- Written by Rand Sealey
November 4-6 was Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. This year, our focus was on wineries that are open for special events such as this one. Here's what we did that weekend.
On Friday morning, November 4th, we went to the Reynvaan Family Vineyards at the end of Cottonwood Road in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. As usual, most of the family was on hand - Mike and Gale, winemaker son, Matt, and daughter Angela and numerous sisters and in-laws. We tasted samples of the 2015 vintage, to be released in 2018. It is a stellar vintage, with scores of 19.5 to 20/20 points. A preview report will be in the January 2017 issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
In the afternoon, we went to Long Shadows to taste the newly released 2014 reds. They are among the best wines ever turned out by Long Shadows. Across the board, they were 19.5/20 points wines. Kudos to Gilles Nicault for coordinating the production of such stellar wines. Reviews will be in the December issue which goes on line November 23. Then we went to Woodward Canyon where we tasted the 2013 Estate Reserve Red and 2013 Charbonneau, to be reviewed in January.
The next morning, Saturday the 5th, I went to Rasa Vineyards on Powerline Road. I tasted the outstanding 2013's - Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon, Creative Impulse Cabernet-Merlot, and In order to form a more perfect union BDX blend, all to be reviewed in January. In the afternoon, we stopped at Walla Walla Gourmet to sample the Proper 2014 Syrah from the "Rocks," a 19.5/20 points wine to be reviewed in January. Then we went to The Walls Vineyards where we tasted the newly released 2014's, Lip Stinger Grenache Blanc, Cheys Syrah, Gasparts Syrah, and The Ramparts GSM Red. They will be in the December issue. In the evening, we went to Corliss' annual open house where we sampled the 2011 Corliss Red (to be reviewed December) and upcoming vintages.
Watch for the December and January issues for full reviews!
- Written by Rand Sealey
The 2016 wine grape harvest in Washington State is pretty much wrapped up. Rains in late October prompted winegrowers and wineries to pick up the remainder of the harvest, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (luckily, most of that had already been picked). By various estimates, the crop is 5 to 10 percent above normal, mainly due to larger grape clusters, which means more volume. Quality, overall, is good, especially for the earlier ripening varieties. More definitive qualitative assessments will occur over the coming months as winemakers check the progress of the wines through the fermentations (primary and malolactic). Winemakers are optimistic. But more later!
Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla is Coming Up
This year, Fall Release Weekend in the Walla Walla Valley is this weekend, November 4-6. In the 18 October Review of Washington Wines Blog, I listed a number of wineries especially worth visiting. Here are a few more additions.
Sleight of Hand Cellars - On Sunday morning, I tasted some outstanding 2014 reds - The Sorcerer Grenache, Levitation Syrah and Psychedelic Stoney Vine Syrah, all 19+ to 19.5 points. Reviews to be in the December issue, going on line November 23.
Tranche Cellars - For Fall, Tranche released a superb 2013 Chardonnay from the Celilo Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. It was my highest scoring Chardonnay in the Seattle Magazine Wine Awards Judging back in March. A full review will be in the December issue. Some highly impressive 2012 reds - Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon - will be in the January issue.
Proper Winery - This winery has gotten 90 plus points scores every vintage since the inaugural 2009. The 2013 will be poured at Walla Walla Gourmet (formerly Salumerie Cesario) on Saturday from 1 to 5.
Gramercy Cellars - This morning, I tasted two stellar 2014 reds, The Third Man Grenache and The Deuce Syrah, 19+ and 19.5, respectively. Reviews will be in the December issue. Also outstanding are two 2013's, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon to be reviewed January.
- Written by Rand Sealey
During our trip around the Olympic Peninsula, we discovered three wineries that very much worth visiting, Wind Rose Cellars, Camaraderie Cellars and Westport Winery. The wines are in the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Here is more about the wineries and the people behind them.
