- Written by Rand Sealey
This year, Lynn and I took in Fall Release Weekend (November 5-8) in a quick, short pace. Due to having been in Seattle on Friday, we started making our rounds on Saturday. First, at Reynvaan Family Vineyards, the 2014 Syrahs were previewed. It was an interesting vintage: the wines came on as being elegantly styled, with perfumed aromas and classic structure. A full report will be in the January 2016 issue of the Review of Washington Wines.
After Reynvaan, we went to Jon Meuret's Maison Bleue downtown. There, the 2011 "Le Midi" Upland Vineyard Grenache and the 2012 "Bourgeois" Walla Walla Valley Grenache (reviewed May) were poured. The 2011 was more aromatic and structured, and the 2012 more openly fruity and fleshy, characteristic of the respective vintages. We also stopped at Kerloo Cellars where we tasted the 2013 Upland Vineyarrd Grenache and the 2013 Stone Tree Vineyard Malbec (both fine wines, to be reviewed in January). Lynn stayed on at Maison Bleue to help out while I drove over to Long Shadows to taste the superb (19.5/20 points) 2013 Pedestal Merlot, Pirouette Red and Feather Cabernet Sauvignon, to be reviewed in the December issue.
In the afternoon, I went over to Billo and Pinto Naravane's Rasa Vineyards on Powerline Road. There, I tasted the outstanding (19+ to 19.5 points) 2012's: QED Convergence GSM Red, Principia Reserve Syrah, Plus One Cabernet Sauvignon, Creative Impulse Cab-Merlot, and in Order to form a more perfect Union Red, all to be reviewed in January. In the evening, Lynn rejoined me at the Corliss Fall Release event. Previews of the 2013 Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon were served from the barrels. Library magnums of the 2005 Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabermet Sauvignon were also poured, delicious, elegan wines, just maturing. I especially liked the rich, earthy, aromatic Cabernet Franc. The newly released 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (reviewed November) was also poured.
The turnout and activity for Fall Release was excellent, particularly on Saturday afternoon when the tasting rooms were crowded. Wineries also said Sunday was busy as well, and even on Monday.
- Written by Rand Sealey
This weekend - November 6-8 - is Fall Release Weekend in Walla Walla. It is when most wineries officially release their new vintages for autumn. Here is my listing of wineries that I recommend visiting.
Tero Estates / Flying Trout - Here, Jan and Doug Roskelley and Ashley Trout have a bunch of new vintages, including the highly impressive Tero 2010 Old Block Cabernet Sauvignon (19.5/20 points) and Flying Trout 2013 Konnowak Malbec (both reviewed in the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines).
Seven Hills - Some new 2013's (reviewed November) will be poured, along with some library wines.
Forgeron Cellars, Kontos Cellars, Mark Ryan, El Corazon, Isenhower, Sleight of Hand - New releases, reviewed in November, will be poured at these downtown and South Valley wineries
Walla Walla Vintners, àMaurice - These two wineries off Mill Creek Road, east of Walla Walla will be having their new Fall Releases from the 2013 vintage. Reviewed November
To be reviewed in the December issue:
Buty - Two new whites and the highly impressive 2013 Rockgarden Estate Red and 2012 Rediviva Red.
K Vintners - New 2013 and 2012 Rhone style wines, including the knock-out 2012 "Hidden" Northridge Syrah (19.5 points) and 2012 "Cattle King" Upland Syrah (20/20 points).
Dusted Valley - Some new 2013's, including a tasty Petite Sirah from the Wahluke Slope.
Tamarack Cellars - A new 2013 "Spicebox" Rhone-style red and a tasty 2013 Petit Verdot.
Gramercy Cellars - The 2013 "Third Man" Grenache, 2013 "The Deuce" Syrah, and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ardor Cellars - Brandon Kubrock will have some new 2013 Rhone-style reds, including the impressive Lawrence Vineyard (19 points) and Art den Hoed (19+ points) Syrahs.
Foundry Vineyards - Some fine 2012's, including a Sangiovese, Syrah, and BDX Artisan Blend.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd will have stellar new 2013's - "Swordfight" 50/50 Mourvedre/Syrah, "Homage" (75% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah, 10% Grenache) and "Little g" Grenache - all scoring 19.5/20 points.
I will be visiting Reynvaan (reviews of the 2014's to be in the January 2016 issue), Rasa Vineyards, Corliss and Maison Bleue (new Domaine Meuret "Burgundy-style" wines). Next week, I will have a report on these.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Which grape varieites grown in Washington are trendy and which ones aren't? Here's my guide to them. I have indicated their directional positions using the face a clock. Twelve or one o'clock indicates a very trendy grape, Two o'clock is moderately so. Three o'clock is neutral and four or five o'clock means declining popularity. Here's my rundown:
Chardonnay - Three o'clock. The state's most widely planted variety is neither trendy nor declining in popularity. There are some highly impressive Chardonnays from specialists such as Array and Ashan, though.
