- Written by Rand Sealey
On October 20, we hosted a tasting of wines from all fourteen American Viticultural Areas in the State of Washington. AVAs are geographical wine grape growing regions in the United States. Their boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and established at the request o wineries or other petitioners. Washington's AVAs are comprised of the following.
Horse Heaven Hills
Walla Walla Valley
I was able to procure two wines from each AVA with the exception of Naches Heights which was represented by one wine, a Port-style wine from the Wilridge Winery. Here, I won't list all the wines tasted, but these are the most noteworthy ones, with distinctive terroir characteristics.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes ($35) - This comes from a cooler climate area, producing excellent whites including this one. Reviewed October.
2013 Domaine Pouillon Estate Syrah, Columbia Gorge ($50) - From Alexis and Juliet Pouillons property above Lyle, this was well extracted, with notes of volcanic minerals and charcoal.
2014 Nefarious Cellars Estate Syrah, Lake Chelan, Defiance Vineyard ($35eptember) - From a vineyard situated above the South Shore of Lake Chelan, with glacial soils and minerals. Reviewed October.
2015 Clearwater Canyon Merlot, Lewis-Clark Valley ($25) - This comes from from a winery in Lewiston. The grapes come from both sides of the AVA. Reviewed September.
2016 Lopez Island Vineyards Siegerribe, Puget Sound ($25) - The Puget Sound AVA is best suited to early ripening white hybrids such as Siegeribbe, a crossing of Riesling and Madeline Royale. Reviewed September.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Red Mountain, Klipusun Vineyard ($20) - From vines planted in the 1980's, this showed the calcareous minerality of Red Mountain. Reviewed November.
2010 Mark Ryan "Crazy Mary" Mourvèdre, Red Mountain - This was one of the two favorites in the tasting. Rich and savory, It showed what can be done with Mourvèdre on Red Mountain.
2014 Kerloo Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard ($40) - The Upland Vineyard is situated above the Missoula Flood line. Grenache grows beautifully there.
2007 DeLille Cellars Harrison Hill Red Wine, Yakima Valley - This was not labeled as Snipes Mountain although it was from there. It became an AVA in 2009. Deep and complex, this was one of the top wines of the tasting.
2012 Owen Roe Syrah, Yakima Valley, Red Willow Vineyard, Chapel Block - Mike Sauer was the first to plant Syrah in Washington State. This one possessed beautiful perfumes and complex flavors.
2012 Betz Family "La Serene" Syrah. Yakima Valley, Boushey Vineyard - Dick Boushey was the next to plant Syrah in the Yakima Valley.This was a bit beefier than the Red Willow, but also very complex.
2014 K Vintners "The Deal" Syrah, Wahluke Slope, Sundance Vineyard ($40) - The warm Wahluke Slope is especially suited for Syrah. Charles Smith has worked with this vineyard for some years.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 "GSM" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Seven Hills Vineyard ($36) - This is a new addition to the L'Ecole line up. A blend of 34% Grenache and 33% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, it was rich and tasty, picking up the silty soil of Seven Hills. Being from the Oregon side, this is technically not from a Washington AVA, but generally I include wines from bi-state AVAs in the Review of Washington Wines. Reviewed October.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This year, Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley was November 3-5. It was also the time of year when some of the most exclusive wineries introduced their new releases to list members. Also, many boutique wineries were pouring their hand crafted wines. Here's a run down of the wineries we visited over the weekend. A special report will be in the December issue of the Review of Washington Wines which goes on line November 24.
On Friday morning, we drove over to Abeja on Mill Creek Road where we tasted a world class 2016 Chardonnay, the 2015 Malbec and 2014 Heather Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Then we went further east on Mill Creek to Aluvé where Kelly Menozzi poured a delicious 2016 Estate Chardonnay and a tasty 2015 Lewis Vineyard Sangiovese. Watch for the December issue for reviews of these wines.
