- Written by Rand Sealey
"Rocks don't have flavors. I'm sorry, but they don't" - Kevin Pogue, rock expert, on terroir.
In many reviews of wines, you will see descriptions that refer to a wine's minerality or earthiness, including mine in the Review of Washington Wines. Does that mean there actually minerals or earth in these wines? The answer is no. One time, I ran across an article about a study at the University of Wales that analyzed numerous wines and determined that the mineral contents were so minuscule as to be imperceptible. Does this throw cold water on the idea of minerality or terroir in wine? The answer to that is also no.
The answer is that while terroir does not impart flavors, it can influence the way grape vines grow, thereby producing wines wth distinguishing characteristics. A wine produced from fractured basalt substrate, for instance, will taste different from one from silt and loam soil. This has do with the way vines grow roots in the deep subsoils. Vines growing stressed through rocky soil will produce different tasting wines than ones grown in gravelly or sandy soil. It is in this way that terroir does have real meaning. This is pretty much the way Geology Professor Pogue has explained it, as I have heard a number of times.
The conclusion is that, while rocks don't have flavors, it is still reasonable to describe wines as being minerals or earthy. So I'll just keep on writing about them in that way.
- Written by Rand Sealey
During the past few weeks, I have done a number of interesting wine tastings from a wide range of wine producing regions. Here are my notes and scores.
The Washington Wine Awards Judging
On March 6th, I flew from Walla Walla to Seattle to participate in Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. We tasted about 100 wines, no mean feat. Among the wines tasted were some highly impressive high end Cabernets (19.5 to 20/20 points). The winners will be announced in the August issue of Seattle Magazine.
Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs
The afternoon of the 6th, I stopped at Vino Volo in the Sea-Tac airport while waiting for my flight back to Seattle. I sampled a flight of three Oregon Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. Prices are from Vino Volo by the bottle.
2014 Torii Mor Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($45) - This showed a medium brick red color and attractive aromas of raspberries, cherries, orange peel and crushed roses. The flavors were medium bodied and nicely fruited, almost Beaujolais-like, with notes of medium roast coffee and earth, followed by a juicy soft tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2013 Angela Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($55) - Brick red colored, this offered enticing aromas of strawberry, cherry and plum with scents of red roses, cedar and white incense. The medium bodied flavors showed considerable Pinot character, with notes of licorice, cola and loamy earth. The back picked up fraise and cerise liqueurs and dustings of pepper and nutmeg on the way to a bright fruit acid finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2013 St. Innocent "Villages Cuvée" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($43) - This is aptly named as it came on like a Côte de Nuits Villages from Burgundy. It showed a bright nose of cherry, raspberry and cranberry with scents of freshly cut flowers, baking spices and smoke. The medium bodied flavors were pleasingly supple, with notes of cola, medium roast coffee and spices, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
White Burgundies at Whitehouse Crawford
On March 8th, Lynn and I tasted some white Burgundies at the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla. Here are our favorites.
2014 Mathieu Paquet Saint Veran - Saint Veran is a Maconnais appellation for the area adjoining Pouilly-Fuissé. It showed a medium gold color and a lovely nose of pears, peaches and apricots, with scents of wild flowers and jasmine. The true Chardonnay flavors were well delineated and lively, with mineral undertones and a crisp finish. 18+/20 points.
2013 Domaine Cheveau Pouilly-Fuissé, Vieilles Vignes - This was a lively rendition of Chardonnay, with a brilliant gold color and ripe aromas of pear, peach and citrus. The flavors were pleasingly ripe and generous, yet focused, with undertones of Maconnais slate and minerals, and a long, ripe finish. 18.5/20 points.
2010 Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses - This was a wonderful example of a maturing Grand Cru. Greenish gold colored, it possessed aromas of pear, melon, wet stone and wild flowers and intense, steely, chalky classic Chablis Chardonnay flavors. The long finish was deep and ripe, yet bone dry. 19/20 points.
There were two more white Burgundies, one from Meursault and one from Chassagne-Montrachet. They turned out to be disappointing, given the prestige of their appellations, without much distinguishing character. We found the following "mystery wine" that was served blind to be much better.
