- Written by Rand Sealey
Gary and Nancy Figgins to be Inducted into the Hall of Fame
On August 9, at a gala dinner at the Walter Clore Center Nancy and Gary Figgins will be inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame. This is an honor well deserved for the Figgins who founded the Leonetti Cellar winery in Walla Walla in 1977. The prestige of the Walla Walla Valley AVA is largely due to this iconic winery. Congratulations Nancy and Gary!
Jason Gorski takes over as DeLille Winemaker
Jason Gorski, formerly Assistant Winemaker, has taken over as Winemaker at DeLille Cellars in Woodinville. Chris Upchurch becomes Founding Winemaker at DeLille, a culmination of 27 years. Before coming to DeLille in 2011, Gorski was assistant winemaker at Spring Valley Vineyards in Walla Walla. This change coincides with the winery's move to the former Redhook Brewery facility. I have known Jason for several years and have gone through a number of productive wine tasting sessions with him. Congratulations!
Derick Vipond takes the Reins at Walla Walla Vintners
Another winemaker transition is at Walla Walla Vintners where Derrek Vipond takes over as winemaker. Derrek comes to WWV from Long Shadows where he was assistant winemaker. Former winemaker, Bill VonMetzger will continue working at Walla Walla Vintners through a transition period. Congratulations to Derrek and all the best to Bill.
Lagana Cellars moves to South Second in Walla Walla
When Kerloo Cellars left its tasting room in Walla Walla to focus on its SODO facility in South Seattle, Lagana Cellars moved around the corner into that Second Avenue location. There, Jason Fox and Todd Bernave are pouring their current releases.
Washington Wines Revisited
Over the past few weeks, I have been reorganizing my wine collection. In doing so, I have retasted some wines that have been lying around for years, and some recently acquired. Here are my notes on some of these wines.
2017 Abeja Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($35) - This was reviewed in June 2018 (19/20 points). Retasted a week ago, it showed a lovely nose of pear, peach, passion fruit, wildflowers honeysuckle and white incense. The flavors were exquisitely wrought and vibrant with crystalline minerality and a long ripe finish. It paired nicely with liguine with mushrooms and Alfredo sauce. 19/20 points.
2017 Aluvé Estate Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley, Menozzi Vineyard ($35) - This is another fine example of how the 2017 vintage is shaping up beautifully for white wines. It showed a brilliant lemon gold color and a floral nose of Asian pear-apple, white peach, grapefruit, apple blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The flavors came on as true to variety and balanced, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and minerals. The back picked up poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of vanillin and lanolin, followed by a long finish. 19/20 points.
2015 March Cellars "Come Hell or High Water" Red Wine ($35) - This blend of 39% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Mourvèdre, 11% Counoise and 2% Syrah was reviewed December 2017 (18.5+/20 points). Last tasted, it showed a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of blackberries, blueberries, black currants, black roses, pipe tobacco, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors were thick and supple yet focused, with notes of cocoa, coffee beans and earth, followed by a satisfying pepper and spice dusted finish. 18.5+/20 points. This vintage is sold out, but the 2016 (reviewed October 2018 - 19/20 points) is available under Ashley Trout's Brook & Bull label.
2015 DeLille Cellars "Signature" Syrah, Yakima Valley - I tasted this with Jason Gorski, now DeLille Winemaker (see above) in May 2018 (reviewed June, 2018 - 19+/20 points. "Signature" suggests an elegantly styled Syrah, which this fitted beautifully in our retasting. It exhibited a deep ruby-crimson color and seductive aromas of blackberry, blueberry and cassis with scents of crushed roses, tobacco, violets and oriental incense. The flavors were simultaneously velvety and authoritative, with notes of licorice, cacao and minerals, followed by a long, smooth yet invigorating finish. 19+/20 points.,
2012 LaRata Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - La Rata is a project of Elizabeth Bourcier, Assistant Vigneronne at Cayuse. This vintage is comprised of 60% Grenache and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. It showed a brick red color and seductive aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, black currants, crushed roses, tobacco, orange peel and spiced oriental incense. On the palate, the wine was simultaneously broad and focused, comprising layers of black and blue fruits that were intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder and Rocks minerality. On the back, the wine acquired a velvety texture, from the Grenache, bolstered by the Cabernet, along with sensations of pressed fruits, creme de cassis, orange peel, nougat and graphite, all flowing seamlessly into a long savory smooth tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2013 College Cellars Carmenère, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard - I found this on the floor in the wine storage room. The last release of Carmenère was the 2016 (sold out), with the 2017 coming spring. This vintage showed a ruby color and a developing bouquet of semi dried fruits, spices and wood smoke. The flavors came on as being full and supple, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and silty minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, dried orange peel and roasted nuts on the dryish tannin finish. It drank very nicely. Purchased for $25. 18.5/20 points.
