- Written by Rand Sealey
Promoting Washington Wines
When I started the Review of Washington Wines in December of 2008, it was with the mission of promoting Washington Wines. My stated purpose is "keeping subscribers informed about the latest releases and developments in the rapidly growing Washington wine industry." In sum, my goal is to help wineries and consumers alike through my wine reviews which are designed to evaluate and inform on as consistent and rational a basis as possible (hence the 20 point rather than the 100 point system).
Since its inception, the Review's subscriber base has grown steadily. Now there are nearly 250 subscribers. Not surprisingly, most are in Washington state. But many are out of state - Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, California and others. Most subscribers are consumers, but many are in the wine industry.
In reviewing their wines, I try to help the wineries by directing consumers to their products. This is why my reviews include links to the wineries' websites. Once, while I was visiting his tasting room, a winemaker told me he had just gotten an order from someone in Hawaii who had read about his wines in my Review. Wineries also have made use of my reviews. My reviews can be found in the websites of the following wineries: Couvillion, DeLille Cellars, Davenport Cellars, SYZYGY, Amavi, Gifford Hirlinger, TL Cellars. El Corazon, Kontos Cellars.
Above all, the Review of Washington Wines is a consumer publication. That is why I write detailed descriptions of each wine, so that the reader can see if a particular wine's style and flavor profile fits that person's tastes. The Review is not intended to be a "by the numbers" periodical.
I Would Like Your Input
I am always looking for ways to make the Review of Washington Wines more useful to subscribers - consumer and industry alike. I launched this Blog last summer so that I could broaden the Review's scope. And I am still looking for more improvements to my publication.
So, let me know what you think: what you'd like to see, what I could do better. And your input on wines and wineries I should be looking at will be appreciated. There are hundreds of Washington wineries, and I've just begun to cover them. Feel free to comment on anything I've written, or haven't written, or to ask questions. I will answer any inquiries or comments. After all, my goal is to help promote Washington wines in any way possible.
Finally, to all my subscribers, thank you!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Forecasts from the Crystal Ball
Wines on "Fire Sale" - In Esquin's January newsletter, I found many wines - mostly from Europe and the Southern Hemisphere, but some from Washington and California as well - at prices that were being slashed by 50-60% or more. I picked up a few of these to try. Some were flawed or unbalanced. One wine had ph imbalance and showed excessive acidity. Another had a noticeable aldehyde smell upon aeration. Caveat Emptor! Try before you buy.
I expect dumping of wine at deep discounts will continue well into this year. There is a big backlog of unsold wine, especially from overseas, that will continue to pressure the market. Unfortunately for the consumer, the mediocre wines will be dumped first. (See below for a few Real Deals.)
A Return to a Rational Market - As more excess inventory gets unloaded - along with many "clunkers" - consumers will learn that "Fire Sale" wines are not all bargains. Washington wineries that offer quality and value will gain momentum. And higher-end wineries that deliver outstanding quality will hold their own.
More New Wineries - The urge to strike out on one's own is too strong to resist, and more new wineries will crop up. The commitment of many striving Washington winemakers is truly remarkable.
Greater Awareness of Washington Wines - More and more consumers around the country will become aware of the qualities that make Washington wines exceptional - the dedication of the people who make them as well as the geography and geology.
Wineries to Watch in 2010
Bergevin Lane - With Danish winemaker Steffan Jorgensen, this winery is on the upswing to new even higher levels with its 2006's (see the November Review issue) and 2007's. Also watch for the 2008 Francisca's Vineyard Syrah.
Forgeron Cellars - In a visit to the winery in September, I found Marie-Eve Gilla to be a talented winemaker. I liked what I tasted from the tank and barrel as well as in the tasting room. (See the September Review issue for the Roussanne and Barbera). Look for more to come.
Rasa Vineyards - This winery, owned by Billo and Pinto Naravane, is off to a highly impressive start. See the January Review issue for reviews of the 2007's and the 14 December Blog for the 2008's.
Reynvaan Family Vineyards - This is certain to be the next cult winery (Christophe Baron of Cayuse is a consultant there). Watch for the 2008's which are being offered as futures - buy them! Scroll down to the 14 December blog for my notes.