Vioginier - Four o'clock. The trend for this grape has past its peak due to proliferation and quality variability. Some, suck as àMaurice and Reynvaan do continue to impress.
Riesling- Four o'clock. This is an underated variety and continues to be so. Most fans prefer the sweeter versions. But there are some fine Alsace-style dry ones. I recently tasted a superb version from Chris Dowsett (to be reviewed in December).
Sauvignon Blanc - Four o'clock - This variety produces fine dry wines, but tend to be eclipsed by the more prestigious Chardonnay grape.
Semillon - Four o'clock - Like Sauvignon Blanc, there are some noteworthy wines, but generally low profile.
Gewurztraminer - Three o'clock. This is another low profile grape that doesn't stant out. But for cognoscenti, some specialists such as Dowsett and Annalema turn out attention-getting wines.
Chenin Blanc - Three o'clock. - This variety remains in neutral, although L'Ecole No. 41 and Waitsburg Cellars make some fine ones, and excellent value.
Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul - Two o'clock. These are too recent to be really trendy, but there is growing interest in varieties originating in the Rhone Valley
Red "BDX" Varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon - One o'clock. Cabernet Sauvignon is still considered the "king" of red wines. The best ones continue to burnish that variety's reputation. There are, however, a lot of mediocre commercial ones.
Merlot - Three o'clock. This variety was highly trendy two decades ago, but now remains in neutral, taking a back seat to Cabernet Sauvignon. There are wineries making very fine Merlots, but few are staking their reputations on it.
Cabernet Franc - Two o'clock. This is somewhat trendy, but not catching on fire.
Petit Verdot - Two o'clock. This has been billed at a Bordeaux variety and often put in "BDX" blends. But hardly any Petit Verdot is grown in Bordeaux, but the grape does grow well in Washington State.
Malbec - Two o'clock. This, too has often beem represented as a "Bordeaux" grape, although little is grown there. It is grown principally in Cahor, in France's Lot Valley. There are some Malbec specialists such as Ashley Trout and Anna Schafer (àMaurce) to make it a noteworthy grape.
Red Rhone Varieties
Syrah - Two o'clock. This is considered the "king" of Rhone varietals, not as much so as Cabernet Sauvignon, but enough to make it trendy. The cult Syrahs from Cayuse, No Girls and Reynvaan are on waiting lists and register at twelve o'clock.
Grenache - Two o'clock. This is somewhat trendy, mainly as a niche medium bodied wine. The cult versions - Cayuse God only Knows, No Girls, K Vintners "The Boy." register one o'clock.
Mourvèdre - Two thirty o'clock. This seems to be just semi-trendy, not as exciting as Syrah or Grenache, but, from some wineires, well regarded. Used more in "GSM" blends than as a varietal.
Cinsault, Counoise - Three o'clock. These two Rhone varietal are so low profile, that they are in neutral. There are some interesting versions.
Petite Sirah - Two o'clock. This isn't either a Rhone variety or a Syrah, but Duriff, originating in South France. But it grows well in Washington and makes interesting robust wines, such as those from Thurston Wolfe and Dusted Valley.
Pinot Noir - Three o'clock. Oregon's Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs are eclipsing those from elsewhere. But there are some fine ones from the Columbia Gorge and some small pockets of the Walla Walla Valley.
Sangiovese - Three o'clock. Tuscany's premier grape, is more of a niche variety here. Mostly medium bodied wines, without great popularity. There are some nice ones, though.
Nebbiolo, Dolcetto, Barbera - Three o'clock. Not much of these Piedmont varieties are grown in Washington State, so there is not enough to indicate a trend.
Tempranillo - Two thirty o'clock. Spain's premier grape has made limited impact in Washington State, so just semi-trendy. Gramercy Cellars, Kerloo Cellars and Salida (Doug McCrea) make some noteworthy ones.
- Written by Rand Sealey
As the Walla Walla Valley wineries gear up for Fall Release Weekend on November 6 - 8, here are some news and developments here.
Winery Fall Release Previews
In the Walla Walla Valley, some wineries preview their fall releases at special events for club members and friends. Among these were:
Tero & Flying Trout Wine and Swine - On Saturday, September 26, Jan and Doug Roskelley hosted a pig roast at the winery near Milton-Freewater, along with Ashley Trout. Their new releases were unveiled as well. See the October issue of the Review of Washington Wines for reviews.
Walla Walla Vintners Fall Release - On Saturday, October 3, Walla Walla Vintners poured its new Fall releases. The wines will be reviewed in the November issue which goes on line October 26th.
