Tag Archive | "washington wine"

Review: 2010 Smasne Cellars Ancient Rocks red wine

Winery website: www.smasnecellars.com

Robert Smasne has made a name for himself in the Northwest for producing wines that show good character, varietal integrity and body. This 2010 “Ancient Stones” blend is no different.

A Rhone-style blend, it is a wine that can easily tame everything from a pot-roast to lamb shank to wild game. A good-drinking wine that shows well now and should improve over the next 5-7 years.

Review: 2010 Smasne Cellars Ancient Rocks red wine

Technical Data: 

  • Vineyard: Upland Vineyard
  • AVA: Snipes Mountain
  • Varietals: 52% Grenache, 26% Mouvedre, 19% Syrah and 3% Viognier
  • 30-percent ferment, on-stem
  • Alcohol: 13.9%
  • Cooperage: 17 months on 100% French Oak
  • Price: $44

On the nose: Gorgeous notes of peppered rhubarb, raspberry, strawberry, toasted peppercorns, allspice, charred kale, tanned leather and a hint of cola.

On the palate: A nearly sublime blend of red berries, cherries, leather and spice. A very complex blend that showcases how good Washington State Rhone-style wines can be. A near-perfect combination of fruit, acid and tannin that all lead into a finish that make your tongue its bitch and demand that you keep swallowing more and more.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Posted in Featured, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2011 Kennedy Shaw Riesling

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: www.thewoodhousewineestates.com

For winemaker, Jean Claude Beck, making old-world style wine is in his DNA. Born in the Alsace region of France, Jean’s obvious influence of the area he grew up in comes to life in this Riesling.

Easily, one of the best, if not the best Riesling’s I’ve had from Washington State in a long time. It has all the complexity one looks for in this varietal, is very “fresh” on the palate and lingers with a finish that hangs out for weeks.

Review: 2011 Kennedy Shaw Riesling

Technical Data:

  • Variety: 100% Riesling
  • Alcohol: 13.9%
  • AVA: Yakima Valley
  • Vineyard: Dubrul Vineyard – Old Block
  • Price: $25

On the nose: Pear, green apples, petrol, river rock, white peach and ginger blossom.

On the palate: One of the “cleanest” new-world Rieslings I’ve had. It’s bone dry and exhibits so much of the qualities which are reminisce of wines from Alsace. It has that very appealing mixture of petrol, stone fruit, minerality and green apple core which make it a true delight. There’s also a hint of ginger on the finish. If you want a best-of-class Riesling from the New World, look no further.

W.E.P. Rating: 125%

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Review: 2010 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Tempranillo

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: www.giffordhirlinger.com

Gifford Hirlinger is one of the many family-run, family-owned wineries you’ll find in the Walla Walla area. It produces wines from the estate vineyard around the winery and has won quite a bit of acclaim for its efforts.

This tasty Tempranillo is a good example of how good this varietal can be from Washington State and is one I’d highly encourage both fans of the grape and newcomers to check out.

Review: 2010 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Tempranillo

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard: 100% Estate
  • Blend: 100%Tempranillo
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • Total Produced: 98 cases
  • Retail Price: $34.00

On the nose: Peppered plums, shoe leather, dark chocolate and bramble with a hint of forest floor.

On the palate: A nearly sublime mix of spice, blackened fruits, grilled leather, tobacco and spiced dark chocolate. Stellar mid palate with acids that “wake up to greet you” on the mid palate. An absolutely delightful Tempranillo which does a good job of showcasing this varietal from Washington State. If this Spanish varietal is on your brain from Washington, you’ll find few finer.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

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Review: 2010 Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://doublecanyon.com

Double Canyon is a new winery in the state of Washington whose initial release is a Cabernet Sauvignon. It sources fruit from the prized Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which is home to some of Washington’s better vineyards as well.

Using land that was originally owned by Don and Linda Mercer, the Double Canyon vineyard site is now in the hands of William Beightol. William has been tending to this area since he was a kid, literally, as he grew up across the street from where the Vineyard is at today.

Review: 2010 Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills
  • Vineyard: Double Canyon
  • Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Cooperage: 20 months in French oak; 35% new
  • Price: $40

On the nose: Ripe raspberries, cherries, clay, herb, peppercorn, leather and cocoa.

On the palate: Very soft tannins for such a young wine and comes across as an “old soul”. There’s a nice combination of red fruits, soil, forest floor and some herbaceousness going on here. Good acids (as is the case with most all of the 2010 Washington Reds I’ve had so far), enticing fruit, and approachable tannins make for a very solid Cabernet.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2012 Bartholomew Winery Rosé

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://bartholomewwinery.com/

Bartholomew Winery, in the SODO district of Seattle Washington, is located inside one of the more iconic buildings of the area – the old Rainier Brewery building – right next to Interstate 5. Its owner, Bart Fawbush, has been passionately churning out good wines now for a few years and this 2012 Rosé seems to be a hit with his customers.

