- Written by Rand Sealey
Looking Ahead to April
At this time, we are working on the April issue3 of the Review of Washington Wines. In that issue will be early Walla Walla Spring releases from Pepper Bridge, Isenhower Cellars, Moonbase Cellars, and L'Ecole No. 41 (outstanding 2020 reds). On March 11 and 12, we will be in Woodinville to taste recent releases from JM Cellars, Efeste, DeLille Cellars and Avennia. In April, there will be new vintages from Cairdeas in Chelan, Longship Cellars in Richland and Patterson Cellars in Walla Walla. There will be a bevy of new 2022 Rosés. The April issue will go on line March 24.
The 2016 Reds of Pepper Bridge
On February 26, we visited the Pepper Bridge Winery in the South Valley. In addition to the recently 2020 Reds (to be reviewed in April), there were two impressive 2016 reds. They were from a relatively warm vintage which resulted in ripe, well balanced wines. The 2016's are entering an ideal drinking time frame. Here are our notes. Both are available from the winery.
2016 Pepper Bridge Merlot, Walla Walla Valley ($75) - This Merlot (with 14% Cab Franc and 8% Malbec) shows a maturing ruby-garnet color and a rich bouquet of raspberries, black cherries, plums, tobacco, semi dried fruits, crushed roses, sandalwood, sage and stick incense. The flavors are well developed, classic Walla Walla Merlot, with notes of licorice root, cocoa, French roast and silty earth. On the back, the wine rounds out with roasted berries and nuts and graphite, followed by a lingering tannin finish that is smoothing out. 19+/20 points.
2016 Pepper Bridge "Trine" Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley ($80) - This blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec shows a deep ruby-crimson color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, cassis, crushed semi-dried roses, tobacco, sandalwood, dried violets and incense. The flavors are ample yet deep and focused, with notes of licorice, roasted coffee beans and earth. The wine rounds out on the back with roasted berries and nuts, mocha, toffee and graphite, all gliding into a long sweet-dry tannin finish. 19.5/20 points.
A Superb Vintage Champagne
A few weeks ago, Gilles Nicault (Long Shadows) gave us a bottle of Champagne Copinet Millesime 2013 and asked me to let him know what I thought of it. We had it on our 49th Anniversary on March 1st and loved it. It comes from a respected Recoltant-Manipulant (grower-producer).
2013 Copinet Champagne, Brut "Monsieur Leonard" (59.99 - Esquin) - Produced from 100% Chardonnay, this displays a brilliant lemon-gold color, streaming pinpoint bubbles and seductive aromas of Bosc pear, white peach, pear blossoms, acacia flowers, wisteria, brioche and hazelnut. The flavors are exquisitely wrought with precise laser-like white fruits that are still strikingly vivid (preserved by CO2), marked by pear skins, peach stones and stony minerals. The complexity continues on the back with poire William liqueur and recurring brioche and hazelnut, followed by an ultra-long true Brut finish. A super buy when compared to the big-name Champagne houses. 19.5/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
In the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines, there are five Grenache wines scoring 19 or more out of 20 points, three of which received 20/20 points and one scoring 19.5/20 points. Why such high scores? The answer is that the Grenache grape is capable of producing truly outstanding wines in Washington State.
Two of the Grenache wines scoring 20/20 points are from PÁŠXA Wines. Here are the Team's comments on my reviews: "We just received some really lovely reviews from Wine Writer Rand Sealey for his March issue of Review of Washington Wines. Rand score on a 20-point scale than the typical 100-point scale - and rarely scores wines a perfect 20 points. We appreciate his thoughtful writing and are thankful that the so enjoyed the wines he tasted from this year's allocation of PÁŠXA wines. Reviews below."
What is it about Washington State that produces such outstanding Grenaches? The state's microclimates and terroirs are made to order for the grape: Warm temperatures and stony, minerally soils, especially in the Rocks of Milton-Freewater and on Red Mountain, both of which mirror the sun baked, rocky (called mas in France) slopes of Spain (where the grape originated) and South France. In Washington the results are bold yet elegant wines that have so much going on in the way of aromas and flavors that they can earn perfect for near perfect scores, especially with skilled winemaking such as that of Todd Alexander (PÁŠXA) and Sean Boyd (Rotie Cellars). Also see the February issue for the 2020 Sleight of Hand (Trey Busch) WeatherEye Vineyard Grenache from Red Mountain (20/20 points). Another noteworthy producer is Christophe Baron's Cayuse Vineyards (The "GOK" Grenache).
