- Written by Rand Sealey
On Wednesday, June 8, we drove to the Yakima Valley on our way to Walla Walla. We visited several wineries, some for the first time. Here's a summary of our visits. Reviews of the wines will be in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
Southard - Scott Southard is an earnest young winemaker who has much potential. The winery in Selah, northeast of Yakima, is next door to his parents' home. He makes a very nice Roussanne and Cabernet called "whipping boy."
Gilbert Cellars - We visited the winery over in the Ahtamum Valley south of Yakima. We tasted the 2009's, including winemaker Justin Neufeld's JB Neufeld wines. At the tasting room downtown, we tasted some 2008's which will be in the August issue.
Treveri Cellars - Jurgen and Julie Grieb make methode champenoise varietal sparkling wines (Riesling, Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris and more) at their downtown facility. The wines range from dry to sweet. Some make delightful dessert bubblies.
Two Mountain - Located a few miles north of Zillah, this winery, owned by Matt and Patrick Rawn, makes wines from nearby vineyards which the brothers manage.
Maison Bleue - In Prosser, we met with Jon Martinez and sampled his newly released 2010 French Creek Chardonnay. We also tasted the 2010 Viognier and Marsanne which will be released in September.
Gamache Vintners - Roger and Bob Gamache have a new 2007 Merlot and a 2006 50% Gamache / 50% Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon which were quite impressive.
Bunnell Family Cellar - We had lunch at Susan Bunnell's Wine O'clock wine bar and had her husband Ron's striking 2008 Petit Sirah from the Northridge Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend (June 4-5) I made a couple of winery excursions. On Saturday, I drove to Woodinville and visited some wineries. Then on Sunday, Lynn and I went to a McCrea Cellars tasting.
My first stop in Woodinville was at Chateau Ste. Michelle. The newly-released 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Sauvignon Blanc is a winner - one of the winery's best yet - with fresh, fragrant aromas and bright, crisp flavors. The winery tasting room also has some limited release wines that are well worth visiting for. Here are two striking ones, made from varieties originating in the Rhone Valley.
2008 Ch. Ste Michelle "Limited Release" Grenache, Columbia Valley ($25 - winery only)
Brilliant ruby colored, this wine emits attractive aromas of crushed raspberries, cherries, dried roses, lavender and incense. The palate brims with rich, chewy bright red fruit flavors that are underlain with licorice, milk chocolate and minerals. The sensuous fruits persist on the back, accented by orange peel, followed by ripe, smooth tannins. 18.5/20 points.
2008 Ch. Ste Michelle "Limited Release: Cinsault, Columbia ($25 - winery only)
Medium ruby colored, this offers an intriguing nose of strawberry, cherry, mulberry, anise, orange peel and oriental perfumes. The exoticism continues on the palate with medium-bodied, yet penetrating, flavors of dried cherries, pomegranate juice and basaltic minerals. The back picks up sensations of currant liqueur, dried orange peel, toasted hazelnuts and a touch of creme brulee on a satiny tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
My next stop was at the Hollywood Hill Vineyards tasting room. Steve and Becky Snyder have turned out some beautiful new releases: a 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Roussanne and two Syrahs, one from the Rattlesnake Hills and one from Red Mountain. These will be reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. In addition, I tasted an intriguing limited supply red from Stretch Island in Puget Sound (which is one of the Washington AVAs).
2009 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Regent, Puget Sound, Nelson Family Vineyard ($28)
Regent (of German origin) is most likely the only red variety that can successfully be grown in Puget Sound. Deep ruby colored, this wine exhibits an intense nose of black cherry, black currant, incense and violets. On the palate, the dark fruit flavors are penetrating, intermixed with dried cherries, cocoa powder and graphite. The back picks up dark concentrated fruit juices that are accompanied by tones of bitter orange peel and roasted almonds, followed by an intense yet silky finish. 18.5/20 points.
After Hollywood Hill, I drove over to JM Cellars where Paige Leighton poured some new releases, including the "Bramble Bump" (named for the knoll where the winery sits atop) blends.
2010 JM Cellars "Bramble Bump" White, Columbia Valley ($17)
This is a vivacious blend of 50% Viognier, 30% Chardonnay, and 10% each of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. It emits aromas of pear, melon and peach, with scents of jasmine and orange blossoms. The fruit compote flavors are fresh and lively, with a hint of tropical creaminess, counterpointed by squeezes of grapefruit and mandarin orange juices on a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. Not much was made, so it may be sold out by mid summer. 18/20 points.