2012 Bartholomew Rosé

Technical Data:

  • Blend: 50% Syrah and 50% Sangiovese
  • pH 3.44
  • TA .57
  • 100% stainless steel
  • Price: $14

On the nose: Ripe strawberries, bubble gum, red vines licorice, and a hint of cherry-flavored jolly rancher.

On the palate: Definitely a sweeter rose that I know will be a summertime, out-on-the-patio delight. While it’s not my personal style of a “Provence-inspired Rose”, I can definitely see a market for it and I know it’ll please many palates out there – especially during the hotter days. Slightly chilled and it’s rather refreshing – pairs well with spicy foods.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Posted in Rosé, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2010 Amavi Syrah

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.amavicellars.com

A sister winery of Pepperbridge in Walla Walla – Amavi allows winemaker, Jean-François Pellet, to have some fun with other varietals of grapes that don’t fall under the model of Pepper Bridge. This Syrah from the Walla Walla Les Collines vineyard is showing very well right now – let’s dive into it.

2010 Amavi Syrah

Technical Data:

  • Varietal(s): 100% Syrah
  • Vineyard(s): 52% Les Collines, 35% Seven Hills, 15% Pepper Bridge
  • Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak Program: 100% French oak;
  • 14% new, 86% used
  • Harvest Date(s): October 4-27, 2010
  • Finished Alcohol: 14.5% by volume
  • Total Production: 1,281 cases
  • Bottling Date(s): February 16, 2012
  • Release Date: May 4, 2012
  • Price: $29

On the nose: Blackened plum sauce, peppercorn, bacon fat, violet, a hint of pencil lead, licorice and a match stick.

On the palate: A nearly sublime Syrah experience in that it does a splendid job of combing fruit, acid and tannin in a tremendous way. I love the mix of dark fruit, a hint of blueberry and smokiness that comes across on the palate here. It’s an easy pick for marinated beef or wild game. Beautiful mid-palate transition with a finish that hangs out for quite awhile.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Posted in Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com/

Doing blends of various varietals is nothing uncommon but what we don’t see as much of is blending varietals and AVAs – this fun little blend from Va Piano Vineyards is such a wine. It’s under $25, drinks well and should age for a few more years to come – let’s dive in.

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 82% Cab Sauv, 14% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 1% Syrah
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak: 30% New French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • TA: .54
  • pH: 3.83
  • Price: $23

Nose: Plum jam, blackberry, bramble, peppercorn and black raspberry. leather glove and rose petal.

Taste: Stellar combination of blackberry jam, pepper, macerated cherries and raspberry. Good acidity on the mid palate that leads into a finish that lingers on for hours with notes of licorice, ink and dark chocolate. This is easily a no-brainer red wine for the money and one should be highly saught out.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%

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2009 Va Piano Cab Franc – Review

By Duane Pemberton
& Sarah Bagdon

Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com

Unfortunately, not too many producers make a Cabernet Franc – it’s either because they don’t have access to quality fruit or perhaps worry  that not enough folks would buy it. Thankfully, Justin Wylie of Va Piano Vineyards has neither of those concerns as he has his own estate fruit and has no problems selling all he makes of this wonderful wine only to the winery’s wine club.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot
  • Vineyard Sources: Va Piano Vineyards Block 8 Cab Franc, Va Piano Vineyards Block 3 Merlot
  • Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak Composition: 40% New French / 60% Neutral French
  • Barrel Aging: 21 months
  • Chemistry: Alcohol 14.4%
  • pH 3.66
  • TA .59g/100ml
  • Case Production: 150 cases
  • Price:  $48

Nose: Black cherry, hazelnut, cigar wrapper, dark chocolate, cola and tar bubble.

Taste: Raisin fruit roll-up, mocha, pencil lead, match stick and dried blueberries. Firm tannins with a good acidity lead into an inviting finish that begs you for more. This is a new-world-style Cab Franc in that it doesn’t have the “veggie” action we tend to see from the old world. Lots of reach-around on this bottle – should age well for another 10 years or more.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Mercedes Benz Urban Wine Tour – Seattle

My friend, Maureen (@MsTerroir) has always enjoyed “going rogue” – it has taken on a life of itself so to speak and both of us love it, embrace it and own it. It’s probably one of the reasons why so many other wine-blog-snobs shun us – that simply lets us know we’re on the right track.

Anyone who really knows me, knows I’m all about getting people to not only embrace their own palate, but equally as important is to encourage them to get out and take an adventure in meeting the folks who make the vino we all enjoy. What better way than to take the reigns and do an Urban Wine Tour through the streets that I call home – Seattle.

Most Washingtonians think of Woodinville when they think of the “hotspot” for Puget Sound area wineries and rightly so – our state’s “grandfathers” are there such as Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery – that town has the pedigree no doubt. However, for the more keenly aware of smaller wineries out there, Seattle represents a new “gold rush” if you will of a city that’s ripe for the picking in regards to getting their wines to a much wider audience.