2014 Xenolith Vintners Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - Xenolith is Rasa Vineyards cellar master Noé Martinez's wine. I reviewed it in November 2017 (19/20 points). Tasted last night, it showed a brick red color and enticing aromas of raspberry, bayberry, red currant, orange peel and spiced incense. The flavors were deep and supple, with notes of licorice, cocoa, French roast and Rocks minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts and mocha, followed by a ripe tannin finish that was beginning to smooth out. Still available on Xenolith's website. 19/20 points.
2008 TL Cellars "Release No. Five" Grenache, Walla Walla Valley - A few days ago, I ran across a call on Facebook from Troy Ledwick asking, "Still some TL Cellars out there...Let me know how it's drinking...." So I got out a bottle of this wine to try. It has held up well for Grenache which typically and a medium bodied Pinot Noir like profile. It had been stored in a Eurocave for the last five years. It showed a red-garnet color and maturing aromas of semi dried fruits, orange peel, dried herbs and oriental incense. The flavors were well developed, with notes of chocolate, mocha and silty earth (Minnick Vineyard), spices and toasted nuts, followed a dryish tannin finish. Reviewed October 2010 (19/20 points). Yesterday, 19/20 points.
2015 Walla Walla Vintners Dolcetto, Walla Walla Valley, Dwelley Vineyard - This dates back to the Myles Anderson, Gordy Venneri, Bill VonMertzger era at Walla Walla Vintners. Tasted today, it showed a ruby-garnet color and enticing aromas of Boysenberries, cherries, plums, partially dried roses, orange peel and incense. The flavors came on as being generous yet serious, with notes of Toberlone chocolate, Italian roast and Dwelley silty loam. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts on a sweetish ("dolce") yet dry finish. 18.5/20 points. Reviewed May 2017 (18.5/20 points). The current vintage is 2016 (reviewed November 2018 - 18.5/20 points).
- Written by Rand Sealey
One of the most refreshing developments in the wine industry last year was the news that Fiona Mak, the lab technician at Artifex, the winemaking facility in Walla Walla, was going to start a winery, called SMAK Wines, devoted to making rosé wines, not just for summer, but for the year around.
Conventional wisdom has it that rosé wines have to be sold and drunk by the end of summer, which is to say that the 2017's should have been gone by Labor Day. But is there any valid reason why this should be the case? Rosé wines are processed much the same way as whites, the grapes are crushed after the desired period of skin contact, then fermented. The only difference is that rosés are made with red grapes instead of white. White wines are not drunk during summer only, so why rosés?
During the past few weeks, we have been drinking rosé wines and they are doing very nicely, thank you. Many rosés are sold out because some wineries limit production to what can be sold by the end of summer. But here are some that are still available and holding up well.
2017 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Gris Rosé, Columbia Valley ($22) - This is Pinot Gris with longer hang tine on the vines to produce a wine with a light copper color and intriguing aromas of apricot, strawberry, ruby grapefruit, pink flowers and wet stone. The flavors are deliciously ripe, with notes of apricot stones and fraise liqueur. Followed by a crisp juicy finish. Lynn gave this two stars last summer, three, the highest rating, last week. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - Primarily Cabernet Franc with a bit of Petit Verdot, this offers a light pink-copper color and aromas of peach, grapefruit and Rainier cherry with scents of cherry blossoms, orange peel and spiced white incense. The flavors are fresh and sprightly, with notes of peach stone and grapefruit peel, followed by a properly extracted dry finish. 18+/20 points.
