- 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.
- Written by Rand Sealey
During the past few weeks, I have done a number of interesting wine tastings from a wide range of wine producing regions. Here are my notes and scores.
The Washington Wine Awards Judging
On March 6th, I flew from Walla Walla to Seattle to participate in Seattle Magazine's Washington Wine Awards. We tasted about 100 wines, no mean feat. Among the wines tasted were some highly impressive high end Cabernets (19.5 to 20/20 points). The winners will be announced in the August issue of Seattle Magazine.
Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs
The afternoon of the 6th, I stopped at Vino Volo in the Sea-Tac airport while waiting for my flight back to Seattle. I sampled a flight of three Oregon Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley. Prices are from Vino Volo by the bottle.
2014 Torii Mor Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($45) - This showed a medium brick red color and attractive aromas of raspberries, cherries, orange peel and crushed roses. The flavors were medium bodied and nicely fruited, almost Beaujolais-like, with notes of medium roast coffee and earth, followed by a juicy soft tannin finish. 18+/20 points.
2013 Angela Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($55) - Brick red colored, this offered enticing aromas of strawberry, cherry and plum with scents of red roses, cedar and white incense. The medium bodied flavors showed considerable Pinot character, with notes of licorice, cola and loamy earth. The back picked up fraise and cerise liqueurs and dustings of pepper and nutmeg on the way to a bright fruit acid finish. 18.5+/20 points.
2013 St. Innocent "Villages Cuvée" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley ($43) - This is aptly named as it came on like a Côte de Nuits Villages from Burgundy. It showed a bright nose of cherry, raspberry and cranberry with scents of freshly cut flowers, baking spices and smoke. The medium bodied flavors were pleasingly supple, with notes of cola, medium roast coffee and spices, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
White Burgundies at Whitehouse Crawford
On March 8th, Lynn and I tasted some white Burgundies at the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla. Here are our favorites.
2014 Mathieu Paquet Saint Veran - Saint Veran is a Maconnais appellation for the area adjoining Pouilly-Fuissé. It showed a medium gold color and a lovely nose of pears, peaches and apricots, with scents of wild flowers and jasmine. The true Chardonnay flavors were well delineated and lively, with mineral undertones and a crisp finish. 18+/20 points.
2013 Domaine Cheveau Pouilly-Fuissé, Vieilles Vignes - This was a lively rendition of Chardonnay, with a brilliant gold color and ripe aromas of pear, peach and citrus. The flavors were pleasingly ripe and generous, yet focused, with undertones of Maconnais slate and minerals, and a long, ripe finish. 18.5/20 points.
2010 Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses - This was a wonderful example of a maturing Grand Cru. Greenish gold colored, it possessed aromas of pear, melon, wet stone and wild flowers and intense, steely, chalky classic Chablis Chardonnay flavors. The long finish was deep and ripe, yet bone dry. 19/20 points.
There were two more white Burgundies, one from Meursault and one from Chassagne-Montrachet. They turned out to be disappointing, given the prestige of their appellations, without much distinguishing character. We found the following "mystery wine" that was served blind to be much better.
2014 March Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley - This showed fine Chardonnay character and a pleasantly floral nose with scents of white fruits and meadow flowers. This wine scored 19/20 points. It also scored 19 points in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
I tasted four wines made from Spanish (Albariño and Tempranillo) and Italian (Barbera Rosé and Sangiovese) varieties recently which were lovely wines. They will be reviewed in the May issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
Doug and Jan Roskelley have three exciting new estate vineyard wines, a 2013 Charbono (a rarity in the U.S. and known as Bonarda in Northern Italy), an unique 2013 "Petit(e)2 50/50 blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, and a knockout 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Plateau Block of the Windrow Vineyard (19.5/20 points), all to be reviewed in the May issue.
Scroll down below for more recent tasting reports:
Spanish Sherries - This is a must read. You will find out that there are amazingly complex high quality wines from the Jerez region.
Loire Valley Wines - There are some tasty whites and reds from this region. There is much more of interest besides Muscadet and Sancerre.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last night (March 16) Lynn and I hosted the SOB tasting of Spanish Sherry wines. It was a monumental tasting with a wide range of high quality wines in a variety of types and styles. Most of the wines were procured by Billo Naravane, along with some participants' bottles. The wines were served open rather than blind because of the wide range of types and styled. They were accompanied by tapas.
Today, Sherry is largely misunderstood. The widespread perception is that they are sweet wines, such as Cream Sherry or Medium Dry Amontillado. Actually, there is a range of complex wines, most of which are dry or nearly so. Here is the range of wines we tasted, with my notes and scores.
Fino - Fino Sherry is wine (nearly all from the Palomino grape) that develops flor yeast on top the the wine, preserving the wine's freshness. A bodega will bottle a third of its solera (casks that are racked from one to another) each year. The flor usually lasts up to eight years. Finos are dry and bottled at lower alcohol, usually 15 or 16%. We started off with two Finos.
