- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday, July 18th, one week after his passing, a memorial service was held for Duane Wollmuth, the late Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. It was held in the ballroom of the Marcus Whitman Hotel and nearly 400 attended to pay their respects, myself included. At guests entered, they picked up short pours of local wine. When the service began, after a few remarks by officiants, a toast was lifted to Duane.
The service was officiated by the Reverend Robert McCoy and friends and associates delivered their memories of Duane. A video tribute was presented, showing Duane the Family Man, the Outdoors Man and the Wine Man. Memorial letters from his two daughters were read. The service was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.
Ron Williams Hired as Walla Walla Tourism Director
This week, it was announced that Ron Williams is taking over as Executive Director of Visit Walla Walla, the Valley's tourism ages, funded by the city's lodging tax. Ron is also Executive Director of Shakespeare Walla Walla and will be wrapping up this job over the next few weeks. He replaces Ron Peck, who left to take a similar position with the Port of Seattle. Williams brings to Visit Walla Walla a strong background in arts, wine and tourism, having been retail manager of Waterbrook Winery, managing director of the Gesa Power House Theatre, and CounterPoint Design & Development.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Monday morning (July 11) Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, died. He was jogging when he suffered a heart attack. He was 60. This is a great shock to the Valley's wine industry.
Wollmuth came to the executive director job in 2011 with impressive credentials. He worked in the cell phone industry before launching the Three Rivers Winery on the old Highway 12 in 1999. He also owned the Biscuit Ridge Vineyard, near Dixie, with his wife, Mary, where they made their home. In 2008, Three Rivers was sold to the Foley Estates wine group of California. Wollmuth remained as general manager until he took over as executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association before leaving to take the job with the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.
Wollmuth took the broad view in promoting Walla Walla Valley wine. Representing a cross-state AVA, he worked closely with both the Washington State Wine Commission and the Oregon Wine Board and had many friends across the border. Under his direction, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance took some successful marketing initiatives. One was the Taste and Tote program with Alaska Airlines whereby the airline would check a passenger's case of wine for free. Another was Celebrate Walla Walla Wine, which brought international winemakers to Walla Walla for a panel tasting and discussion comparing the Valley's wines with others. The fourth annual one last June, featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, was a sold-out success.
Duane was a consumate gentleman. He was always warm and helpful, always there for everyone. I, myself, have spoken with him numerous times. He will be sorely missed.
- Written by Rand Sealey
The Columbia Gorge is a distinctive American Viticultural Area (AVA). It straddles Washington and Oregon along the Columbia River, around Lyle, WA and Hood River, OR. The climate is transitional, between the dry region to the east and the cooler, wetter area to the west. Much of the terroir is volcanic, from ancient eruptions of Underwood Mountain and Mount Hood. The slopes offer good drainage, and cooling breezes from the Columbia River temper the summer heat. All this adds up to a highly suitable are for wine grape growing, especially, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner.
On Thursday, June 23rd, we drove westward from Walla Walla to Lyle. Our first stop was at Tetrahedron Cellars on Highway 14, just as one enters Lyle. This new winery is owned by Darren Michaels and his fiancée, Kelly Johnson. Its inaugural releases include a Chardonnay and a Charbono, to be reviewed in the August issue of the Review of Washington Wines. Also on State Street (Highway 14) is the Memaloose tasting room which features wines from the Idiot's Grace and Mistral Ranch estate vineyards. Then we drove up above Lyle to the Cor Cellars and Syncline wineries on the Old Highway 8. Up there, the view of Mount Hood and the Columbia River is breathtaking. Reviews of these and other wines tasted on our trip will be in the August issue. Then, we drove about 17 miles west to Little Buck Creek Road on Underwood Mountain to visit AniChe Cellars, owned and run by Rachel Horn and Anïas Mera.
