Tag Archive | "washington wine"

Winemaker Brennon Leighton of Efeste – Interview

I had the chance to sit down with Brennon not too long ago after a huge wine-tasting Efeste held for its club-members.

It should be noted that while we try our best to keep it “G or PG” on Winefoot, that Brennon can be a bit “colorful” with his choice of words at times – we love his passion but just wanted to warn the easily offended.

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2007 Righteous Red and Righteous Malbec – Review

Winery website: www.sweetvalleywines.com

It’s not too often we get the chance to see an up and coming winemaker from his/her humble beginnings – on the path to “wine rock-stardom” – this is the case with Sweet Valley Wines’ own Josh McDaniels and his team. Still fresh out of college, Josh’s zeal and passion for his wines is as clear as his witty and fun attitude on life, which I think is refected very much so in the wines he makes.

Sourcing the best fruit he can get his hands on from Walla Walla and Columbia Valley means that Josh is like the fat-kid in a candy store with a go-pass – except his liquid candy helps improve our lives. While there are pro’s and cons to sourcing fruit vs. estate (I get it, really) – I do think that for most smaller wineries having the flexability of multiple vineyards is a bonus.

Sweet Valley’s Righteous-series wines are more value-priced, QPR (quality-to-price ratio) -driven and are priced in such a way to help the winery get its products out to a larger audience and it makes sense in today’s economy.

2007 Righteous Malbec – W.E.P. Rating: 85%

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard Source: Alice Vineyards at King Fuji Ranch on Wahluke Slope
  • Alcohol: 14.1
  • Cooperage: 18-months in 500 liter puncheons – French and American oak
  • Cases produced: 92
  • Price: $16

Nose: Red vines licorice that’s been doused in white pepper, cherry soda and some blackberries and cinnamon stick.

Taste: Cherry blossom, apple core, black peppercorn, bosch pear (I know and odd one in a red wine), tobacco leaf, rose petal. Excellent mouthfeel, lingering finish – a no-brainer of a Malbec for the money.

A very youthful wine that honestly would do well to sit in the bottle another year or so – very tight tannin structure with good fruit forward action. A solid effort from a young winemaker which should please those looking to try a decent alternative to the infamous Argentina malbec commotion.

2007 Righteous Red Wine – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Coulmiba Valley (80% Walla Walla Valley)80% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Syrah, and 2% Petit Verdot
  • Vineyard Sources: Forgotten Hills, 7 Hills, Arete Vineyards and Alice Vineyards
  • Alcohol: 13.6%
  • Cooperage: 18-months French and American Oak
  • Cases Produced: 792
  • Price: $12

Nose: Eucalyptus-laced plums, black cherries, drakkar men’s cologne, dill, anise, gym sock, burnt almonds.

Taste: Cherry coke, white pepper, cacise, rhubarb, black pepper, cherry-flavored cough syrup. Good general mouthfeel with tight, young tannins. This wine will be better in the next year or two – it’s very youthful right now and a fun dinner wine or party-time red.

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

A pair of 2007 Syncline Reds – Review

James and Poppie Mantone founded Syncline Cellars a few years ago in the small town of Lyle Washington and decided to focus mainly on Rhone grape varities. Their passion for wine started for both of them years before meeting as both were working at LaVelle Vineyards – which is where they met.

As a small production winery, Syncline has the luxury of being able to have full artisitic control of the direction it wants to take its wine – it sources quality fruit from all over the Columbia Valley AVA.

2007 Subduction Red – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical data:

  • Vineyard Source: Varies
  • Grape varieties: 35% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre, 16% Grenache, 15% Cinsault and 13% Counoise
  • Alcohol: 14.1%
  • Harvest Dates: Early September – late October
  • Year planted: Varies
  • Price: $18
  • Production: 1750 Cases

Nose: Crushed peppercorn, blackberry, blueberry, elderberry and cinnamon.

Taste: Good amounts of leather, shoe-polish, tobacco, cocoa, eucalyptus, black fruit and some nice cedar box action – good acidty and tannin structure in this wine make it an easy daily-drinkier with a decently long finish.

