- Written by Rand Sealey
A few weeks ago, Brian Rudin, the winemaker for Canvasback, asked me if I would like to taste some samples of the winery's 2018 Cabernet Sauvignons before bottling. I said sure. So Brian pulled some samples for me, "from tank, pre SO2 added and pre-filtration, so they should show well for 12-24 hours once you open. The SO2 is low and they will therefore open quickly." Here are the wines tasted, with Brian's comments and my notes. The pluses on the scores indicate the potential to advance, from, say, 19/20 points to 19.5/20.
2018 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Longwind Estate Vineyard - "Our first bottling of our Estate fruit, from 5 year-old vines. 98% CS, 2% Merlot. Clones 8 and 2 for Cab, Clone 15 Merlot." My tasting notes: "This shows a deep ruby-crimson color and an intense, berried nose of blackberries, cherries, blueberries, with scents of crushed black roses, sweet tobacco, cedar and a hint of mint. The flavors are attention-getting, with loads of black fruits that are intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, roasted coffee beans and Red Mountain calcareous earth. The back reveals macerated berries, toasted nuts, creme de cassis, kirsch and toasty oak, followed by a long finish. 19+/20 points.
2018 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Klipsun Vineyard - "We've been working with Klipsun since 2012, but this is the first time we've vineyard designated it. 92% CS, 7% Malbec, 1% Merlot. We blended the Malbec into the Cab the same day we pressed the Cab in November 2018 to capture its blackness of color and blue fruit..." My notes: Deep ruby colored, this possesses intense aromas of blackberries, black cherries, crushed roses, dark tobacco, black olive, sweet pea flowers, rosemary and stick incense. The flavors are generous and sweetish, yet deep cored and tightly focused, with interlayering of licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth. The back reveals macerated fruits, roasted walnuts, kirsch, mocha, toasty oak and pencil shavings, followed by a lingering sweetish tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2018 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard - "78% CS from 1994 Cordon Block, 20% Merlot from 2003 block and 2% Cabernet Franc planted in 1998. We love this old-vine fruit, delivering s classic WA profile. The CS and the CF hang on to a lot of tannin and pyridine right up to the end of the season...A restrained style for us." My notes: Semi opaque ruby colored, this emits sultry, smoky aromas of blackberry, black cherry, plum, cassis, black roses, dark tobacco, cedar, mint and sweet oriental incense. The flavors are powerful, yet restrained, with layers of dark fruits that are infused with licorice root, dark cocoa, Sumatra roast and mid Red Mountain earth. The penetration continues on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, kirsch and cassis liqueur, integrated oak and pulverized charcoal, followed by an ultra long firm, yet sweetish tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2018 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley - "80% CS (McClellan and Eritage vineyards), 12% Merlot (Eritage) and 8% PV from Seven Hills Vineyard. We take some pretty deliberate measures to make this Cab distinctly different from our RM Cabs. We're looking for that earthier, mineral, somewhat more restrained expression, to contrast with our big red-fruit laden Cabs." My notes: Semi opaque ruby-crimson colored, this possesses intoxicating aromas of blackberries, huckleberries, black cherries, Damson plums, black currants, black roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco, black olive and incense. The flavors are thick and fruit forward, with dark fruits that are underlain with licorice, extra dark cacao, French roast and loess minerals. The wine intensifies on the back with macerated berries, roasted walnuts, mocha, toffee, toasty oak and creme de cassis and kirsch liqueurs. The dark fruits last and last on the ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2018 Canvasback Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain - "This one is 99% CS, 1% Merlot. 72% CS from Quintessence Blocks 2 and 23, with 25% CS coming from the 1985 planting at Blackwood Canyon. We love Quintessence for its black fruit, its lush tannins, its sleek modern shape and its acid retention. The Blackwood was clutch for its hefty structure and its sweet-spot pyrazines. On its own, it's all black/blue fruit, juniper berry, crushed cedar and graphite, so we blended it in at second racking to get our classic pyridine tones dialed. I think this our best one yet." My notes: This shows an inky purple-crimson color and seductive aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, black cherries, black plums, black currants - with scents of black roses, sweet tobacco, black olive, rosemary, sage, fennel, juniper berries, sweet oriental incense. The flavors are thick and lavish, yet deep cored, projecting elegance, marked by notes of licorice root, dark cocoa, extra dark roast and damp earth. The penetration continues on the back with macerated fruits, roasted walnuts, kirsch, creme de cassis, integrated oak and sleek tannins on the ultra long finish. 19.5+/20 points, likely 20/20.
Here, we have five Cabernets, all nearly equal qualitatively but each a bit different, from the terroirs of the sources. These wines are especially impressive coming as they do from a winery that began in 2011 as a Washington extension of the Napa Valley Duckhorn winery with just a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Now there are five distinguished Cabernets. These 2018s will be bottle aged for 1 to 1 1/2 years before release.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Yesterday, Wednesday, June 17, we had a tasting and lunch at Valdemar Estates, the showpiece winery in the South Valley. As per requirements for wine tasting rooms under Phase 2, the staff wore masks and scrupulous sanitation was observed. Luckily, the layout of the tasting and dining areas is spacious and amenable for the seating spacing requirements (tables 5 feet apart). There is outdoor seating as well including cross seating spaces. The dining menu has been updated with plates such as Spanish stew and Lamb pinchos in addition to the usual jamón and chorizo tapas. We had delicious roasted asparagus wrapped with jamón and sprinkled with grated Manchego. Lynn took the white wine flight and I took the Valdemar Estates flight. Here are my abbreviated notes (full reviews to be in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines).