Robison Ranch Cellars - This Walla Walla winery was bonded in 2008. Owners Jim and Jane Robison and their winemaker partners, Brad and Ruth Riordan, will start releasing their 2008's this spring.
T.L. Cellars - With his departure from Hence Cellars. Troy Ledwick can concentrate on his own wines. His Releases No. 1, 2 and 3 all have received 19 or more points in my reviews. Look for Releases No. 4 and 5, and possibly No. 6 later this year.
Tertulia Cellars - See the January issue of the Review for a profile on this winery. I liked what I tasted from the barrel for the 2008 vintage.
Sleight of Hand - Trey Busch continues to make exceptional wines. His 2008 reds are sure to be knock-outs, so watch for them!
Davenport Cellars, El Corazon, Gifford Hirlinger, Maison Bleue and SuLei Cellars - All of these offer terrific quality for under $30. Some of their wines have already been reviewed, and watch for new releases from them.
Note: to see my notes on 2008's scroll down to the 13 December article. The date at the top is that of the post creation; the posting date appears at the bottom.
The Real Deals
Among the "Fire Sale" wines I tasted from around the world, I found a few winners. A lovely, aromatic Pinot Noir from Chile and an engaging Cotes du Rhone. Some so-so wines included a pleasant but uncomplicated Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a Petit Verdot that promised more on the nose than it delivered on the palate. Some disappointments included a cloying, banana-like Washington Chardonnay as well as the flawed wines mentioned above. Here are three "Real Deals" from Washington state.
2008 Milbrandt "Traditions" Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley ($8.99)
After tasting the aforementioned Chardonnay, this was a real relief. It offers a fragrant pear-apple and lilac-scented nose with a hint of anise. The flavors are fresh and lively, yet well-nuanced, imbued with wet stone, a touch of lime juice and a hint of creaminess on the crisp, yet finely-fruited finish. This is a fine rendition of this variety at a bargain price (previously $16). 18/20 points.
2005 Sandhill Merlot, Red Mountain ($9.99)
The Sandhill facility has been sold to the Corliss operation which will create a new sister winery on Red Mountain. Consequently, Sandhill had to move its inventory. As a result, Esquin purchased a large quantity of this Merlot which formerly sold for $25. It exhibits a rich, smoky raspberry and wild cassis nose with tobacco and sandalwood scents. The flavors are classic Red Mountain Merlot - rich chewy and minerally, but with plenty of ripe, plush fruit to carry it over. The back palate is laced with licorice, chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean and roasted berry notes on the dryish tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2005 Ridgefield Cinnamon Teal Red, Columbia Valley ($6.99)
This is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc from Sandhill which once sold for $14. It delivers a rich, spicy raspberry and cherry nose with scents of anise and rubbed sage. The flavors are full and generous, with tones of cocoa, cola and coffee on the back palate, followed by a squeeze of berry juice on the chewy finish. A bit of astringency shows up after a couple of hours aeration, so use this for casual quick drinking. 17.5+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Top Wines of 2009
In compiling my list, I have used the following criteria:
All wines scoring 19.5 points are included in the Top Twenty plus some particularly memorable 19 point ones. The next list, The Best of the Rest are outstanding wines that are highly recommended. The Best Buys for $25 or Less consist of wines scoring 18.5 points or close to that, making them outstanding values. Some wines may be sold out at the winery, but are worth looking for at retail stores. Wines in each category are listed alphabetically since judgments as to individual rankings are too subjective to warrant placement in order of preference. The month each wine was reviewed is given in parentheses. Omissions from this list do not necessarily mean that certain wines lack merit. There is not enough space to list all of them here or in my Review. Also, with the hundreds of wineries now operating in the stage, it is impossible to cover all of them. And I have intentionally left out wines, which are allocated or unavailable in the market.
