- Written by Rand Sealey
French wines were my first love ever since my explorations in the summer of 1968 and in the following years when I owned Esquin Wine Merchants. Sadly, the great wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux have become costly, ones reserved for extra special occasions. But there are still fine values to be had from France. Here are my recommendations from recent tastings.
Maconnais and Beaujolais
Southern Burgundy is a good source of fine, affordable wines. The whites of the Maconnais (the birthplace of Chardonnay is in the town of the same name) and the Gamay reds of the Beaujolais offer a lot for their modest prices. The "Villages" wines make nice everyday wines, and the "Crus" of Beaujolais (Fleurie, Morgon, Moulin à Vent and others) are fine wines and great values.
2015 Louis Jadot Macon Villages, Chardonnay ($12.99 at Safeway) - Medium greenish gold colored, this wine possesses fresh aromas of apple, peach, citrus, apple blossoms and acacia flowers. The flavors are pure and natural, unencumbered by oak, and accompanied by notes of peach stone, grape skin and Maconnais slate, followed by a crisp, lemon zest accented finish. 18/20 points.
2015 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé ($22.39 at Safeway) - Pouilly-Fuissé is the most prestigious appellation of the Maconnais. This one was partially barrel fermented and aged six months in French oak. It shows a brilliant gold color and lovely aromas of pear, peach and citrus, with scents of pear blossoms, white flowers and white incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with vivid Chardonnay flavors that are accented by peach stone, pear skin and slate minerals. The back picks up poire and pêche liqueurs and light oak on the way to a crisp, faintly honeyed finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages ($10.99 at Safeway) - This Gamay offers a purplish ruby color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry, plum, rosebuds, anise and light spice. The flavors are bright and juicy, with red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cola, and dusty earth. The chewy textured back picks up pressed berries, toasted nuts and fraise liqueur, followed by a ripe soft tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2015 Jean-Ernst Descombes Morgon ($19.99 from wine.com) - The late Jean Descombes' Morgons were among my favorites. The winery is now run by his daughter, Nicole. This vintage presents attractive aromas of raspberry, cherries and currants, with scents of roses, mulberry and lavender. The flavors are pleasingly ample, yet robust, with notes of licorice, cocoa and minerals. The back picks up pressed berries kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a moderate tannin finish that is lifted by bright fruit acids. A Georges Duboeuf selection. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine des Rosiers Moulin à Vent ($19.99 - wine.com) - Deep purplish colored, this wine emits enticing aromas of wild blackberries, huckleberries and currants, with scents of crushed red roses, sweet tobacco, violets and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with deep, robust fruits that are imbued with red licorice, cocoa, French roast and granitic minerals. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of pressed berries, creme de cassis and graphite, followed by a pleasing sweetish ripe tannin finish. A Duboeuf selection. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Domaine des Quatre Vents Fleurie ($23.99 - wine.com) - Fleurie ("flowery") is one of Beaujolais' most charming wines. This one offers a ruby-crimson color and seductive aromas of fraises de bois, wild cherries, red currants, rose petals, bayberry and violets. The medium bodied flavors, as well, are alluring, with layers of supple yet intense (old vines) red fruits that are imbued with red licorice, cocoa powder and granitic minerals. The back reveals sensations of gently pressed fruits, cerise and cassis liqueurs, a touch of nougat, and a dusting of ground charcoal, followed by a lengthy silky tannin finish. This delivers a lot of elegance for the price. A Duboeuf selection. 19/20 points.
2015 Domaine Diochon Moulin à Vent, Cuvée Vieilles Vignes ($23.99 - wine.com) - This is really serious Beaujolais. It exhibits a purplish ruby color and enticing aromas of blackberries, cherries and currants with scents of red roses, mulberries and violets. The robust flavors, as well, are appealing, with notes of licorice, cocoa and minerals. The back picks up kirsch and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a pleasingly juicy finish and soft tannins, lifted by bright fruit acidity. Enjoyable now, but will benefit from 1-5 more years aging. A Kermit Lynch selection. 19/20 points.
The Côtes du Rhône
The Rhone Valley is another source of fine values. The most prestigious appellations such as Hermitage, Cote Rotie and Chateauneuf du Pape have gotten pricey, upwards of $50 a bottle, but the regional and Villages bottling are quite affordable.