2007 Mourvedre – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard Source: Coyote Canyon
  • Fruit: 100% Mourvedre
  • Harvest Dates: Mid October
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • Time on oak: 16 months
  • Price: $30
  • Production: 225 Cases

Nose: Tons of oak coming off the nose within the first few minutes of opening – fast forward a day after opening and some nice scents come flowing off this wine like dried blueberry, pencil lead, fruit cake, blackberry, vanilla and cocoa.

Taste: Some good amount of fruit on the front attack which brings in layers of caramel, prunes, blackberry, cassis – tons of black pepper and a similar tar-hint that I found in the subduction red. The finish is okay, however, a bit too hot for me – this would be a good wine with tomato-sauced pasta dishes and veal.

Winery website: www.synclinewine.com

Posted in Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2006 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot

Duckhorn Winery, based in St. Helena California, produces bordeaux-style wines and has considered one of that regions top-quality producers for almost two decades. Its unyielding commitment to quality has long been cemented by its award-winning merlot which it now produces over 30,000 cases of. 

This merlot was one of my “gateway” wines back in my early days of getting into red wines – I remember it have a finish to die for – lush, velvety and just full of excellent fruit which still sticks in the back of my mind even to this day.

This “Napa Valley” Merlot features grapes harvested from 36 different vineyards and really underscores the blending talents of the winemaking staff at Duckhorn. Getting the right comination of blend percentages can be a tricky process, much less working from 36 varrying vineyards and microclimates.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Content: 96% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
  • Appellation: Napa Valley
  • Harvest Dates: September 9 — October 31, 2006
  • Average Sugar at Harvest: 25.6 degrees Brix
  • 36 Vineyards Harvested
  • Cooperage: 100% French Oak Château-style Barrels (60 Gallons)
  • Barrel Aging: 16 Months
  • Age of Barrels: 30% new, 70% second vintage
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • 0.67 g/100 ml titratable acidity
  • 8-10 days fermentation at 80?F
  • pH: 3.33
  • Bottled: April 2008
  • Price: $52

Nose: Blackberries, currant, dark cherries, saddle soap with hints of rose petal and leather. 

Taste: Firm tannin structure with the classic black fruit that Merlot is known for – fruit hits heavy on the palate like pepper-laced blackberry jam and then brings in nice subtleties of cedar and spice. The finish isn’t nearly as long as it should be and at its pricepoint of $52 – I think there are plenty of better wines out there. The tannins should mellow out a lot over the next 3-6 years and I’d be interested in trying this wine again at that time.

I ended-up putting the cork back on the the bottle and tracked its progress over the course of a few days – it defintely started to relax a lot which showed-off the blackfruits even more and helped balance the finish a bit more; however, it’s still not remotely being worth the price being asked for it so on that alone, I’d have to give this wine a huge pass.

W.E.P. Rating: 50%

Winery website: www.duckhornvineyards.com

Posted in California Wines, Merlot, ReviewsComments (0)

Vin du Lac Whites – Review

Vin du Lac winery, based in Lake Chelan WA, started producing wines in that region back around 2002 and has developed quite a loyal following. Its winemaker, Larry Lehmbecker, started off has a hobbyist and eventually made the transition into fulltime winemaker.  He really grew his palate during his law school days in San Francisco through frequent trips up into Napa Valley.

2007 “LEHM” Dry Riesling – W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal:  100% Riesling
  • Harvest: October 27 -28, 2007
  • Crush Chemistry: Brix 21-22, pH 3.1-3.2, TA 9.0-9.2 g/L
  • Wine Chemistry: RS 0.2% fermentable, pH 2.9, TA 8.4 g/L, Alc 13.7%
  • Bottled: April 9, 2008/275 cases
  • Release:  June, 2008
  • Price: $20

Nose: Lemon-zest, green apple skins, limestone, clay and river stone – hints of grapefruit and kiwi as well.