The Top Twenty
2006 Adams Bench Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon "the V," Columbia Valley (April) $42 - sold out
2008 aMaurice Cellars Viognier, Columbia Valley ( July) $26
2006 Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard Red, Horse Heaven Hills (January) $64
2006 Bergevin Lane Intuition Red, Columbia Valley (December) $55
2008 Buty Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Connor Lee Vineyard (December) $35
2006 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Red, Yakima Valley (December) $75 - sold out
2006 Efeste "Big Papa" Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (August) $50 - sold out
2007 Gorman "Evil Twin" Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain (November) $60
2007 Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo, "Ingo Montoya," Walla Walla Valley (December) $40
2007 K Vintners "El Jefe" Red, Walla Walla Valley, En Chamberlin Vineyard (January) $60
2007 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard (October) $35 - sold out
2005 Nicholas Cole Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley (March) $75
2007 Otis Kenyon Carmenere, Horse Heaven Hills (December) $36
2005 Pepper Bridge Reserve Red, Walls Walla Valley (May) $75 - sold out
2007 Rotie Cellars Northern Red, Columbia Valley (January) $35
2007 Sleight of Hand "The Archimage" Red, Walla Walla Valley (November) $40
2006 Spring Valley Vineyard Uriah Red, Walla Walla Valley (March) $50
2005 SYZYGY Saros 134, Columbia Valley (February) $45 - sold out
2005 TL Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Release No. 2, Walla Walla Valley (September) $50
2006 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Select, Walla Walla Valley (May) $48
The Best of the Rest
2007 Adamant Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Spofford Station Vineyard (February) $35
2007 Adams Bench "MYTH" Red, Columbia Valley (October) $34
2006 aMaurice Cellars Red Blend, "The Tsutakawa," Columbia Valley (June) $35
2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (October) $28
2006 Baer Ursa Red Wine, Columbia Valley (April) $39
2007 Barrister Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley (July) $27
2007 Bergevin Lane Pinot Noir, Walla Walla Valley, Couse Creek Vineyard (June) $38
2007 Bergevin Lane "Princess" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Francisca's Vineyard (June) $48
2006 Bunchgrass Syrah, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard (June) $32
2006 Cadaretta Syrah, Columbia Valley (January) $35 - sold out
2007 Castillo de Felicana Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope (October) $28
2008 CAVU Cellars Barbera, Horse Heaven Hills (July) $30
2006 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Wautona Springs Vineyard (September) $27
2006 Couvillon Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (June) $28
2008 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate White, Columbia Valley (December) $34
2006 DeLille Cellars Doyenne Syrah, Yakima Valley (December) $49
2006 Efeste "Jolie Bouche" Syrah, Columbia Valley (August) $34
2007 Five Star Cellars Malbec, Walla Walla Valley (October) $38
2007 Flying Trout Cutthroat Red, Columbia Valley (November) $35
2007 Flying Trout Old Vines Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills, Konnowack Vineyard (November) $39
2006 Forgeron Barbera, Columbia Valley (September) $30
2006 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (September) - $40
2006 Glencorrie Cuvee Marquis, Columbia Valley (September) $45
2008 Gorman "Big Sissy" Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Connor Lee Vineyard (November) $35
2003 Grande Ronde Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (July) $30
2007 Isenhower "Wild Alfalfa" Syrah, Columbia Valley (February) $28
2006 Januik Petit Verdot, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (April) $35
2006 JM Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley (August) $28
2007 K Vintners Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Morrison Lane Vineyard (December) $45
2007 K Vintners Roma En Chamberlin, Walla Walla Valley (January) $60
2007 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (October) $35
2006 Kontos Cellars Merlot, Columbia Valley (June) $28
2007 Kontos Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (November) $32
2007 L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard (September) $36
2006 Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot, Columbia Valley (July) $55
2005 Long Shadows Chester Kidder Red, Columbia Valley (January) $45
2007 Nefarious Cellars Syrah, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard (October) $27
2005 Nicholas Cole "Michele," Walla Walla Valley (March) $38
2005 Novelty Hill Syrah, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard (April) $28
2006 Otis Kenyon Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (December) $30
2006 Pepper Bridge Merlot, Walla Walla Valley (May) $50
2006 Pleasant Hill Cellars Donatella Red, Columbia Valley (July) $26
2007 Domaine Pouillon Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, Columbia Valley (August) $35
2006 Reininger Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (March) $41
2007 Rotie Cellars Southern Red, Columbia Valley (January) $35