Of course, this tour wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for the 2011 Mercedes Benz E550 Cabriolet we used. This car simply screams “wine tour” – from being able to take the top down (even when it’s snowing as in our case) to having 385hp on tap to get out of those “tight spots” in traffic, this car has the overall agility and prowess to do a wine tour proper.

Folks may think we were crazy for having the top down at all during the last part of winter in Seattle, however, this car’s heating system rocks it hard. Not only does the main heating system blow like a class-5 tornado, it also has heated seats and even little heater vents in the head-rest. Additionally, it has a little air-dam on top of the windshield that rises up a few inches to help push the air over the main cabin.

The morning started out with an amazing visit to the home of “yoda” – a.k.a. Allen Shoup. For those who don’t know who he is, Allen was the CEO of Chateau Ste. Michelle for 20-years, before that was at Gallo and now owns the famous Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla – a multi-winemaker project that has world-class winemakers from around the globe to come in and make best-of-class wines. One of the more amazing things about spending time with Allen is his insight into the Washington Wine industry as well as the sheer history you can learn from someone like him.

After much arm-twisting, we were “forced” to sample some Long Shadows Wines – a 2004 Sequel Syrah, a 2005 Chester Kidder (Cab/Syrah blend) and a 2005 Pirouette (blend of Cab, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah).

Maureen and I followed him downstairs to “one of his wine cellars” where he dug out a 1980 Chateau Ste. Michelle “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was produced when I was 10years old and is also the same year Mt. Saint Helens blew up in Washington State – so it had quite a bit of significance to me in both the fact that it’s the oldest WA wine I’ve tasted to date and because of the year of Mt. St. Helens which I remember as if it was yesterday.

It wasn’t the most amazing bottle I’ve ever had but it certainly showed very well, considering it’s 31-years old and most likely never was intended to lay down this long. This bottle, however, will be one of my most memorable and that’s because of the time and place I first tasted it and whom I was with.

Here are my notes of this wine:

Smell: Green veggie action – asparagus and broccoli along with cherry cola, bloody mary and white pepper.

Taste: Cherries, ash,  cigarette tray with black raspberry and leather.

After we were done with our visit to the “Shoup Manor” – it was off to grab a quick bite to eat at the very iconic “Dick’s Drive-in” on 45th Street. This is drive-up fast-food place that has been “doing it right” since the 50’s and I have been going to this same place now for over 20-years and the food brings me back every time. It’s very common to see all demographics at this place, from the local UW college kids to millionaires pulling up in their BMW’s and Mercedes cars.

Bartholomew Winery:
Next stop – Bartholomew Winery in the historic Rainier Brewery building on Airport Way, not too far from Boeing Field. Bart Fawbush is the owner and is very passionate about the wines he has. He just released a new Viognier, a Muscat and a “Railway Red” blend, consisting of Cab, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Malbec.

The Viognier has a very floral nose – so massive is the flower component on this nose that it about took my breath away – in a good way. It has good mouthfeel without being too sweet at all.
The muscat is a good sweeter-style for around $10 and would be stellar with a fruit salad in the summertime. His Railway blend – I wasn’t too excited about – then again, I have yet to have any Cab/Pinot blend I’ve ever liked. If you want a very light-tasting Cab, then give this one a whirl.

Patterson Cellars


John Patterson, a Seattle-area native – started Patterson Cellars in Woodinville in 2003 and has quickly developed a good following for his wines. He produces a Rose, a cab, a syrah and a red blend called “Forbidden Red”.

The Forbidden red was my favorite, however, all of his wines show very well. It’s a blend of 32% Touriga, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Primitivo, 15% Cabernet Franc and 14% Mouvedre.

Maureen and self-invited guest Antoine Pin, taking time to do some tweets to update folks where we were at on the Urban Wine Tour.

Market Cellars Winery:
Right across the street from the Patterson tasting room is the old-school Market Cellars Winery. Its owner is 91 years young and was the first bonded winery in the area. He has since teamed up with Mount Baker Vineyards and produces some Puget Sound AVA wines – it’s a quirky show with tons of character and worth the stop.

Market Cellars started off as a wine-making supply store and sells beer-making supplies as well. The gentlemen showing us around is in fact a brew master and loves talking about beer but also has a genuine interest in wine as well.

This was my first time tasting a Siegerrebe grape and I must say – at least the way this one tasted – it sure reminded me a LOT of a Sauvignon Blanc. It’d be a no-brainer with most seafood.

Domanico Cellars
Jason Domanico is no stranger to wine – he went from being a typical corporate-type dude (working for Ghetty Images) to now the master of his own destiny in Domanico Cellars. He sources grapes from some of the state’s leading vineyards and produces them at his winery in Ballard.

