- Written by Rand Sealey
Chris Dowsett is not only the winemaker for the Buty Winery in Walla Walla; he also makes his own wines under the Dowsett Family label. They are truly family produced, with some of the grapes coming from Chris' aunt, and his sister and brother in law. Recently, I got samples of the new releases along with Chris' comments on the wines. Here are my reviews, together with the commentary.
2016 Dowsett Family Riesling, Columbia Gorge, Aunt Diane's Vineyard ($16) - Brilliant gold colored, this possesses an intriguing, rich, smoky nose of Asian pear-apple, white peach, musk melon, grapefruit, honeysuckle, jasmine, lemongrass and oriental white incense. The flavors, as well, are distinctive, more in the Alsace style, with full bodied old vine character and notes of peach stone, grape skin extracts, and volcanic minerals. The back picks up melon rind, grapefruit peel, toasted hazelnuts and persistent minerals on the bone dry finish Makes a striking alternative to those ubiquitous off-dry and medium-dry Rieslings. A bargain at $16. 18.5/20 points.
Chris writes, "This is a dry Riesling from a tiny vineyard in the Gorge, above Husum, that my Aunt's family has owned for generations. The vines were planted in 1960 and went through periods of use and neglect. In 2012, my Aunt and I started to bring the vineyard back from the weeds and suckers. I did 37 cases of wine in 2014, 42 in 2015, and a massive 73 in 2016. It is at 1100-1150 feet elevation and has a long, slow growing season. Barrel fermented (very old and neutral) to give body and balance to the acidity, it is finished dry."
2016 Dowsett Family Gewürztraminer, Columbia Gorge ($14) - Brilliant gold colored, this emits enticing aromas of pear, nectarine, citrus, melon, litchi nuts, honeysuckle, clover and spiced white incense. The flavors are fresh, lively and well extracted, with notes of fruit stones, pear skin, grape skin, and Columbia Gorge volcanic minerals. The back reveals sensations of poire William liqueur, grapefruit zest, ginger, melon rind and recurring litchi nuts on the way to a spice (nutmeg, clove, coriander) dusted dry finish. With plenty of varietal character, this scores 18.5/20 points.
Chris' comments: "This is the first version of this wine I have bottled. It is a blend of Celilo and Oak Ridge Vineyard fruit. I will continue to make the Celilo single vineyard release. I worked with Oak Ridge Vineyard from 1997-2001 at Canoe Ridge Vineyard, and always kept in touch with the owners. When a half acre of fruit opened up, I grabbed it. I tank fermented the Oak Ridge piece and blended some neutral oak fermented Celilo Vineyard fruit with it. I wanted to have a Gewürztraminer that I could let wine programs afford to pour by the glass, release a fresh spicy Gewurz young and still be able to give the Celilo release a longer period of bottle age before release. I will release this late summer."
2016 Dowsett Family "Georgia Rose" Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards ($16.50) - Because this wine was made in Walla Walla, it is labeled "Oregon." Named for Georgia Rose Hannigan Johnson, Chris' maternal grandmother, it shows a pink-salmon color and intriguing aromas of strawberries, Rainier cherries, red currants, watermelon, cherry blossoms, pink lilac, and whiffs of white incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, just right, with notes of grape skin, melon rind and stony minerals. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs and touches of dried currants and orange peel, followed by a crisp, dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the second vintage of this wine. My sister and brother-in-law bought some land on the east side of the Willamette Valley, in an area called Pete's Mountain. There are vines planted in 2000 on the site that they fell in love with. It is a strip of hillside with mostly Jory soils and three different clones of Pinot Noir. They are farmed by an amazing vineyard management company and they sell most of their fruit to a California winery and a few small Oregon wineries. I have used a small amount of the 777 clone Pinot Noir from the bottom of the hill for this wine. It was whole cluster pressed gently until I tasted excess tannins and phenolics, and then fermented cool in stainless. I love dry Pinot Noir Rosé and could not resist making this."
2015 Dowsett Family Pinot Noir, Oregon, Becklin Vineyards (price TBD) - This wine exhibits a deep brick red color and an intoxicating, smoky nose of wild fruits - fraises de bois, huckleberries, old tree cherries, black currants - with scents of crushed roses, pipe tobacco, oregano, sweet pea flowers, violets and oriental incense. On the palate, the flavors are deep and encompassing, replete with red licorice, cocoa powder, roasted coffee beans and mountainside earth and minerals. The velvety yet grainy textured back reveals sensations of pressed berries, cerise and cassis liqueurs, and touches of nougat and orange peel. The lingering finish is savory and sensuous, with the persistently smoky fruits wrapped around the slightly grainy moderate tannin finish that is lifted by vivid fruit acids. 19.5/20 points.
Chris: "This is the first red Pinot I have made for Dowsett Family. Growing up on a vineyard in Oregon, I fell in love with two things: Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. I loved red Pinot, rosé Pinot and Blanc de Noir. I also tasted many wines and began to love the expression of the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir. I knew it was the one I would like to try and make someday. The Pommard at my sister's place is in the middle of the hill and beautiful. I could not resist making a tiny bit of this. I used just under 20% new French oak, fermented in small fermenters letting one get warm to balance some tannin with the acidity, and used 20% whole (uncrushed) clusters in one fermenter to lift the fruit a bit. We bottled just over 100 cases and will release in September. My entire family is very excited with this wine!"
- Written by Rand Sealey
Do you want wines that offer the most bang for the buck for your summer entertaining and enjoyment? Here's a list of recently reviewed wines that score 18.5/20 points for $25 a bottle or less. This list includes new reviews of wines from Kerloo Cellars and upcoming reviews of College Cellars.