There will be more in the way of Grenaches - Red White and Rosé - coming up in the April issue of the Review of Washington Wines. From Cairdeas on Lake Chelan, there will be a 2022 Grenache Blanc (a white mutant) and a 2022 Rosé along with a 2021 Amphora aged Grenache Noir. For April, there also will be a 2022 L'Ecole No 41 Grenache Rosé from the Alder Ridge Vineyard on the Horse Heaven Hills (a Provence-like terrain) which has been consistently outstanding vintage after vintage.
- Written by Rand Sealey
New French Wines
Besides Washington and Oregon wines, we love French wines, especially Burgundies and Rhône ones. Here are our latest discoveries.
2021 Romuald Petit Bourgogne Chardonnay ($21 - The Thief, Walla Walla) - Brilliant lemon gold colored, this possesses attractive aromas of pear, peach, grapefruit, pear tree blossoms, acacia flowers and white incense. The flavors are bright and varietally pure, with white fruits that are accented by grape and pear skins and saline minerals. On the back, the wine enlivens with poire and pêche liqueurs and grapefruit peel, followed by s crisp, nicely fruited finish. Excellent value. 18.5/20 points.
2019 Vignerons de Mancey Bourgogne Pinot Noir ($23 - The Thief) - This shows a medium brick red color and rich aromas of raspberry, cherry, red plum, red roses, tobacco leaf, orange peel and whiffs of stick incense. The varietal flavors are medium bodied yet substantial, with red fruits that are imbued with red licorice, cocoa, orange pekoe tea and earth. On the back, the wine fills out with pressed berries, kirsch and recurring orange peel, followed by a smooth moderate tannin finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Moillard Pouilly-Fuissé, Sous La Grotte" ($38.99 - wine.com) - Brilliant lemon-gold colored, this possesses floral aromas of pear, white peach, grapefruit, pear blossoms, acacia flowers, verbena, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are effusive and well wrought, pure Chardonnay, marked by grape and pear skins, peach stones, herbal tea and granitic minerals. The vibrancy continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and touches of hazelnut and grapefruit peel on the lingering, finely fruited finish. "It's really terrific," says Lynn. 19/20 points.
2020 Antoine Sunier Morgon ($30.99 - wine.com) - This is a tasty Cru Beaujolais. Deep ruby colored, to emits perfumed aromas of fraises de bois, cerise, cassis, black roses, lavender, violets and sweet incense. The flavors are deliciously mouth filling, with copious red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cola, black tea and granitic minerals. The appeal continues on the back with pressed berries, kirsch and crème de cassis, followed by a chewy moderate tannin finish. The vigor gives it a plus. 18.5+/20 points.
2020 Domaine Bachelet Monnot Maranges Premier Cru La Fussière ($55.99 - wine.com) - Maranges is situated at the southern end of the Côte d'Or. This shows a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of black currants, black cherries and black plums, with scents of black roses, tobacco, violets ynd sweet incense. The flavors are ample yet focused, with red and black fruits that are red licorice, cocoa, black tea and granitic minerals. On the back, the wine fills out with macerated fruits, roasted nuts, mocha, cerise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a lengthy ripe tannin finish, lifted by sturdy fruit acids. 19+/20 points.
2020 Delas Côtes du Rhône "Saint Esprit" ($13.99 - Safeway) - Composed of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, this is a nice easy-drinking red. It offers a ruby color and ripe aromas of raspberry, currant, plum, red roses, tobacco leaf, garrigue and spiced incense. The flavors are medium bodied yet substantial, with red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cocoa, medium roast coffee beans and earth. On the back, the wine rounds out with framboise and cassis liqueurs and soft charcoal, followed by a juicy moderate tannin finish. 18/20 points.
2021 Domaine de la Modorée Lirac Blanc ($49.99 - wine.com) - Lirac is across the Rhône River from Châteauneuf du Pape. Composed of one-third each of Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne, this displays a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromas of pear-apple, white peach, grapefruit, passion fruit, pear blossoms, jasmine and white incense. The flavors are penetrating, laser-like, with white fruits that are marked by grape and pear skins and riverside minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs and grapefruit peel, followed by a brisk, lingering well fruited finish. 19+/20 points.
