- Written by Rand Sealey
While working on the August Review of Washington Wines (on line July 24), I noticed that there were quite a few blends of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre in that issue. I counted six. I thought this must be a trend. I counted five more in the May through July issues.
GSM blends have been among our favorite Washington wines. We also love the blends of the South Rhone Valley, especially those of Vacqueyras, Gigondas and Chateauneuf du Pape, the inspirations for the GSM blends. Here's how the three varieties figure into the GSM blends.
Grenache - This generally (but not always) is the dominant grape in the GSM blends. Ripe and fleshy, with a medium bodied flavor profile, it gives blends a supple texture.
Syrah - This is the principal grape of the North Rhone, but it usually plays a secondary role in the South Rhone. It gives body and character to the GSM blends.
Mourvèdre - This grape usually plays a supporting role, too. Mourvèdre lends a spicy, smoky character to the wines.
The percentages of these grapes vary from one wine to another. Sometimes Cinsault, Counoise, Bourboulenc and Clairette may enter into the mixes (as in Chateauneuf du Pape). Here's a rundown of recently reviewed GSM blends with their varietal percentages.
2014 W.T. Vintners Red Blend, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($35) - 40% Grenache, 57% Syrah, 3% Mourvèdre - To be reviewed August
2014 Co Dinn "GSM" Red Wine, Yakima Valley, Lonesome Springs Vineyard ($45) - 36% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre - August
2014 Saviah Cellars "GSM" Red Wine, Yakima Valley ($38) - 66% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre - August
2014 Walla Walla Vintners "GSM" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($42) - 67% Grenache, 32% Syrah, 11% Mourvèdre. - August
2015 Rôtie Cellars Southern Red Blend, Washington State ($48) - 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre - August
2015 College Cellars "GSM" Red, Columbia Valley ($25) - 45% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 37% Mourvèdre - August
2014 Forgeron Cellars "Façon Rouge" Red Wine ($35) - 16% Grenache, 58% Syrah, 26% Mourvèdre - July
2014 Avennia "Justine" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($40) - 45% Grenache, 19% Syrah, 36% Mourvèdre - May
2014 Betz "Bésoleil" Red Wine, Columbia Vallery ($40) - 33% Grenache, 24% Counoise, 17% Cinsault, 6% Mourvèdre - May
2013 Woodward Canyon "Erratic" Estate Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($59) - 9% Grenache, 46% Mourvèdre, 9% Grenache - May
2013 Tranche Cellars "Slice of Pape" Red Wine ($35) - 26% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 34% Mourvèdre - May
Here are a couple of South Rhone GSM blends we've enjoyed:
2013 Domaine Sang de Cailloux Vaqueyras ($32) - Mostly Grenache with some Syrah and Mourvèdre
2012 Pierre Amadieu "Le Pas de l'Aigle Gigondas ($36) - 85% Grenache, 15% Syrah
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Walla Walla Valley has recently received two newcomers, both from Woodinville: The Barons Winery and the Armstrong Family Winery. Here are bits of information about them.
In early June, I visited the Armstrong Family Winery tasting room in Woodinville. There, Jennifer Armstrong told me about the family's plans to move to Walla Walla. A couple of weeks later, on June 15, I received this email from her: "As I think we mentioned, we are in the midst of big changes, Our family last month purchased a 22-acre farm with vineyard in Walla Walla. The beautiful property is due north of town, amid wheat fields, not far from the new E'ritage project. It has a lovely old farm house where our family will live, a vineyard, historic barn, winding stream, and space to build a winery production building and plant additional vines. We will keep our tasting room in Woodinville, but are excited for this big change and to be able to make wine in the heart of wine country! We will be moving there full time in 2 weeks - after our daughters finish the school year here in Kirkland."
The other newcomer to Walla Walla is the Barons Winery. Started in 2001, it was located in the Warehouse District in Woodinville. In May of this year, the winery moved its entire operation to Walla Walla with a downtown tasting room on 11 North Second. The wines are being made at Artifex, the state of the art winemaking facility in the north part of the city. The Barons Managing Partner is Jim Keller, a former Weyerhaeuser executive.
There will be reviews of wines from both wineries in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. It will be going on line July 24.
Happy Independence Day!
Be sure to drink plenty of Washington wine on this holiday!
