- Written by Rand Sealey
The 2010 Seattle Wine Awards
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of a list of the 2010 Seattle Wine Awards and upon perusing it was surprised to discover how much correlation there was with my Review ratings. I had received several announcements about the tasting and the Awards Banquet, but hadn't paid much attention until I looked at the awards list. I have long believed that Wine Competition Gold medals have little, if any, value. I agree with the conclusions of Robert Hodgson in the "Journal of Wine Economics" that "the probability of winning a Gold medal at one competition is stochastically independent of the probability of winning a Gold at another competition, indicating that winning a Gold medal is greatly influenced by chance alone." (See my blog of June 13). But I found a comparison of the Seattle Wine Awards with my ratings of the same wines, to be an exception.
Of the 105 wines in the Awards competition that I have rated highly in the Review of Washington Wines, 90 received Gold or Double Gold Awards. This is an 86% correlation, a remarkably high one. There were 15 wines which got Silver or Bronze which, according to my review scores should have gotten Gold, not a statistically high deviation. I noted that of these 15, ten were in the Syrah/Rhone Style categories where the wide range in styles may account for these differences, as personal stylistic preferences may come into play more than with other varietals or blends. Several of these are very distinctive wines and may not have scored as uniformly well as others in the Awards Tasting.
How do I account for the significantly high correlation between my ratings and the Seattle Wine Awards? I looked at the tasting panel members and saw that all have much experience in the wine industry and in wine appreciation. I have read their bios on the Awards website and found them to be most impressive. The panel is composed of highly qualified wine tasters. I also note that the wines were scored on a modified 20 point system as I do.
My conclusion here is that a wine competition need not always be a random event where the awarding of medals is subjected to the luck of the draw in meeting the preferences of the tasting panel members. In reviewing wines, I have always tried to be objective and evaluate them on a qualitative rather than stylistic one. The Seattle Wine Awards tasting panel has succeeded for the most part in this goal as well.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Full Pull Paul Redux
On April 29th, I wrote a Review Blog article (posted May 1) about Paul Zitarelli's Full Pull Wines wine store. As I explained in the article, the Full Pull system is to offer wines a few weeks before they arrive in the warehouse, take orders and fill them upon arrival. To learn more, scroll down to the bottom of this page, then back to the previous page, then scroll down to that posting. Since that article, there have been several wines offered by Full Pull that have been reviewed favorably in my Review of Washington Wines. I checked with Paul to find out which wines are still available for ordering from Full Pull. Here they are, together with Full Pull's pricing.
2006 Fall Line Cellars, Artz Vineyard Red Blend, Red Mountain (Full Pull TPU $21.99) - Actually, I reviewed the '07 Fall Line (June issue, 18.5 points) which I found to be a bit better than the '06. But the TPU pricing is so great, I'm recommending it. 18+/20 points.
2009 Ross Andrew Pinot Gris, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard (TPU $16.99) - Paul's recent offering prompted me to try this wine. It's fresh, lively with notes of melon, citrus and a hint of cream,. To be reviewed in the September issue. 18+/20 points.
2007 Grand Reve Collaboration Series III Syrah, Red Mountain (TPU $39.99) - This is reviewed in this month's issue of the Review (August). 19/20 points.
2005 Nicholas Cole Cellars "Camille" Walla Walla Valley (TPU $25.99) - This Sangiovese-Cabernet blend was not included in my January 2009 Focus article on Nicholas Cole, but it would have been rated 18.5 points. For under $26, it's a steal.
2005 Nicholas Cole "Michele" Walla Walla Valley (TPU $38.99) - I found this Bordeaux-style blend to be so stunning that I gave it 19.5/20 points in the January 2009 issue.
2009 Syncline Gruner Veltliner, Columbia Gorge, Underwood Mountain Vineyard (TPU $17.79) - This is another wine that Full Pull turned me on to. It's an intriguing, offbeat type of white wine from a grape originating in Austria. To be reviewed in September, 18+/20 points.
2008 Maison Bleue "La Montagnette" Grenache, Yakima Valley (TPU $17.99) - I found Jon Martinez' La Montagnette to a fine example of Grenache in the April issue. 18.5/20 points.
2009 Dowsett Family Gewurztraminer, Columbia Gorge, Celilo Vineyard (TPU $17.69) - Another fine white from the noted Celilo Vineyard above the Columbia River. Reviewed in the July Review issue. 18+/20 points.
2009 Hestia Cellars Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley (TPU $13.49) - Owner/winemaker Shannon Jones does a great job with this underrated white variety. 18+/20 points.