Wind Rose Cellars, Sequim, Washington
A wind rose is a wind direction indicator, and an elaborate compass version is depicted on the winery's labels. Wind Rose Cellars is owned by David Volmut and his wife, Jennifer States. David graduated from the Yakima Valley Community College's enology program in 2009 and he interned at Olsen Estates. The winery's focus is on Italian varietals - Dolcetto, Barbera, Primitivo, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo - and some Malbec and Cabernet. The wines are made at Bell Bottom, east of Sequim, where we visited David. The facility, open by appointment only, is adjacent to the Haze Lavender farm. The winery has a tasting room in Downtown Sequim on 143 West Washington Street and is open Wednesday through Saturday, with a bistro and bites menu. www.windrosecellars.com.
Camaraderie Cellars, Port Angeles, Washington
I first met Don Corson in April at the Seattle Wine Awards judging, on which we were panelists. He and wife, Vicki, started the winery in 1981 and grew the operation into a working winery, tasting room and garden, with a production of 3500 cases a year. In 2009, Don retired as Vice President of Merrill and Ring, a timber and land company. When we visited the winery, Don was out in Eastern Washington picking up grapes from the 2016 harvest. Vicki took good care of us and took us on a tour of the winery and garden. The winery is open weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 to 5 at 334 Benson Road, off Highway 101. www.camaraderiecellars.com.
On our way through the Olympic Peninsula, we spent three nights at the Kalaloch Lodge, halfway along the Pacific Coast in the Olympic National Park. Accommodations include comfortable cabins (one of which we stayed in) dotting the shore and rooms in the lodge. Local acitivites include hiking and beachcombing. The restaurant features seafood and other entrees (the steamed clams are especially tasty). The wine list of Northwest wines is limited and pricey, so I recommend you bring your wine and pay the reasonable $15 corkage fee.
Westport Winery, Aberdeen, Washington
The Westport Winery, about halfway between Aberdeen and Westport, is a family operation. It is headed by Blain Roberts, with his wife, Kim, running the restaurant, daughter, Carrie, managing the tasting room, and son, Dana, making the wine. Blain and Kim came to Westport after operating sport diving business out of Lahina, Maui. They purchased 20 acres in 2007, and later developed it into a destination Resort with a restaurant, garden working winery, and a lighthouse replica. In addition to a lineup of vinifera wines, Westport also makes a bevy of sparkling wines and fruit/grape blends. A portion of the proceeds go to local non-profits such as the Red Cross Blood Bank, the Westport Maritime Museum, the Grays Harbor Childrens' Advocacy, and many others. The Resort is located at South Arbor Road, off Highway 105, and is open daily from 11 to 6. www.westportwinery.com.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Back in April, while judging for the Seattle Wine Awards, table went through a couple of flights of about 15 Washington Chardonnays each. There seemed to be a depressing sameness about most of them, with only a couple of standouts in each flight. Most of the wines had good varietal character but without distinction. So, later on, in May, I was thrilled to find some real standout Chardonnays that displayed terroir and microclimate specificity. Two were from The Walls, Ali Mayfield and Mike Martin's winery in Walla Walla. They came from the White Salmon Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. From volcanic soil and from a transitional climate, they showed great precision and site specific distinction. Then, a few weeks later, I visited Coman Din at his Co Din winery in Grandview. Sourced from the Rosekamp Vineyard on Snipes Mountain and with southern exposure, again I discovered distinctive character. These wines are:
2014 The Walls "La Lutte" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($42) - Reviewed June - 19/20 points.
2014 The Walls "McAndrew" Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($42) - Reviewed June - 19/20 points.
2013 Co Dinn Chardonnay, Snipes Mountain, Rosekamp Vineyard ($45) - Reviewed July - 19.5/20 points.
Since then, I have run across a few more outstanding, site specific Washington Chardonnays:
2015 Owen Roe Chardonnay, Yakima Valley, DuBrul Vineyard ($48) - From a block planted in the 1990's, this shows distinct Rattlesnake Hills minerality and varietal purity. To be reviewed in the November issue 19+/20 points.