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Friday, June 16th, I attended the Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine tasting which was one of the "World of Syrah": events produced by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. The tasting was moderated by Patrick Comiskey, Senior Correspondent for Wine & Spirits Magazine. The panelists included winemakers Doug Frost of Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas, Rhone Valley of France, Gary Mills of Jamsheed Wines in Yarra Valley, Australia, Helen Keplinger of Keplinger wines in the Napa Valley, and Byron Kosge of Kingston Family Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, Chile. The Walla Walla Valley winemakers were Corey Braunel of DustedValley, Nina Buty of Buty Wines and Steve Brooks of Trust Cellars.
The tasting started off with a Prologue presentation by Whitman College Geology Professor Kevin Pogue, with an overview each winery's terroir and climate. Then the moderator and panel went on through the tasting and discussion of the wines being presented. The wines showed similarities and differences due to the variety of terrors and winemaking techniques. Here's a summary of the wines tasted and the winemakers' commentary.
2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, Les Ruchets ($60) - This comes from the upper slopes of Cornas in the North Rhone Valley and is 100% Syrah. It showed a semi opaque ruby color and a distinctive nose of raspberry and cassis. The flavors were intense, with varietal purity and granitic minerality, imbued with licorice, dark chocolate and French roast, and a persistent dryish, savory finish. Doug Frost said that they let the wine speak for itself. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Buty Rediviva of the Stones Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, Rockgarden Estate Vineyard ($60) - Composed of 80% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Mourvèdre, this showed a ruby-crimson color and a seductive, perfumed nose of blackberry, blueberry and cassis, with scents of crushed roses, lavender and violets. The flavors, as well, were alluring, with penetrating dark fruits that marked by "Rocks" earth and minerality. Nina stated that minimal irrigation and 80% destemming of grapes make for increased complexity. 19.5/20 points.
2013 Keplinger "Hangman Hudson" Syrah, Carneros, California ($70) - This comes from a family operation, started on 1998. Helen Keplinger said they pick for a range of ripeness and do not do a lot of handling of the wine. It showed a ruby-crimson color and a lovely perfumed nose of cherry, cassis, black roses, violets and incense. The black and blue fruit flavors were suave and grace, yet firful, marked by licorice, cocoa, earth, grilled nuts, toffee and charcoal, followed by a lingering, sweetish finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Dusted Valley "Tall Tales" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, Stoney Vine Vineyard ($60) - Corey Braunel said this was 70% whole cluster fermented with extended maceration for increased concentration. Semi opaque ruby colored, it possessed aromas of wild fruits - blackberries, blueberries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, mulberry, tobacco, olive and incense. The flavors were full and generous, marked by licorice, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a firm, yet ripe tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2013 Jamsheed "Seville" Syrah, Yarra Valley, Australia ($53) - This comes from an area north of Melbourne, in a transitional zone. They hand harvest and use extended maceration in small batches. It showed a deep ruby color and jammy, spicy aromas of plum, cherry and black currants, with crushed roses and spices. The flavors thick and juicy, yet firm, with notes of roasted berries and nuts, scorched earth, grilled nuts and charcoal, followed by a lingering firm yet ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2013 Trust Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($32) - This was sourced from the Les Collines (loess soil) and the Davidson (alluvial fan) vineyards. It showed a somewhat wild and gamy nose of blueberries, currants and Marion berries, with scents of garrigue and incense. The flavors were which, chewy and direct, with notes of licorice, dark cocoa and French roast. The back picked up macerated berries, roasted nuts, dried currants and charcoal, follow by a lingering chewy tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2014 Kingston Family Vineyards "Lucero" Syrah, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($20) - This comes from a high elevation region. It showed a ruby-crimson color and rich aromas of raspberry, blueberry and currants with scents of crushed roses and lavender. The flavors were fairly compact and restrained, with notes of licorice, espresso and earth. The back picked up squeezed berries, toasted nuts and graphite, followed by a long, juicy, savory finish. 19/20 points.
There was not a lot of difference qualitatively in the wines, but there were stylistic differences, with the Keplinger and Kingston the most graceful. and the Cornas and Buty the fullest bodied. My favorites, albeit subjective, were the Buty Rediviva and the Colombo Cornas. The best values were the Trust Cellars and Kingston Family Vineyards (a steal at $20).
