- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing (March 25) I am already working on the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines which will be focused on the wines that will be poured during Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla on May 3-5. I preview as many wines as I can to provide a guide to subscribers who will be visiting Walla Walla the first weekend in May. Here's a rundown on what I'ver done so far and what I'll be doing over the next couple of weeks.
Last week, I visited Balboa which has a new 2018 Rosé and Grüner Veltliner. On Friday, I had a preview tasting at The Walls of the outstanding 2017 Martin's Gold Chardonnay and 2016 Reds including a distinctive "Stanley Groovy" Portuguese varieties blend. On Saturday, I visited Gramercy Cellars for a tasty 2018 Olsen Vineyard Rosé and some impressive 2016 and 2015 reds, including a tasty Third Man Grenache. On Saturday, I picked up Trance Estate's new Pink Pape, Pape Blanc and Red Pape, all delicious. Gino Cuneo has a new 2014 Nebbiolo and Nebbaro, along with Côte Ciel's 2013 Cabernet Franc.
This week, we will be going out to Long Shadows to taste the new 2016 reds and 2015 Chester-Kidder. Out at the airport, I'll go to Buty and Adamant Cellars to check out the Spring releases.
During the first week of April, I will pick up new releases from College Cellars. I look forward to trying the 2018 Pinot Gris Rosé and the 2017 Carmenère. The weekend of April 5-6 is "Cayuse Weekend" and I will be reporting on it in my 9 April Review Blog. I'll also be stopping at Reynvaan for their Cayuse Weekend event. And some other wineries that are open especially for that weekend.
The on line publication date for the May issue will be April 25. Watch for it!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last Sunday, March 17, Lynn and I hosted what we called a "Random" tasting. Here is what we wrote in our invitation:
Rand has a wide assortment of wines in our back room "cellar." He decided it would be fun to organize a tasting. His plan is to choose wines at random: some might be outstanding, some "O.K." and others perhaps over the hill. But it will be fun to taste what he's collected over the past several years.
Some of the wines were indeed outstanding, some o.k., some over the hill. Here are some of the more noteworthy wines tasted.
2014 E. Guigal Saint Joseph Blanc - This Viognier-Marsanne combination showed a mineral nose and exquisite, precise flavors with a ling granitic mineral finish. 19+/20 points
2012 E. Guigal Condrieu - This Viognier showed a deep gold color and maturing aromas and flavors of semi dried fruits, hazelnuts and minerals. Slightly past its peak, but still superb. 19/20 points.
2010 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru - A fine maturing white Burgundy at its peak. It came on as being not powerful, but elegant, with a bit of that Bois de Corton woods on the nose and palate. 19+/20 points.
2012 Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru - From a soft but elegant vintage, this showed a ruby-garnet color and a rich, smoky bouquet and maturing "velours" flavors, with a long finish. 19/20 points.
2010 Domaine Mugneret Nuits-St. Georges Clos de la Marechale Premier Cru - Ruby garnet colored, this displayed classic aromas of fruit and earth, with vigorous yet velvety flavors and a rich, sultry finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Betz Family Winery "Besoleil" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - This Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah blend was a fine rendition of a "CdP" style red, with pleasing ripe aromas and mixed fruits and a long smooth finish. At its peak. 19/20 points.
2008 No Girls Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, La Paciencia Vineyard - This was holding up well for a ten year old Grenache, showing a funky "Rocks" nose and mature flavors that had faded a bit, but still sound. 19/20 points.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, "Terres Brulées" - This came on as classic North Rhone Syrah, with a strong bouquet and palate entry, followed by layers of smooth, elegant flavors. 19+/20 points.
2004 Long Shadows "Pirouette" Red Wine - Columbia Valley - This "BDX" blend showed a garnet color and aromas of semi dried fruits and nuts, maturing but showing considerable strength and complexity. 19/20 points.
