- Written by Rand Sealey
A couple of days ago, I received an email from Chris Kontos asking if Lynn and I would like to come to Kontos Cellars and barrel taste the winery's "The Boss" 2015 red wine. I said sure, and yesterday we drove over to the barrel room next to Chris and Cameron Kontos' father, Cliff's home south of Walla Walla. Before tasting, we chatted a bit and Cliff talked about the time when he and Gary Figgins made wine together and then how he started his own winery, Fort Walla Walla Cellars in 1998.
"The Boss" is Chris and Cameron's tribute to their father, affectionately called The Boss, who helped make the wine. The Kontos family life revolved around cattle ranching, farming, aviation (the middle son, Kip, is a pilot for Alaska Airlines), winemaking and golf. The family still grows wheat and makes wine. Before that, Cliff was a cattle man. Branding was an annual activity that brought the family together.
My tasting notes:
2015 Kontos Cellars "The Boss" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - Composed of 41% Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Les Collines Merlot and 8% Dwelley Cabernet Franc, this showed an inky purplish-ruby color and an intense, smoky nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, mulberry, pipe tobacco, black olive, sage and incense. The flavors as well were intense, infused with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, Sumatra roast and silty minerals. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, mocha, toffee and toasty oak all leading into long ripe, chewy yet firm tannin finish. Here, the plus indicates the potential to advance to 19.5 points. 19+/20 points.
Each future vintage of The Boss will contain a percentage of the previous vintage to give continuity to this tribute.
2016 Kontos Cellars "The Boss" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley - This consists of the same percentages of varieties as the 2015. It showed a deep ruby color and a sultry, smoky nose of wild blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, cedar and incense. The flavors came on as more closed and taut than the 2015, but stuffed with lots of layered fruits, intermixed with licorice, dark cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picked up roasted berries and nuts, toffee and burnt charcoal followed, again by a long, chewy ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2015 Kontos Cellars "Caimbry" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Pepper Bridge Vineyard - Named for Chris' daughter, this wine, made for the wine club, showed a semi opaque ruby color and an intense, smoky nose of blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco, olive and rosemary. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with thick black and blue fruits that were infused with licorice, bittersweet chocolate, extra dark roast coffee and silty earth. The back revealed roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee, dried cherries and integrated oak, followed by a lingering, slightly grainy sweet-dry tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2016 Kontos Cellars "Tate" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Les Collines Vineyard - Three fourths whole cluster fermented, this showed an opaque purplish color and an intense, perfumed nose of blackberries, blueberries, black currants, crushed roses, lavender, sweet tobacco, violets and oriental incense. The flavors were thick, almost massive, infused with licorice, dark chocolate, Sumatra roast and silty minerals. The back picked up macerated fruits, roasted nuts, pulverized charcoal and ripe, sweetish tannins on the long, Rhone-like finish. 19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
We all know that Cabernet Sauvignon is king, and other varietals such as Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. What what others are trendy, ones which are growing in popularity. Here's my list, with wineries specializing in them.
Grenache - This is the principal grape of the South Rhone Valley. It produces medium bodied reds with nice supple fruits and rich aromatics. It makes a tasty and more consistent alternative to the more variable Pinot Noir.
Specialists: Ocelli Cellars (Grenache is all they make. Reviewed July 2017), Rotie Cellars ("little g." Reviewed December), Beresan (To be reviewed in March), Rasa Vineyards ("Primus inter Pares" Reviewed September).
Mourvèdre - This is the other main variety of the South Rhone and also of Bandol. It is typically medium to full bodied, with a spicy, smoky character. It goes well with grilled meats.
Specialists: Rotie Cellars ("Dre." Reviewed December), Tapteil (October, 2017), Mark Ryan ("Crazy Mary." To be reviewed April).
The above two varieties are often used in the so-called GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre).