2016 Château de Campuget Costières de Nimes Rosé ($9.99 at Safeway) - This is a surprisingly good Rosé (70% Syrah, 43% Grenache) for the price. From the region west of Avignon, it offers a light pink-copper color and attractive aromas of strawberry, pomegradnate and tangerine with scents of cherry blossoms, summer flowers and spiced white incense. The flavors are somewhat restrained, yet well defined, with notes of grape skin, pomegranate seeds and orange peel, followed by a refreshing, dry finish. 18/20 points.
2015 M. Chapoutier "Belleruche" Côtes du Rhone ($10.99 at Safeway) - This 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah combination offers a purplish ruby color and engaging aromas of raspberry, blueberry and currant with scents of rosebuds, lavender and dried herbs. The medium bodied flavors are supple, yet vigorous, with cocoa and earth undertones and a rich, fruity, savory finish. 17.5+/20 points.
2014 Clos de Caveau "fruit sauvage" Vacqueyras ($29.99 at Esquin) - Vacqueyras can be called the "poor man's Chateauneuf du Pape." The dominant grape is Grenache with some Syrah and/or Mourvédere. This organically grown one is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, and shows a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberry, plum and black currant, with scents of rosebuds, mulberry, pipe tobacco, lavender and spiced incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with thick, generous red and black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and Dentelles de Montmriral minerals. The chewy textured back picks up roasted berries and nuts and touches of leather and dried currants, followed by savory moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2013 Domaine le Sang des Cailloux Vaqueyras ($31.99 at Esquin) - This "Blood of the Rocks" tastes like it is predominately Grenache with some Mourvédre and Syrah. It shows a deep ruby color and intriguing aromas of wild fruits - blackberry, plum and black currants - with scents of rosebuds and garrigue (lavender and herbs) and smoldering incense. The flavors are thick and fleshy, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans and minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and charcoal, followed by a ripe, chewy tannin finish. A Kermit Lynch selection. 18.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Friday, April 21, Lynn and I hosted the PAWS (Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers) tasting group for a sampling of Rosés currently available in the Walla Walla Valley. Because when it comes to Rosés preferences depend mostly on personal tastes, participants were not asked to rank wines in order of preference or to score them. The tasting was solely for the purpose of finding one's own favorites.
As a guide to the varied types of Rosé wines tasted, I have compiled a list of the following categories, with brief stylistic descriptions, together with the months in which they were reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines.
Provence Style Rosés
This is the most popular category of Rosés, generally produced from Grenache, Mourvédre, Syrah, Cinsault, and or Counoise, or combinations thereof. Here are the ones we tasted.
2016 Tranche Cellars "Pink Pape" Rose, Yakima Valley, Blackrock Vineyard $20 - (47% Grenache, 27% Counoise, 26% Cinsault) - Pale salmon colored, this was made in a lighter, fresh style, with notes of tangerine, Rainier cherry and light spice. Reviewed May.
2016 Ardor Cellars Rosé, Yakima Valley, Painted Hills Vineyard $19 - (63% Mourvédre, 37% Grenache) - Pink salmon colored, with moderate extraction and hints of white smoke and spice, finishing dry. Reviewed May.
2016 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard $22 - Medium pink colored, this was the most extracted Rosé in this category. It had attractive notes of raspberry and cherry, with a lively finish. Reviewed May.
2016 Browne Family Vineyards Grenache Rosé, Columbia Valley $18 - Pale pink colored, with notes of strawberry and tangerine, and good structure, this was the most Provençal-like Rosé tasted. Reviewed April.
2016 Balboa Rosé of Grenache, Walla Walla Valley $20 - Also Provençal-like, this one was pleasingly aromatic and fruited, with a dry, minerals finish. To be reviewed in the June issue.
2016 Gramercy Cellars Olsen Vineyard Rosé, Columbia Valley $25 - (52% Cinsault, 24% Grenache, 24% Syrah) - Pale pink colored, with aromas and flavors of raspberry and tangerine and nicely extracted. The herb and lavender scents give it a Provençal like character. To be reviewed June.
Rhone Style Rosés
These are made with the Syrah grape, sometimes with some white Viognier grapes.
2016 Waters Rosé, Washington State $18 (60% Syrah, 40% Viognier co-ferment) - Made in a lightly extracted (straight from the press) style, this showed a pale salmon color and attractive fragrance (from the Viognier) along with peach and grape fruits. Reviewed May.