2016 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Blanc, Walla Walla Valley, Blue Mountain Vineyard ($20) - Medium gold colored, this offers attractive aromas of pear-apple, peach, Crenshaw melon, pear blossoms, honeysuckle, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are vivid and nicely extracted, with notes of peach soon, melon skin and minerals. The back picks up poire and pacha liqueurs, melon rind and lemon zest, followed by a faintly honeyed yet lip-stinging finish. 18.5/20 points. New Review.
2016 W.T. Vintners Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, Stonebridge Vineyard ($20) - Chenin Blanc is one of Washington's most undervalued varieties. This one offers pear, peach, melon, honeysuckle and jasmine aromas of bright, expressive white fruit flavors. 18.5/20 points. To be reviewed in the August issue.
2016 Castillo de Feliciana Albariño, Columbia Valley ($22) - From a grape originating in the Galicia region of Spain, this shows intriguing aromas of pear-apple, honeydew melon, lime, white lilac, lemon verbena and fennel. The white fruit flavors are lively and bracing, picking up melon rind and creme fraiche on the way to a racy, persistent mineral finish. 18.5/20 points. - August.
2016 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Pinot Gris, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - Iridescent colored, this shows enticing scents of white lilac, pear blossoms, verbena and fennel with appealing white fruits dancing on the palate. More Alsace-like than most Washington Pinot Gris. 18.5/20 points. - August.
2016 College Cellars "RVM" White Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - "RVM" stands for Roussanne (48%), Viognier (17%) and Marsanne (35%). It offers attractive fruit compote aromas and flavors that possess attractive vibrancy and a crisp, juicy finish. 18.5/20 points. - August
2016 Amavi Cellars Sémillon, Walla Walla Valley ($24) - Blended with 15% Sauvignon Blanc, this offers fresh, floral aromas and rich, crisp, well delineated flavors with a touch of beeswax (a trait of Semillon) and a lively finish. 18.5/20 points. - June
2016 Long Shadows "Poet's Leap" Riesling, Columbia Valley ($20) - This super value shows a gold color and enticing, floral aromas of pear, peach and citrus with scents of honeysuckle and clover. The flavors are vivid, finishing off-dry (1.2% residual sugar). 18.5/20 points. - June
2016 Kerloo Cellars Grenache Rosé, Columbia Valley, Painted Hills Vineyard ($22) - Brilliant salmon colored, this emits enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainer cherry and tangerine, with scents of alpine summer flowers and spiced white incense. The flavors, as well, are appealing, with notes of grape skin, tangerine peel and Painted Hills minerals. The back picks up kirsch and fraise liqueurs on the way to a lightly spiced, pleasingly juicy finish. 18.5/20 points. New Review.
2016 Aluvé Sangiovese Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Pink-copper colored, this possesses enticing strawberry, cherry and cantaloupe aromas with scents of cherry blossoms and meadow wildflowers. The ripe fruits resonate on the palate and finish pleasantly juicy and dry. 18.5/20 points.- July
Julia's Dazzle Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, The Benches Vineyard ($20) - From Pinot Gris grapes given extended hang time to produce a brilliant copper color, this offers aromas of cherry, grapefruit,muck melon and incense. The flavors are intermixed with grape skin, orange peel and melon rind and the finish is lifted by bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points. - July
2016 Saviah Cellars Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($18) - This is a tasty combination of 56% Sangiovese and 44% Barbera. It shows a brilliant copper-pink color and enticing aromas of strawberry, Rainier cherry, watermelon, spring flowers and white incense. The flavors are fresh and juicy with persistent minerality. 18.5/20 points. - June
2016 The Walla "Cruel Summer" Rosé Wine, Columbia Gorge ($22) - This has an added "secret ingredient." It shows a salmon color and aromas of strawberry, loganberry, red currant, rose petals and white spiced incense. The flavors are nicely extracted, with notes of tangerine peel and volcanic minerals. 18.5/20 points. - June
2015 Kerloo Cellars Syrah, Walla Walla Valley. Blue Mountain Vineyard ($20) - This bargain offers a deep ruby color and rich aromas of blackberry, blueberry and currants, with scents of black roses, mulberry, sweet tobacco and incense. The black and blue fruit flavors are generous and direct, with notes of licorice, cocoa, roasted coffee beans and minerals. The back picks up macerated berries, roasted nuts and creme de cassis, followed by a juicy, savory moderate tannin finish. Buy now, the supply won't last long. 18.5/20 points. New Review.
2016 College Cellars "La Laurella" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($25) - This 100% Sangiovese was originally intended to be part of a "Super Tuscan" blend, but was deemed outstanding enough to be on its own. Well structured and Tuscan-like with notes of black cherry, plum and olive. with a dryish finish. 18.5/20 points. Full review to be in August.
2015 College Cellars "GSM" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - This blend of 45% Grenache, 37% Mourvedre and 18% Syrah offers enticing berry and currant aromas with scents of red roses, tobacco and incense. The flavors pick up dusty earth and minerals along with cassis and charcoal. 18.5/20 points. - August.
2015 College Cellars Petit Verdot, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($25) - Crimson-colored and perfumed, this wine is velvety, yet forceful, with notes of French toast, silty minerals, creme de cassis and graphite, all very appealing. 18.5/20 points. - Full review August.
2015 College Cellars Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Anderson Vineyard ($25) - Richly aromatic and will-structured, with notes of mulberry, licorice, chicory coffee, roasted nuts, and more, this wine is strikingly Rioja- like. Generous, yet focused. 18.5/20 points. - August
2014 Buty BEAST "Wildebeest" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($22) - This mix of 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Syrah, 16% Merlot, 1% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Mourvedre and 3% Grenache is more than a catch-all blend. It combines the structure of the BDX varieties with the fleshy Rhone varietal fruits. 18.5/20 points. - July
- 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).