Malbec - This is an increasingly popular varietal, with many generic versions on the market (Waterbrook, reviewed in the February issue) largely due to the ubiquity of Argentina Malbecs. It is also included in "BDX" blends, even though little Malbec is grown in Bordeaux today. Most French Malbec comes from Cahors in the Lot Valley, where it is called "the black wine."
Specialists: Flying Trout (August 2017), Seven Hills, Flying Trout (May 2017), àMaurice (December 2017).
Carmenère - This has been called "the lost grape of Bordeaux," almost extinct there, wiped out by the phylloxera devastation of the 1870's. It produces intense wines, smoky, perfumed (roses, violets), peppery (a distinct trait) that lend themselves well to flavorful dishes. Because of limited production and high grape prices, Carmenère is not cheap.
Specialists: Beresan ("Snowy Owl" label, to be reviewed March), Bartholomew (to be reviewed March), Tertulia (Phinny Hill Vineyard), College Cellars (one of the Best Buys in this variety).
Petit Verdot - This is another variety that has largely gone out of favor in Bordeaux. Most of the vines were killed off by the deep freeze of 1956 and little was replanted. It does well in Washington State, producing deep, perfumed wines.
Specialists: Seven Hills Tero Estates, Tierra Labrada (One of the best versions of this variety in Washington. Reviewed October 2017).
There is one white variety worth mentioning as there is a growing trend toward drier whites.
Albariño - This is a grape originating in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. It produces aromatic, chalky (from limestone cliffs) almost bone dry wines, ideal with seafood.
Specialists: Castillo de Feliciana, Adamant Cellars (July 2017), Coyote Canyon (May 2017).
- Written by Rand Sealey
Four weeks ago, in my Review Bog posting of 29 December, 2017, "Looking Ahead to 2018," I predicted that more wine industry acquisitions would be taking place in the coming year. Since then, halfway through the first month of the year, four major deals have already been made. Here they are.
Tamarack Cellars has been sold to Vintage Wine Estates of California whose portfolio includes Clos Pegase, Cosentino, Viansa Snonoma and other properties. This sale caps a 25 year career in the wine industry for Ron Coleman who started his winery with his wife in the Walla Walla Airport District. Personnel will be retained. The sale includes inventory and wine grower contracts. The deal was put together by Metis, an Exvere Company, advising business mergers and recapitalizations, focusing on wine, beverage and hospitality industries.
Also brokered by Metis is the acquisition of the Red Lion Inn in Walla Walla by Columbia Hospitality, another California company. The Red Lion will be renovated this year into an upscale lodging facility, to reopen in 2019 that will cater to the burgeoning wine tourism clientele.
Another major deal is the Weidert Property near Nine Mile Hill west of Walla Walla which was put up for sale last fall by an Indiana owner. Te 6000 plus acre property was auctioned off and the winning bid was from Farmland LP which owns properties in Oregon's Willamette Valley and Northern California, specializing in agricultural sustainability. The Nine Mile property will be put to diverse crops, including grape vines.
Still another deal is the purchase of Jon and Amy Meuret's Maison Bleue Winery in Walla Walla by Willamette Valley Vineyards. Jon has already been making wines for Willamette Valley's Pambrun Wines. Meuret stated, "When they offered a solution to allow me to focus more on vineyards and winemaking, and the opportunity for Maison Bleue to have an estate vineyard in the Rocks, it brought to life ideas I've wanted to pursue for years."
All these acquisitions are indications that Washington State wineries and vineyards are promising avenues for expansion by investors to the south of the state. More later!
Next Week: The February issue of the Review of Washington Wines goes on line Thursday, January 25. For a preview, see last week's Blog below. Also on line will be a Blog posting about the latest varietal wine trends.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the February issue of the Review of Washington Wines (on line January 25) there will be reviews of wines from some wineries that merit watching in 2018. Here they are, and why.