2017 Maryhill Rosé of Sangiovese, Columbia Valley ($13.00 - Safeway) - This shows a brilliant pink color ("what a Rosé should look like," says Lynn) and lovely aromas of wild strawberries, cherries and red currants with scents of cherry tree blossoms and wild flowers. The flavors, as well, are alluring, with bright, juicy red fruits that stay through the dryish finish. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Rôtie Cellars Rosé Wine, Washington State ($22) - This 85% Mourvèdre, 15% Syrah combination belies the pale copper color with its substance. The strawberry, pear and peach flavors and aromas of pear tree blossoms and wild flowers are attention getting, and the juiciness and bit of spritz give it vibrancy. An ideal Rosé in the Provence style (Lynn gives it three stars). 19/20 points
2017 Chateau Ste. Michelle Rosé Wine, Columbia Valley ($9.99 - Safeway) - Brilliant pink colored, this wine possesses attractive aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, ruby grapefruit, cherry tree blossoms and wildflowers. The flavors are crisp and sprightly, with notes of fraise and kirsch liqueurs and grapefruit peel, followed by a juicy yet dry and crisp finish. A bargain at $9.99. 18/20 points.
N/V College Cellars Rosé of Grenache, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Although not vintage dated, this is essentially from 2017. Made with infused carbon dioxide, it shows a copper color and attractive aromas of raspberry, Rainier cherry, pomegranate, orange peel and pink flowers. The extraction is just right and the dissolved CO2 adds verve to the red fruit flavors. The bright fruit acids and recurring orange peel make the wine a good counterpoint to spicy dishes such as curries. 18.5/20 points.
The French, unlike Americans, drink Rosé the year around. Here are a couple of fine examples.
2017 Fleur de Mer Rosé de Provence ($17.99 - Safeway) - This is our go-to Provence Rosé from the Côte d'Azur. Light copper colored, it possesses attractive aromas of strawberry, pomegranate, cherry, currant, cherry blossoms, lavender and white incense. The flavors are nicely fruited and extracted, with notes of grape skin, fraise and kirsch liqueurs and Provençal herbs, all finishing dry yet juicy. 18.5/20 points.
2017 Château de Sègeries Tavel Rosé ($21.99 - wine.com) - The Rhone Valley's best rosés come from Tavel, near Avignon. This one shows a brilliant copper-pink color and aromas of wild raspberries, currants, tangerine peel. lavender and wine incense. The flavors are fresh and lively, with notes of framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs and recurring tangerine peel. A bit more extracted than most Rosés, this makes for a great food wine. 18.5+/20 points.
Last night, we had a bottle of 2015 Cayuse "Edith" Grenache Rosé which refutes the notion that rosés have to be drunk young.
2015 Cayuse Vineyards "Edith" Grenache Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Armada Vineyard - Released in April 2018, this Rosé exhibits a brilliant copper colorant an exotic nose of fraises de bois, red currants, musk melon, orange peel, orange tree blossoms, meadow wildflowers and, spiced white incense. The palate reveals a complex melange of ripe fruits with saline "Rocks" minerality. The back picks up fraise and Grand Marnier liqueurs on the way to a lingering, elegantly fruited spice dusted finish. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In my Review Blog posting of 3 December, 2018, I wrote an article about "The Less Well-Known Appellations of Burgundy," such as those of Marsannay, Monthelie, Saint Aubin and Chaintré which produce some fine but affordable wines. Here are more that we have tried recently.
2017 Domaine Trouillet Macon-Solutre ($16.99 - Total Wine) - This comes from just outside of Pouilly-Fuissé, in the town of Solutré. It shows a brilliant gold color and attractive aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, pear tree blossoms, meadow flowers and lemon verbena. The pure Chardonnay flavors are pleasantly fresh and sunny, with notes of pear and peach skins and granitic minerals. The back is well fruited and brisk, accented by persistent minerality and grapefruit peel on the finish. 18/20 points.