2014 March Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley - This showed fine Chardonnay character and a pleasantly floral nose with scents of white fruits and meadow flowers. This wine scored 19/20 points. It also scored 19 points in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
I tasted four wines made from Spanish (Albariño and Tempranillo) and Italian (Barbera Rosé and Sangiovese) varieties recently which were lovely wines. They will be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
Doug and Jan Roskelley have three exciting new estate vineyard wines, a 2013 Charbono (a rarity in the U.S. and known as Bonarda in Northern Italy), an unique 2013 "Petit(e)2 50/50 blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, and a knockout 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Plateau Block of the Windrow Vineyard (19.5/20 points), all to be reviewed in the May issue.
Scroll down below for more recent tasting reports:
Spanish Sherries - This is a must read. You will find out that there are amazingly complex high quality wines from the Jerez region.
Loire Valley Wines - There are some tasty whites and reds from this region. There is much more of interest besides Muscadet and Sancerre.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night (March 16) Lynn and I hosted the SOB tasting of Spanish Sherry wines. It was a monumental tasting with a wide range of high quality wines in a variety of types and styles. Most of the wines were procured by Billo Naravane, along with some participants' bottles. The wines were served open rather than blind because of the wide range of types and styled. They were accompanied by tapas.
Today, Sherry is largely misunderstood. The widespread perception is that they are sweet wines, such as Cream Sherry or Medium Dry Amontillado. Actually, there is a range of complex wines, most of which are dry or nearly so. Here is the range of wines we tasted, with my notes and scores.
Fino - Fino Sherry is wine (nearly all from the Palomino grape) that develops flor yeast on top the the wine, preserving the wine's freshness. A bodega will bottle a third of its solera (casks that are racked from one to another) each year. The flor usually lasts up to eight years. Finos are dry and bottled at lower alcohol, usually 15 or 16%. We started off with two Finos.
Faustino Gonzalez "Cruz Vieja" Fino en Rama - This showed an amber color and an intriguing nose of almonds and smoke. The flavors were very tangy, with woodsy notes and lemon peel, finishing crisp, slightly nutty and fine. 15% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Raineri Perez Marin "La Guita" Manzanilla - Manzanilla is Fino from Sanlucar de Barrameda, south of Jerez, near the coast. This one showed a pale gold color and a tangy nose of lemon, almond and sea salt. The flavors showed bracing Palomino purity, with notes of melon peel and lemon rind, followed by a nuanced very dry finish. 15% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Amontillado - After the Fino flor yeast begins to die off, at about eight years, the wine turns into Amontillado. While much Amontillado is sold as medium dry, these are superior dry Sherries.
Lustau "Escuadillo" Rare Amontillado - Deep orangish copper colored, this possessed nose of roasted nuts,orange peel,mahogany wood and spices. The flavors were broad, yet focused, with a swath of sweet-dry, nutted flavors, turning dry on the lingering finish. 20% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Gran Barquero Amontillado - Medium copper orange colored, this showed a nose of roasted nuts, orange peel, cigar box and incense. The flavors were deep, penetrating and complex, The back picked up notes of anise and burnt toast, followed by a lingering dryish finish. 20% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
Bodegas Tradición 30 Year Amontillado, VORS - The initials stand for "Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum," a designation for 30 year old Sherry. his showed a copper color and a mature nose of orange peel, dried roses, Marconi almonds. Made in a lighter, but complex style, with notes of dried fruits and anise, and a long finish. 19.5% alcohol. 19+/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "El Duque" 30 Year Amontilado VORS - Deep copper colored, this possessed an intriguing aged nose of dried orange peel. roasted walnuts and caramel, with scents of musk and smoke. The flavors picked up notes of chicory, burnt coffee beans and charcoal, followed by a nutted, brandied (21.5% alcohol) near-dry finish. 19.5/20 points.
Palo Cortado - This is a type of Sherry that has characteristics of Fino and Oloroso.
Valdespino "Viejo C.P." Palo Cortado - This showed a light copper color and an intriguing nose orange peel, roasted nuts and dried rose petal. The flavors came on as being medium bodied, but complex, with notes of roasted Marconi almonds, lemon tang and old oak. 19/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "Apostoles" 30 Year Palo Cortado VORS - Deep amber-mahogany colored, this possessed an intoxicating nose of sun baked bodega, roasted walnuts, orange peel and dried roses. The flavors were simultaneously sweet and dry, noticeably oxidative but still resonant, followed by a long, nutted, slightly brandied finish. 20% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
Fernando de Castilla "Antique" Palo Cortado - This 25 year Palo Cortado offered a medium copper color and exotic aromas of dried roses, nuts and smoke. The flavors were exquisitely wrought, with notes of grilled nuts and orange peel, followed by a tangy, warm (20% alcohol) near dry finish. A superb example of the lighter, complex style. 19.5/20 points.