This is a very small-producing winery with big heart – in fact, as big and as loud as the orange shirt Jason was sporting this day (grin). All three of his currently available reds are priced at a very reasonable $21 – keeps it simple and helps folks get their favorite without having to pick one over the other based simply on pricing.

All of his wines are rather tasty – in fact it was really hard to pick a “favorite” – at $21 each, how can you go wrong?

He also sampled us on an upcoming Malbec he’ll release later this year as well as his 2010 Riesling – the Malbec holds a lot of promise, however, is still tasting very young so look for that in the fall. His 2010 Riesling, for me, still had way too much SO2 to really get the gist of where it’s at but there was some nice green apple notes coming through. I’d like to try it again in a few months after its bottled and through bottle shock.

Dinner:
We wrapped-up the day by joining Ryan Pennington (PR guru of the Washington Wine Commission) for dinner at Cafe “Compliance” – okay, sorry, inside joke – Cafe Campagne. It’s a little french-style place in Pike Alley of the famous Pike Place market. We had an amazing time with Ryan, sharing what was left of the 1980 Ste Michelle Cab and a couple other wines – all in all, a day like this proves to me why I fell in love with wine.

Time and place is important, but more importantly is who you get to share those experiences with – And I could not have picked a better time than to share it with Allen, Maureen and Ryan. Each winery we visited has its own unique story and each one has its own flare. So what are you waiting for? Get out today and discover what hidden-gems are in your nearest city so you too can embark on your own “Urban Wine Tour” – remember, it’s just wine, have fun with it!

Posted in Autos/Lifestyle, BlogComments (2)

2007 Alexandria Nicole Grenache – Review

Grenache is an up and coming player in the Washington wine scene and for good reason – the climate here is nearly ideal for it. Horse Heaven Hills-based Alexandira Nicole is a successful winery that has built-up a nice reputation for itself as producing good quality wines by a winemaker who still has the passion and burn to do it right.

Technical Data:

  • 100% Destiny Ridge Vineyard, 92% Grenache, 05% Syrah (Sara lee clone), 03% Counoise Horse Heaven Hills AVA
  • Only 171 cases produced
  • Fermentation: Aged in 40% new
  • French oak and 60% 1year old
  • French for 18 months
  • pH: 3.65
  • TA: .62 g/100mL
  • RS: .02g/100mL
  • Alcohol: 14.3% vol.
  • $32/ 750ml. bottle

Nose: Black peppercorns, cranberries, red pepper flake, shoe polish and fresly tanned leather.

Taste: Cedar shavings, cranberry, raspberry and a hint of elderberry hit me right off the bat. Solid mid-palate “feel” that really does a nice job bring out the peppered cranberry component and a hint of beef jerky. Good, lingering finish that sorta hangs out a bit uncomfortingly long – you know – sorta like that annoying neighbor that doens’t know when it’s time to go? But in this case, it’s a good thing.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: http://www.alexandrianicolecellars.com

Posted in Grenache, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2008 Substance Cab – Review

Substance winery, located in Walla Walla, is a relatively new brand to the Washington wine scene and has been doing a pretty decent job of getting itself marketed in a viral sort of way. Through both social media, blogs and event pourings, this brand has created a nice little identity for itself.

Many of us who have tasted plenty of cabs from California and Washington have come to grips with the fact that – generally speaking – Washington State tends to offer a better value of Cab than California. Having said that, I was excited to get the chance to review this price-point cab.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard sources: Pepper Bridge, Forgotten Hills, Nostra Terra, Phinny Hill, Sagemore, Dwelley, Seven Hills, Portteus, Gramercy Estate
  • Cooperage: French – 30% new, two year old & neutral
  • Price: $20

Nose: Rainier cherries, black currant, charred bell pepper, pomagranite, red twizzlers, fresh mint-sauce and a hint of cherry-flavored Vicks 44D.

Taste: This is still a VERY young cab that’s much better after an hour or so in the bottle or a decant. There’s nothing here but STELLAR fruit up in my grill and coats the palate like a pair of suede pants. Awesome mouthfeel, good tannin structure and enough of a lengthly finish to keep me longing for more. I get a very nice pencil lead/cherry-cola finish on the end. This is a cab that EASILY out-classes just about any other cab I can think of in its price-range.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

(how we rate)

On the web: http://winesofsubstance.com/

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2007 Smasne Cellars Malbec

Robert Smasne’s wines  have garnered a lot of good press over the past couple of years – he has a good knack for sourcing quality fruit and not dinking with it too much. This is great for folks like me who have a profound appreciation for wines that stay relatively true to the terroir.

Malbec has exploded in the world of wine in that time as well and for food reason. It’s very fruity, has really nice flavors and generally goes great with food as well – especially meat dishes.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal – 100% Malbec
  • Vineyard – Phinny Hill
  • Appellation – Horse Heaven Hills
  • Aged 28 months in 100% French Oak
  • Price:  $35

Nose: Black cherries, blackberry pie filling, pepper, spice and a splash of clove and black licorice.