2019 Domaine de Marcoux Lirac, La Lorentine Vineyard ($36.99 - wine.com) - Composed of 40% Grenache with 30% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, this a beefier than usual South Rhône red. Nearly opaque ruby-crimson colored, it emits intoxicating aromas of blackberries, black currants, black plums, black roses, sweet tobacco, lavender, olives, black violets and spiced incense. The flavors are deliciously mouth filling, with dark fruits that are infused with licorice, cocoa, dark roast coffee and alluvial minerals. The wine intensifies on the back with macerated fruits, roasted nuts and ground charcoal, followed by a chewy, spiced (nutmeg, clove) ripe tannin finish. 19/20 points.
2019 Crous St. Martin Châteauneuf du Pape, "Hommage à l'an 1879" ($41.99 - Esquin) - This is a well priced CdP. Composed of 80% Grenache and 20% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, it shows a deep ruby color and enticing aromas of raspberry, black currant, black plum, crushed roses, pipe tobacco, lavender, olive and spiced incense. The flavors are mouth filling, with red fruits that are intermixed with licorice, cocoa, black tea and mas minerals. The back picks up pressed berries, roasted nuts framboise and cassis liqueurs, followed by a ripe moderate tannin finish. 19/20 points.
Bodegas Valdemar Spanish Wines
On Friday, February 17, we had lunch at Valdemar Estates. We had the Spanish tasting flight with our chorizo stuffed mushrooms.
2021 Valdemar Rioja Rosé ($25) - Composed of 92% Garnacha and 8% Mazuelo, this shows a brilliant copper-pink color and enticing aromas of strawberry, red currant and Valencia orange, with scents of pink roses, lilac and pink incense. The flavors are crisp and lively, with pink fruits that are accented by grape skins and minerals. The back picks up strawberry and currant liqueurs and recurring orange peel, followed boy a nicely fruited dry finish. 18.5/20 points.
2019 Valdemar Balcon de Pilatos Maturana ($55) - Maturana is an ancient grape that was rescued from extinction by Bodegas Valdemar. It exhibits a deep ruby-crimson color and an intoxicating nose of wild fruits - raspberries, black currants, black plums - with scents of black roses, lilac, sweet tobacco, sandalwood, violets and stick incense. The flavors are deep and focused, intermixed with licorice root, black tea and gravelly minerals. The back picks up macerated dark fruits, roasted nuts and mocha, followed by a lengthy sweet-dry tannin finish. 19+/20 points.
2017 Valdemar Garnacha, La Gargantilla Vineyard ($65) - This 100% Garnacha displays a deep ruby color and a rich, sultry nose of raspberry, blueberry, black currant, orange peel, black roses, tobacco, Spanish lavender and sweet incense. The flavors are thick and chewy with layers of black and blue fruits that are intermixed with licorice, chicory coffee and earth. The back reveals roasted berries, Marcona almonds, toffee and cassis, followed by a lingering sweet-dry finish. 19.5/20 points.
2012 Valdemar Rioja Reserva ($32) - This is a fine rendition of aged Rioja. A blend of 79% Tempranillo, 13% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 3% Maturana, it shows a deep ruby-garnet color and rich aromas of cherry, plum and fig, with scents of crushed roses, Spanish lavender, orange peel, sandalwood and smoldering incense. The flavors are thick and generous, yet deep, with fleshy fruits that are intermixed with licorice, chicory coffee and earth. The back reveals roasted berries and nuts, toffee and dried orange peel, followed by a lingering, maturing dryish tannin finish. Lynn's favorite. Fine value. 19/20 points.
- Written by Rand Sealey
On February 3, I sent Review subscribers an email announcement that Esquin, which I founded in Seattle in 1969 and sold in 1997, had been sold to Downtown Spirits in Seattle. Here's my story of Esquin Wine Merchants when I owned it.
How I Got into the Wine Industry
I spent the summer of 1969 in Europe, I bought a Triumph Spitfire roadster which I picked up in Coventry and drove around England and Scotland and then to France, Italy and Germany. Along the way, I visited wineries and drank wines at restaurants. That trip is what initiated by interest in wine.
The following year, the Washington State Legislature passed a law allowing retailers to sell out of state wines as well as those of Washington. One time, my father and I were visiting Esquin Imports in San Francisco and one of the owners, Karl Petrowsky, asked us if we would be interested in opening an Esquin store in Seattle. Sure, we were. One thing led to another and in June, 1969 we reached an agreement to start an Esquin store in Seattle in a building next door to my father's medical clinic on First Avenue South and Atlantic Street. It had an underground basement - perfect for wine storage and we opened the door in December.
