- Written by Rand Sealey
On Friday, June 16th, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance hosted a panel presentation and tasting of three Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignons, along with ones from the Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Chile. This was the fourth Annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine panel event. The first, in 2013, focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, the second, in 2014, on Syrah, and the third, in 2015, on Merlot. The event was held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel where Walla Walla Valley Alliance Director Duane Wollmuth welcomed guests who each had six wines placed before them. Professor Kevin Pogue gave a presentation about the terrors of the wines being tasted, with slides of maps, climatic conditions and soils of each viticultural area. Then Andy Perdue (Great Northwest Wine) moderated a discussion by each winemaker of their wines. The winemakers were:
John Freeman, Waterbrook Winery, Walla Walla
Chuck Reininger, Reininger Winery, Walla Walla
Gordy Venneri, Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla
Thomas Burk, Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux
Thomas Rivers Brown, Rivers-Marie Winery, Napa Valley
Patrick Valette, VIK Winery, Millahue, Chile
The discussions were interesting and stimulating, and each winemaker drew in aspects of terroir, viticulture and winemaking while the audience tasted the six wines being presented. I found all six wine to be nearly equal qualitatively (19 to 19+/20 points) but quite different in character. Here are my notes in order of personal preference (a subjective, not qualitative evaluation).
2012 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - Composed of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and s smoky, earthy nose of wild blackberries, cherries, plums, dried roses, tobacco and sage. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with thick, chewy flavors that were imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picked up notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and pencil lead, followed by a lingering, toasty ripe tannin finish. The 2012 is sold out, but the 2013 is excellent (reviewed June, 18.5+/20 points). 19+/20 points.
2010 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux ($200) - Deep crimson colored, this blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot possessed lovely aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, plums, cassis, crushed roses, orange peel, tobacco and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, yet refined, with interlayerings of licorice, chocolate, and minerals. On the back the wine turned supple textured with notes of pressed fruits, creme de cassis and toast, followed by a savory, lingering polished tannin finish. 19+/20 points. The $200 tag is current market price. The 2012 is about $130.
2011 VIK Red Wine, Millahue Valley, Chile ($140) - A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Carmenère, 5% Merlot, 4% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this came on as a lovely Bordeaux influenced red. It showed a deep crimson color and a sultry, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, dried roses, and musky incense. The flavors were deep and expansive, with layers of dark fruits, intermixed with licorice, cocoa, coffee and clay and gravel minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, toffee, mocha and caramel, followed by a lingering appealingly supple finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Reininger Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($50) - Sourced from hillside blocks of the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, and blended with 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and a perfumed nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, eucalyptus and incense. The flavors were generous and chewy textured, with noters of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerally loam and gravel. The back picked up pressed berries, mocha, toffee and integrated moderate oak (44% new French), followed by a long, ripe smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points. This is sold out at the winery.
2013 Rivers-Marie Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Panek Vineyard ($90) - This 100% Cabernet from hillsides above St. Helena, offered a semi-opaque ruby color and a dark fruited nose of blackberry, cherry and cassis with scents of crushed roses, lavender, violets and clove. The flavors, as well, were intense, marked by notes of licorice, dark chocolate and mountainside minerals. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, toffee, graphite and toasty oak, followed by a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points. Still dark and brooding, this has the potential to advance to 19.5/20 points with 5-10 years aging.
2012 Waterbrook Winery "Icon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($45) - From the Spring Valley, north of Walla Walla, this showed a deep purplish color and a distinct varietal nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco, sage and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with well structured dark fruits that were intermixed with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and minerals. The intensity continued on the back with notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and integrated oak, followed by a lingering firm, yet ripe, tannin finish. 19/20 points.
All these wines were admirable, but what is striking is how well the Walla Walla Valley wines showed in comparison to the other much higher priced wines. I loved the Pavillon Rouge, but is it really worth $200? And the Napa Valley and Chilean wines cost twice the WWV ones.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As summer approaches, thoughts turn to rosé wines for warmer weather (although they're not just for summer). Of this season's crop of rosé, here are our top picks, along with some exceptional values and new selections.
2015 El Corazon "Red Frog" Rosé, Columbia Valley ($20) - This is only for those who like a more extracted style of rosé. Made from Syrah, it has lots of depth and spicy fruit. 18.5/20 points. Reviewed May.