Faustino Gonzalez "Cruz Vieja" Fino en Rama - This showed an amber color and an intriguing nose of almonds and smoke. The flavors were very tangy, with woodsy notes and lemon peel, finishing crisp, slightly nutty and fine. 15% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Raineri Perez Marin "La Guita" Manzanilla - Manzanilla is Fino from Sanlucar de Barrameda, south of Jerez, near the coast. This one showed a pale gold color and a tangy nose of lemon, almond and sea salt. The flavors showed bracing Palomino purity, with notes of melon peel and lemon rind, followed by a nuanced very dry finish. 15% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Amontillado - After the Fino flor yeast begins to die off, at about eight years, the wine turns into Amontillado. While much Amontillado is sold as medium dry, these are superior dry Sherries.
Lustau "Escuadillo" Rare Amontillado - Deep orangish copper colored, this possessed nose of roasted nuts,orange peel,mahogany wood and spices. The flavors were broad, yet focused, with a swath of sweet-dry, nutted flavors, turning dry on the lingering finish. 20% alcohol. 19/20 points.
Gran Barquero Amontillado - Medium copper orange colored, this showed a nose of roasted nuts, orange peel, cigar box and incense. The flavors were deep, penetrating and complex, The back picked up notes of anise and burnt toast, followed by a lingering dryish finish. 20% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
Bodegas Tradición 30 Year Amontillado, VORS - The initials stand for "Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum," a designation for 30 year old Sherry. his showed a copper color and a mature nose of orange peel, dried roses, Marconi almonds. Made in a lighter, but complex style, with notes of dried fruits and anise, and a long finish. 19.5% alcohol. 19+/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "El Duque" 30 Year Amontilado VORS - Deep copper colored, this possessed an intriguing aged nose of dried orange peel. roasted walnuts and caramel, with scents of musk and smoke. The flavors picked up notes of chicory, burnt coffee beans and charcoal, followed by a nutted, brandied (21.5% alcohol) near-dry finish. 19.5/20 points.
Palo Cortado - This is a type of Sherry that has characteristics of Fino and Oloroso.
Valdespino "Viejo C.P." Palo Cortado - This showed a light copper color and an intriguing nose orange peel, roasted nuts and dried rose petal. The flavors came on as being medium bodied, but complex, with notes of roasted Marconi almonds, lemon tang and old oak. 19/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "Apostoles" 30 Year Palo Cortado VORS - Deep amber-mahogany colored, this possessed an intoxicating nose of sun baked bodega, roasted walnuts, orange peel and dried roses. The flavors were simultaneously sweet and dry, noticeably oxidative but still resonant, followed by a long, nutted, slightly brandied finish. 20% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
Fernando de Castilla "Antique" Palo Cortado - This 25 year Palo Cortado offered a medium copper color and exotic aromas of dried roses, nuts and smoke. The flavors were exquisitely wrought, with notes of grilled nuts and orange peel, followed by a tangy, warm (20% alcohol) near dry finish. A superb example of the lighter, complex style. 19.5/20 points.
Oloroso - Oloroso is Sherry that has become further oxidized with aging in the solera. Much Oloroso is sweetened, as in Cream Sherry, but the best are dry or nearly so.
Valdespino "Don Gonzalo" 20 Year Oloroso VOS - VOS stands for "Vinum Optimum Signatum." This showed a copper-mahogany color and seductive aromas of roasted sweet nuts, orange peel and incense. The flavors were rich and complex, with notes of coffee and bitter nuts, followed by a dry finish. 19/20 points.
Gonzalez Byass "Matusalem" 30 Year Oloroso VORS - Composed of 75% Palomino and 25% Pedro Ximenez, this showed a brownish copper color and a nose of roasted nuts, burnt leaves, toffee and mocha. The flavors were opulent and sweetish (from the P.X.) with notes of coffee beans and lanolin, followed by a lingering sweetish finish, counterpointed by fine acidity. 20.5% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
El Maestro Sierra "1/14" Oloroso - Number 100 of 250 bottles, this 30 year old Sherry showed a medium copper color and intoxicating aromas of dried orange, peel, apricots, and cocoa. The flavors came on sweetish at first, but turned dryish, with notes of dried fruits, roasted walnuts and almonds, toffee, dried orange peel, all followed by an alluring, long, elegant finish. As an archetypical aged Oloroso, this gets 20/20 points.
Pedro Ximenez - This is the grape used to sweeten wine, as in Cream Sherry. It can also be bottled as a sweet varietal Sherry, such as this one which we finished off the tasting with.
Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles - The grapes are laid out in the sun to dry, producing a sweet, complex wine. From a solar started in 1927, this showed a deep mahogany color and an intense nose of raisins, tobacco, toffee and dried roses. The flavors were opulently sweet, yet with a dry undertone, imbued with licorice, cocoa, vanillin and nuts. The nutmeg and clove accented finish was long and sweet, balanced by fine acidity that supported the wine through its long sojourn in the bodega. 16% alcohol. 19.5/20 points.
As you can see from the above notes and scores, these are extraordinary wines. They are not cheap. The 30 year old VORS Sherries cost about $50 for a 375 ml. bottle, somewhat less for the others. But given their quality and complexity levels, they are well worth it.