- Written by Rand Sealey
Further Comments on Washington Riesling
Since my blog of 26 May, "Whither Washington Riesling?" I received a couple of emails commenting on that article which, I think, put the varietal in a broader perspective. Here are excerpts, together with my comments.
The first was from Rick Johnson, owner of Walla Faces winery in Walla Walla:
"I agree with your blog on Riesling in Washington. We just bottled a limited production Riesling. Matt Loso, our winemaker, tried something different by fermenting a portion of our Riesling in a concrete egg. The egg fermented Riesling developed a more earthy tasting Riesling. Matt blended back the egg fermented Riesling into the main vat fermenting in a stainless tank. We think the result is quite promising."
I stopped by the tasting room where there were samples for tasting and found it to be quite promising, too. It is a 2009 from the Lawrence Vineyard, and it showed exceptional aromatics, depth and richness. It will be released this summer with the name, "Teri and the German." I will be reviewing it in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. (For a write-up about Walla Faces, see the March issue.)
The second email came from Paul Zitarelli of Full Pull Wines (see my blog of 1 May to learn more):
"Rand - As an avid Riesling fan, I enjoyed this week's blog. It got me to wondering your opinion on Bill Owen's Champoux Vineyard Riesling with OS Winery. I found it to be nearly sublime in certain vintages. He always keeps the alcohol level low (frequently under 10%) and really lets the Champoux terroir sing." (See the June issue of the Review for my write-up on this wine.)
"I also think as new plantings at Evergreen open up, we will see smaller wineries (outside of CSM's Eroica and Kung Fu Girl who take the vast majority of these grapes currently) start doing interesting things with that fruit. Efeste, which you mentioned, is a great example." (See the May issue for my review of the '09 Efeste Evergreen Riesling.)
"I'm on the record predicting that in 10-15 years, we will be talking about Evergreen the way we talk about Celilo now: as one of the finest vineyards in the state for the expression of aromatic white varietals." (I agree that the Evergreen Vineyard has great potential.)
I replied that "I agree that in the course of this decade, Riesling will make a comeback. The varietal just needs to overcome the image problem. There is great potential."
These two dialogues have led me to believe that Washington Riesling is headed toward a great future.
Get Your Rasa Vineyards 2007 Principia Syrah Before it's Gone
In the June issue of my Review of Washington Wines, I rated the '07 Rasa Principia Reserve Syrah 20/20 points, the second wine to receive the highest score in this publication. Only 70 cases were made and, with the rave reviews received (including mine), the supply will not last long. Full Pull Wines has just (today) made an offering of an allocation of this wine. To get yours, go to the Full Pull website, sign up, and see the latest offering.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Tero Estates - Flying Tout Partnership
I have been following Ashley Trout's Flying Trout Winery for over a year now, since she was sharing her space with Spencer Sievers' El Corazon on Palouse Street in downtown Walla Walla. Then, shortly before Spring Release Weekend this year, I learned that Flying Trout had moved to a new location near Milton-Freewater, sharing space with Tero Estates. So I visited the winery during Spring Release, and one of the things I asked was how this came about. The Palouse Street location was a difficult one for wine production. Then the opportunity came up to partner with Tero Estates at its location amid the Windrow Vineyard. This was a great fit, sharing winemaking facilities and expertise. It was a win, win, win situation: for the two partners and for El Corazon, which was left with room to grow as well.
Tero Estates is a partnership between longtime friends Mike TEmbruell and Doug ROskelley. They learned that the Windrow Vineyard was for sale. So Doug and Jan Roskelley traveled to Milton-Freewater, Oregon to see it. The purchase was finalized June 1, 2007. It was planted in 1981, as part of the original Seven Hills Vineyard by Dr. Herb Hendricks and Dr. James McClellan. In 1994, the vineyard was split and the eastern part sold with the Seven Hills name. Situated on a bench where the Lower Dry Creek empties into the southern Walla Walla Valley, the vineyard varies from deep deposits of windblown loess to shallow layers of gravelly cobble. It is planted mainly with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a bit of Malbec and a few other varieties. These grapes compose the Tero Estate wines.
Flying Trout is aptly named as Ashley flies down to Argentina for part of the year working in the Mendoza region, making wine. Her main focus in Walla Walla is on Malbec, which is Argentina's principal grape and which is gaining a greater presence in Washington State. She also makes distinctive blends with Malbec and other grapes, as well as some varietal bottlings. She also has imported a crisp, dry Torrontes from Argentina. She has been involved in winemaking ever since she arrived from the D.C. area to attend Whitman College.
The Tero Estates - Flying Trout partnership is a remarkable one, which admirably reflects the spirit of cooperation and friendship that characterizes the Walla Walla Valley winemaking community. The winery is located at 52015 Seven Hills Road. It is open for Special Events and Thursdays from 3:00 to 6:30 for "Happy Hour" on the veranda. Phone: 541 203-0020.
No Blogs for the Next Two Weeks
On Thursday, June 3, I will be flying to New York City and will be there, and then in the Washington D.C. area, until June 16. I will have sporadic internet connectivity during that time and a busy schedule of activities. So I have determined that it would be best to suspend the posting of my blogs for the duration of this trip. I'll get back to you when I return!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Whither Washington Riesling?
At the Rasa Vineyards (Billo and Pinto Naravane) tasting at Artifex, during Spring Release Weekend in Walla Walla, I sampled a newly-released off-dry Riesling called "The Composer," made with old (Dionysus) and young (Bacchus) vines from the Sagemoor Vineyard in the Yakima Valley. In my description - to be published in the June issue of the Review - I called it "A true to variety world class Riesling." This makes me wonder why we don't have more world class Rieslings in Washington State.