2009 JM Cellars "Bramble Bump" Red, Columbia Valley ($22)
This is an engaging blend of 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Petit Verdot, 20% Syrah, 17% Malbec and 13% Merlot. It offers rich, smoky aromas of blackberries, cherries and plum, with thick, chewy, generous, yet focused, dark fruit flavors that show undertones of licorice, chocolate, and coffee bean. The finish is imbued with sensations of grape skin, mocha and spice. 18/20 points.
JM Cellars has also released a fine 2008 Longevity Bordeaux-style Red and a gorgeous 2008 Tre Fanciulli Cabenet-Merlot-Syrah blend. Both will be reviewed in August. Winemaker-owner John Bigelow gave me a deep-colored 2009 barrel sample from the winery's Margaret's Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley which showed wonderful aromatics and lavish flavors.
I also visited Davenport Cellars where Jeff and Sheila Jirka showed their new Intuition and "R.H.D." reds, which will be released and reviewed in August. Shannon Jones' Hestia Cellars had a deliciously fresh 2010 Chenin Blanc (I call it "Shannon's Chenin") and Rod and Leslie Balsley's William Church Winery turned out a finely fruited and extracted 2010 Viognier (the latter two also to be reviewed in August). Efeste had just released the 2008 "Big Papa" Cabernet Sauvignon which will be in the August issue.
On Sunday, Lynn and I went to McCrea Cellars' Private Tasting at co-owners (with Doug and Kim McCrea) Bob and Susan Neel's home in West Seattle. A full range of white and red Rhone-style wines were poured. Some of these will be reviewed in the August issue, but here are three wines that merit your immediate attention.
2009 McCrea Cellars Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($25)
Dick Boushey was the first grower to plant Grenache Blanc in Washington State, and this is a fine rendition. Pale gold colored, it imparts aromas of Bosc pear and Crenshaw melon, with scents of lilac, pear blossoms and anise. The white fruit flavors are well extracted and and richly textured, with undertones of minerals, grape skin, orange peel and melon rind, followed by a crisp, juicy passion fruit and grapefruit imbued finish. 18.5/20 points.
2009 McCrea Cellars Viognier, Yakima Valley ($25)
This wine (blended with 12% each of Marsanne and Grenache Blanc) steers a mid course between the tropical and Chardonnay-like styles of Viognier. Light gold colored, it exhibits aromas of pear, melon and peach, with scents of acacia flowers, orange blossoms and jasmine. The palate reveals an array of fruit compote flavors, accompanied by touches of minerals, coconut and grapefruit on a lingering finish. 18.5/20 points.
N/V McCrea Cellars "non sequitur" Red, Washington State ($20)
A blend of 37% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, 25% Cinsault and 7% Grenache, this would make a nice barbecue red. Deep ruby colored, it offers rich, spicy aromas of blackberry, raspberry and plum, with whiffs of tobacco and lavender. The flavors are full and generous, marked by notes of licorice, chocolate and minerally earth that hold on through the warm, well spiced finish that shows moderate tannins and acids. 18/20 points.
Correction to Last Week's Blog - In my blog of June 1, I reviewed the 2009 Fidelitas Semillon. It turned out that it was a stray bottle, and that the wine being offered at Esquin was of the 2008 vintage. The '08 is a bit less fresh and lively than the '09, but is still a terrific buy at $9.99.
Next Week's Blog Goes On Line Friday - Tomorrow, we are stopping in the Yakima Valley for two days on our way to Walla Walla. So upcoming blogs will be posted on Friday, June 17th, and the next two Fridays, with the July 1 post going on line simultaneously with the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The June issue of the Review of Washington Wines is devoted to wines from wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, so the Best Buys for that issue come from that area. There is a bevy of wines from other parts of the state that would make fine values for summertime enjoyment. Here's a roundup of such wines, picked up from Seattle retailers
2009 Fidelitas Semillon, Columbia Valley ($9.99 at Esquin)
Sourced from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills, this offers fresh aromas of pear, melon and herb, with rich, creamy textures counterpointing the melon and citrus flavors. The crisp finish picks up notes of minerals, spice and toast. A terrific bargain. 18/20 points.
2010 Efeste Riesling, Columbia Valley, Evergreen Vineyard ($15.99 at Esquin)
Pale gold colored, this Riesling offers a fragrant, minerally nose of pear, peach and citrus. The white fruit flavors are bright and vivid, with a fresh, juicy slate-toned background. The off-dry finish is accented by bracing fruit acids. 18/20 points.
2010 Efeste "Feral" Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, Evergreen Vineyard ($17.99 at Esquin)
Made in a Sancerre-like style (and dedicated to Didier Dagueneau) this exhibits a pale gold color and steely, minerally aromas of granny apple, melon and herbs. Native yeast fermented, it shows wonderful purity of flavors. The steely crispness and focus persists on the back, enhanced by a twist of lemon zest on the finish. 18+/20 points.