2007 Rasa Vineyards "Principia" Reserve Syrah, Columbia Valley (TPU $76.99) - A compelling wine, Pinto and Billo Naravane's Principia is the second wine to be rated 20/20 points in the Review.
Washington Wine Tastings at Esquin in August
In Esquin Wine Merchants' August newsletter, there is a schedule of tastings of Washington Wines. There are quite a few wineries for which I have high regard that will be represented at these events. These will be great opportunities to try their wines. Here's a schedule:
Cru Selections Boutique Wineries - Thursday, August 5 5-6:30 p.m.
Trust & Airfield Wineries - Saturday, August 7 2-5 p.m.
Haystack, McCrea & Sinclair Wineries - Thursday, August 12 5-6:0 p.m.
VaPiano & Seven Hills Vineyards - Saturday, August 14 2-5 p.m.
Hestia & William Church Wineries - Thursday, August 19 5-6:30 p.m.
Baer & Cadaretta Wineries - Thursday, August 26 5-6:30 p.m.
Gilbert Cellars & CAVU - Saturday, August 28 2-5 p.m.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Comments on "Stalking the Wines of Washington"
The Wall Street Journal's July 10 "On Wine" column by Lettie Teague has left me somewhat perplexed. It seems as though Ms. Teague purports to have been "Stalking the Wines of Washington" while on a visit to the state (including the Wine Bloggers Conference which I attended) only to ferret out a handful of examples to illustrate the promises and problems of Washington Wines. The article, in my opinion, shows only part of the picture.
The picture that emerges from this article is that Washington wines enjoy high price-quality ratios., adding, "But thanks to the current global wine glut there are a lot of great deals around, at prices that make those of Washington's producers seem rather high - and this has put a crimp in many Washington producers' wine sales." Part of the problem is in the Washington State wine brand. Aside from Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest (brands in themselves) few Washington wines are found in major markets like New York (I found this out myself on a visit to three Manhattan stores last June).
The article points to the scale of production of Washington Wines , in many instances a few hundred cases (I know a lot of these wineries) which make their wines more expensive to produce than their European or South American counterparts. But I know from experience that the overall quality level in our state is much higher. Of the diversity of varieties, the article says "... this seeming asset may be part of the problem." I, on the other hand, think the diversity of grapes is an asset. The ability to produce a multiplicity of varietals well stands in contrast to Oregon which is simply Pinot (Noir) and Pinot (Gris).
Ms. Teague points out that of the 700 registered wineries in the state, the actual number selling appreciable amounts of wine must be much smaller. "Perhaps their troubles were smaller as well.," Ms. Teague suggests. If so, why ask, "is all this growth actually good?" Why do tourists keep coming to Walla Walla, Woodinville and other areas? The article cites only three wineries having difficulty competing with the deep discounting of of high end California wines. (L'Ecole No.41's Marty Clubb is quoted as saying that the Napa Valley does a better job marketing itself.) I know of a substantial number of Washington wineries doing well selling $50+ wines. The two highly successful wineries mentioned are Quilceda Creek and Cayuse, the top two cult wineries in the state.
In conclusion, Lettie Teague's article is a well-written, illuminating column, but one which sheds light on only part of Washington's diverse wine scene.
An Outstanding New Viognier from aMaurice
This wine is not to be missed. It comes from the aMaurice winery's Estate vineyard which adjoins the winery on the hill above Mill Creek Road out of Walla Walla. Planted in 2006 on alluvial soils - 12 inches of topsoil, 20 feet of sandy loam, 60 feet of gravel, then basalt aquifer. I am reviewing it here as only 48 cases were made and likely will be sold out by the end of August.
2009 aMaurice Cellars "Sparrow" Viognier, Walla Walla Valley, Estate Vineyard ($33)
This wine exhibits a golden straw color and an exotic nose of pear, peach, lichee nuts, jasmine and orange blossoms, The stone fruit flavors are vibrant and resonate back and forth, with notes of stony minerals, anise and a twist of orange peel, followed by a squeeze of grapefruit juice and a hint of passion fruit on the lingering finish. Partially malolactic fermented, it steers a direct course that veers away from the tropical style of Viognier toward a firm cored North Rhone-like style (say, Condrieu). It is the finest Washington Viognier I've tasted so far. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
A Barbecue for the Winemakers
On Sunday, July 18th, Lynn and I had a barbecue at our Walla Walla home. Several of the guests were local winemakers. Since many winemakers like to show their wines to their colleagues, quite a few bottles were taken to us. Here's a rundown of what we had.
Chris and Kelli Kontos (Kontos Cellars) brought their newly-released 2009 LeeVeeLooLee Gossamer White, a tasty, silky Chardonnay-Viognier-Roussanne blend. (To be reviewed in the August issue of the Review.)