Taste: Deep black fruits that come thining thru with a hint of peppered venison jerky. Good mouthfeel, tannin structure and overall finish make this an easy malbec to keep going back to.

Conclusion: I’ve had equal quality from Argentina Malbecs for $20 – so for me, it’s kind of a tough sale at $35. Having said that, I understand why it’s priced the way it is – it’s from small production and the cost of fruit is more up here in WA as well. If you want a quality WA malbec and like supporting the “home-team” then give this one a whirl.

W.E.P. Rating: 85%

On the web: http://www.smasnecellars.com

Posted in Malbec, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2008 Gifford Hirlinger Malbec

Family-owned and operated Gifford Hirlinger resides right on the border of Washington and Oregon on well-named Stateline Road near Walla Walla. Its winemaker, Mike Berghan, loves what he does and if you ever get the chance to talk to him, you’ll see the passion teaming from him.

His family started the winery several years ago and have enjoyed a good amount of fanfare, awards and it’s no surprise. His wines tend to do a good job of reflecting the Walla Walla terrior without breaking the bank as many wines of that region tend to do.

Mike uses estate-grown fruit which means he has superior working-knowledge of the vineyard management and that helps help in making wines that don’t get in the way of the terrior coming through.

Technical Data:

  • Case Production: 342
  • Varietal Composition: 79% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Tempranillo
  • Barrel Aging: 18 Months
  • Oak Program: 40% New Hungarian Oak, 60% Neutral Hungarian Barrels
  • Price: $26

Nose: Spicy plums and blackberries have a date with a touch of cedar box and spice. Lots of dark, spicy fruit on the nose here.

Taste: Inky plumsauce with spiced blackberry jam on top. Good tannins, a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate. Really nice finish that lingers nicely.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Winery website: www.giffordhirlinger.com

Posted in Malbec, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

3 2006 Long Shadows Wines – Review

I can’t think of a more passionate dude in the Washington wine industry than winemaker, Gilles Nicault. His zeal for wine, passion for life and people can only be truly appreciated if you get the chance to meet him in person. One could say that being french-born slanted him to be this way but his level of passion is hard to fake or duplicate. Gilles puts his whole heart into everything he touches and because of that, everyone should have the chance to try his wines – even if at the end of the day your palate doesn’t agree with them.

Long Shadows hires talent from around the world to work with Gilles on various projects – this is part of the success model for the winery as they get to to employ the expertise from some of the world’s most celebrated winemakers.

2006 Pirouette – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Details:

  • Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.93
  • TA: 0.53 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: May 2009
  • Production: 1,733 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Waves of dark chocolate covered blueberries and blackberries. white pepper, wild game, road tar and spice.

Taste: Nice doses of black and white pepper with fresh deer meat, a touch of baby poo, radishes, blackberry, plusm, anise, and chocolate. This is an interesting wine in that it offers some nice layers of complexity and had good acids, but for a $55 wine the finish seems a bit awkward for me. It finishes with some black licorice, pencil lead and ink but all that goodness gets a bit choked out by being a touch too hot – I’d like to try this wine again in 3-5 years.

2006 Feather – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Details:

  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • pH: 3.72
  • TA: 0.57 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: April 2009
  • Production: 2,238 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Cherries, dirt, raspberries, freshly-tanned leather, saddle soap and big-league chew.

Taste: Nice dose of what I’m going to call “dirty cherries” – it’s like you took a handful of cherries, dropped them in the dirt and then ate them – Good stuff. Across the mid-palate, I get some cool flavors of lavender, rose petal, charcoal, black raspberries and leather. Good finish that lingers nicely with flavors of black pepper and spice – would be a great pick for a grilled rib-eye steak.

2006 Saggi – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

  • Blend:42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Sangiovese, 19% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.81
  • TA: 0.55 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: October 2008
  • Production: 1,725 cases
  • $45

Nose: Crayola crayons, christmas fruit cake, cherry, blueberry,  glue,  star anise and some fresh road-kill.

Taste: Blackberry-laced leather straps that have been covered in molasses, cherries, pie crust, chocolate, nutmeg and wild game. There is a lot going on in the taste of this wine – it’s very complex, offering a great variety in layers of flavors. Good acidity and tannin structure – for me – make this wine an easy pick for lasagna or meat-filled ravioli or any sort of italian-styled meat and red-sauce dishes. Good velvet-action on the palate with a finish that hangs out like that annoying neighborhood kid who doesn’t “get it” on when it’s time to leave.

On the web: www.longshadows.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (3)

2006 Dusted Valley Reserve Syrah

Dusted Valley Wines, headquartered in Walla Walla Washington, came onto the scene a few years ago and most recently won “Winery of the year”  Wine Press Northwest magazine. Its owners and winemakers launched back in 2003, becoming the 52nd winery to open in Walla Walla.

They’re one of the few wineries in Washington that have gone all screw-cap and that hasn’t seemed to bother their fans nor the critics.

