierre + Pacalet "Cousins" Juliénas ($31.99 -wine.com) - From one of the top Crus Beaujolais, this wine offers a deep ruby color and expressive aromas of fraises de bois, black currants, black plums, crushed red roses, mulberry, tobacco leaf, orange peel and incense. The flavors, as well, are dramatic, with robust black and blue fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa powder, black tea and granitic minerals. On the back, the wine turns chewy textured with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, mocha, recurring orange peel and pencil, lead, followed by a smooth moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.