2005 Ch. Rollat Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Edouard de Rollat (June) $65
2005 Ch. Ste. Michelle Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (April) $38
2006 Saviah Cellars Reserve Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (November) $45
2007 Sleight of Hand "Levitation" Syrah, Columbia Valley (September) $40
2007 Sleight of Hand "The Illusionist" Red, Columbia Valley (November) $40
2006 Soos Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (May) $36
2008 Sparkman Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Stillwater Creek Vineyard (April) $28
2006 Spring Valley Vineyard Nina Lee Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (March) $50
2006 Spring Valley Vineyard Derby Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (July) $50
2006 Stephenson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (December) $32
2006 Stevens 424 Red Blend, Columbia Valley (October) $35
2007 Sweet Valley Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (December) $30
2007 Sweet Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (December) $35
2007 Syncline Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, McKinley Springs Vineyard (August) $30
2006 SYZYGY Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (June) $36
2006 SYZYGY Saros 139, Columbia Valley (December) $45
2007 Tamarack Cabernet Franc, Washluke Slope (July) $28
2006 Thurston Wolfe Tempranillo, Washington (March) $28
2005 TL Cellars Syrah, Release No. 3, Columbia Valley, Lewis Vineyard (June) $50
2007 Trust Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley (June) $28
2007 Trust Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (June) $28
2007 Va Piano Syrah, Columbia Valley (November) $38
2007 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot, Columbia Valley (May) $28
2006 Waters Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Forgotten Hills Vineyard (June) $40
2006 Waters Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley (June) $50
2007 William Church Two Spires Red, Columbia Valley (October) $33
2006 Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Artist's Series (September) $49
Best Buys for $25 or Less
2008 Andrew Will Cuvee Lucia Velvet Canyon White, Washington (October) $23
2008 Buty Semillon Blend, Columbia Valley (December) $25
2006 Couvillon Equilibre Red, Columbia Valley (June) $25
2007 Davenport Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley (October) $20
2006 Efeste "Final Final" Red, Columbia Valley (August) $25
2007 El Corazon "First Crush" Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, Second Release (December) $21
2008 El Corazon "With Love" Syrah, Columbia Valley (December) $23
2008 El Corazon "Supernova" Malbec, Rattlesnake Hills (December) $21
2007 Isenhower "Road Less Travelled" Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope (June) $24
2007 Isenhower Red Paintbrush, Columbia Valley (December) $24
2008 Kontos Cellars "Lee Vee Loo Lee" Gossamer White, Columbia Valley (November) $22 - winery only
2008 Long Shadows Poet's Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley (July) $20
2008 Maison Bleue "Au Contraire" Chardonnay, Yakima Valley (July) $20
2005 McKinley Springs Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills (April) $25
2008 Nefarious Cellars Riesling, Columbia Valley, Stone's Throw Vineyard (October) $18
2006 Nicholas Cole Gra Eagle Estate Red, Walla Walla Valley (February) $25
2006 Pleasant Hill Cellars Alegria Red, Columbia Valley (July) $24
2007 Dom. Pouillon Pierre Red, Horse Heaven Hills (August) $25
2008 Rotie Cellars Southern White, Columbia Valley (July) $25
2007 Ch. Ste. Michelle Chardonnay, Horse Heaven Hills, Canoe Ridge Estate (September) $16-20
2006 Ch. Ste Michelle Merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, Canoe Ridge Estate (September) $20-25
2008 SuLei Cellars Roussanne, Walla Walla Valley (September) $18
2006 SYZYGY Red Wine, Columbia Valley (February) $25
2008 William Church Viognier, Columbia Valley (October) $20
Top New Wineries of 2009
Adams Bench, Woodinville - Tim & Erica Blue
Castillo de Feliciana, Walla Walla Valley - Sam & Deborah Castillo
CAVU Cellars, Walla Walla - Jim, Karen and Joel Waite
Davenport Cellars, Woodinville - Jeff & Sheila Jirka
El Corazon, Walla Walla - Spencer Sievers and Raul Morfin
Glencorrie, Walla Walla - Ronn & Dean Coldiron
Kerloo Cellars, Walla Walla - Ryan & Renee Crane
Kontos Cellars, Walla Walla - Chris & Cameron Kontos
Maison Bleue, Prosser & Woodinville - Jon Martinez
Domaine Pouillon, Lyle, Columbia Gorge - Alexis & Juliet Pouillon
Rotie Cellars, Walla Walla - Sean Boyd
SuLei Cellars, Walla Walla - Tanya Woodley & Elaine Jomwe
William Church, Woodinville - Rod & Leslie Balsley
- Written by Rand Sealey
Looking Back on 2009
It's been an exciting and stimulating year working on the Review of Washington Wines which was launched in December of 2008. Lynn and I have been back and forth between Seattle and Walla Walla a dozen times. We have made excursions to Woodinville, Spokane, Chelan, the Columbia Gorge, the Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and the Horse Heaven Hills. We've visited over 100 wineries, tasted hundreds of exceptional wines, met many talented winemakers and made lots of friends.