2012 Château Monbousquet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru - This hit the right notes with a rich, smoky nose and pleasingly supple yet structured flavors, with touches of suede and lanolin and a vigorous finish. 19/20 points.
2010 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux Cru Classé - This showed a deep ruby color and a classic Margaux bouquet of earth and fruits. The flavors were firmly structured, yet fleshy, with layers of dark fruits, followed by a long, complex finish. Just beginning to come around. 19.5/20 points.
2007 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Red Wine, Red Mountain - This was highly impressive with a well developed smoky-nutty bouquet and medium full bodied mature flavors, still showing considerable fruit and a long complex finish. 19.5/20 points.
2008 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva - The wines of the Rioja district of Spain can age well as this one has. Garnet colored, it possessed a smoky bouquet of dried fruits, orange peel and exotic perfumes. The flavors were deep and complex. Aged in neutral American oak. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Downtown Walla Walla Tasting Room Moves
The changes in wine tasting room locales in Walla Walla has been like a game of musical chairs. Here are the recent moves.
Lagana Cellars - Jason Fox and Todd Bernave's winery has moved its tasting room around the corner from Rose Street to South Second Avenue, taking the location vacated by Kerloo Cellars which has moved all its operations to Seattle's SODO district.
Spring Valley Vineyards - This winery is moving its tasting room to the corner of South Second and Rose, where the Gino Cuneo and Côte Ciel was located. The balcony loft (formerly an artist studio) will be turned into a tasting lounge.
G. Cuneo Cellars & Côte Ciel - Gino Cuneo and Michael Holmes (Côte Ciel) will share the space previously held by Spring Valley. Remodeling is under way and the new location will be opened this Spring.
Spring Coming in Walla Walla?
Last week, I reported on the unusually mild January and cold, snowy February. As of this writing, it is 36 degrees outside, with an expected high of 40. Snow has been melting slowly and refreezing at night, making driveways icy and hard to get in and out of. There'll be a warming trend into the upper 40s at the end of this week. The end of Winter is in sight, but will it be in time for the official beginning of Spring? We'll' see.
More Wines Recently Tasted
Below are some noteworthy wines we've tasted recently. from my wine collection reorganization.
2016 Domaine Gerard Thomas Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, La Garenne ($41.99 - Total Wine) - This is relatively affordable for a Premier Cru White Burgundy. It offers a brilliant gold color and a lovely perfumed nose of Bosc pear, white peach, citrus, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The palate is filled with copious white fruits and the back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs and granitic minerals followed by a long finish. "That's the way a Chardonnay should be, with mouth feel," says Lynn. 19/20 points.
2015 J.J. Vincent Julienas ($21.99 - Wine.com) - One of the more robust Crus of Beaujolais, this offers a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of wild raspberries, plums and black currants, with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco and incense. The flavors are thick and fleshy, with notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and wood smoke. The chewy textured back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a grainy ripe tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2016 Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc ($39.99 - Wine,com) - Little white wine is produced in Chateauneuf du Pape, but this one is worth looking for. It shows a brilliant gold color and exotic aromas of Asian pear-apple, peach, Crenshaw melon, honeysuckle, anise and clover. The flavors are full bodied and penetrating, with notes of pear skin, peach stone and mas (cobblestone) minerals. The intensity continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and melon rind, followed by a persistently minerally dry but unaustere finish. 19/20 points.
2012 DeLille Cellars "D2" Red Wine, Columbia Valley - I picked this up a few years ago at a tasting with Jason Gorski. It takes its name from the Route D2 in the Bordeaux Medoc. It is drinking nicely now, showing a deep ruby color and a bouquet of semi-dried fruits - raspberries, cherries, plums - crushed rose, tobacco and incense. The flavors are rich and smooth, yet vigorous, with notes of licorice, cocoa and alluvial earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts, mocha and toasty oak (100% new) followed by a lingering savory finish, with the tannins rounding out. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
So far this year, it's been a topsy-turvy Winter in Walla Walla. January was milder than normal with only one short snowfall and precipitation mostly rain. But February was colder than normal with most days below freezing and 10" of snow. So far in March, lows have been under 30 degrees. This morning, the thermometer registers 11 degrees outside. A warming trend is forecast by the end of the week. But it looks like Winter will not be over until the official beginning of Spring. The good news is that there will be plenty of snowpack to feed the springs and creeks for agricultural irrigation.