2010 Renegade Wine Co. Rose, Columbia Valley ($9.99 at Esquin and Thriftway)
This bargain-priced rose shows a brilliant pink color and fresh aromas of strawberry, cherry and cherry blossoms. The flavors are fresh and lively, like a rose should be, with watermelon and strawberry juices cascading down the back, accompanied by a bit of grape skin extract and bracing fruit acids. 17.5+/20 points.
2008 Columbia Crest Grand Estates "Amitage" Red, Columbia Valley ($9.99 at Thriftway)
This is a new addition to Grand Estates line. Composed of 64% Merlot, 19% Syrah, 7% Cab Franc 4.5% Malbec and 5.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, it offers an appealing nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, tobacco and lavender. The flavors are ripe and supple, yet focused, and pick up notes of chocolate, licorice and earth on the back, followed by a chewy, spice-dusted finish. Not complex, but packs a lot of flavor for the price. 17.5+/20 points.
2009 Corvidae "The Keeper" Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($17.99 at Thriftway)
This is a tasty young Cabernet Franc that resembles a Bourgeuil from France's Loire Valley. It offers sultry, smoky aromas of backberry, plum, tobacco and spices. The flavors are generous and fleshy, with notes of chocolate, licorice and mocha, followed by chewy, not too assertive, tannins on the ripe finish. 18/20 points.
2007 McKinley Springs Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills ($13.99 at Esquin)
Deep ruby colored, this offers an unmistakable Syrah nose of blackberry and blueberry, with scents of rose petals, lavender and rubbed sage. The flavors are deep and chewy, underlain with licorice, dark chocolate, roast coffee and Horse Heaven scorched earth and minerals. The saturation continues on the back with tones of mocha, squeezed blueberry juice, followed by ripe, chewy tannins. This would be a fine value at $25; at $14, it's a killer deal. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
"A Celebration of Washington Syrah: Thirty Wines - Ten Vintages - Two Vineyards - One Winemaker"
On Monday, May 23, I attended a vertical tasting of ten vintages - 1997 to 2006 - of McCrea Cellars Syrahs, from the Dick Boushey's Grand Cote Vineyard (Yakima Valley), Jim Holmes' Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (Red Mountain) and Cuvee Orleans (blend from both), thirty wines in all. Hosted by Bob and Susan Neel, co-owners (with Doug and Kim McCrea) at Urban Enoteca (see the February 2011 issue of the Review of Washington Wines for more about this wine venue). It was a remarkable event. It was not a sit-down tasting. Instead, the wines were arranged on three tables in an open rectangle formation, with each set of the three designations on each table. Tasters moved around and sampled in whatever order they preferred. I went through each table one by one, going from the youngest (2006) to the oldest (1997) wine. Here is my summary of the most noteworthy wines, by vintage.
2006 - From a warm year, the wines showed well. The Ciel du Cheval was the most exceptional, showing a nose of raspberries, cherries, tobacco and a hint of violets, along with typical Red Mountain scorched earth. The Cuvee Orleans (a blend of select barrels from Grand Cote and Ciel du Cheval) showed smoky lavender and sage aromas and roasted berry flavors.
2005 - The Ciel du Cheval was a standout from an "indian summer" harvest - aromas of rose, lavender and sage, with ripe, completely integrated flavors, earthy but not heavy.
2004 - From a challenging vintage with a hot summer and a cooler harvest, the Cuvee Orleans displayed the most character, comprising of roasted berries, orange peel, earth and spice.
2003 - This was another very warm vintage. Here, the Ciel du Cheval showed well the typical characteristics of Red Mountain: an orange peel and incense nose, with generous, warm fruit, spices and pepper.
2002 - Again, another warm vintage. The Ciel du Cheval showed aromatics of raspberry, orange peel and incense, with squeezed dried berries and good acids. The Cuvee Orleans displayed roast berry and coffee aromas, with dried grape skin on the back and ripe, mature tannins.
2001 - Another warm vintage, with very ripe grapes. The Ciel du Cheval was the standout, with smoky oriental perfumes. The fine fruit acids have supported this wine for nearly a decade. The Boushey Grand Cote also showed well, with smoky dried berry and orange peel aromas and seductive flavors of a maturing Syrah.
2000 - From one of the hottest vintages in Washington history, the wines showed roasted fruit characteristics, with hints of caramel and roasted coffee, drying up a bit on the finish.