Taste: Massive citrus assault on the palate with some sour-patch candy – take some fresh lemon juice and top it over some river rocks, add a hint of stump-moss and that’s what you have in this wine. It has an incredibly sour/dry finish that makes it a complete no-brainer for any kind of shellfish or even heavily sauced dishes where you want a dry wine to scrape your palate clean again. I’d pound this wine all day long with raw oysters, shrimp or clams.

2007 Vie!  Viognier – W.E.P. Rating:  100%

Technical Data:

  • Varietal: 97.5% Viognier / 1.5% Roussanne
  • Harvest Date: Sept. 22,28 / Oct 19, 2007
  • Crush Chemistry: Brix21.2 – 24.9, pH3.2 – 3.59, TA4.8 – 7.2 g/L
  • Wine Chemistry: RS 0% fermentable, pH3.40, TA6.2 g/L, Alc13.6%
  • Bottling Date: April 2007 (300 Cases)
  • Release Date: July 2007
  • Price: $18
Nose: Not quite as armomatic as a lot of viognier’s as I’ve smelled, however, there is some good hints of river-rock, dried pineapple, candied-apples, kiwi and lime.
Taste: This is one of the cleanest-finishing Viognier’s I’ve ever had – it’s got a nice dry “rieslingesque” finish to it that I’m really enjoying. I get hints of granny’s foot-locker, lemon peel, grapefruit, kiwi, pineapple, spice and green apple. A rather dry, clean finish without as much sugar lingering around on the palate as other viogniers. To me, this is a very verstile wine that’d go well with Shrimp gumbo or even oysters – it has a level of acidity that make it a no-brainer for a lot of different seafood dishes.

Winery Website: www.vindulac.com

Posted in Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2009 Taste WA – Seattle – aftershock

For those of you who haven’t been to this event (or something similar) – it could seem fromt the outside looking in that it’s a wine-lovers dream-come-true. 200 wineries pouring quality vino with a supporting cast of local restaurants to help keep the palate in-check is a lot to take in during the relatively “short” 6-hours.

I think what always seems to mess with me at this event is time – the clock starts ticking down at 2pm and before I know it, it’s 8pm and everyone is packing up. It seems I get the chance to hang out with just a few people and “poof” – it’s over. I’d love to hear your stories about this event if you were there.

This year’s event saw – what seemed like – a much smaller crowd than last year and I’m sure that has a lot to do with the state of the economy. Most people I know are looking for ways to cut back on spending money, not shell out $90-120 dollars on a luxury like this event. All that said, it did seem like (from the wineries I did talk to) that everything was going well. They were able to meet their fans, make new ones or even make those who struggle to enjoy their wines feel more validated – who knows?

From our perspective, the Taste WA event is cool in that we get the chance to see industry friends and make new ones as well – one of the things I personally enjoy is seeing all the upcoming wineries striving to make their mark in today’s crowded industry. The guys at NW Totem CellarsSweet Valley and Efeste to name a few are part of the catalyst that’ll help shape the NW wine industry of the future – they are passionate, full of life and have the drive to pursure excellence.

What was striking to me, however, was the lack of passion so many “well-known” winemakers had – if they all had the pure, unadulterated, passion of Gilles Nicault – then we’d all be drinking much better wines.  Gilles has that personality that’s highly contagious, highly likable and quite frankly is a breath of fresh air – the wines he helps make seem to reflect that same spirit.

I felt that, overall, the food quality was better this year as well – there were a few mishaps in the house but I think most of them were sampling foods that adequately reflected their restaurants. A few of noteable ones were, Pike Place Chowder, Psalty’s and Kauzlarich Smoked Foods – Traci’s follow-up article will go into more details regarding the food.

So overall, I’m sure we’ll see the Washington Wine Commission releases stats that talk about what a great year this was for them and the industry, however, I think the real winners are the thousands of people like you and me who get to meet the great men and women behind the vino we all love to enjoy. If you’ve never been to this event, I’d encourage you to check it out next year – at least go once.

Find out who this dude in the glasses is by clicking here.