While many Walla Wallans fled South for January and returned to freezing weather, we stuck it out until February 27 for a trip to the post "Snowmageddon" Westside - two days in Seattle and two in LaConner in the Skagit Valley. Weather was cold there, too, mostly in the 30s and 40s. We had some interesting wines on our trip: a nice robust Malbec from Dussek (will have to check out this Woodinville winery), a lovely Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Bethel Heights, an elegant Pouilly Fuisse with oysters and Ling cod. A pleasant discovery was a crisp and nicely fruited 2017 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc. I generally haven't been impressed with Napa Valley Sauvignon, but this was an exception. I also ran across a Sauvignon Gris, a variety I will investigate.
This week, I will be in the processor tasting wines for the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. This morning, I will be going to Rotie Cellars for the 2018 Rosé and whites. Later this week, a drive out to Dumas Station between Waitsburg and Dayton. Samples will be coming from Array Cellars (2014 Chardonnays), Brian Carter Cellars, Clearwater Canyon Cellars in the Lewis-Clark Valley, and more.
- Written by Rand Sealey
How I Began Reviewing Adams Bench Wines
It was on March 14, 2009 that we first visited the Adams Bench Winery in Woodinville. We had heard about it from other winemakers in the area, so we decided to check it out. Visits were by appointment only, so we scheduled a time. When we arrived, we were greeted by Erica Blue, co-owner (with husband Tim Blue) and winemaker. We sat at a table in front of the barrel room and winemaking equipment crammed into the small winery below the Blues' home on Hollywood Hill above Woodinville. The first releases were the 2006 "Reckoning" Red Wine and the 2006 "the V" Cabernet Sauvignon. They were reviewed in the April 2009 issue of the Review of Washington Wines, with scores of 18.5/20 points for the Reckoning and 19/20 points for "the V," highly respectable scores for the winery's second vintage (a limited bottling of a 2005 red blend had been released in 2008).
The following year, we revisited Adams Bench to taste the newly released 2007 vintage. I found the Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to be the first wine to score 20/20 points in the Review of Washington Wines. I wrote, "It is not a 'blockbuster' in the sense of weight and depth. But it is one of the most highly nuanced and harmonious wines I have ever tasted. I seen 40 minutes analyzing this at the winery in Woodinville." In scoring the wine, the clincher was the 4 out of 4 points for overall quality, "Wines of 'noble' quality with distinct and distinguishing character." Here is the full review:
2007 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, from a block planted in 1999, exhibits a deep ruby color with rose edges, and a gorgeous nose of blackberries, cassis, crushed roses, exotic perfumes, lavender and spiced ripe berries. On the entry, a silky array of flavors fans out on the palate: ripe, lightly toasted fruits, sweet-dry berries, orange peel, vanilla bean, licorice, coffee, cocoa powder and minerals. The deep and seamless back palate adds even more complexity with traces of burnt sugar, mocha, dustings of clove and nutmeg and a sense of cinnamon bark. A dribble on the back of the tongue reveals tones of pomegranate juice and a precise juxtaposition of fruit acids, textures, tannins, etc. on a long, long finish. The fine-grained tannins are evident, suggesting 2-10 years aging, but are so satiny as to be unobtrusive. 20/20 points.
Over the years, I reviewed subsequent vintages from Adams Bench. Many of the wines scored 19.5/20 or 20/20 points. Such consistency is remarkable for any winery. Recently, I pulled out a couple of 2009 wines to see how they were showing. Here are my notes.