Technical Data:

  • 100% Syrah (100% Free Run) N/A – ALLOCATED PRODUCT
  • Vineyard Sources: Alder Ridge, Lonesome Springs Ranch, Spofford Station, Cougar Hills
  • Total Acidity 0.59 grams/100ml
  • pH 3.8
  • Alcohol 14.5%
  • Oak Program: 25 % New French Oak, 15% New American Oak
  • Production: 242 Cases
  • Price: $35

Nose: Blueberry, cinnamon, allspice, cedar, peppercorn, clove, leather and chocolate.

Taste: Excellent attack of black pepper, cinnamon, blueberry and a nice hint of blackberry coming thru for me as well. I get a spicey chocololate note that picks things up across the mid-palate transisition. The finish brings lingering flavors of blueberry, Christmas spice, leather, dark chocolate and tobacco leaf. This is an extremely solid effort and a Syrah that does a good job of showcasing how well WA State can do this grape.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: dustedvalley.com

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

A pair of 2005 Willis Hall Reds

Like most small wineries, Willis Hall prides itself on staying as close to the “purity of the fruit” as possible and sources from the best vineyard sites it can get its hands on. Winemaker, John Bell, is extremely passionate about his craft and is always eager to share the wines he produces.

Willis Hall has sort of carved out a small cult-like following and is one of the wineries that are starting to put Snohomish County on the map (well, that and some help from the scores  Quilceda Creek wines have garnered).

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting John a few times now over the past several months and am always impressed on how personable he is and the gleam in his eye whenever you get him started talking about wine – it’s great to see his passion.

2005 Cabernet Franc: Charbonneau Farms –  W.E.P. Rating: 100%

  • Alcohol by Volume – 13.2%
  • Blend – 90% Cabernet Franc; 10% Merlot
  • Vineyards – Charbonneau Farms
  • Barrels – 100% French Oak (50% New; 50% One Cycle Used)
  • Ageing – 22 Months
  • Price: $32

Nose: Cherries, raspberries, black cherries. The smell reminds me of a warm, safe place where as a child I’d Hide (Guns n’ Roses rocks!) – seriously, this wine has comfort-101 all over the nose. It’s pleasant, soft and full of fruit that you’d love to pound by the fistfull.

Taste: The sheer balance of tannin structure and dark fruits of this wine are “off the chain” – this is a Cab Franc that is truley world-class and shows good evidence as to why Washington State kicks ass with this grape. It has the classic darker berry fruits on the front-end with an incredible mid-palate transition that layers on a sort of caramel-pie-crust-like layer and the finish lasts for weeks.

2005 Dolcetto – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

  • Alcohol by Volume – 13.7%
  • Blend – 91% Dolcetto; 9% Sangiovese
  • Vineyards – Morrison Lane; Snipes Canyon Ranch
  • Barrels – 100% French Oak (40% One Cycle Used; 60% Neutral)
  • Ageing – 22 Months
  • Price: $28

Nose: Shampoo, black cherries, rhubarb, sour cherries, white pepper, bubble gum and beef jerky.

Taste: Good amount of an ocean-spray tartness that goes on in the fruit attack of this wine – flavors of cherries, raspberries and lognberry. A solid mid-palate transition that brings on some nice layers of cocoa, white pepper and a hint of medicine cabinet. Good finish that lingers on nicely for hours.

On the web: www.willishall.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Dolcetto, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (1)

2006 Liberty Lake Cellars Merlot

Liberty Lake Cellars, near Spokane Washington, started off in 2004 by producing small amounts of wine which was sourced from Red Mountain AVA. It’s owners, Doug and Shelly both have “day jobs” while working the winery in their off-time. It’s a winery built on hard work and a lot of heart.

They were participants in the #WaMerlot Tweet-up a couple of months ago and I was really drawn in to their passion via a few emails I’ve had with them.

  • Price: $22
  • Alcohol: 13.4%

Nose: Blackberries, dark cocoa, forest floor, cherry-flavored Robitussin, vanilla and oak.

Taste: There is some black fruit going on here, however, it seems to be overwhelmed with oak. Across the mid-palate I get notes of chocolate, tobacco and black pepper but again, the oak comes in and just kills it for me. The finish leaves a sort of black pepper-laced fruit roll-up on the tongue – but again, for me, it’s way too much oak coming through. If you’re a fan of the “California-styled” wines that do have that more pronounced oak/vanilla flavor, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this merlot.

W.E.P. Rating: 70%


On the web: www.libertylakewinecellars.com

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2005 Chandler Reach Parris Sangiovese

Located in the city that’s not really a city – Benton City WA – Chandler Reach is no stranger to success with its wines and adoring fans around the northwest. It’s one of the larger wineries  you’ll find in the greater Red Mountain area and has been producing wines since 2000. It’s Parris line of wines are its reserve program, named after its founders, Len and Jane Parris.