We spent the night at the Best Western Hood River Inn where we had a delicious Columbia River King Salmon dinner at the Riverside Restaurant with a nice Oregon Pinot Noir. The next morning, we drove back up above Lyle to Domaine Pouillon. There, we tasted several wines, current and future releases, with Alexis and Juliet Pouillon, including an Alsace-style blend of Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling called "Edelzwicker" (to be reviewed, with others, in the August issue). Our last stop was on the Oregon side at Analemma in Mosier. There, we tasted some fine Gewürztraminers, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Atavus and Oak Ridge vineyards. Afterwards, we drove eastward to home in Walla Walla.
Watch for the July issue of the Review of Washington Wines, on line July 22, for reviews of wines tasted.
- Written by Rand Sealey
With Independence Day coming around soon, what better way to celebrate than with American wines, especially ones from Washington State? Here are some recommendations for Holiday.
Robust reds are especially suitable, especially Syrah, Malbec, GSM blends, and BDX blends. From recent issues of the Review of Washington Wines, I suggest.
2013 Alexandria Nicole "Jet Black" Syrah, Horse Heaven Hills, Destiny Ridge Vineyard ($28) - 18.5/20 points - March
2014 College Cellars Carmenere, Walla Walla Valley, Clarke Vineyard ($20) - 18+/20 points - April
2014 Sleight of Hand Cellats "The Spellbinder" Red Wine, Columbia Valley ($20) - 18+/20 points - June
2013 Milbrandt Vineyards "The Estates" Malbec Wahluke Slope ($26) - 18.5/20 points - July
2013 Forgeron Cellars Facon Rouge, Columbia Valley, Boushey Vineyard ($35) - 18.5/20 points - July
For casual outdoor entertaining bright, aromatic whites are more appropriate than Chardonnay.
2014 Cadaretta "SBS" White Wine, Columbia Valley (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon) ($23) - 18.5 points - March
2014 Forgeron Cellars "Façon Blanc" White Wine, Columbia Valley ($25) - 18.5/20 points - July
2015 Rôtie Cellars Southern White, Washington State (Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne) ($32) - To be reviewed August
See the June 15 Blog posting below for recommended rosés. In addition, here are four more.
2015 Domaine Pouillon Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills ($20) - Composed of 65% Grenache and 35% Mourvèdre, this offers a copper color and attractive aromas of peach, cherry and tangerine, with bright fruits and a lightly spiced Provençal-like dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2015 Syncline Rosé, Horse Heaven Hills, McKinley Springs Vineyard ($20) - This combination of 39% Cinsault, 36% Carignan and 25% Grenache comes on like a Tavel Rosé from the South Rhone. Copper-pink colored and fragrant, with ripe, slatey fruits, this is a delightfully lively rosé. 18+/20 points.
2015 Tertulia Cellars Tempranillo Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($22) - Brilliant copper-pink, this wine possesses ripe aromas of cherry, raspberry and tangerine and nicely extracted flavors with notes of grape skin and kirsch and framboise liqueurs, followed by a dry yet juicy finish. 18+/20 points.
2015 Walla Faces "Art" Rosé, Walla Walla Valley ($20) - This 90% Estate Syrah and 10% Viognier combination offers a light copper color and intriguing aromas of raspberry, orange peel and white incense. The flavors are fresh and mouth filling, with undertone of grape skin and orange peel, followed by a juicy, dry lightly spiced finish. 18+/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On Friday, June 16th, the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance hosted a panel presentation and tasting of three Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignons, along with ones from the Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Chile. This was the fourth Annual Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine panel event. The first, in 2013, focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, the second, in 2014, on Syrah, and the third, in 2015, on Merlot. The event was held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel where Walla Walla Valley Alliance Director Duane Wollmuth welcomed guests who each had six wines placed before them. Professor Kevin Pogue gave a presentation about the terrors of the wines being tasted, with slides of maps, climatic conditions and soils of each viticultural area. Then Andy Perdue (Great Northwest Wine) moderated a discussion by each winemaker of their wines. The winemakers were:
John Freeman, Waterbrook Winery, Walla Walla
Chuck Reininger, Reininger Winery, Walla Walla
Gordy Venneri, Walla Walla Vintners, Walla Walla
Thomas Burk, Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux, Bordeaux
Thomas Rivers Brown, Rivers-Marie Winery, Napa Valley
Patrick Valette, VIK Winery, Millahue, Chile
The discussions were interesting and stimulating, and each winemaker drew in aspects of terroir, viticulture and winemaking while the audience tasted the six wines being presented. I found all six wine to be nearly equal qualitatively (19 to 19+/20 points) but quite different in character. Here are my notes in order of personal preference (a subjective, not qualitative evaluation).
