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Woodinville Spring-Release Mayhem 2010

Every spring, all over the country and around the world, wineries hold their spring-release parties and yesterday there were a number of wineries in Woodinville WA doing just that. These weekends can be pivotal to a small-winery’s yearly bottom-line so it’s important for the wines to be well-received by the public at large.

If you’ve never been to Woodinville then you’re not really missing much in regards to “cool things to see” – it’s sort of a dumpy-little town that without the wine industry being there, would be completely unforgettable by most people. It’s a combination of strip-malls, warehouses and wineries – the funny part is how many of the wineries are in the warehouses buildings – that’s right, a friggin warehouse. There’s none of the “romance” you’ll get from a trip out to Eastern WA where, in many cases, you can walk through the vineyards and take in all the scenery.

You know it’s time to pack it in when you have to take the “Short-bus” to visit wineries.

So why then, are folks drawn to this western WA “mecca” of wine? Plain and simple, the vino and with over 45 wineries there is plenty of vino to go around. A very cool trend I’ve been picking up on lately is how well the quality of the winemaking has risen a lot in the past few years from Woodinville and that’s always a good thing.

Efeste Winery and has a winemaker named Brennon Leighton and his wines have been creating quite a buzz in the Woodinville scene for a few years now as folks know he doesn’t “jack with the wine”. He “listens to the fruit”, uses native yeast and other non-intrusive techniques with his Jedi-like powers and it pays off in the end with wines that are very expressive of their terrior.

Folks were mixing it up at the Efeste 2010 Spring Release

At its release party yesterday there were four new releases which were: 2007 Big Papa Cab, 2007 Final-Final, 2009 Riesling and 2009 Feral Sauvignon Blanc.  Out of the four, the two whites were my favorite and that’s mainly because they are “ready to roll” right now – the Cab and Final Final blend, to me, still need a few more months in bottle to really start coming together but each are showing very good potential and I can’t wait to try them again later this year.

For some, wine isn’t enough – they must have beer too!

Both of his whites come from Evergreen Vineyard which is owned by Butch and Jerry Milbrandt – two vineyard “Godfathers” in Washington State but without the breaking of your legs part. It was rather nice to taste both the riesling and the sauv-blanc and find the common note of lemons in each – a testament to the terrior of that vineyard.

My next stop was the Smasne Cellars tasting room which is in the same “warehouse district” as Efeste and a ton of others. Robert Smasne makes wines for 22 wineries as well as has his own premium label – his passion and know-how make him a highly sought-after winemaker.

The highlight of Robert’s release was his new “Reserve tasting” – due out later this year (needs more time in the bottle), this is his first Reserve wine for the Smasne label and is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petite Verdot, 11% Malbec and 3% Carmenere. The “future’s price” is $79 and upon release will sell for $110 – there are only 35 cases available and Rob feels its his “best wine” ever.

It has really good layering of flavors and textures, however, trying to judge this wine now would be like trying to attempt to tell you what an 11yr old kid will look like when they’re 21. It simply needs more time to lay down as I could easily tell it has a lot of room to grow – right now it’s sort of in that awkward “pre-puberty” phase. I’d love to try it again in 5 or more years, however.

Although they weren’t doing any “official release”, I had to stop-in to J. Bookwalter’s tasting room to meet Nick and sample some of their other wines. As some of you know, I recently reviewed their 2007 Cab and really dug it.

J. Bookwalter is a bit unique in that they really do have much of that “smaller winery” quality wines, however, they produce over 14,000 cases of wine – a quantity most boutique wineries have a hard time fathoming as it becomes more difficult to maintain quality at those levels. From what I tasted yesterday, however, J.B. seems to be doing a good job so far.

Dusted Valley Winery was recently dubbed “Winery of the year” by Wine Press Northwest Magazine and has been reaping the benefits of that award by greater awareness of its wines. Winemaking brothers, Chad Johnson and Corey Braunel have created a loyal fanbase of wine drinker and in doing so have quite the strong brand for themselves. A couple of “cheese-head” Wisconsin natives, these two got the wine-bug years ago and found a way to live out that passion – after all, what goes better with cheese than wine, right?

Winemaker Chad Johnson with a magnum bottle of stained-tooth Syrah

Well last night they held a “media tasting” even for bloggers and wine-writers to come hang out, drink some wine and cause general mayhem with Corey and Chad – sounded great to me so I was all over it like sauce on ribs. These two brothers make a crap-load of varietals and each one seemed to do a good job of reflecting the grape or the blend of grapes, however, by this time of the day my palate was pretty well spent so if you held me to it, I couldn’t give you an honest answer with detailed information as to what any of them really tasted like.

All in all, I’m glad to see the quality of Washington vino on the rise and happy to see Woodinville doing a better job of stepping up to the plate with more quality wines that are truly world-class.