2015 Gramercy Cellars Olsen Vineyard Rosé, Columbia Valley ($25) - One of the top Provence style rosés, produced from Consult, Grenache and Syrah. 18.5/20 points. - May
2015 Waters Rosé Wine, Washington State ($20) - This conferment of 60% Syrah and 40% Viognier offers lively pink fruits and fresh acidity. - 18.5/20 points - May
2015 Waters Patina Vineyard Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Drawn straight from press (like the Washington State) this 100% Syrah rosé has wonderful, fresh fruit and superb balance. 18.5/20 points. - May
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($22) - Made in the style of a Tavel Rosé from near Avignon, this shows fresh and sprightly strawberry, watermelon and Rainier cherry flavors. 18.5/20 points - June
2015 The Walls "Cruel Summer" Rosé of Pinot Noir, Columbia Gorge ($21) - Showing lovely aromas of strawberry, cherry blossoms and Columbia Gorge volcanic minerals, this is a winner. 18.5/20 points - June
2015 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, Columbia Valley ($17) - Composed of 84% Cabernet Franc and 8% each of Petit Verdot, this is a real charmer, light and fresh with plenty of vibrancy. 18+/20 points. - April
2015 Northwest Wine Academy Rosé Wine, Columbia Valley ($12.50) - Produced from Blaufrankisch, a grape of Austrian origin, this has ripe aromas and lively, juicy flavors. 18+/20 points.- April
2015 Vino la Monarcha Pinot Noir Rosé, Ancient Lakes ($16) - This is a fresh, lively, likable rosé that picks up fruit liqueurs and Ancient Lakes minerals. 18+/20 points - April
2015 College Cellars Rosé of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Reed Vineyard ($15) - Produced from grapes that acquire a copper color from extended hang time, this offers aromas of peach and cantaloupe and grapeskin extracts. 18+/20 points.- June
There was not enough space in the past few issues to include all the noteworthy Rosés available. Here are some new recommendations.
2015 Lauren Ashton Rosé, Columbia Valley ($21) - This 50% Grenache, 50% Mourvèdre combination offers fresh raspberry and strawberry aromas and juicy flavors that are accented by notes of citrus zest and nicely extracted dry flavors that persist on the finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Browne Family Vineyards Grenache Rosé, Columbia Valley ($20) - This shows a copper tinged pink color and attractive aromas of strawberry, cherry and watermelon with lively flavors dancing on the palate, picking up fraise and cerise liqueurs on the way to a crisp, juicy finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - This offers intriguing aromas of cherry, peach, papaya, and whiffs of musky incense and creamy texture, accented by cherry and peach liqueurs and touches of orange peel and among, followed by a dryish Rioja-like finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Balboa Rosé of Grenache, Walla Walla Valley, Summit View Vineyard ($20) - Light pink colored, this shows attractive aromas of strawberry, peach, Rainier cherry and elderflowers, with fresh vivacious minnerally flavors. 18.5/20 points. - A full review to be in the July issue.
2015 Forgeron Cellars Rosé of Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - With aromas of cherries, star fruit, tangerine, and fresh, lively flavors with notes of cherry stones, and silty minerals, this is one of the nicest pink Sangios we're run across. 18.5/20 points - July
2015 Castillo de Feliciana Rosé of Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - This 75% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha combination offers a pink-copper color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, watermelon, tangerine peel and white incense. The flavors are fresh and vibrant with a deftly extracted dry finish. 18+/20 points. - July
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last week, the Seattle Wine Awards, which is coordinated by Master Sommelier Christopher Chan, announced the winners. I took particular interest in the Awards listing since I was on the panel of judges for the tastings, April 16th and 17th (see the Review of Washington Blog postings of April 13 and 19 for more about the judging). Here are some noteworthy award winners that have been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines.
Best of Show - Double Gold
2014 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Franc, Wahluke Slope - To be reviewed in the July issue - 19/20 points
2013 Co Dinn Chardonnay, Snipes Mountain, Roskamp Vineyard - To be reviewed in July 19.5/20 points
2012 Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - March - 19/20 points
2013 Cadaretta Windthrow Red, Columbia Valley - March - 19+/20 points
2013 Cadaretta Syrah, Columbia Valley - March - 19/20 points
2013 Convergence Zone Cellars "Storm Front" Red Wine, Red Mountain - May - 18.5/20 points
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 "Apogee" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard - April - 19+/20 points
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Ferguson Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - June - 19.5/20 points
2013 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley July, 2015 - 18.5+/20 points
2013 Woodward Canyon "Old Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State - April - 19.5/20 points
2013 Castillo de Feliciana Malbec, Columbia Valley, Phinny Hill Vineyard - To be in July issue - 18.5 points
2014 College Cellars Barbera, Walla Walla Valley, Anderson Vineyard - April - 18/20 points
2013 Kerloo Cellars Grenache, Snipes Mountain, Upland Vineyard - June - 19/20 points
2010 Tero Estates Hill Block Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard - June, 2015 - 19.5/20 points
2013 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot, Walla Walla Valley - November, 2015 - 18.5/20 points
2013 Woodward Canyon Artist's Series Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley - January - 19+/20 points
There were numerous wines that have not been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines. In the future, I will be watching for award winners that merit upcoming reviews. Also, some award winning wines have not yet been released.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Tuesday, May 24th, the Sons of Bacchus, and two Daughters of Dionysus assembled at our house for a tasting of Chenin Blancs. Some of the results were interesting. Here are the top wines and my notes.