2017 Domaine Trouillet Pouilly-Fuissé ($26.99 - Total Wine) - This is a fine rendition of Pouilly-Fuissé. It displays a brilliant gold color and lovely, floral aromas of pear, peach and citrus, with scents of pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and hints of butternut and lemongrass. The pure Chardonnay flavors are vivid and resonant, with notes of peach stone, pear skin and granite. The vibrancy continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of crème fraiche and lemon zest on the persistently minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuisse ($22.99 - Wine.com) - This is a crisply styled Pouilly-Fuissè. It displays a lemon-gold color and a typical Chardonnay nose of pear, peach, lemon peel, pear blossoms and acacia flowers.The flavors are bright and resonant, with notes of pear and grape skins and granite. On the back, the wine turns tangy and then softens up with a touch of crème fraiche on the finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Domaine Vincent Pouilly-Fuissé, "Marie Antoinette" ($23.99 - Wine.com) - This version features a brilliant gold color and attractive aromas of pear, peach and grapefruit, with scents of white wild flowers, lemon verbena and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are pure Chardonnay, with notes of peach stone, grape skin and granite. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs and grape rind on the way to a crisp, deliciously fruited finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Saint-Veran ($20.99 - Wine.com) - This comes from Davayé, one of the towns near Pouilly-Fuissé with the Saint-Veran AOC. It shows a brilliant lemon-gold court and aromas of apple, peach, grapefruit, apple blossoms, acacia flowers and wet stone. The flavors are fresh and crisp, with Chardonnay purity and notes of pear skin, peach stone and Jurassic limestone. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs and grapefruit rind. A good choice for those preferring a crisper style. 18/20 points.
2016 Domaine Thomas Saint Aubin 1er Cru, Murgers des Dents de Chien ($33.99 - Total Wine) - Saint-Aubin is on the slope above Chassagne-Montrachet, beneath crags that look like dog's teeth (hence the vineyard name). Brilliant gold colored, it possesses floral aromas of apple, peach, citrus, apple tree blossoms, lemongrass and white incense. The flavors are well fruited, yet with laser-like, with notes of peach stone and granitic minerals. The back picks up Calvados and pêche liqueurs, followed by a resonant finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Louis Latour Mrsannay ($24.99 - Wine.com) - Marsannay is situated at the north end of the Côte de Nuits. This one shows a cherry red color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry and red currant with scents of rosebuds, tobacco leaf and white incense. The flavors are charmingly delicate yet well structured, with definite Pinot Noir character, picking up red licorice, cocoa powder and mocha, followed by cerise and cassis liqueurs and dried orange peel and a soft tannin finish that is lifted by right fruit acids. 18+/20 points.
2016 Joseph Drouhin Côte de Nuits Villages ($32.99 - Wine.com) - From just south of Nuits-St. Georges - Premèaux, Corglolin and Comblanchien - this is a charming Pinot Noir. It presents a brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, red currant, red roses, mulberry and sweet incense. The flavors, as well, are pleasing, with supple red fruits that are accented by licorice, cocoa, tea and granitic minerals. The back picks up kirsch and cassis liqueurs, followed by a nicely fruited soft yet firm tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Domaine Machard de Gramont Chorey-les-Beaune "Les Beaumonts" ($31.99 - Total Wine) - Chore-les-Beaune is situated between Aloxe-Corton and Beaune. This shows a brick red color and an attractive nose of strawberries, pomegranates, red currants. red roses, orange peel and white incense. The medium bodied flavors are appealing, with supple red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder, medium roast coffee and earth. The back picks up fraise and cassis liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed by a nicely fruited soft tannin finish. Offers a lot of appeal for the price. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Domaine Derey Fixin, "Vieilles Vignes" ($34.99 - Total Wine) - From near the north end of the Côte de Nuits, this offers a brick red color and rich aromas of fraises de bois, cerise and cassis with scents of crushed roses, tobacco leaf, orange peel and wood smoke. On the palate, the flavors are medium bodied yet sturdy (from old vines) with tasty red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa powder and earth. The back reveals sensations of pressed berries, kirsch and cassis liqueurs, recurring orange peel and pencil lead, followed by a ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in June, the big news in the Walla Walla Valley was the opening of the Eritage Resort north of Walla Walla on Bergevin Springs Road, off Highway 125 (past the Penitentiary). It is the joint venture of Justin Wylie, owner and winemaker of Va Piano Vineyards, who purchased the land in 2008, Scott Knox of Vista Ventures, the developer, and Fire & Vine, the resort services provider. The Resort has ten suites, with ten villas under construction, The management team is Terra Luthi, General Manager, Deb J Carter, Event Marketing Director, and Brian Price, Executive Chef.