Related Links:
Taste WA – Official Site
2008 Taste WA Wrap-up
Traci’s 2008 Taste WA Thoughts

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2005 Efeste Ceidleigh Syrah – Review

Efeste’s Brennon Leighton is a passionate, knowledgeable winemaker whose winemaking kung-fu can best be appreciated by the wines he crafts. He is a great example of what happenes when you combine top-shelf fruit with an incredible know-how in regards to not being too heavy-handed with the process.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the wines he makes as I think he’s offering some extreme goodness for the price-points Efeste is asking and that isn’t too common of a thing these days. All too many wineries get their heads in the clouds and try to overcharge for their wines. We try our best to help you avoid those wines.

The 22005 Ceidleight Syrah is a 100% Syrah, is priced just below the $30 mark and is poised be a kickin’ WA syrah for that price point – let’s see if they hit the mark once again:

Technical Data: 

  • 100% Red Mountain AVA Syrah 
  • 27% New French Oak
  • Vineyards:  54% Ceil du Cheval Vineyard, 40% Klipsun Vineyard, 6% End of the Road Ranch Vineyard
  • pH: 3.90
  • TA (total Acidity): 0.56 grams/100mL
  • Alc/Vol: 15.2%
  • 100% malolactic fermentation
  • Vintage: Aged 19 months in oak.
  • Price: $29


Nose: Wild game, blueberries, bright cherries, an old leather bible and some cedar-box. I’m also getting slight hints of spicey-oak on the back-end but I’m not too worried as there’s plenty of fruit here as well. 

Taste: Firm tannins give way to plent of fruits across the mid-palate – such as: Blueberry, blackberry pie, canned cherries. A super long finsish that tastes like a piece of peppery-bacon-wrapped venison sliding down your throat. The finish on this wine is stellar but a bit on the hot side going down; however, that heat does blow off quite a bit with some decatnering and should become even more subtle as the bottle continues to improve (if properly stored) over the next 3-8 years.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Winery website: www.efeste.com

*Related Reviews:
2006 Efeste “Big Papa” Cab�
2008 Efeste Evergreen Riesling 

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)

2005 Andrake Cellars Merlot – Review

One of the great things about the wine business at large is that there are many small wineries out there who are very passionate about the products they produce and for those who know about them, can bring a rewarding experience.  My friend, Bob Andrake, of Andrake Cellars in Olympia WA is one of those who truly love wine and everything about it. 

Over the past few years, I’ve got to know him and his wife – wonderful folks who love life, family and food – my kind of peeps. One thing I know about Bob is that he has no qualms about dissing his own wines when he feels they don’t quite cut the mustard – there has been more than one occasion where he and I have sat around, drinking one of his wines – and he’ll say something along the lines of “jeesh, that sure didn’t turn out like I had hoped” (i’m paraphrasing). His honesty of this own wines and passion for making the best he knows how helps to keep his head in the game and lets him stay intellectually honest about his own products.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyards: Meek Vineyards
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • Ph: 3.82
  • Oak: 100% French Oak – 35% new
  • Cases Produced: 72
  • 96% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Cab Franc
  • Cost: $30

Nose: Floods of dark chocolate and cherries with hints of eucalyptus, white pepper, tobacco and tobacco.

Taste: Mountains of insanely dark fruit – this is one of the darkest, blackest merlots I’ve had in a LONG time. Massive attack of blackberries and white pepper on the front-end – it’s like sticking your tongue straight into a jar of home-made blackberry jam and then sniffing pepper. A good, long finish that comes across a bit on the hot side as it slides down the ol’ hatch. This wine is cleary not for everyone – old world wine fans will need to check out some other wine. 

W.E.P. Rating: 85%

Andrake Cellars: #: 360-943-3746

Posted in Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2005 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah

Winemaker, Rob Newsom, has been getting a lot of press over the past few years and has really done a great job for himself in developing a “cult-like” following in regards to the brand he’s created – and lived.

Rob’s approach – like many of today’s better winemakers – is to leave the grapes alone as much as possible and let them present themselves as plainly as possible. His 2005 vintage uses fruit sourced from both Walla Walla and Horse Heaven Hills – two of the state’s top regions for growing quality fruit.