Oloroso - Oloroso is Sherry that has become further oxidized with aging in the solera. Much Oloroso is sweetened, as in Cream Sherry, but the best are dry or nearly so.
Valdespino "Don Gonzalo" 20 Year Oloroso VOS - VOS stands for "Vinum Optimum Signatum." This showed a copper-mahogany color and seductive aromas of roasted sweet nuts, orange peel and incense. The flavors were rich and complex, with notes of coffee and bitter nuts, followed by a dry finish. 19/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "Matusalem" 30 Year Oloroso VORS - Composed of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximenez, this showed a brownish copper color and a nose of roasted nuts, burnt leaves, toffee and mocha. The flavors were opulent and sweetish (from the P.X.) with notes of coffee beans and lanolin, followed by a lingering sweetish finish, counterpointed by fine acidity. 20.5% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
El Maestro Sierra "1/14" Oloroso - Number 100 of 250 bottles, this 30 year old Sherry showed a medium copper color and intoxicating aromas of dried orange, peel, apricots, and cocoa. The flavors came on sweetish at first, but turned dryish, with notes of dried fruits, roasted walnuts and almonds, toffee, dried orange peel, all followed by an alluring, long, elegant finish. As an archetypical aged Oloroso, this gets 20/20 points.
Pedro Ximenez - This is the grape used to sweeten wine, as in Cream Sherry. It can also be bottled as a sweet varietal Sherry, such as this one which we finished off the tasting with.
Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles - The grapes are laid out in the sun to dry, producing a sweet, complex wine. From a solar started in 1927, this showed a deep mahogany color and an intense nose of raisins, tobacco, toffee and dried roses. The flavors were opulently sweet, yet with a dry undertone, imbued with licorice, cocoa, vanillin and nuts. The nutmeg and clove accented finish was long and sweet, balanced by fine acidity that supported the wine through its long sojourn in the bodega. 16% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
As you can see from the above notes and scores, these are extraordinary wines. They are not cheap. The 30 year old VORS Sherries cost about $50 for a 375 ml. bottle, somewhat less for the others. But given their quality and complexity levels, they are well worth it.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Wednesday, March 1, we attended a tasting of Loire Valley wines at the Whitehouse Crawford restaurant in Walla Walla. The wines were very nice. Here are the wines tasted, with my notes and scores.
2015 Champalou Vouvray "Les Foudreaux" ($32) - This was a fine, typical Chenin Blanc. It showed a medium gold color and a floral nose of pear, peach and tangerine, with scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, verbena and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, were pleasing, with fresh, lively white fruits that were imbued with grape skin, pear skin and stony minerals. The back picked up poire and pêche liqueurs followed by a persistently minerally, faintly honeyed finish, 18.5/20 points.
2015 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre ($38) - This came on as a fine rendition of upper Loire Sauvignon Blanc. It had a medium gold color and a smoky nose of pear, peach and melon, white lilac, lemongrass and white incense. The flavors were crisp and well delineated, with notes of anise, pear skin and chalky minerals, The back revealed pressed juices and hazelnuts, followed by a ripe, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2013 C & P Breton Bourgueil "La Dilettante" ($35) - Produced from Cabernet Franc, this showed a brilliant medium ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild fruits - raspberries, cherries and black currants - with scents of crushed roses, bayberry, tobacco and incense. The medium bodied flavors mirrored the aromatics with supple, yet focused, fruits with notes of licorice, cocoa and minerals, followed by a grainy textured back and dryish finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine La Chanteleuserie Bourgueil, "Alouettes" ($28) - Deep crimson-ruby colored, this possessed a rich, smoky berried nose of raspberry, currant, bayberry, crushed roses, tobacco and incense. The typical Cab Franc flavors were fairly direct, with notes of licorice, cocoa, earth and minerals. The chewy textured back picked up crushed berries, toffee, roasted nuts and charcoal, followed by a ripe youthful finish. 18.5/20 points.