2016 Waters Patina Vineyard Rosé, Walla Walla Valley $22 (100% Syrah) - From LeaAnn Hughes' vineyard, this showed a salmon color and light, yet distinct extracts (again, straight from press) with a bit of spice and Patina gravel. Reviewed May.
Cabernet Franc Rosés
These are modeled after the Cabernet Franc Rosés of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.
2016 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley $18 (Cabernet Franc with bits of Malbec and Petit Verdot) - In the manner of a Bordeaux "Clairette" (what the Bordelais call Rosé), this pale pink-salmon colored wine offered an amiable lighter style, with touches of cherry and raspberry. Reviewed April.
2016 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Magician's Assistant" Rose of Cabernet Franc, Blackrock Vineyard $18 - This resembles a Loire Rosé with a pale pink color and fresh, lively cherry and raspberry fruits and a dry finish. Reviewed May.
These are wines made from specific varietals or combinations.
2016 College Cellars Rosé of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Reed Vineyard $16 - This is made from Pinot Gris grapes given longer hang time on the vines, giving the wine a copper color. This one showed a peach and apricot nose and fruity flavors with moderate extract and acid. Reviewed March.
2016 Vital Wines Rosé, Walla Walla Valley $18 - (100% Sangiovese, Seven Hills Vineyard) - Here, Ashley Trout has turned out a pale pink colored Rosé with floral scents and fresh, appealing light fruits that finish crisp and dry. Reviewed April.
2016 Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo Rosé, Walla Walla Valley $18 - From a variety originating in Spain, this showed a pale pink color and floral aromas and notes of cherry and tangerine, finishing dry. Reviewed May.
2016 Saviah Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley $18 - (56% Sangiovese, 44% Barbera) - Light copper-pink colored, with attractive aromas and flavors of strawberry and cherry, with moderate extraction and hints of spice. To be reviewed in the June issue.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Saturday, April 8, we drove over to the west side of the state for an excursion to celebrate Lynn's birthday. On the trip, we had some memorable meals and wines. Here's what we did.
Saturday, April 8 - We drove over on I-90 and then I-5 to Stanwood, just east of Camano Island. There, we had lunch at Shima Sushi, owned by a man who had a sushi restaurant in Bellevue and then retired to Camano. Excellent, very fresh. In the afternoon, we went to La Conner where we had dinner at the Oyster and Thistle. We had broiled oysters with a Macon-Fuissé.
Sunday, April 9 - From La Conner, we stopped at Edison to check the art scene and had lunch at Slough Food, a sandwich and soup place. Lynn had soup and I a panini, with a nice Rosé from Corsica. In the afternoon, we checked in at the Chuckanut Manor. There, we had a nice, cozy cabin overlooking Samish Bay. Dinner at the Manor consisted of broiled oysters with a tasty 2015 Lemelson Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley.
Monday, April 10 - That day, we drove up Chuckanut Drive to Fairhaven for soup and panini at the Colophon Cafe with a Barnard-Griffin Sangiovese Rosé. In the evening, we had dinner a couple of miles north of Chuckanut Manor at the historic Oyster Bar. We had a selection of raw oysters and steamed mussels accompanied by a 2015 Domaine Vatan Sancerre (a Sauvignon Blanc from the upper Loire).
Tuesday, April 11 - From Chuckanut Drive, we headed south to Everett where we stopped at the Schack Art Center, followed by lunch at Anthony's at the Marina where we had clam chowder and Cadaretta "SBS" Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Blend. In the afternoon, we checked in at the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle. For dinner, we went down to Western Avenue to have dinner at Nijo Sushi with Martinis and Cosmopolitans.
Wednesday, April 12 - We had heard buzz about Ethan Stawell's Sitka and Spruce so we decided to give it a try for lunch. It was decidedly different, with an industrial warehouse decor and unconventional dishes. Lynn had grilled parsnips with a Cor Cellars Gewürztraminer-Pinot Gris, and I smoked smelt with a Beaujolais Villages. In the evening, we had dinner at the Sorrento's Dunbar Room. We had steak (after all the seafood, we were ready for red meat) with a Argentina Malbec.