1999 - With a warm summer and cool nights, the vintage produced wines with fine fruits, balance and structure. The Boushey Grand Cote stood out, with oriental perfumes, orange peel and fine balance, followed by a long, nutted finish.
1998 - With this vintage, from another hot year, the wines were starting to show their age: dried berries, some fruit on the middle palate, but falling off on the finish.
1997 - This was a cool, marginal vintage. Again, the fruits were present in the middle, but dried up on the finish.
In addition, there were three whites. A 2009 Viognier which was fresh and juicy, and a 1997 Viognier which was truly remarkable, with butternut and tropical fruits, very much alive, unlike the reds of the same vintage. The 1990 Chardonnay was "interesting." Two 1994 Syrahs, one aged in French oak, and one in American oak showed a nutted dryness, but were still drinkable.
All in all, it was a truly memorable tasting. Many thanks to McCrea Cellars for this experience.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Buy 'Em Before They're Gone
For the summer months, many wineries make limited production wines that often get sold out shortly after they are released. These may include roses, but can include white and red wines as well. Here are some that I ran across during Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla.
2010 Isenhower Cellars "Pink Paintbrush" Cabernet Franc Rose, Yakima Valley ($15 - winery only)
Light copper colored, this rose emits an intrriguing nose of semi-dried raspberries and cherries. The dried berry character (from extended skin contact) continues on the palate, followed by notes of mandarin orange and cranberry juices on a dry finish. 17.5/20 points.
2010 Amavi Cellars Semillon, Walla Walla Valley ($20)
Brilliant gold colored, this offers a fresh pear and melon nose with scents of jasmine and butternut. The flavors possess a beeswax-like texture that counterpoints the grapefruit and melon fruit acids, to make for a refreshing wine that would go well with shellfish. 18/20 points.
2010 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Franc Rose, Walla Walla Valley ($20)
Deep salmon colored, this displays enticing raspberry and watermelon aromas, with intriguing scents of rhubarb and orange peel. The flavors are well extracted (from skin contact) and imbued with tones of lightly squeezed berry juices, followed by a crisp, nearly dry finish. 18/20 points.
2010 Fjellene Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Walla Walla Valley ($20)
This Sauvignon is made in a crisp, refreshing style. Light gold colored, it offers a striking nose of pear, melon, anise and lilac. The flavors are fresh and vibrant, enlivened by grapefruit and casaba melon fruits, and accented by stony minerals on a crisp finish that is counterpointed by a hint of fig. 18/20 points.
2010 Fjellene Cellars Rose, Columbia Valley ($20)
Composed of 100% Syrah, this brilliant pink colored wine exhibits aromas of wild strawberries, cranberries, rose petals and oriental spices. The bright flavors are deep and focused, with tones of watermelon juice and spiced orange peel, followed by a dusting of nutmeg and coriander of a lingering finish that shows vivid fruit acids. 18+/20 points.
2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley ($14)
This new vintage sports the winery's new label and drops the "Walla Voila" designation. It offers a fragrant pear, melon, lilac and honeysuckle nose and fresh, lively peach and grapefruit flavors that show bracing fruit acids to counterpoint the medium-dry (1.5% residual sugar) finish. 17.5+/20 points.
2010 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rose, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($19 - winery only)
Very crisp and dry (0.5% residual sugar, no malolactic), this rose shows a pale rose color and aromas of cranberry and tangerine, with scents of wildflowers. The bright flavors are nicely fruited and hold on from the entry through the lightly spiced finish. 18/20 points.
2010 Buty "BEAST" Rose of the Stones, Rockgarden Estate, Walla Walla Valley ($19 - winery only)
Basically from young vines from this vineyard, and composed of Syrah and Grenache, this exhibits a pale copper color and spicy aromatics of raspberry and mandarin orange, along with vivid, dryish fruit flavors that are mouth-filling and satisfying, followed by a lively, dryish finish. 18/20 points.
Here are a couple of flavorful reds that would make fine barbecue wines.
2008 Trio Vintners Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley ($26)
This Chinon-like Cab Franc displays a deep ruby color and smoky aromas of raspberries, cherries, tobacco and sage. The flavors are generous and savory, underlain with notes of licorice, chocolate, earth and minerals, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2006 Tranche Cellars Barbera, Columbia Valley ($20)
Deep ruby colored, this wine offers rich, smoky aromas of wild berries and cherries, with scents of rosebuds and mulberry. The dark fruit flavors are deep and tangy, like macerated tart cherries, accompanied by licorice, scorched earth and bitter chocolate, followed by persistent fruit acids on a lingering sweet-dry finish. Would make a fine counterpoint to grilled steak. 18/20 points.