2019 Valdemar Estates Roussanne, Columbia Valley ($40) - This shows a brilliant gold color and seductive aromas of Bosc pear, white nectarine, blood orange, white lilac and white incense. The flavor are mouth filling and resonant, with notes of herbal tea, and poire William and Grand Marnier liqueurs. 19/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard ($50) - This barrel-fermented Chardonnay shows wonderful purity, with ripe, floral aromas and simultaneously rich and racy flavors that are underpinned with peach stone, pear skin and stony minerals. This recalls the Anvil Chardonnays that Marie-Eve Gilla used to make at Forgeron Cellars. 19.5/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($65) - This Syrah (with 5% Grenache) shows a semi-opaque ruby color and seductive aromas of wild fruits, star anise and spiced incense. The flavors are generous yet full bore, showing great elegance throughout. 19.5/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard ($75) - This possesses an inky color and intoxicating aromas of wild fruits, lavender, violets, sage and oriental incense. The flavors are thick, almost massive yet refined. The penetration continues on the back, followed by a long, opulent finish. 19.5/20 points.
2018 Valdemar Estates Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($75) - From the "Rocks," this shows a deep ruby-crimson color and rich, smoky nose of black and blue fruits, with scents of lavender, violets, cracked pepper and incense. The flavors are bold and authoritative yet elegant with distinct cobblestone and loam minerals and a long, long finish. 19.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Listed below are the 2019 Rosé wines we have tasted so far this year. As the summer approaches, we thought you might like a guide to the ones currently available. Sadly, there are no French Rosés here. The Trump administration tariff has jacked up the cost of these wines by 50%.
In the listing below, Rhone and Provence style Rosés are identified as to varietal composition (in order of percentages) with the following abbreviations: G - Grenache, S - Syrah, M - Mourvèdre and C - Cinsault or Counoise.
2019 SMAK Wines "Fall / Winter Rose," Syrah, Columbia Valley ($18) - 18.5/20 points - March
2019 SMAK Wines "Spring Rosé," Sangiovese, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - 18.5/20 points - March
2019 SMAK Wines "Summer Rosé" Pinot Gris, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - 18.5/20 points - March
2019 Renegade Wine Co. Rosé, Columbia Valley, G-C-M-S ($13) - 18+/20 points - March
2019 Underground Wine Project. "Why I am Mr. Pink" Rosé, Columbia Valley, Undisclosed varieties ($13) - 18+/20 points - March
2019 Brook & Bull Rosé, Columbia Valley, M-C-C (sold out) - 18.5/20 points - March
2019 Rôtie Cellars Rosé, Washington, M-G ($22) 19/20 points - April
2019 Rôtie Cellars "Stonewall" Rosé, Washington, S-G-M ($25) - 19/20 points - April
2019 Seven Hills Dry Rosé, (Cab Franc, Merlot) Columbia Valley ($18) - 18.5/20 points - April
2019 L'Ecole No 41 Grenache Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, Alder Ridge Vineyard ($21) - 18.5/20 points - April
2019 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Franc Rosé, Columbia Valley ($20) 18.5/20 points - April
2019 Thurston Wolfe Sangiovese Rosé, Yakima Valley ($18) - 18/20 points - April
2019 Gilbert Cellars Rosé, Columbia Valley ($18) - 18/20 points - April
2019 Gilbert Cellars Pétillant Naturel of Grenache, Yakima Valley ($22) - 18.5/20 points - April
2019 The Walls "Cruel Summer" Rose, Yakima Valley, French Creek Vineyard, G-M ($25) - 18.5+/20 points - May
2019 Gramercy Cellars Olsen Vineyard Rosé, Yakima Valley C-G-S ($25) - 18.5+/20 points - May
2019 Vital Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, M (not on label) ($19) - 18.5/20 points - May
2019 Walla Walla Vintners Rosé (Sangiovese) - Walla Walla Valley ($22) - 18.5/20 points - May
2019 Tero Estates Rosé of Charbono, Walla Walla Valley, Windrow Vineyard ($22) - 18.5/20 points - May
2019 Balboa Rosé, Columbia Valley, M-G ($25) - 18.5/20 points - May
2019 Abeja "Beekeeper's Rosé," Walla Walla Valley, M - ($32) - 19/20 points - June
2019 Bledsoe Family "Healy Rosé," Walla Walla Valley (undisclosed) - ($35) - 19/20 points - June
2019 Aluvé Sangiovese Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($23) - 18.5+/20 points - June
2019 Prospice Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, S-G-C ($22) - 18.5/20 points - June
2019 Canvasback Rosé of Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($30) - 19/20 points - June
2019 DeLille Cellars Rosé, Yakima Valley, G-M-C ($32) - 19/20 points - June
2019 Bartholomew Rosé of Carmenère, Rattlesnake Hills ($18) - 18.5/20 points - June
2019 College Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, Sangio-Barbera (not on label) ($18) - 18.5/20 points - June
2019 Julia's Dazzle Pinot Gris Rosé, Columbia Valley ($20) - 18.5+/20 points - June
2019 Saviah Cellars Rosé, Sangiovese-Barbera, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - 18.5/20 points - June
2019 Sleight of Hand Cellars "Magician's Assistant" Rose of Cabernet Franc, Yakima Valley, Blackrock Vineyard ($18) - 18.5+/20 points - June
The following to be in the July issue (on line June 25):