2012 Domaine Joly Savennières, Clos de la Bergerie - This was a fine rendition of dry Chenin Blanc from Anjou. It showed a brilliant gold color and a rich, smoky nose of peach and apricot and semi-dried fruit flavors and distinct minerality. 18.5+/20 points.
2010 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec, Le Mont - This appeared twice in the same flight, one bottle ranked first, the other third (which I ranked first) in the group's ranking. It was a fine version of the drier style. Bright gold colored, with aromas of peach, butternut, almond and slate and ripe flavors that showed distinct minerality and great clarity. 19/20 points.
2013 Domaine Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire - Montlouis is situated across the river from Vouvray and the wines are similar. This one showed a medium gold color and a classic Chenin nose of minerals and slate and well balanced, elegant ripe fruit flavors. Ranked first in its flight by me and the grouo. 19/20 points.
2012 Domaine Fosse-Sèche "Arcane" Saumur Blanc - Generally, the wines of Saumur are not as distinguished as those of Anjou, but this was an exception. Deep golden colored, it showed an unctuous nose of pear, peach and apricot, with spicy, full-bodied classic Chenin flavors. 19/20 points.
2012 Waitsburg Cellars "Cheninierres" Chenin Blanc - This was one of two Washington Chenins in the tasting. While outclassed by the Loire wines, it showed well. Light colored, with pleasant pear and peach flavors. A nice picnic white. 18+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in April, in preparation for my feature writeup on The Walls Vineyards, Lynn and I met with Ali Mayfield at Artifex, the state of the art winemaking facility on Dell Avenue in Walla Walla. There, we learned that the winery was started in 2013 with Michael Martin, a software attorney, as partner. The wines were being made at Artifex, but the winemaking was going to be moved to the former Whitman Cellars facility on 13th and Pine Street. We also learned that Ali took an interest in food and wine at the age of 19, growing up in southern Indiana. She also credited the late Stan Clark at the Walla Walla Community College for mentoring her. We then barrel tasted over a dozen wines which indicate a highly promising future for The Walls Vineyards. Here are my notes on some of them.
2015 - Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard - Fermented and aged in concrete, this showed nice bright fruit and crispness. Ali noted that the 2015 vintage was tricky for white wines due to the rapidly rising sugars and dropping acids during harvest. But this wine was spot on.
2015 "McAndrew" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard - From cuttings originally from the Celilo Vineyard, this wine showed bright, almost spritzy, acidity and lovely, vivacious fruit.
2015 Grenache Blanc, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard - Ali called this "the lipstinger" for its bright fruit and and acidity. Blended wih Roussanne, Marsanne and Picpoul, it had wonderful aromatics and lively flavors.
2015 Syrah, Red Mountain, Red Heaven Vineyard - Ali called this the "Concrete Momma." It showed vivid Red Mountain Syrah flavors. She prefers to keep racking to a minimum, leaving the wine on the lees as long as possible.
2015 Touriga Nacional, Red Mountain - From a Portuguese variety, this showed an opaque color and smoldering aromas of roasted berries and nuts, and full-bodied, structured flavors.
2015 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard - Fermented in concrete and then put in barrels, this showed a deep color and firm, yet fleshy flavors and distinctive aromatics.
2015 Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard - Also fermented in concrete and aged in barrels, this had loads of flavor and distinct Rocks minerality. Powerful and deep, yet fleshy.
Afterwards, we went over to the future winemaking facility. We met Ali's brother, Jake, who is helping out in getting ready for thie winery's transitioning. There are plans for a tasting room in downtown Walla Walla on West Poplar, next door to the Jim German's Passatempo (formerly Pastime) restaurant. It is an ambitious and exciting project. Architect Alex deMambro is designing both the restaurant and tasting room.
Later, on May 7th, during Spring Release Weekend, we went to the inaugural event at the future winery. Mike Martin was on hand to help pour the wines , including a tasty new "Cruel Summer" Rosé of Pinot Noir. Reviews of the wines are in the June issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Jim German and his culinary crew served up pulled pork and pasta, a wonderful preview of the Passatempo Restaurant. There is a lot to look forward to.