Looking Ahead to 2010
I'm in the process of compiling my list of Top Wines of 2009 and cannot help but marvel how many exceptional wines are being made in this state. And they are getting better and better. There is a younger generation of winemakers who show great promise and new wineries keep popping up. There will be a lot to write about in the coming year. Stay tuned!
Top Wines of 2009 - Don't Miss my January 4th Blog!
In my first posting of 2010, I will publish my list of the Top Washington Wines of 2009. Also included will be my lists of Top New Wineries and Top Values of the Year.
Predictions for 2010 - The January 11th Blog
The next posting will list Wineries to Watch in 2010, Upcoming Wine Trends, and other predictions from the Crystal Ball.
Best wishes for the coming New Year.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Washington Wine Report - An Impressive Blog
A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing through Sean Sullivan's blog, "Washington Wine Report" and happened to run across a review of my "Review of Washington Wines." Sullivan wrote, "Review of Washington Wines' newsletters are easy to read....Long-time recipients of Esquin's monthly flyer will recognize Sealey's engaging writing style." (To read the full review, dated May 21, 2009, go to www.wawinereport.com, and scroll down the list of "LABELS" on the left to "Rand Sealey's Review of Washington Wines" and click.). Thanks, Sean.
Now, I'm reviewing Sean Sullivan's own blog, "Washington Wine Report."
The blog Overview states, "Washington Wine Report is an independent blog focused on bringing Washington wine to you and bringing you to Washington wine." Sullivan's rating system is rather idiosyncratic, using stars and a plus as follows: ** - "An exceptional wine." * - "An excellent wine." + - "A good wine."
Recent postings include the following reviews. The December 15 posting gives the 2008 Domaine Pouillon Gewurztraminer one star. The December 10 posting profiles James and Poppie Mantone's Syncline Cellars in the Columbia Gorge and rates that winery's 2008 Roussanne one star. The December 18 posting announces the results of the Reader Survey which picks the 2008 William Church Malbec as the 2010 Washington Wine Report Reader Wine to Watch. The 2007 Alexandria Nicole "Mr. Big" Petite Sirah is the Reader Survey Wine of the Year.
There is a lot going on in Sullivan's blog. In the current posting there is a notification of a Virtual on-line tasting of Brian Carter's Abacadabra on December 21. The results of the Reader Survey are announced (see above). Numerous links to other blogs and websites are provided. The Friday, December 4 post gives an extensive report on the 2009 Vintage with pictures of vineyards including ones showing the frost lines following the cold snap of October 11. There is much more as well.
Sullivan's writing style is quite engaging. His posts show a through knowledge of wine and the wine industry (I crossed paths with him a couple of times during Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla). For instance, Ryan Crane's Kerloo Cellars and Sean Boyd's Rotie Cellars are the subject of a Focus profile in the September 11 posting, recounting how each came to Walla Walla to work in winemaking, Crane at Va Piano and Boyd at Waters. In the article, Sullivan comments, "One of Walla Walla's strengths as an emerging wine region is that it remains a small town. Everybody knows everybody." In reading Sullivan's articles, you feel you are getting to know the winemakers being profiled.
All in all, Sean Sullivan's blog is very impressive. It is a must-read for anyone serious about Washington wine. Go to www.wawinereport.com.