2015 àMaurice Cellars Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($32) - To be reviewed in November - 19/20 points.
2015 Buty Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Conner Lee Vineyard ($42) - To be reviewed November 19+/20 points.
Conner Lee, situated on Radar Hill in the Frenchman Hills near Othello is a fine source of Chardonnay. Great varietal precision and distinct minerality.
2014 Domaine J. Meuret Chardonnay, Columbia Gorge, White Salmon Vineyard ($35) - From the same vineyard as The Walls above. To be reviewed December - 19+/20 points.
2015 L'Ecole No. 41 Chardonnay, Ancient Lakes, Evergreen Vineyard ($35) - The caliche soil and old vines make this a distinctive Chardonnay. To be reviewed in December - 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Harvest 2016 Heads to Endgame
This year's grape harvest is now over three fourths of the way through. Most of the remaining grapes to be picked are Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, varieties that are typically slow maturing. On Monday, Brian Rudin (Canvasback) reported that he still had a third of the crop on Red Mountain remaining to be picked and that more were about to be picked. This morning, I talked with Rich Funk (Saviah Cellars) and he said he was happy with the way the harvest was going, especially with Syrah, with great fruit from the Rocks, and with Cabernet.
The thing that is looming in everyone's mind now is the report that a major storm will be moving through the state starting tomorrow afternoon. The Cliff Mass report predicts a cyclonic storm to move eastward. The coast and Puget Sound will receive the brunt of the storm with high winds and heavy rain, but as it moves eastward, wind and rain will impede the harvest in Eastern Washington. Pickers are, at this moment, working in the vineyards to get as much done as they can. Saturday may see the greatest impact of the storm, with weather calming down by Monday. Luckily, as Rich Funk pointed out, the thick skinned Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot grapes can withstand rain well.
Fingers crossed, more later!
Walla Walla Valley Fall Release Weekend Recommendations
This year, Fall Release Weekend will be November 4-6. Below is a list of recommendations of wineries to visit. It is not an inclusive list, but consists of ones that will be releasing outstanding wines, scoring 19 or 19.5 points, that have been reviewed in the Review of Washington Wines and, therefore, merit special attention.
àMaurice Cellars - Anna Schafer has turned out some impressive 2015 whites and 2014 reds (19 - 19.5 points), to be reviewed in the November issue, on line October 24.
Ardor Cellars - Ardor has four superb single vineyard Syrahs (19 points each) and a blend of the four (19.5 points). Reviewed October.
Buty - Nina Buty and Chris Dowsett have beautiful 2015 whites and 2014 reds to pour. They are not to be missed. To be in the November issue.
Maison Bleue - Check out the 2014 Métis Rouge and the 2014 Domaine J. Meuret Chardonnay and 2014 Pinot Noir from the Columbia Gorge. To be reviewed in December.
March Cellars - Ashley Trout's tasting room on Lyday Lane, off Braden Road, has just opened. She has a lovely 2014 Chardonnay (19 points, reviewed October). Also check out the 2015 Vital Red Blend and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon to be reviewed December.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd has some outstanding 2014 reds (19+ - 19.5 points) and tasty 2015 whites. Reviewed September and October.
Seven Hills - Outstanding 2013's and 2014's (September and October), including the new 2014 Pentad (19.5/20 points, to be reviewed December).
Spring Valley Vineyards - The 2013 Muleskinner Merlot, Derby Cabernet and Uriah are outstanding (19 points).
Tero Estates - The 2013 "DC3" Red and Cab Franc are outstanding (19+ points) and the 2011 Old Block Cabernet scored 19.5 points. Reviewed October.
Tuesday, October 18 - The Re-emergence of Site Specific Chardonnay
Monday, October 24 - More About the Wineries visited on the Olympic Peninsula (along with the November issue of the Review of Washington Wines.