- Written by Rand Sealey
Washington Wines' Emerging Greatness
As we are about to enter the second decade of this century, a look back at 2010 is breathtaking, as I have seen great strides being made in the overall quality and the peaks in Washington winemaking. And I believe there is even more greatness to come.
Lynn and I have been back and forth between Seattle and Walla Walla numerous times, and been all around the state. The quantity of good and outstanding wine has been amazing. There is a lot of talent, and we've met a lot of promising winemakers and made great friends.
Looking Ahead to 2011
There will be a lot to write about next year as well. In my first blog of the year, I will make my predictions for 2011. And next year's Review issues will include many, many more exceptional wines.
The Washington Wine Report Readers Survey Winners
In last week's blog, I mentioned that Adams Bench and Reynvaan Family Vineyard were the finalists for Sean Sullivan's Washington Wine Report Readers Survey. For the Wine of the Year 2010, the Adams Bench 2007 Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon was the winner, with the Reynvaans' 2008 In the Rocks Syrah the runner up. For the Wine to Watch in 2011, the Adams Bench 2008 Reckoning was the top vote getter, followed by the Reynvaan 2009 Stonessence Syrah. I have tasted all four and found them to be highly meritorious. See the Washington Wine Report website for Sean's report and for my comments.
Next Week: The Top Wines of 2010
I am in the process of compiling my list of Top Wines of 2010. There will be two wines that scored perfect 20/20 points and twenty more 19+/19.5 point ones. There will also be a long list of highly recommended wines. Watch for it!
- Written by Rand Sealey
Barrel Tasting 2009's in Walla Walla
During Fall Release Weekend (November 5-6) and Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend (December 3-5) in Walla Walla, I had the opportunity to taste several 2009's from the barrel (see last week's blog for my report on 2008's). Here are the highlights. These are preliminary scores and some of these could go higher.
2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Unnamed" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures: $40 - Fall 2011 Release)
The Reynvaans (Mike, Gale and son Matt) made a big splash with their 2008's which were released in November. The 2009's are sure hits, too. In tasting on November 5, the "Unnamed" showed a deep purplish color and an intense nose of wild berries, cherries, lavender, rose petals and sage, with dark, well-saturated fruit flavors that showed tones of chocolate, licorice, mocha and minerals. 19/20 points.
2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "In the Rocks" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures: $45 - Fall Release)
From the "Rocks" district south of the border, in what was once the riverbed of the Walla Walla River before it changed to i ts present course. It showed a deep purplish color with an intriguing nose of wild berries, mulberry, oriental perfumed and lavender. Fairly taut in structure, but it showed fine elegant fruit that held on beautifully on the back. (Co-fermented with 3% Viognier). 19/20 points.
2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures: $55 - Fall Release)
This wine emitted an entrancing wild berry nose, with scents of lavender, violets, mulberry, sandalwood and. Strikingly rich and saturated, it oozed with dark fruits that surged on the back, intermixed with minerals, cocoa powder, loess dust and stony minerals. The finely fruited finish showed superb balance. 19.5/20 points.
2009 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "Stonessence" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Futures: $60 - Fall Release)
This is a "Reserve," wine, intended to convey the "essence" the "Rocks." In tasting, it was phenomenal. It showed an elegant nose of wild blackberries, raspberries, currants and blueberries, with scents of violets and oriental perfumes along with whiffs of spices and pepper. The flavors were well-structured, but not overbearing, multilayered with tones of silty loess, ground minerals, stony rock, Swiss chocolate, vanilla bean, creme brulee, roasted nuts. The wine was completely seamless, with a fine grained tannin finish that went on and on. Most likely it will go to 20/20 points. 19.5+/20 points.
2009 Saviah Cellars "Une Vallee" Red, Walla Walla Valley (Fall Release)
Composed of 56% McClellan Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Seven Hills Merlot and 6% Stillwater Creek Cab Franc, this showed a deep purplish color and a sweet wild berry nose with scents of roses and hyacinth. On the palate, the dark fruit flavors were deliciously ripe and seductive. A very promising wine. 18.5+/20 points.
2009 Gramercy Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley (Fall Release)
Tasted at Waters Winery, where Gramercy shares facilities, this showed a deep purplish color and an intense nose of roasted berries. The flavors were thick from beginning to end, chock full of coffee, chocolate, licorice and spices laid upon ripe tannins. A potential killer Syrah. 19/20 points.