Technical Data:

  • 100% Sangiovese
  • Alcohol: 13.9%
  • Total pH: 3.56
  • Total Acidity: .66
  • Price: $36

Nose: Black currant, black pepper, plumsauce, pencil savings, toasted oak, forrest floor and the rubber from a sneaker shoe.

Taste: Definitely hit hard with the pepper-crusted plums on the initial attack – the mid palate does bring on the toasted-oak a bit that I know many will appreciate. The finish leaves a skid-mark of tobacco, dark chocolate and black pepper on the tongue and that’s something I really do get into. This wine is a total no-brainer with ANY tomato-sauced pasta dishes with meatballs or veal.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: www.chandlerreach.com

Posted in Reviews, Sangiovese, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: Hard Row to How – Round-up

When Don and Judy Phelps started this winery a few years ago they drew inspiration from the old brothel that once “served” the local mining community of the greater Lake Chelan area. For those not familiar with the landscape of this beautiful region in Washington State, it is indeed a bit different than Columbia Valley. Lake Chelen itself is one of the deepest lakes in the world and is has plenty of high hills in its general area – cooler climate grapes do very well in this region and Judy has the winemaking prowess to know what works there and what doesn’t.

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2008 Pinot Noir Rose’ – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

Cases Produced
100
Appellation
Columbia Valley – Lake Chelan
Vineyard
Cortelli
Harvest Date
October 25 , 2008
Brix at Harvest
24˚
Blend
n/a
Barrel Regime
none
Final Analysis
Alcohol 13.8% • TA 0.7 g/100ml
pH 3.4 • R.S 1.1 %
Release Date
June 2009
Retail Price
$18.00
Wine maker
Judy Phelps
Awards
Rated “Excellent” by Wine Press NW
Silver Medal – Washington Wine Competition
  • Cases Produced: 100
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley – Lake Chelan
  • Vineyard: Cortelli
  • Harvest Date: October 25 , 2008
  • Brix at Harvest: 24˚
  • Blend: n/a
  • Barrel Regime: none
  • Alcohol 13.8% • TA 0.7 g/100ml
  • pH 3.4 • R.S 1.1 %
  • Release Date: June 2009
  • Retail Price: $15.00

Nose: Cherries, white pepper, strawberries, ripe kiwi and a touch of fabreeze

Taste: Refreshing fruit attack on the front palate with a solid transition into the mid-region that starts layering those good cherry and strawberry components. I get a nice white pepper action on the finish which I feel compliments the strawberry flavor rather nicely.

I went 90% on this wine because at the $15 mark there are whites from other regions like Spain and Argentina which offer a bit more complexity at the same price-point.

2008 Shameless Hussy Roussanne – W.E.P. Rating: 85%

Technical Data

  • Cases Produced75
  • AppellationColumbia Valley
  • VineyardWhite Heron- Mariposa
  • Harvest DateSeptember 25 , 2008
  • Brix at Harvest24˚
  • Blendn/a
  • Barrel Regimenone
  • Final Analysis Alcohol 13.8%
  • TA  0.8 g/100ml
  • pH 3.5  • R.S 0.7%
  • Release DateJune 2009
  • Price: $15

Nose: Apricots, sea water, coral, peach skin and pears.

Taste:A spritzy tongue-bath of apricots, peaches, pears and a hint of carmel. I get an rather interesting vanilla-like mid-palate transition that hits me pretty good. Decent finish on this wine – a bit too hot for me, however. Would be an easy pick for shellfish, sea-bass or just to enjoy on the patio with the sun out.

2006 Cabernet Franc – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Cases Produced: 180
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Riverbend
  • Harvest Date: October 20, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 24.8˚
  • Blend: 100% Cabernet Franc
  • Barrel Regime: 50% American 50% French : 30% new
  • Alcohol 14.1%
  • TA 0.53 g/100ml
  • pH 3.8
  • Release Date: September 2008
  • Price: $25

Nose: Candied rose petals, cherries, vanilla, creme brulle.

Taste: Good balance of black licorice, roses, carmel and black cherries on the intitial taste. I like the mid palate transition which gives way to notes of leather, dark chocolate, tobacco and tar. A nice finish that lingers on for hours and makes you want more.

2006 Syrah – W.E.P. Rating: 75%

Technical Data:

  • Cases Produced: 400
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Riverbend
  • Harvest Date: October 2, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 24.5˚
  • Blend: 100% Syrah
  • Barrel Regime: 25% new French, 25% new American; 50% Neutral
  • Final Analysis: Alcohol 13.5% • TA 0.55 g/100ml
  • pH 3.6
  • Release Date: January 2009
  • Retail Price: $28.00
Nose: Inky plums with cocoa, raisins, black cherries and a bit of the typical syrah gaminess. leather and some pomegranate.

Taste:
Good plum action with anise, chocolate, nice acidity across the mid palate but gets a bit disjointed for me on the back-end. Not a bad effort, but it’s not my fav.