2019 Smoky Rose Cellars Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 DAMA Wines Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 Syncline Rosé, Columbia Valley, M-C-G ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 Domaine Pouillon Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, G-C ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 COR Cellars "Rosae" Rosé of Cabernet Franc, Horse Heaven Hills ($22) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 Caprio Cellars Estate Rose (Cabernet Franc), Walla Walla Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2019 Convergence Zone Cellars "Three Forks" Rose of Pinot Gris, Columbia Valley, Gamache Vineyard ($20) - July
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Thursday, May 28, Walla Walla County was given the go ahead to open businesses for Phase 2 of the COVID-19 reopening. Some wineries and restaurants opened over the weekend, others are reopening this week. The conditions for wine tasting rooms and restaurants are as follows:
Tastings are by reservation only for parties of five or less. Tables are set 6 feet apart and seating areas must operate at 50% capacity or less. Masks must be worn except when tasting wines. Servers must wear masks at all times. There must be extensive sanitation throughout.
The Walla Walla City Council has unanimously allowed restaurants to open out into the sidewalks, enabling diners to enjoy their meals in fresh air.
Not all tasting rooms and restaurants are opening at this time. TMac's has decided to stay with take out only for the time being, since the dining and bar areas are better suited to intimate dining and drinking than social distancing.
For the next couple of weeks, I will still be working at home tasting and reviewing wines that have already been delivered or picked up, for the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines. That issue will include wines from the Columbia Gorge (Syncline, Savage Grace, COR Cellars and Domaine Pouillon) and recent releases from the Walla Walla Valley. The issue will also introduce new wines from Goose Ridge, Love That Red and Convergence Zone Cellars.
Once the July issue is wrapped up, I will resume making the rounds of Walla Walla Valley tasting rooms, including Valdemar Estate, Tertulia Cellars and Gifford Hirlinger. Also, I will have wines shipped from the Lake Chelan AVA.
So this is the beginning of the "New Normal."
- Written by Rand Sealey
On May 22, Matt Reynvaan joined Dr. Owen Bargreen (Washington Wine Blog) for a virtual "Friday Afternoon Wine Tasting," featuring the 2017 In the Hills and 2017 In the Rocks Syrahs. First, Matt talked about the 2017 vintage, a nearly ideal one for Syrahs. Then about the vineyards. In the Rocks is located near Milton-Freewater on a site strewn with cobblestones left behind on the bed of the Walla Walla River after it changed course about 15,000 years ago. In the Hills is situated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, next to the winery, at an elevation of about 1600 feet where the soil is mostly loess silt. These differences in terroir produce different kinds of minerality in the wines. Then Matt and Owen talked about the wines. The In the Hills was described as being peppery, with briny characteristic and savory Unami. The In the Rocks tastes like rocks, along with smoke, dark fruits, barbecued meats and a bit of funkiness. The wines are fermented with native yeasts, enhancing the terroir driven character.
After watching the interview (which can be seen on the winery website), I tasted the two wines. Here are my notes.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Rocks ($95) - Co-fermented with 6% Viognier, this displays a semi-opaque ruby color and smoky aromas of blackberries, mountain blueberries, Boysenberries, black currants and figs, with scents of crushed roses, pipe tobacco, charcuterie, herb garni and wet stone. The flavors are loaded with rich dark fruits that are intermixed with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, dark roast coffee beans and minerals. The wine intensifies further on the back with sensations of roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, burnt charcoal and soy, followed by an endless sweet-dry tannin finish that is lifted by precise fruit acids. 19.5/20 points.
2017 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, In the Hills ($80) - Co-fermented with 7% Viognier, this shows a semi-opaque ruby color with a garnet edge and intoxicating aromas of of blackberry, huckleberry, cherry, plum, cassis, semi-dried rose petals, sweet tobacco, lavender, olive tapenade, brine, cracked pepper and smoldering spiced incense. On the palate, the flavors are direct and deep cored, infused with black licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and loamy minerals. On the back, the wine takes an elegant turn, with sensations of pressed berries, roasted pecans, mocha, toffee and fruit confit, augmented by touches of braised meats, charcoal and Unami, followed by a lingering dryish tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
Qualitatively, these wines are nearly equal, but distinct in their terroir. Lynn says both have the funk, but in different ways. We were highly impressed with both. The wines are available at www.reynvaanfamilyvineyards.com on the Pop Up Store for a limited time.