We had wanted to visit Eritage for some time and when I found out the Resort was offering a "January Date Night" promotion with a prix fixe dinner menu and a discounted rate for a suite for the night, we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to have the Eritage experience. So I went ahead and booked a dinner reservation and a room.
We arrived at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on January 15th. We were greeted by Deb and Terra, the General Manager, and then shown to our room by Logan who has been with the Resort since June. The suite was spacious and comfortable as befits a resort. Our patio suite overlooked the Eritage Vineyard and a pond which also serves as an irrigation reservoir for the vineyard.
When we arrived for dinner we were seated by Nelissa. From the "January Date Night Menu," we ordered a bottle of 2015 Reverly "Range" Syrah/Grenache Blend. As a starter, Executive Chef, Brian Price served a delicious pureed cauliflower soup, followed by the baby gem salad of bacon and greens with a creamy garlic-parmesan dressing. The second course was grilled lamb chops. Brian then served us perfectly braised short ribs. For dessert, Lynn had the Columbia Valley Farms vanilla ice cream and I had the Classic Cheesecake with a raspberry-cherry coulis. The whole meal was delicious and the wine excellent. It was a memorable dinner.
The next morning, we were greeted by breakfast plates of hard boiled eggs, charcuterie (salami, prosciutto) and the best croissant we've had since we were in France four years ago. The juices were fresh and the caffe latte and French roast coffee nice and hot. After breakfast, we packed up and bade farewell to Deb, Terra and Kyndra. Later, I received an email asking me to rate our experience on a scale of five stars for overall, food, service and ambiance. I gave scores of five stars across the board, and also said yes, I would recommend the resort to a friend.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A few weeks ago, I was in the Three Rivers Winey tasting room to taste wines that will be reviewed in the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines. While there, I noticed a bottle of The Four Graces Pinot Noir from Oregon on the counter. This reminded me that the Three Rivers and Four Graces wineries are under the same ownership. Here's more about this and other Walla Walla Valley and Willamette Valley connections.
The Three Rivers and The Four Graces (located in McMinville, Oregon) wineries are in the Foley Estates portfolio which includes the Chalk Hill, Chalone, Foley Estates and several other California wineries. The owner is Bill Foley, who also owns the National Hockey League team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Over a year ago, the Seven Hills Winery was acquired by the Crimson Wine Group, headquartered in Napa, California. Casey McClellan has continued as the winemaker. Crimson's Great Estates portfolio includes Archery Summit in Oregon and Pine Ridge, Seghesio and others in California. In the past few months, I have been receiving emails offering Archery Summit wines along with those of Seven Hills as a "Northwest Collection."
Last year, the Walla Walla Vintners winery was acquired by Oregon software, Scott Haladay of Portland. Haladay grew up in Lake Oswego, in proximity to Willamette Valley wineries and was looking for a winery to invest in and came upon Walla Walla Vintners which he bought from Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri.
Another Willamette Valley connection is Jim Berneau of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Oregon. Berneau is also the owner of Pambrun Vineyards which owns vineyards in Oregon and the Walla Walla Valley. Jon Meuret is the winemaker for Pambrun, as well as for his own Maison Bleue winery. Both the Pambrun and Maison Bleue wines are poured at the tasting room on South Second in downtown Walla Walla. A new winery and tasting room is under construction in the "Rocks" of the South Walla Walla Valley.
So here, we have some connections between the Willamette and Walla Walla Valleys, along with portfolio inter marketing and management. There also has been expanded marketing of Oregon wines in Washington. This is an interesting development in the increasing inter-state development of winery ownership. In the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines, I will be including a selection of Oregon wines in the Best Buys section.