2009 Waters Winery Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Forgotten Hills Vineyard (Fall Release)
This looks to be a superb rendition of the loess-laden Forgotten Hills Vineyard south of Walla Walla. It showed the vineyard's typical perfumed raspberry, currant and strawberry aromatics, with silky, yet well-defined, flavors, accented by notes of cocoa, licorice and orange peel along with a fine fruit-acid balance and integrated tannins. 19/20 points.
2009 Waters Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley (Fall/Winter Release)
Composed of Pepper Bridge and Windrow Vineyards, this showed rich berry fruits and gorgeous perfumes of rose, violets and hyacinth. The flavors were thick and mouth encompassing, yet velvety with plenty of fruit and glycerine, laced with cocoa, spices and toasty oak. 19/20 points.
2009 Castillo de Feliciana "Rosebud" Tempranillo, Wahluke Slope (Fall Release)
This looks to be a fine follow-up to the 2008 which was released in November. It showed a deep garnet color and a seductive nose of wild berries, rose petals and soft spice. The chewy, taffeta-like red and blue fruits showed plenty of charm, accented by notes of cocoa powder and licorice, with hints of spice and pepper. This will give winemaker Ryan Raber a good track record with this variety. 18.5/20 points.
Other noteworthy '09's previously tasted:
Kerloo Cellars Grenache and Malbec - I tasted these from the barrels in September and found them to be remarkably well-extracted and fruited. They will be wines to watch.
Sleight of Hand Cellars - See my blog of December 1 below for my report on tasting Trey Busch's '10's and '09's.
Adams Bench Red Willow Cabernet a Washington Wine Report Wine of the Year Finalist
Sean Sullivan's Washington Wine Report is having its annual on line Reader Survey of the 2010 Wine of the Year and the 2011 Wine to Watch. One of the three finalists is the 2007 Adams Bench Red Willow Cabernet Sauvignon which I awarded a perfect 20/20 points in the March issue of the Review. I was the first to review that wine, so, naturally, I'm pleased to see it get this kind of recognition. The 2007 "V" Red is also a finalist. The Adams Bench 2008 Reckoning is a finalist for the 2011 Wine to Watch. The 2009 Reynvaan Stonessence Syrah (see above) is also a finalist in that category.
If you, too, have been impressed with these wines, you should go to the Washington Wine Report website and cast your vote.
Coming Up: Next Week - Looking Back on 2010, December 27 - Top Wines of 2010, January 3 - Predictions for 2011
- Written by Rand Sealey
A Festive Event
This year's Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, December 3-5, was a celebratory event. Because of the late completion of harvest, pressing had just been completed and winemakers were ready to party. We stopped by Friday morning at Reininger where Tracy and Chuck were were putting up an show of paintings by Todd Telander and Leslie LeViner. Later, Long Shadows was having its annual event on the winery floor where we chatted with CEO Allen Shoup and winemaker Gilles Nicault. In the evening, we drove up Lower Waitsburg Road to the Robison Ranch Cellars club party where Jim Robison and Brad and Ruth Riordan greeted guests with tasty food and their newly released 2008 Merlot and Syrah.
The theme of socializing was continued the next day as we started off at the Incubators near the airport. There, we visited with Chris and Cameron Kontos and tasted new releases and a preview of their "3YR" Cabernet (see below). Then we went over to the recently-opened Corvus Winery at the space formerly occupied by Trio Vintners and talked with Rand Hopkins. Then we went to Artifex where we saw Brian Rudin, the Resident Winemaker, and met Executive Winemaker Larry Cherubino from Australia. There, Ken Hart (a jolly good fellow) poured his Tulpen wines and Ned Morris his Reasons wines. We dropped by Trio Vintners and ran into Amarha Leaman, whose art works were being shown, and Todd Telander's wife, Kirsten. In the afternoon, we went to Catie McIntryre Walker's Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman wine shop where Troy Ledwick poured his current numbered Releases and a couple of barrel samples. Later, we drove south of the border to Tero Estate and Flying Trout where bottles were festively dressed for the holidays (check their Facebook Wall for pics). Doug Roskelley gave a lively barrel tasting of his '08's (see below). Then we drove on to Locati Cellars where Mike and Penne served up meatballs, fine wines, live music and a fire pit. Jan and Doug Roskelley showed up later for more fun and camaraderie.