2014 Marc Bredif Chinon ($35) - Chinon and Bourgueil are across the Loire River from each other and both are made from Cabernet Franc. This one showed a deep ruby-crimson color and intense aromas of cherries and black plums, crushed roses, tobacco, pine needles and incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, with loads of dark fruits, accented by licorice, bittersweet chocolate, and minerals. The back picked up kirsch and framboise liqueurs nougat, followed by a sturdy ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2010 Charles Jouget Chinon, "Les Varennes du Grand Clos" (N.A) - This was a fine example of a Cabernet Franc with some bottle age. Deep ruby colored, it showed a sultry, smoky nose of wild berries, cherries, cassis, crushed roses, sweet tobacco, cedar, forest carpet and incense. The dark fruit flavors were focused, almost laser-like, with admixtures of licorice, bittersweet chocolate, French roast and stony minerals. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, roasted walnuts and toffee followed a long, toasty finish. 19/20 points.
1983 C & P Breton Chinon, "Beaumont" (N.A.) - This was poured from a Magnum. It showed a ruby-garnet color and a mature nose of dried berries, roasted walnuts, orange peel and incense. The flavors were drying up, but still viable, with notes of dried vanilla bean, roasted nuts, dried orange peel and toast. This was past its peak, but still admirable. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Myles Anderson Sells his Share of Walla Walla Vintners
On February 21, it was announced that Myles Anderson, who founded Walla Walla Vintners with Gordy Venneri in 1995, has sold his interest in the winery. At the age of 76, he plans to move into the role of "ambassador." This caps a career that includes establishing the Walla Walla Community College's Center for Viticulture and Enology. He wad inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame in 2011 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers in 2014. The new co-owner is Scott Hallway, a Portland, Oregon entrepreneur and his wife. He will beed working closely with Gordy Venneri in growing Walla Walla Vintners. William vonMetzger will continue as winemaker. For more details see www.greatnorthwestwine.com.
The Whitehouse Crawford Napa Valley Cabernet Tasting
A week ago, we attending a tasting of Cabernet Sauvignons from four iconic Napa Valley Wineries at the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla. It was an interesting tasting. Here are the wines and my notes and scores. Prices are from the winery websites.
2011 Stags Leap Wine Cellar "Hands of Time" Red Blend, Napa Valley ($35) - This Cabernet-Merlot blend comes from the winery founded Warren Winarski, sold five years ago. It showed deep ruby color and a nose of raspberry, cherry and plum, with scents of red roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco and herb. The medium bodied flavors were supple and fruit forward, with notes of red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee and loamy earth. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags' Leap District ($58) - This comes from Carl Domaini's winery. Aaron Potts is the winemaker. It showed an opaque crimson-ruby color and a perfumed nose of blackberries, huckleberries and cherries, with scents of roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco and herbs. The flavors were taut and firm cored, with notes of dark chocolate, French roast and minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts and mocha, followed by a long, satiny, yet firm tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Oakville ($58) - The winemaker is Michael Wies and the owner is Vengraves. It showed a deep ruby color and a rich, sweetish, sultry nose of blackberries, cherries and currants, crushed roses, sweet pea flowers, sweet tobacco, cedar, sandalwood and incense. The flavors were penetrating, yet svelte, marked by notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and pulverized minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, roasted walnuts, toffee and charcoal, followed by a long, sweet oak and ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2012 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon, West Oakville ($100) - Made by Heidi Barret, this wine showed a deep crimson-ruby color and aromas of dark fruits - blackberries, cherries and plums - with scents of crushed roses, bayberry and sweet tobacco. The nose, however, had a menthol-like scent which dissipated somewhat on aeration, but remained noticeable. The flavors were deep and penetrating marked by chocolate, coffee and minerally earth. The back was penetrating, with sensations of pressed berries, hazelnuts, sweet oak and ripe, grainy tannins. 19/20 points. This wine would have scored 19.5 points were it not for the slightly off nose which gave it a half point deduction.
Conclusion: These are highly respectable Cabernets. With the exception of the Paradigm, they represent fair value for their price points. But there are plenty of Washington Cabernet Sauvignons that have scored 19/20 points for $50 or less.
Next Week: A Tasting of Loire Valley Wines