Thursday, April 13 - This was Lynn's Big Birthday. We had lunch at the Sunset Club with Lynn's brother and some long time friends. Our wines were a nice Languedoc Chardonnay and a tasty Moulin-a-Vent from Beaujolais. The evening was an extra special dinner at Canlis, Seattle's iconic restaurant, now run by the third generation of the Canlis family (we used go when it was run by the first and second generations). We were back to seafood, with the signature Canlis salad, grilled oysters, seared scallops and soufflé, accompanied by a superb, precise 2014 Simon Bize Savigny-les-Beaune Blanc, Premier Cru, Aux Vergelesses.
Friday, April 14 - That day, we went to the Eastside for a visit to the Bellevue Arts Museum and lunch at Blue Sushi, where our meal was accompanied by a fine Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Sake. In the afternoon, we checked into the Baymont Hotel in Kirkland, close to Woodinville. Dinner was at The Tandem Wine Bar in Woodinville, owned and run by bicycle and wine enthusiasts. He had king salmon with a tasty Grenache (75%) dominated Gigondas from the South Rhone Valley.
Saturday, April 15 - In the morning, we drove to Esquin to pick up wines I had ordered (as the former owner, I still get the employee discount). Then we went back to Woodinville to visit wineries. JM Cellars was having its Wine Club Spring Release party. Lunch was at Sushi Connections (we couldn't seem to get enough sushi) followed by winery visits at Adams Bench, DeLille Cellars, Savage Grace, Davenport Cellars and William Church. The wines will be reviewed in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Dinner was at The Commons, a noisy, crowded madhouse of a bar where we had chicken pot pie with The Walls Pinot Noir Rosé.
Sunday, April 16 - We got up early, loaded up our SUV with six cases of wine and our luggage and drove back home to Walla Walla, arriving in time for lunch.
Next Week - Our Annual Rosé Roundup and the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines on Monday, April 24.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As of this writing, we have just returned home from Cayuse Weekend. We visited only two wineries, Cayuse and Reynvaan. Others we visit other times and some will be visited Spring Release Weekend, May 5-7.
Our first stop was at Cayuse on Sunnyside Road south of the border. There, 2015 reds and a couple of 2014s were previewed. Here are my notes and scores.
2014 Cayuse "God only Knows" Grenache, Walla Walla Valley - This is an alluring Grenache. Medium brick red colored, it offered a perfumed nose of wild red fruits - raspberry, pomegranate, red currant - with scents of rosebuds, wild flowers, garrigue and incense. The flavors are deliciously supple with medium bodied, yet penetrating red fruits. The back picks up framboise and creme de cassis liqueurs, followed by a long, deliciously juicy moderate tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse Camaspelo, Walla Walla Valley - This Cabernet based blend offers a ruby color and a perfumed nose of blackberries, cherries and plums with scents of wild roses, sweet tobacco, earth and smoldering incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with thick, deep cored dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, dark roast coffee and earth. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and meats and graphite, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2014 Cayuse "The Lovers" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - This 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah combination presents a deep ruby color and a rich, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, and cassis with scents of crushed roses, cedar, sandalwood, tobacco and incense. The flavors are bold and structured, with notes of licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and Rocks minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted walnuts, toasty oak and graphite, all gliding into a long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Cailloux Vineyard - Ruby-crimson colored, this emits perfumed aromas of blackberries, blueberries and cassis with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, lavender, tobacco and violets. The flavors mirror the aromatics with vivid black and blue fruits that are endowed with licorice, cocoa, French roast and Rocks funk and minerals. The back reveals sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts, toffee and charcoal followed by a long, velvety finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse Syrah, Walla Walla Valley En Cerise Vineyard - Brilliant crimson colored, this possesses alluring aromas of strawberries, cherries, black currants, red roses, lavender, violets and oriental incense. The flavors are deliciously silky and well delineated, marked by notes of red licorice, cocoa powder, medium roast coffee and dusty minerals. The satiny textured back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs, creme de cassis and charcoal, followaed by a long, persistently delicious ripe moderate tannin and acid finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, En Chamberlin Vineyard - Deep ruby colored, this has a perfumed nose of wild red fruits, crushed roses, red flowers, lavender and violets, white incense and spice. A bit more compact than the En Cerise, it has deep, multilayered red and blue fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cocoa, French roast and dusty Rocks minerals. The back reveals sensations of macerated berries, roasted nuts, grilled meats and charcoal, followed by a long, spiced, toasted finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse "Bionic Frog" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley - Sourced from the Cocinelle Vineyard, planted in 1998, this shows a deep ruby color and an earthy, wild smelling nose of dark fruits, roasted meats, crushed roses, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors are thick and fleshy, marked by black licorice, cacao, French press coffee and dusty rock minerals. The saturation continues on the back with sensations of pressed berries, roasted nuts , cremes de cassis and cacao, followed by a long ripe, chewy tannin finish. 20/20 points.