Doug and Jan Roskelley (Tero Estates) took two bottles of their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. It wowed everyone so much that both were emptied quickly. (Reviewed June, 2010)
Brad and Ruth Riordan (Robison Ranch Cellars) brought the winery's 2009 Viognier. A lovely white, which steered a middle course between the Chardonnay-like and tropical styles. (Reviewed May, 2010)
Gordy and Kate Venneri (Walla Walla Vintners) brought a bottle from the winery's library collection, a 2005 Petit Verdot from the Frazier Bluff vineyard. Most of the Petit Verdot was used for blending, but part of the production was bottled as a varietal. It showed terrific aromatics.
Jim and Karen Waite, and winemaker son, Joel (CAVU Cellars) took a bottle of their 2008 Malbec. It came on as a fine example of Washington Malbec. (Reviewed July, 2010)
Mike and Penne Locati (Locati Cellars) brought their exquisite 2008 Walla Walla Valley Pinot Grigio (Reviewed February, 2010) one of only two (to my knowledge) bottlings of this varietal from the WW Valley AVA. The Locatis also brought a bag of their Locati Farms Walla Walla Sweets onions which made a wonderful accompaniment to the burgers.
Todd and Kirsten Telander aren't winemakers (he's an artist, she's a wine writer) but they took a bottle of Trust Cellars Rose of Cabernet Franc which made a delightful hot weather refresher. (Reviewed July, 2010)
Lynn and I also opened a few bottles from our cellar to show the winemakers wines from parts of the state outside of Walla Walla. The standouts were the 2007 O'Shea Scarborough Syrah and the 2008 Maison Bleue Liberte Syrah from the Boushey Vineyard (Reviewed April, 2010)
- Written by Rand Sealey
Finding the Wineries West of Walla Walla
Last Saturday, I drove from Walla Walla to Prosser to visit some wineries there and then back, stopping at Red Mountain on the way back. Going west out of town, I drove on the newly opened four lane Highway 12. On the way back I continued on the old Highway 12 and found myself forced to make circuitous detours back to downtown Walla Walla. Much of the old highway is being repaved and approaches to the new highway being constructed.
If you plan to be driving into Walla Walla in the near future and want to stop at some wineries on the way, be careful! Yesterday (Wednesday) I took a drive on the new Highway 12 to have a first hand look at what is going on and its impact on the wineries along old Highway 12. Here is what I found, going east to west.
There is an exit at Spalding Road with a sign for the Whitman Mission but no signs for wineries. At Reininger Cellars (to the right off Spalding; Three Rivers is across the old Highway 12 a bit to the east) I learned that a blue sign for wineries is being made in Yakima, but that may take some more weeks before it is erected. To get to Bunchgrass (Saturdays only) go east past the "Road Closed" sign at the Wallula Road exit and drive another half mile.
On the new Highway 12, at Frenchtown Road about another two miles west of Spalding there are makeshift orange signs on the roadway shoulders that read:
The problem is that by the time you see these signs, you will hardly have time to turn off to the exit. This exit will take you to Cougar Crest at the corner of Frenchtown Road and old Highway 12. To get to Glencorrie, go west past the "Road Closed" sign (there is a "Wineries Open" - actually only one winery - sign).
Needless to say, all this has had a negative impact on the wineries along the old Highway 12 (Waterbrook, L'Ecole No. 41 and Woodward Canyon are located west of the junction where the new highway joins the old). Business is down 30 to 60 percent The most adversely affected is Skylite Cellars situated in the no man's land between the Myra Road interchange and the Wallula exit off old Highway 12. The new section of Highway 12 has been under construction for well over a year and obviously there was plenty of time to make advance preparations to have signage in place when the new highway opened. Both the state and local Departments of Transportation have screwed up royally.
Two New Summertime Wines
Here are two wines that were made in such limited quantities that they will likely be gone by August.
2009 Gifford Hirlinger Pinot Gris, Walla Walla Valley ($18)
This is a bright, attractive white from the winery's estate vineyard. Brilliant straw color. Enticing lilac-scented pear, melon and orange peel nose. The flavors are well-extracted and creamy-textured, counterpointed by touches of hazelnut and pineapple on the finish. 18/20 points.
2009 Tertulia Cellars Rose du Mourvedre, Yakima Valley, Den Hoed Vineyard ($16)
This displays a deep pink color and an attractive nose of raspberry and strawberry with whiffs of clove and allspice. The red fruit flavors are lively and vivacious, followed by a zingy squeeze of cranberry juice on the nearly dry finish. This recalls the fine roses of Provence. 18/20 points.