- 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
- Written by Rand Sealey
Walla Walla Spring Release Weekend
This year, Spring Release Weekend began on Friday, April 30 and ended on Sunday, May 2. Most wineries reported more traffic and more sales than last year's Spring Release. I observed that most visitors left each winery with at least a bottle or two. Here are some highlights:
We visited Reynvaan Family Vineyards to retaste the winery's 2008 Syrahs with Mike and Matt Reynvaan. The '08's are progressing beautifully. I put in my order for futures to be released in November.
Amavi opened a new tasting room on a hillside overlooking the Pepper Bridge Vineyard. The view of the Blue Mountains there is spectacular. The winery had just released a delicious '09 Rose and '09 Semillon.
Flying Trout has joined forces with Tero Estates to occupy a new facility near Milton-Freewater. Ashley Trout poured some fine new 2008's and Tero Estates has some fabulous '07 reds from the adjacent Windrow vineyard that will be released in October.
Sinclair Estate Vineyard opened its tasting room Friday with impressive reds. Tim and Kathy Sinclair are the owners. They also have a Bed & Breakfast called Vine and Roses.
On Saturday morning, we went to the Artifex winemaking facility to taste Rasa Vineyards' wines with Pinto and Billo Naravane. There, we also tasted Cadaretta's new releases with Brian Rudin.
Sean Boyd's Rotie Cellars and Tanya Woodley and Elaine Jomwe's SuLei Cellars have opened tasting rooms downtown.
On Saturday afternoon, we drove up Middle Waitsburg Road to Spring Valley. At Spring Valley Vineyard, we met the family patriarch, Dean Derby. Then we went to nearby Couvillion to see Jill Noble and taste her '08 reds.
Later that afternoon, we went to Robison Ranch Cellars' Open House which was well attended and had a wonderful spread of food, mostly prepared by Jim Robison.
Sunday morning we took a couple from Coeur d'Alene to Long Shadows where they poured new 2007 releases, and then to Bunchgrass, a small boutique winery which released two new 2007 Syrahs.
I will be reviewing new releases from these and other wineries in the June and July issues of the Review of Washington Wines.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Full Pull Paul
My introduction to Paul Zitarelli, owner of Full Pull Wines, was through my colleague Sean Sullivan who publishes the Washington Wine Report, a well-written on-line review (see my blog of 20 December, 2009 - scroll down to the bottom of this page and then back to previous posts). One day, I received notification of a new (paid) subscriber, Paul Zitarelli. I suspected Sean instigated the sign-up which was confirmed by an exchange of emails.
Then I made an appointment to meet Paul. His store is located in a small warehouse space on Utah Avenue South in Seattle's SODO district and is stocked with remnants from previous Full Pull offerings. It was a Thursday, which is Paul's only full day there while open for order pick-ups. On these days, there usually is a "guess the wine" blind tasting. To see how I did, go to Paul's "Full Pull Rand" offering of 1 April 2010.
So I signed up to receive Full Pull's offerings, usually two or three times a week. I placed a few trial orders on line. Then I got confirmation of the receipt of the orders, followed by notification of my allocations (most wines have limited availability and need to be divided up among customers), Once the wines are in the warehouse, the orders are invoiced and charged, and then notifications of arrival are emailed out to customers. Pick-ups are on Thursdays (other days are by appointment only) or the wines can be shipped. The day I picked up my order happened to be "Merlot Celebration Night" with a tasting of several Washington Merlots.
This system of ordering wines requires some patience. Full Pull is not a destination walk-in store like Esquin (which I owned for 27 years, until 1997). At Full Pull, you wait for your wines to come in before you pick them up. But the wait is well worth it, as the wines are first-rate, well selected and competitively priced. I found there to be a high correlation between the wines Paul offers and the kinds of wines I recommend in my Review of Washington Wines. In recent and future Full Pull offerings, you will find some of my reviews quoted.
For the kind of service it provides, I recommend Full Pull Wines highly. Go check it out at the website (you may click on the link back at the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines).
Next Week: Walla Walla Spring Release Weekend - A Report