2014 Cayuse Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Armada Vineyard - Deep ruby colored, this emits earthy aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, huckleberries, black currants - with scents of black roses, brambles, garrigue, pepper and incense. The flavors mirror the aromatics with chewy dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, French roast and Rocks minerality. The back picks up roasted berries and nuts, baking spices, creme de cassis, orange peel and burnt charcoal, followed by a long ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Cayuse "Impulsivo" Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley - Sourced from the En Chamberlin Vineyard, this exhibits an inky purple color and an intense nose of dark fruits, mulberry, Spanish lavender, crushed roses, cracked pepper and smoke. The flavors mirror the aromatics with dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cacao, chicory coffee and rocks and dust earth. The back reveals roasted berries and chestnuts, mocha, toffee and burnt charcoal, followed by a long, firm, yet ripe tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
After Cayuse, we drove up to the end of Cottonwood Road to Reynvaan, where we tasted these wines with the Reynvaan Family. The white wines will sell out quickly and the futures pricing for "The Classic" Cabernet Sauvignon ends tomorrow, April 8.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Viognier, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - Brilliant gold colored, this wine emits seductive aromas of white peach, mango, passion fruit, honeysuckle, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are deliciously ripe, yet well delineated, framed by bright fruit acids on the lingering finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Grenache Blanc, Walla Walla Valley ($60) - This 100% varietal wine shows a light gold color and fresh aromas of pear, peach, star fruit, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are crisp and lively, yet accented with notes of brioche, orange peel and strawberry, imbued with pear skin and stony minerals. On the finish, a creamy texture counterpoints the crisp, citrusy acidity on the lingering finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Queen's Road" White Wine ($65) - From the "In the Rocks" Vineyard, this Marsanne, Viognier blend offers a brilliant gold color and rich aromas of pear, peach, orange and quince, with scents of honeysuckle, jasmine, lemon verbena and dried meadow grass. The flavors are alluring and well defined, combining vivid white fruits, peach stone, pear skin with distinct Rocks minerality. The back picks up pêche and poire liqueurs and toasted nuts, followed by a lingering, white pepper and spice dusted finish. 19.5/20 points.
2015 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Classic" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (3 pack $225) - From In the Rocks, this offers a deep ruby color and a classic Cabernet nose of blackberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of black roses, tobacco, cedar, sandalwood, bay leaf, rubbed sage and incense. The classicism continues on the palate with deep cored dark fruits that are marked by licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and dusty rock minerals. The back reveals sensations of macerated berries, roasted walnuts, mocha, toffee, and pencil lead, followed by a lingering ripe tannin finish. Shows great concentration and elegance throughout. 19.5/20 points.
No Review Blog Next Week
Tomorrow morning, April 8, we will be leaving Walla Walla for the Westside for a vacation, celebrating Lynn's birthday. The next Review Blog posting will be on Monday, April 17.
- Written by Rand Sealey
"Rocks don't have flavors. I'm sorry, but they don't" - Kevin Pogue, rock expert, on terroir.
In many reviews of wines, you will see descriptions that refer to a wine's minerality or earthiness, including mine in the Review of Washington Wines. Does that mean there actually minerals or earth in these wines? The answer is no. One time, I ran across an article about a study at the University of Wales that analyzed numerous wines and determined that the mineral contents were so minuscule as to be imperceptible. Does this throw cold water on the idea of minerality or terroir in wine? The answer to that is also no.
The answer is that while terroir does not impart flavors, it can influence the way grape vines grow, thereby producing wines wth distinguishing characteristics. A wine produced from fractured basalt substrate, for instance, will taste different from one from silt and loam soil. This has do with the way vines grow roots in the deep subsoils. Vines growing stressed through rocky soil will produce different tasting wines than ones grown in gravelly or sandy soil. It is in this way that terroir does have real meaning. This is pretty much the way Geology Professor Pogue has explained it, as I have heard a number of times.
The conclusion is that, while rocks don't have flavors, it is still reasonable to describe wines as being minerals or earthy. So I'll just keep on writing about them in that way.