In the afternoon, we went up Cottonwood Road to Reynvaan where we barrel tasted the 2016 Syrahs from a superlative vintage. A report will be in an upcoming Review Blog. Also poured was Matt and Lauren Reynvaan's special project, the MTR Productions 2012 "Memory Found" Syrah from The Rocks, to be reviewed in the December issue. Then we went on to Rótie Cellars where we tasted the stellar 2015 "little g" Grenache "Swordfight" Mourvèdre-Syrah, and 2014 "Homage" GSM blend, all scoring 19.5 points.
On Saturday morning, we went down Powerline Road to Rasa Vineyards to taste the winery's highly impressive new releases, all 19+ to 19.5/20 points. In the afternoon, we headed to The Walls where outstanding 2015s were poured along with the highly anticipated "Concrete Mama" (a nod to the Walla Walla Penitentiary) Syrah from the Rocks. Then we stopped at the Gesa Powerhouse Theater to taste Rasa Vineyards cellar master Noé Martinez's 2014 Xenolith "GSM" Red. In the evening, we went to the Corliss annual Fall Release event where the stellar 2012 Corliss Red and Cabernet Sauvignon were poured, both scoring 20/20 points.
Sunday afternoon, we went to College Cellars to sample the fresh new 2017 semi sparking Muscat and the promising 2016 Grenache and GSM reds, both potentially 19/20 points wines. To be reviewed in December.
There were so many outstanding wines at Fall Release along with other recent releases from Walla Walla that the December issue will be the biggest ever, with 64 wines reviewed, along with wines from Spokane from Barrister and Robert Karl plus the rest of the ones from Nota Bene in Seattle. Watch for it on November 24th!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley is just a few days away, November 3-5. Here are my Recommendations for wineries to visit. This is not an inclusive list, but includes some wineries with noteworthy new releases.
Rasa Vineyards - The Naravane brothers will present some outstanding 2015s, some reviewed in the September issue, others to be in December.
Walla Walla Vintners - New 2012s from the Cut Bank Estate Vineyard (reviewed October) and a new 2016 Chardonnay (December), a first for WWV.
Kontos Cellars - New 2014 reds and the tasting room exclusive, the 2013 "Beckett." Reviewed November.
Northstar- The tasting room will have a bevy of winery only 2014 reds. Reviewed November.
Tero Estates - The new 2014 "ST" (Super Tuscan) and the limited 2014 Herb's Block Merlot will be released.
Waters - Two firsts: a 2014 Merlot and a 2014 Patina Vineyard Syrah. Reviewed November.
Solemn Cellars - Justin Basel's inaugural releases will be poured at the tasting room on JB George Road.
Ardor Cellars - There will be a new 2015 Grenache, four single vineyard 2015 Syrahs and a blend of the four Syrahs. Reviewed November.
Sleight of Hand Cellars - The knockout 2014 Archimage and Illusionist will be presented, along with some new 2015's. Reviewed November.
Balboa - There will be four new Reserve Reds and other wines from Balboa and Beresan.
Seven Hills - Casey and Vicky McClellan will have a highly impressive 2014 Artz Vineyard Red Mountain Cabernet (reviewed November) and a new 2015 Cabernet Franc.
The Walls - New 2015 Syrahs and the Ramparts "GSM" red will be released. To be reviewed in the December issue.
Corvus Cellars - Some new 2014 reds from the winery's estate vineyard on Red Mountain.
March Cellars / Vital Wines - Ashley Trout will be presenting her new wines (to be reviewed December) at the tasting room on Lyday Lane, off Braden Road.
àMaurice Cellars - There will be a new 2015 Conner-Lee Chardonnay and 2014 Estate reds to be poured. To be reviewed in the December issue.
Have fun in Walla Walla!
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines there are several red wines from the 2015 vintage, and others have been reviewed in recent issues. This marks the beginning of the next vintage release cycle (see the 26 September Blog posting, "The Classic 2014 Reds now in Full Cycle," for the previous one). So, how is the 2015 vintage shaping up?