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last weekend, June 9-11, our friends, Kim and George Suyama, former neighbors of ours in West Seattle, came over to Walla Walla to stay with us. The visit was to attend a "Garden Party Book Event," hosted by Diana Broze, featuring signings of "Rosé All Day" and "Five Ways to Cook Asparagus." The Rosé book was written by Katherine Cole, who happens to be the daughter of Doug and Kathie Raff. Doug has been our family's attorney for many years. Katherine writes about wine for the Oregonian and has been the author of three books on wine and the host of The Top Four a national food and wine podcast. "Five Ways to Cook Asparagus" is written by Peter Miller, operator of Peter Miller Books, a shop specializing in architecture and design books which was located in George Suyama's architecture offices. He is a trained chef and the author of many cookbooks, including "Canal House Cooks Every Day."
On Friday evening, we started off with wine and appetizers in Diana Broze's garden. Peter served up some sautéed asparagus and morel mushrooms, served along with some local and Oregon wines. Then we went over to the Whitehouse Crawford Restaurant for dinner in celebration of Colleen Miller's birthday. I ordered the 2013 Kerloo Cellars Upland Vineyard Grenache which went nicely with each of the guests' entrees, salmon, chicken or lamb.
The next afternoon was the Book Signing event in Diana Broze's garden. Lots of people came and many copies were sold and signed. A selection of Washington Rosé were poured, along with a few from Oregon. Here's what each book has to offer.
Subtitled "The Essential Guide to Your New Favorite Wine," "Rosé All Day" is a virtual compendium of the Rosé wines of the world, including ones from exotic places such as Morocco, the Canary Islands, Lebanon and India. The different rosé winemaking techniques - blending red and white wine, direct press of red grapes, short pressing to tank or barrel, or saignée, bleeding off red juice - are explained. The book then explores the rosé wines of the world, including the popular ones of Southern France, the New World and more. Descriptions of various rose wines are included. Washington State gets five pages, including rosés from Tranche and Waters. Appendices include on line retailers and the top five rosé in five categories.
"Five Ways to Cook Asparagus (And Other Recipes)" is subtitled, The "Art and Practice of Making Dinner." It includes not only five ways to cook asparagus, but also broccoli, carrots, onions and cauliflower. Also legumes, rice, pasta and more. Then also "Five Ways to Bring the Beasts, Birds and Fish to Dinner. Additional sections include Weekend Cooking, Toolbox: Five Essential Skills, Menus: Five Ways to a Meal, and "A Sweet End to the Meal, A Dessert of Fresh Fruit. The recipes discussed are creative and imaginative. This book will provide a tasty experience for any cook.
After the book signing, several of us gathered at Jim German's Passatempo Taverna for an Italian style dinner. All kinds of antipasto, pasta, entrees and verdure (including asparagus of course) were served along with some Italian whites and reds, including a Syrah from Campania. This concluded a memorable weekend of Rosé Wine and Asparagus.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Last week on Facebook, I noticed that Sleight of Hand Cellars and Tero Estates were celebrating their Tenth Anniversaries, both having been founded in 2007. Here's how they started.
In 2007, Trey Busch was the winemaker at Basel Cellars when he got together with Jerry and Sandy Solomon to start Sleight of Hand Cellars. The marketing concept was eye catching labels of magicians creating their illusions, and fine winemaking. In 2011, S of H moved from a downtown storefront location to its present one on JB George Road. An additional barrel room was added in 2014 and the winery's capacity is now close to 9000 cases. As fans of Pop Rock, especially Pearl Jam, the team's motto is "Good wine, and music, and lots of fun, that's the recipe for the Sleight of Hand lifestyle."
In 2006, Doug and Jan Roskelley and Mike Tembruell got together to form TR Wines (Tembreull and Roskelley) and in June 2007 the Hendricks Windrow Vineyard in the South Valley, adjacent to Seven Hills,was purchased. Subsequently, the two names were combined into one brand name, Tero Estates. Doug had previous experience making wine in Woodinville with John Bigelow and the Tero launch was off to a quick start. In 2010, the Flying Trout brand was added and later, Waters. Today, there are two tasting rooms, one on Peppers Bridge Road (Flying Trout, Waters) and the other at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.
This year also marks another tenth anniversary of sorts. In March of 2007, Lynn and I stopped in Walla Walla on our way home to Seattle from skiing in Idaho. We visited several wineries and became attracted to the Walla Walla Valley lifestyle. In December we looked at houses for part-time living in Walla Walla and purchased a renovated 1906 craftsman near downtown in January 2008. Later that year, I started the Review of Washington Wines and in 2013, we moved to Walla Walla to live full time.
The significance of these anniversaries is that it was around 2007 and in the following years that winemaking in the Walla Walla Valley saw tremendous growth and consumer awareness. Since then, Walla Walla has become a a mecca for wine lovers.