On Sunday, we went out for more visits with friends. At Saviah Cellars we saw Rich Funk and sampled his fabulous '09 Cabernet from the barrel. Further up J.B. George Road, we saw Robbi Ebbel and Christa Hilt at Waters where Greg and Pam Harrington also poured their Gramercy Cellars wines. Just over the border, off Stateline Road, we went to Castillo de Feliciana where we chatted with Sam and Deborah Castillo and winemaker Ryan Raber. On our way back home, we stopped on Main Street at Rotie Cellars, where we saw Nicole ----- and owner-winemaker Sean Boyd. We dropped in a few doors down to say hi to Muriel Kenyon (whose fiance, Dreux Dillingham now works at Waters). Lots of friends and lots of fun.
For pictures of some of these events, go to Review of Washington Wines on Facebook.
A Preview of 2008's to be Released in 2011
While many 2008's have already been released, there are some wineries that are holding off until next year to release their wines from that vintage. But I got barrel tasting previews of some of their highly promising wines. Here are some highlights.
2008 Long Shadows Chester Kidder, Columbia Valley (Fall 2011 release) - Purple colored, this showed an intense, spicy nose of wild berries and cherries, with lush berry fruit and concentration. The finish was delicious and well spiced.
2008 Kontos Cellars "3YR" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (Futures $36 - Fall release) - Deep colored, this showed rich, smoky aromas and deep, penetrating flavors, redolent of dark fruits, and well-seasoned with toasty oak (3 years in oak, hence the "3YR" designation).
2008 TL Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard (Release TBD) - This exhibited sultry, smoky aromas of raspberries and cherries. The flavors were chewy and savory, yet velvety at the same time. Troy Ledwick will give it another 6-12 months to pull together before bottling.
2008 Tero Estate Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley (Fall release) - This showed an inky purple color, a sultry, smoky nose of black cherries and berries. The dark fruit flavors were sensuous, loaded with chocolate, mocha, minerals and sweet tannins.
2008 Tero Estate Windrow Red, Walla Walla Valley (Fall release) - This field blend showed rich, spicy blackberry, cherry and cassis aroma. It was still picking up cedar and vanilla from the barrel, and the saturated fruits kept going on and on.
Next Week: Barrel Tasting 2009's
- Written by Rand Sealey
Walla Walla Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend
Next weekend, December 3-5, is Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. It is a festive occasion as many wineries open up their barrel rooms and decorate them with greenery and lights. Most also pour samples of wines still in the barrels. Here are some events that are not to be missed.
Robison Ranch Cellars - This winery will be featuring its new 2008 Syrah and 2008 Merlot and sampling some 2009's at the Ranch on Lower Waitsburg Road on Saturday and Sunday.
TL Cellars - Troy Ledwick will be pouring current and future Releases at Catie Walker's new Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman store (see below) on Saturday, December 4 from 12 to 4.
Dusted Valley - Andrae's Kitchen, a mobile kitchen, will be parked at Dusted Valley on Saturday and Sunday. Great burgers!
Cadaretta / Artifex - Cadaretta and other Artifex wineries will be open on Saturday from 10 to 4.
Tero / Flying Trout - Jan and Doug Roskelley and Ashley Trout will be presenting new releases, barrel samples, music, food, bonfires and barrel burning at the winery west of Milton-Freewater.
Locati Cellars - The winery just south of the border, off Stateline Road, will be open Friday, the 3rd.
Rasa Vineyards - Billo and Pinto Naravane's new digs on Powerline Road will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman Wine Shop Opens
Catie McIntyre Walker opened her new wine shop (which takes its name from her blog) at 19 North 2nd Street in downtown Walla Walla a few weeks ago. I haven't been there yet, but will just as soon as we get back to Walla Walla on Thursday. From what I've learned from friends, Catie's shop is a must visit place. She has an eclectic selection, not only of local wines, but other Northwest and international ones as well. She also hosts wine tastings from time to time. Troy Ledwick will be pouring his TL Cellars wines on Saturday (see above). By the way, be sure to check out Catie's excellent, chatty blog.
Just Opened: URBAN Enoteca in Seattle's SODO District
Last night, Lynn and I attended the opening of URBAN Enoteca at 4130 1st Avenue South. This is a 20,000 square foot destination wine tasting venue. It includes The Tasting Center which comprises of seven Tasting Bars (with five more to be added in the future) showcasing Five Star Cellars (Walla Walla Valley), Cave B Estate Winery (Columbia Gorge), Cote Bonneville (Yakima Valley), Fielding Hills Winery (Wahluke Slope), Fidelitas (Red Mountain), Kiona Vineyards & Winery (Red Mountain) and McCrea Cellars (Seattle). There also are three distinct private event spaces, offering space for from 25 to 175 seated guests and 300 for receptions. Catering is provided by Chef Jason Wilson Events.