The 2015 vintage is on the record books as one of the warmest in recent years. The growing season started early and saw 3900 growing degree days, well above average. This put harvest two to three weeks earlier than usual. The heat levels pushed the yields slightly below normal. Qualitatively, the vintage is exceptional (The Wine Spectator rated it 92-95 points for Washington reds), especially for Cabernet Sauvignon which benefited from a moderate cooling trend in October which allowed flavors and aromatics to develop. A few areas were affected by smoke taint by wildfires, but this did not have a major impact overall. It was a harvest that made many grape growers and winemakers very happy.
At this stage, the 2015 reds are showing very well. In general, the wines are well fruited and structured, with fine aromatics (phenols) and depth. Acid levels are, for the most part, sturdy, more so than the 2013's from another warm year, and with well balanced tannins. Most of the 2015's released so far have been from other varieties than Cabernet Sauvignon, many of which will be released next Spring. So far, I have tasted many impressive 2015 Syrahs and Malbecs, as well as some alluring Grenaches and Petit Verdots (an ideal vintage for that variety).
So, as we go down the line on this cycle, we can look forward to a lot more impressive red wines. More later!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night, October 17, Lynn and I attended the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant's Walla Walla Chef and Artisan Dinner. Last August, we attended a similar dinner which presented courses prepared by outstanding chefs using local artisan products (see the 16 August blog posting below). Again, I took on the job of matching wines to the menu. Here's what we, and the Milton-Freewater contingent accompanying us - the Roskelleys, Browns, Capps and Kennedys - had for the dinner.
Hors d'oeuvres for reception - Anchovy and almond crostini and heirloom tomato tartare toasts, prepared by Daisley Gordon, Café Campagne and Jason Wilson, E'ritage Resort.
2016 Gramercy Cellars Picpoul (Whitehouse Crawford welcome wine)
Champagne Michel Maillard Brut, "Cuvée Gregory" Brut
These wines made perfect foils to the savory appetizers, especially the ultra precise Champagne.
First Course - Winter luxury pumpkin soup with chanterelle mushrooms by Jamie Guerin of Whitehouse Crawford.
2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Condrieu, "Les Chaillées de L'Enfer"
Cultivating Viognier vines on the steep slopes of Condrieu, is a hellish job. This one, aged in oak (unusual for Condrieu) matched the savory soup. Autumn in the glass and in the bowl.
Second Course - Halibut quenelle in Dungeness crab velouté, by Daisley Gordon
2014 Domaine Duc de Magenta Chassage-Montrachet, 1er Cru Morgeot, Monopole Clos de la Chapelle
2012 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, Grand Cru
Quenelles are composed of seived fish thickened with white sauce, and then poached. This was an exquisite dish, accompanied by elegant white Burgundies (Chardonnay). The Morgeot was steely and laser-like, with notes of toast and hazelnut. The Criots-Bâtard-Montachet (from a small Grand Cru parcel in Chassagne) was superb, complex and penetrating.
Third Course - Roasted lamb saddle, spiced sausage and braised shanks, by Jason Wilson
2012 Domaine René Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin, 1er Cru Lavaux-St. Jacques
2013 Domaine Louis Jadot Chapelle-Chambertin, Grand Cru
2011 Domaine Faiveley Latricières-Chambertin, Grand Cru
I decided that the lamb and spiced sausage called for full-bodied red Burgundies such as those of Gevrey-Chambertin, near the north end of the Côte de Nuits. This trio matched the course beautifully. The Lavaux-St. Jacques was big and muscular, the Chapelle-Chamberlin, extremely elegant and complex, the epitome of Pinot Noir, and the Latricières-Chambertin, rich and velvety, yet admirably structured.
Dessert - Bourbon-vanilla rice pudding with poached quince, walnuts and quince sorbet, Tina Meyer, Whitehouse Crawford
The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Madeira, "Savannah" Verdelho Special Reserve
In the days of George Washington, Madeira (produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira) was popular in America. And rice pudding was a favorite dessert of that time. So this pairing was made to order. Verdelho is a slightly sweet dessert wine which matched it beautifully with the creamy texture of the rice and the tang of the quince.