2009 Adams Bench "Artz & Shaw" Red Wine, Red Mountain - Composed of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, this showed a deep ruby color and an opulent bouquet of semi dried dark fruits, crushed roses, brandied cherries, pipe tobacco and smoldering oriental incense. At nine plus years of age (stored at 57 degrees F) it still showed vivid fruit, rich and fleshy yet deep and penetrating, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and Red Mountain scorched earth. The velvety yet chewy textured back picked up semi dried fruits, roasted chestnuts and mocha, followed by a savory long finish. 19+/20 points. Reviewed August 2012 - 19+/20 points.
2009 Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard - This vintage displayed a deep ruby color and an intense bouquet of blackberries, old tree cherries, plums, cassis, attar of rose, sweet tobacco, cedar, vanillin, anise and exotic incense. The flavors were thick and muscular, almost massive yet refined, infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, French press coffee and alluvial minerals. The wine intensified on the back with sensations of macerated berries, roasted walnuts, lanolin ("legs") and graphite. The oak was evident yet smooth and sweet, with some tannins to shed yet with plenty of fit. It could go another 10 years. 20/20 points. Reviewed August 2012 - 20/20 points.
Other Wines Recently Tasted
2017 L'Ecole No. 41 "Old Vines" Chenin Blanc ($14) - This is one of the greatest values in Washington white. Light lemon-gold colored, it possesses floral aromas of Anjou pear, peach, citrus, apple blossoms, lemon verbena and clover. The flavors are vibrant and resonant with notes of grape and apple skins, peach stone and saline minerals. The back picks up poire William and pêche liqueurs and lemon zest on the way to a crisp, nicely fruited finish. 18.5/20 points. Reviewed September 2018 - 18.5/20 points.
2013 Array Cellars "Dijon Clone" Chardonnay, Yakima Valley ($32) - Back in February 2018, I reviewed Array Cellars 2013 Chardonnays. Last week, I pulled out a bottle of the Dijon Clone from the Otis Harlan Vineyard. It showed a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, pear blossoms, lemon verbena and white incense. The flavors were well delineated, Burgundy-like, with notes of peach stone, pear skin and alluvial minerals. The leesy textured back picked up poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of creme fraiche and hazelnut one a still vibrant finish. Excellent value. This and the other 2013 Chardonnays are still available. 19/20 points.
2015 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie, "La Madone" - Once in a while, we'll drink a Beaujolais for the fun of it. This one showed a ruby-crimson color and perfumed aromas of raspberry, cherry and currant with scents pf roses, sweet pea flowers and violets. The flavors were filled with expressive red and blue fruits that were accented by licorice, cocoa and granitic minerals. The back picked up roasted nuts, kirsch and creme de cassis, followed by an elegant ripe moderate tannin finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2015 Domaine Ragot Givry, "Vieilles Vignes" - The Côte Chalonnaise of Burgundy is another area whose wines we like. This one showed a deep brick red color and a rich, smoky nose of fraises de bois, cherries, red currants, crushed red roses, tobacco and incense. The flavors were not highly complicated, but very tasty with definite old vine Pinot Noir character, underlain with licorice, cocoa and earth. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, toffee and soft pencil lead, followed by a moderate tannin finish. Purchased for $27.99 from wine.com. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Louis Jadot Côte de Nuits Villages - This is our go-to Red Burgundy and we drank a bottle last night. From the communes of Premeaux and Comblanchien, it showed a brick red color and attractive aromas of strawberry, raspberry and black currant, crushed roses and wood smoke. The Pinot Noir flavors were pleasingly supple yet substantial with plenty of red fruit, intermixed with cocoa, medium roast coffee and granitic minerals. The back revealed pressed berries, roasted nuts and fraise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe smooth tannin finish. Purchased for $45.99 from wine.com. 19/20 points.