2012 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($38) - Composed of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and s smoky, earthy nose of wild blackberries, cherries, plums, dried roses, tobacco and sage. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with thick, chewy flavors that were imbued with licorice, cocoa, French roast and earth. The back picked up notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and pencil lead, followed by a lingering, toasty ripe tannin finish. The 2012 is sold out, but the 2013 is excellent (reviewed June, 18.5+/20 points). 19+/20 points.
2010 Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux ($200) - Deep crimson colored, this blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot possessed lovely aromas of wild raspberries, cherries, plums, cassis, crushed roses, orange peel, tobacco and oriental incense. The flavors were thick and chewy, yet refined, with interlayerings of licorice, chocolate, and minerals. On the back the wine turned supple textured with notes of pressed fruits, creme de cassis and toast, followed by a savory, lingering polished tannin finish. 19+/20 points. The $200 tag is current market price. The 2012 is about $130.
2011 VIK Red Wine, Millahue Valley, Chile ($140) - A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Carmenère, 5% Merlot, 4% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Franc, this came on as a lovely Bordeaux influenced red. It showed a deep crimson color and a sultry, smoky nose of raspberry, cherry, plum, dried roses, and musky incense. The flavors were deep and expansive, with layers of dark fruits, intermixed with licorice, cocoa, coffee and clay and gravel minerals. The back picked up pressed berries, toffee, mocha and caramel, followed by a lingering appealingly supple finish. 19+/20 points.
2012 Reininger Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($50) - Sourced from hillside blocks of the Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards, and blended with 4% Petit Verdot, this showed a deep ruby color and a perfumed nose of blackberries, cherries, plums, crushed roses, tobacco, eucalyptus and incense. The flavors were generous and chewy textured, with noters of licorice, cocoa, French roast and minerally loam and gravel. The back picked up pressed berries, mocha, toffee and integrated moderate oak (44% new French), followed by a long, ripe smooth tannin finish. 19+/20 points. This is sold out at the winery.
2013 Rivers-Marie Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Panek Vineyard ($90) - This 100% Cabernet from hillsides above St. Helena, offered a semi-opaque ruby color and a dark fruited nose of blackberry, cherry and cassis with scents of crushed roses, lavender, violets and clove. The flavors, as well, were intense, marked by notes of licorice, dark chocolate and mountainside minerals. The back revealed sensations of macerated berries, toffee, graphite and toasty oak, followed by a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points. Still dark and brooding, this has the potential to advance to 19.5/20 points with 5-10 years aging.
2012 Waterbrook Winery "Icon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley ($45) - From the Spring Valley, north of Walla Walla, this showed a deep purplish color and a distinct varietal nose of blackberry, cherry, cassis, crushed roses, tobacco, sage and incense. The flavors mirrored the aromatics with well structured dark fruits that were intermixed with licorice, dark chocolate, French roast and minerals. The intensity continued on the back with notes of roasted berries and nut, toffee and integrated oak, followed by a lingering firm, yet ripe, tannin finish. 19/20 points.
All these wines were admirable, but what is striking is how well the Walla Walla Valley wines showed in comparison to the other much higher priced wines. I loved the Pavillon Rouge, but is it really worth $200? And the Napa Valley and Chilean wines cost twice the WWV ones.