There should be plenty of fine sources for Riesling. The variety is the most produced white after Chardonnay. The 2009 grape harvest yielded 32,100 tons, following Chardonnay at 33,400 tons. Riesling comprises 21% of the total for white. Several Riesling vineyards are over 30 years old (planted during the Riesling craze of the '70's): Cold Creek, Dionysus, Celilo, Solstice and others. But the bulk of the variety's production goes into wines that generally sell for under $10 a bottle, Chateau Ste. Michelle's bottlings being the most ubiquitous.
I suspect that Riesling has an image problem for two reasons: the huge volume of popularly-priced wines, and the perception that Riesling is "sweet" (most wines are at about 1.5% residual sugar, the threshold where sweetness becomes perceptible). There are just two well-known premier bottlings of Riesling: Chateau Ste. Michelle's Eroica (a collaboration with Dr. Ernst Loosen of the Mosel) and Long Shadows' Poet's Leap (a collaboration with Armin Diel of the Nahe). There are a few more well-respected Rieslings: Efeste's Evergreen Vineyard, Canoe Ridge's Snipes Canyon Dry Riesling, Nefarious' from the highly promising, mineral-laden Stone's Throw Vineyard, near Pateros, and Chateau Ste. Michelle's Cold Creek Vineyard (I recently tasted a particularly memorable '06 that was loaded with floral aromas, vivid fruit acids and lanolin).
However, except for a few limited bottlings such as the 2007 Poet's Leap "Carmina Burana" Casked Dry Riesling and 2005 Botrytis Riesling, I have run across few "world class" Riesling aside from Rasa's "The Composer." This makes me yearn for Washington counterparts to Rieslings such as those of the great German estates of the Rheingau and Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and France's Alsace (think Zind-Humbrecht and Deiss). These cannot be duplicated, but they can be emulated. I believe there is potential for that. Billo and Pinto (see above) please take note!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Some Interesting Wine and Food Pairings
From time to time, I've written about wine and food pairings in this blog. Here, I'm going to tell you about some interesting combinations that I've done lately.
Columbia River Salmon with 2008 Syncline Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge (May Issue) - It's highly appropriate to pair Columbia River salmon with a Columbia Gorge Pinot. The sweet-dry fruits of the wine make it a perfect match with the richness of the salmon.
Porcini Mushroom Pasta with 2008 Rotie Cellars Southern Blend, Columbia Valley (March) - I bought some Papparadelle's Pasta and cooked it with a sauce of sauteed wild mushrooms (shitake, oyster, boletus). The earthy flavors of the wine combined beautifully with the pasta.
Pan Grilled Steaks with Sauce Marchand du Vin with 2007 DeLille Cellars D2 Red, Columbia Valley (January) - I grilled New York Strips in a saucepan, then made the sauce with red wine and the coagulated juices, thickened with a bit of beurre manie. The Bordeaux-style blend made an elegant match with the steaks.
Sautéed Chicken with 2007 Seven Hills Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, McClellan Estate (April) - I sauteed a cut-up fryer with chopped shallots and thyme. The aromas of the chicken and the Petit Verdot (a variety noted for its aromatics) coordinated nicely.
Stir-fried Pork Tenderloin Medallions with 2007 Tertulia Cellars Carmenere, Horse Heaven Hills, Phinny Hill Vineyard (January) - I marinated the pork in soy sauce, coriander and ginger and stir-fried them with carrots, snap peas, red pepper and mushrooms. Carmenere, too, is a highly aromatic wine which goes well with stir-fry.
Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with 2008 Balboa Cat's Meow Red (May) - For lunch, I'll grill sandwiches of Black Forest Ham, Emmenthaler cheese and tomatoes. A good medium-bodied red blend such as the Cat's Meow (or Bergevin Lane Calico Red, or Sleight of Hand Spellbinder Red) goes nicely with this.
- Written by Rand Sealey
"Corked" Wines and Alternative Closures
Lately, I have been discovering a disconcertingly high incidence of "corked" wines, especially among those selling for Under $20 a bottle. So here I am addressing the subject of bottle closures: corks and alternative methods of sealing.
Most corked wines are due to 2,4,6-trichloroansiole, called "TCA" for short. This is caused by a chlorine contaminant on flawed corks, usually on rim of the cork, where it comes into contact with the wine. This contaminant, situated in a damp crevice, imparts a "musty" character to a wine (only a few parts per trillion are needed for this to happen). Another situation where corkiness occurs is when the cork facing the wine has striations of say about 1/64ths of an inch deep along the surface. The result is a puckered taste, like damp cork bark, although TCA is generally the culprit. This can happen even with recently bottled wines. In any case, estimates of instances of "corked" wines have generally been around 6 to 8% of the total.
That said, I am all in favor of alternative closures, especially in wines where using high grade corks are economically unfeasible. I really don't care what type of closure it is, whether it be the "Stelvin" screwcap, plastic or composite (glued) cork. A particularly innovative closure is a glass stopper which goes on top of the neck and then is "finished" with a capsule cover. One winery that does this is Syncline Cellars in the Columbia Gorge (the stoppers come in handy for capping left over wine). Some wineries see resistance to non cork closures by consumers who relish the resounding "pop" of a cork. The Balboa winery in Walla Walla found a solution in using composite corks when experimenting with them and screw caps. The winery found that customers largely favored the composite closures.
In the final analysis, if you want to be assured of a cork finished wine that doesn't smell musty or taste like cork bark, you will have to pay enough for a wine that has high quality corks (which cost $2 and up apiece). However, there may still be other issues concerning tainted wines, usually resulting from poor cellar practices, such as brettanomyces, acetic aldehydes, and other contaminants.
Note: For another interesting discussion of corks and alternative closures, go to Sean Sullivan's Washington Wine Report (wawinereport.com) for the articles of April 19 and May 6, 2010