àMaurice Cellars Harvest Celebration - The same day, the Schafer family hosted a celebration with a tasting of new releases, along with vineyard tours, pumpkin carving, live music (with Anna Schafer's husband, Larry Cohen) and a screening of "Casablanca." New releases also to be reviewed in November.
Tranche Cellars Opening a New Tasting Room
Up until now, Tranche Cellars tasting facilities have been makeshift. Sometimes in the fermentation tank room, sometimes in a trailer. A new entrance, with nice metalwork signage, graces the entrance to the winery and the Blue Mountain Vineyard. The new tasting room is situated in front of the winery. Fall Release will feature Tranche's annual bonfire.
The Tero / Flying Trout / Waters and Locati Cellars Expanded Tasting Rooms
With the departure of Trio Vintners, Locati Cellars has moved into Trio's more spacious room, which has a spacious wine tasting bar and a humidor with a nice selection of cigars. The Tero / Flying Trout / Waters tasting room has been expanded by taking out the wall separating it from Locati.
Dusted Valley's New Winery
During the summer, one could see, just east of Braden Road in the South Valley, a large structure being built, first as a skeleton, and then eventually a building. It is Dusted Valley Vintner's new winery, which opened just in time for this year's harvest. The tasting room is still located on the Old Milton Highway.
An Elaboration on Last Week's Blog
In last week's Blog, "A Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre Resurgence?" I mentioned several vineyards planted with GSM varieties, including Tertulia's located deep down in the southeast part of the AVA. This is the Elevation 1200 (incorrectly identified as Riviere Galets, located elsewhere) Vineyard. Shortly afterwards, I got this email from Jon Meuret (Maison Bleue):
"Thanks for the mention in the most recent Blog. There are a few corrections to be made though. The Cote Rotie-like planting on the South Fork is actually mine, at least most of it. The 3 ft. x 3 ft. Sur Echalas part is planted in Grenache and Syrah, with a tiny bit of Marsanne. I will start harvesting a little next year from our estate block. The whole vineyard above is called Elevation Vineyard which is Tertulia's estate block. They do have a test plot of Syrah planted similarly though. Capri Walla Walla LLC owns the land and I have a long-term lease on my 2+ acre piece, Thought you should know."
Thanks, Jon, for letting me know. This is a good example of how vineyard developments are structured in many cases.
- Written by Rand Sealey
It seems that a few years ago, Rhone varietals could get no respect. More and more "BDX" wines kept appearing on the market, as well as "Bordeaux" varietals such as Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenère, even though little of these grapes are being grown in Bordeaux any more. Many blends are five or six varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. But there seems to ba a sameness to many (but not all - there are superb renditions such as those from Seven Hills, Corliss, Figgins and Owen Roe).
The Rhone varieties - Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre - however, I think, are making a comeback. With better site selection and understanding the vinification of these varieties, more interesting and complex wines are being made. Here's my rundown of those wineries that are at the forefront of this resurgence.
Cayuse - Christophe Baron is the pioneer of bringing Rhone varietals to the "Rocks" with his single vineyard Syrahs and the alluring God only Knows Grenache.
Rotie Cellars - Sean Boyd's aptly named winery has made a name for itself with its Northern and Southern Blends and the "little g" Grenache and "dre" Mourvèdre.
Reynvaan Vineyards - The Reynvaan family's winery has acquired cult status with its Syrahs from the Rocks and the Foothills vineyards.
Kerloo Cellars - Ryan Crane staked his reputation on Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre (although he also makes a fine Malbec).
Maison Bleue - Jon Meuret has been making Rhone-style wines since starting in 2007. Since moving to Walla Walla, his emphasis is on Walla Walla Valley fruit.
And then there are the vineyards that are contributing to the increasing popularity of Rhone varietals. The pioneers were Mike Sauer (Red Willow Vineyard) and Dick Boushey in the Yakima Valley, and later Lewis Vineyard. Then came Patina and Les Collines in the South Walla Walla Valley. Then those in the Rocks of Milton-Freewater: Funk, Stoney Vines, Rotie and Rockgarden. Tertulia's Riviere Galets Vineyard deep in the southeast valley is a ringer for Cote Rotie with its steep, rock strewn slope. And more plantings are on the way.
Wineries now are making noteworthy "GSM" (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre) wines in the style of the South Rhone Valley, such as Vacqueyras and Cheateauneuf du Pape. Noteworthy recent versions are Forgeron's "Façon Rouge", Balboa's "Pandemonium" Syrah-Grenache), Tertulia's "Great SchisM" and others. There also are a bevy of Grenaches and Mourvèdres out there as well. All is well with Rhone varieties these days.