The opening was a great event, the spacious facility was swarming with oenophiles, and the food was plentiful and delicious. The Tasting Center was luxuriously appointed with leather sofas and chairs, plenty of tables, and state of the art wine tasting bars. There, I saw Bob and Susan Neel of McCrea Cellars, David and Matt Hulse of Five Star Cellars, Mike Wade of Fielding Hills and Freddy Arredondo of Cave B presenting their wines. All the wineries were fine representatives of URBAN Enoteca's criteria that "they must be producers of exceptional Washington wines, must be fun and easy to work with, and have no current Seattle tasting room." Congratulations to owner Terry Thompson for masterminding this impressive enterprise.
URBAN Enoteca is is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays for trade events and tastings. For more information, go to the website: www.urbanenoteca.com.
Other Westside Washington Wine Events
Not going to Walla Walla for Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend? Then go to Woodinville for St. Nicholas Day Open House, Saturday and Sunday, December 4 & 5. Two day passes are available for $50, for one day, $40. For information, go to the Woodinville Wine Country website.
On Saturday, December 12, there is the DeLille Cellars Pere Noel party at the winery. We went last year and found it highly worthwhile. Fine food and wine. Cost is $25 per person and includes a logo glass. For information and tickets, go to DeLille Cellars' website.
The South Seattle Artisan Wineries (SSAW) is having Open Houses on Saturdays, December 4 and 11 from 1 to 5. For more information go to SSAW website (use your search tool to find it).
- Written by Rand Sealey
For Thanksgiving, Serve Washington Wines
Last year, I wrote the blog below before Thanksgiving. My recommendations hold true just as much as they did a year ago.
"For their Thanksgiving wine recommendations most retailers - wine shops and supermarkets alike - suggest all kinds of wines. French (Beaujolais Nouveau!) Italian, South American or whatever. It seems they are simply pushing what they want to sell.
Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday. So why not have American wines for this holiday which gives thanks for our country's bounty and heritage? And in our case, it should be celebrated with Washington wines which are among the finest our country has to offer.
I have no specific suggestions. Just about ant fine Washington wine will work: Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot, you name it. Most Washington wines are very versatile. If some family members or friends prefer white, make it Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Viognier or even Chardonnay. So for this Thanksgiving, just reach into your cellar or wine rack, or go to your supermarket or wine merchant and pick out your Washington favorites."
A Couple of Postscripts to Harvest 2010
Here are two winemaker comments I received.
Trey Busch (Sleight of Hand): "Added ML to several more lots today. Tasted through pretty much everything to see their progression, and pretty excited about where these wines are headed." (Received Nov. 19 via Facebook.)
Erica Blue (Adams Bench): "Enjoyed reading your blog--indeed this was a protracted harvest. We pressed our last Cabernet Sauvignon into barrel today. Time for a toast! We agree that it is a season for careful winemaking, careful harvest decisions, and yet--these young wines have amazing promise." (Received Nov. 17 via email.)
Full Pull Washington Wine Price Reductions
Since my last blog posting, "Big Price Reductions by Washington Wineries," I received offerings from Paul Zitarelli's Full Pull Wines for the following wines. To see the offerings, go to www.fullpullwines.com.
2005 Forgeron Cellars Merlot, Columbia Valley (TPU $17.99 - was $30)
I have not reviewed this wine, but have tasted it a number of times at the winery. It is a fine rendition of multi vineyard Washington Merlot and would merit at least 18/20 points. This is a sure bet, as a mature Merlot for $18 is a steal.
2007 Dusted Valley "Stained Tooth" Syrah, Columbia Valley (TPU $17.99 - was $25)
Reviewed in last week's bog - 18+/20 points. (see posting below).
2009 Rasa Vineyards "The Composer" Riesling, Columbia Valley (TPU $17.99 - was $30)
Reviewed in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines - 19/20 points. A first-rate Washington Riesling from the Dionysus and Bacchus vineyards for $18 is another steal.
Also take note of the Full Pull offerings of the Renegade Wine Company's (Trey Busch) 2008 Cabernet Franc, Horse Heaven Hills (TPU $13.89) and 2008 Malbec, Yakima Valley (TPU $13.89), both reviewed in the November issue of the Review - both 17.5+/20 points.