Over the ensuing years, I was a wine merchant at Esquin-Seattle. Initially, I had a partner, but two years later, I bought him out and ran the business solo, churning out newsletters about the wines being offered. Many trips to California, Europe and elsewhere were made. In 1972, Karl Petrowsky departed from Esquin-San Francisco and I continued to work with the other owner, Ken Kew, who eventually sold his store. For a while, I had another partner, Jim Kunz, help hen until he sold his interest.
After 27 years in the business, I sold Esquin to Chuck LeFevre. For the following 10 years, I was a consultant, mainly writing the store's newsletters. During that time, Esquin moved to its present location at Fourth Avenue South and Lander Street. I was laid off in 2008. After that, I began an on-line newsletter, The Review of Washington Wines. In 2013, my wife, Lynn, and I moved full time to Walla Walla and I continued my career in the wine industry. It is still a rewarding endeavor.
From 1997 on, my successors, Chuck and daughters Stephanie and Alisha, did a great job running Esquin for 26 years. With its acquisition by Downtown Spirits, Esquin Wine & Spirits has entered a new third phase in its operation, headed by Marques Warren. My congratulations to all who have been or will be involved with Esquin.
- Written by Rand Sealey
Looking Ahead to March
We are now working on the March issue of the Review of Washington Wines and there are a lot of exciting new releases to write about. There will be winter releases from the Walla Walla Valley, including Dunham Cellars, Walla Walla Vintners, Patterson Cellars and Canvasback. There are some outstanding 2020 reds from Rotie Cellars. Todd Alexander's outstanding wines from Force Majeure, The Walls and PÁŠXA are also featured, including two 20/20 points Grenache wines. We will be introducing Rocky Pond from Washington's newest AVA, Rocky Reach, located between Chelan and Wenatchee. During the weekend of February 11-12 several wineries will be releasing their 2022 Rosé wines. We can't wait for the March issue to go on line February 24!
New French Wines from Foodscape
In addition to seafood, produce, charcuterie and cheese, Foodscape in Walla Walla offers wines. Carefully picked by Robert Ames, the store has a limited selection, mostly French, but with a smattering of German, Italian and other wines. Here are four that I bought recently.
N.V. Domaine de Nerveux Crémant de Loire Rosé, "La Folie de Loup" ($23.90) - This sparking wine presents a brilliant copper color, streaming bubbles and floral aromas of strawberry, pink cherry, blood orange, pink roses, orange blossoms, meadow flowers and orange incense. The flavors are brisk and well fruited, with notes of grape skins, orange peel and alluvial minerals. The back picks up fraise and cerise liqueurs and is enlivened by the CO2 and bright fruit acids. 18.5/20 points.
2021 Bernard Fouquet Vouvray, "Cuvée de Silex" ($25.90) - Produced from Chenin Blanc, this white shows a brilliant lemon-gold color and floral aromas of pear-apple, white peach, honeydew melon, grapefruit, apple blossoms, honeysuckle, clover and spiced white incense. The flavors are bright and fresh, accented by pear skins, peach stones and silicate minerals ("silex"). The vibrancy continues on the back with poire and pêche liqueurs, melon rind and grapefruit peel, followed by a well juiced finish. 18.5/20 points.
2021 Régis Minet Pouilly-Fumé, Vieilles Vignes ($29.90) - Pouilly-sur-Loire is across the river from Sancerre. This Sauvignon Blanc offers a straw color an intriguing nose of Anjou pear, gooseberry, Crenshaw melon, lemon, pear tree blossoms, lemongrass, meadow flowers and wet stone. The old vine flavors are brisk, almost laser-like, with white and green fruits that are accented by grape and pear skins and saline minerals. The resonance continues on the back with poire William liqueur, melon rind and lemon zest, followed by a persistently minerally finish. 18.5/20 points.
2020 Notre Dame de Pallières Lirac ($24.90) - Lirac is located across the Rhone River from Châteauneuf du Pape. Composed of 60% Grenache and 20% each of Syrah and Mourvèdre, this shows a brick red color and rich, spicy aromas of raspberry, black currant, red plum, crushed roses, sweet tobacco, olive tapenade and sultry incense. The flavors are generous but substantial, with red fruits that are intermixed with red licorice, cocoa, black tea and riverside minerals. On the back, the wine fills out with pressed berries, mocha and soft charcoal, followed by a ripe moderate tannin and acid finish. "The price, I can't believe it!" says Lynn, "I love it." 18.5/20 points.
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