2006 Zinfandel – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:
  • Cases Produced: 237
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Pheasant
  • Harvest Date: October 24, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.8˚
  • Blend: 75% Zinfandel; 25% Merlot
  • Barrel Regime: 60% Neutral, 40% new oak
  • Alcohol 15.5% •
  • TA 0.65 g/100ml
  • pH 3.9 •
  • RS= .6 g/100ml
  • Release Date: September 2008
  • Price: $35
Nose: Shoe polish, leather, black tar, blackberries, cherries and raspberries.
Taste: Black pepper covered charred bell peppers with raspberry jam, blackberries, tar bubble and a nice hint of jalepeno-raspberry and blueberry finish on the end. Superb mouthfeel, good balance of the fruit, acid and alcohol make this a very food-friendly wine that really does kick ass.
This is a great Zinfandel, no doubt, and would easily stand up to a lot I’ve had from California, however, at $35 dollars it starts to out-price itself a bit – in my opinion – because in that price-range it starts to go with the better Zins from the likes of Ridge etc and could get lost int he shuffle.
Winery website: www.hardrow.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Reviews, Rosé, Syrah, Washington Wines, ZinfandelComments (0)

2006 Merlot Duel – Ca. vs. Wa.

I love wine duels as I believe they can help shake-up the many stereotypes we have as wine lovers. I’ve been witness to quite a few that have shaken preconcived ideas and also helped to enlighten peoples minds and palates to the wine-world around them. And honesly, that’s a great thing, right?

California has really taken on a following all its own for the good job it does with so many of the red bordeaux grapes – Cab and Merlot top that list. The simple truth is that California has been producing award-winning Merlot longer than any other state in the union and for that they should be commended and saught out.

However, as many of us know, the state of Washington has really come a long ways in a short amount of time and really shaken things up a lot – not only here in the “new world” but in the old as well. Its eastern climate is ideal for growing grapes that ripen well and produce amazing fruit – talk to any vineyard owner there and they’ll talk about that area for hours.

2006 Pedestal Merlot by Long Shadows Winery – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Long Shadows vintners, founded by long-time Washington wine pioneer, Allen Shoup, is one of those Walla Walla-based wineres to watch and has garnered praise on most of its wines from critics around the world. In fact, it’s 2005 Pedestal Merlot recently won international acclaim at a wine tasting in Canada. There’s little doubting that this winery and the people behind it are about as passionate as anyone can get when it comes to the potential for Washington wine.

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.
Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blaCKberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.
  • AVA: Columbia Valley
  • Alcohol: 14.7%
  • pH: 3.83
  • TA: 0.51 grams / 100ml
  • Blend: 86% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec
  • Release date: February 2009
  • Production: 1,877 cases
  • Winemaking Overseer: Michel Rolland
  • Price: $55

Nose: Blackberry jam for days on end, combined with stellar notes of leather, peppercorn, shoe-polish, stinky stocks, tobacco and dark chocolate.

Taste: Incredible layers of flavors going on here – blackberry pie (fresh out of the oven) combined with spices and black pepper. I also get in the mid-palate transition a good amount of leather, tobacco and chocolate for days. Superb mid-palate action where the dark chocolate notes really start to take center stage. Good mouthfeel that makes you beg for more and a finish that has some of the best hang-time I’ve had from any wine at any price.

2006 Double Eagle Merlot by GOS Winery: W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Double Eagle started off as a pet-project from some friends who simply wanted to make some good wine for themselves to share. From the leather label to the waxed top, it’s clear that the presentation of this wine was made to impress. Fast-foward a few years, and it caught-on so much that Michael and crew made it available to the public. While you probably won’t find it in wide-spread availabillity you can always order it directly from the winery.

  • Varietal: 92% “Grieve Vineyard” Merlot,  8% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • AVA: Napa Valley
  • Vineyard: Grieve Family Vineyard (Lovall Valley)
  • Elevation: 650 feet
  • Density: 1,040 vines per acre
  • Vine Age: 9 years
  • Harvest Date: 11/2/06
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.7
  • Winemaker: Michael Sebastiani
  • Cold Soak: 1 ½ days
  • Fermentation: 14 days with additional maceration of 5 days
  • Oak: 100 French, 20% new, 40% one-year and 40% two-year
  • Alcohol: 15.4%
  • pH: 3.86
  • Bottled: 8/27/08
  • Cases Bottled: 200
  • Price: $40

Nose: Intense dark chocoloate, cinnamon, black plums, black licorice, vanilla, pomagranate and charcoal.

Taste: Cascading black fruit that gives way to a piece of freshly tanned leather soaked in currant, cinnamon and chocolate undertones which are firmly grasped by a nice tannin structure with excellent acidity and mouth feel. The finish lingers very well and keeps rewarding your tastebuds long after its slid gently down the hatch.

Posted in California Wines, Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)