Walla Walla Vintners - With the retirements of Myles Anderson and Gordy Venneri, the direction of WWV is moving toward a broader range of wines. Last Fall, the winery introduced its first white wine, a 2016 Vineyard Select Chardonnay and two estate reds. The winery also has reached out to Red Mountain with a Carmenère and a Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in the February issue.
Lagana Cellars - With the partnership of Jason Fox and Todd Bernave, Lagana Cellars looks forward to making a bigger impact in the Walla Walla wine scene. The "Nox Perpetua" (Perpetual Night) line is striking. See the upcoming issue for the 2015 Patina Syrah and Seven Hills Cab Franc.
Eight Bells - This Roosevelt-Ravenna winery continues to make well made wines from the partnership of Tim Bates, Andy Shepherd and Frank Michaels. Most of the wines are sourced from Mike Sauer's Red Willow Vineyard in the Yakima Valley, including the standout 8 Clones Syrah and David's Block Red.
Array Cellars - Since 2010, Henry Smilowics's Array Cellars has been producing some fine Chardonnays from the Conner Lee, Celilo and Otis Harlan vineyards under the direction of Brian Carter and Robert Takahashi. The 2013's are highly impressive, drinking beautifully (18.5/20 for the Washington State, and 19 and 19.5 points for the Celilo and Otis Harlan) and remarkable in a market where most Chardonnays are 2015s and 2016s.
Convergence Zone Cellars - Now located in North Bend, Scott and Monica Greenberg's winery continues to turn out fine values. The 2015 "Sunbreak" Chenin Blanc and "Drizzle" Pinot Gris are terrific white wine bargains. And two fine Malbecs will also be in the February issue.
Gard Vintners - In November, this winery, located near Royal City, opened a tasting room in Downtown Walla Walla. The wines, produced from the family owned Lawrence Vineyards in the Frenchman Hills, are exceptional. Look for the 2014 "Grand Klasse" Riesling, 2013 Syrah and Cabernet as well as a 2013 Malbec and 2014 Don Isidro Red in February.
Co Dinn - Coman - "Co" - Dinn released three new wines from his Sunnyside winery in December, a 2015 French Creek Chardonnay, a 2015 "GSM" Red from Limestone Springs Ranch, and a 2015 Elephant Mountain Red Blend, all Highly Recommended (19+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
While most of the wines we drink are from Washington State (that's my job), we like to drink French wines from time to time, especially Burgundy and Rhone ones. Our first loves in wine were ones from Burgundy and we have visited the region numerous times over the years. It is because of this that I have been stocking up on 2015's which have turned out to be even greater than the 2005's.
In 2015, a heat wave in July and August resulted in high quality, but less wine. Because of the drought grape clusters were smaller than normal, resulting in wines of great concentration, with abundant tannins and polyphenols. In the Côte d'Or, the reds are more consistent than the whites. According to Decanter magazine, "the reds and whites of the Côte Chalonnaise are a great success." Beaujolais was also a great success. The Château de Jacques (a Jadot property) Morgon Côte de Py and Moulin-à-Vent Clos de Rochegres are the most concentrated Beaujolis wines I have ever run across.
From the Côte d'Or, I have laid in a goodly number of Premier and Grand Crus, mostly from Maison Louis Jadot, a highly reliable negociant and property owner. From the Chalonnaise, I purchased Domaine Faiveley's Mercurey, Clos de Myglands From Beaujolais, I have the above mentioned Château de Jacques plus some Domaine bottlings from Duboeuf.
Further south, the Rhone Valley was a great success in 2015 as well. a classic vintage, especially in the southern part. I have picked up wines from Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas.
What about Bordeaux? We do enjoy a Claret once in a while, but it is the elegance and finesse of the wines of Burgundy that we cherish highly. The 2015 vintage was a great success in Bordeaux, and the wines will be sought after. The vintage is currently being offered as futures to be delivered later in the year.
So, if you like French wines and want to augment your cellar, you could do no worse than to stock up on 2015s.