Review: 2005 Boudreaux Cellars Syrah

Technical Data:

  • Vineyards: Pepper Bridge and Wallula Vineyard
  • Fruit: 100% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Production: 150 Cases
  • Price: $50

Nose: Black cherries, leather, candied plums, wet cedar and toasted figs wrapped in prischoto:

Taste: The cherry and candied plum comes across on the front-end of the palate and I get some vicks cough syrup action across the mid palate. There’s also a good amount of dark chocolate-covered blueberries as well. Good finish with some lingering forest twigs, charcoal and berries. This wine, currently, needs a lot of time to open up which means a lot of folks won’t really “get it” – it’s so structured that it needs time to lay down – if you don’t have the luxury of waiting a few more years, then I’d highly recommend a 3-4 hour decant.


W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Winery website: www.boudreauxcellars.com

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (2)

2006 Efeste Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon – Review

Efeste’s winemaker, Brennon Leighton, is one spoild dude – he’s able to source from some of the best vineyards in Washington state and then act like a kid in a candy store with a “go-pass”. What a dream it is for winemakers to have access to the sort of fruits he does – old-vine, concentrated and full of tons of character.

If you ever meet Brennon then you’ll immediately know why he calls this wine “Big Papa” – it’s a huge cab that takes no prisoners and quite frankly has the backbone to stare-down any of the best of the likes of Napa-cabs.

Technical Data:

  • Barrel program: 20 months in 100% new french oak it
  • Fruit Sources: 100% cab from 45% kiona old block planted 1972, 40% sagemoor 208 planted in 1972,  and 15 %  Ceil du Cheval
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Price: $45

Nose: Tons of cherry, rose petal, bright raspberry, hints of charred asparagus, cedar, cocoa. Some medicince cabinent action as well as hints of bits of leather round things out.

Taste: A massive fruit-attack on the front-end that assaults your palate with killer fruit. Excellent layering of raspberry, cherry with some nice hints of veggie action hit across the back-side of the mid palate. The purity of fruit comes shinging through like a rock-star and has a great supporting case of firm, yet balanced tannins. Massively focused fruits that linger for months on-end. This is easily the best cab I’ve had in the past few years and showcases how serious Washington cabs can be when done properly. This wine tastes really good now but should have room to improve over the next 3-12+ years.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%
Winery website: www.efeste.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (4)

2005 Stella Blanca

Stella Blanca is one of Northstar winery’s labels in which it produces a red blend and this white rather than its flagship merlots. This wine wine is almost full Semillon with a splace of Muscadele tossed in to help round things out a bit and provide some more “mouthfeel”.

Technical Data:

  • Total acidity 0.60 g/100ml
  • pH 3.15
  • Alcohol 14.5%
  • Blend 90% Semillon and 10% Muscadele
  • Price $20

Nose: Nutmeg mixed with citrus fruits – a floral, lemon zest kind of component coming through. 

Taste: Spicy lemons and limes coming on strong – mixed with some grapefruit rine and slighty tosted vanilla. Nice acidity but somewhat disjointed with a bit too much alcohol. This isn’t a bad wine per se, however there are far too many white wines in this price range which have a lot more kung-fu.

W.E.P. Rating: 60%

Winery website: www.northstarwines.com

Posted in Reviews, Semillon, Washington WinesComments (0)

2008 Efeste Evergreen Riesling

For years, too many American wineries were making riesling wines which were entirely way too sweet – they were, after all, trying to cater to the palates of their clients. Thankfully, however, both their approach and the greater palate at large have matured to the point where we as users demand more food-friendly wines and the wineries are complying.

Click to Enlarge

Riesling is one of the most versatile grapes in the wine business as it can be made to cater to such a broad spectrum of palates and likes – from super sweet to bone dry – this grape can do the full gammot.

Efeste Winery, located in Woodinville WA, has built its business model of “letting the grapes do the talking” and tell us that it goes to great strikes to ensure the fruit speaks for the wine and nothing else. Just the terrior and vineyard – they’re primary hope is to keep out of the way long enough to have it become great wine.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyards: Evergreen Vineyard which is located just above the Gorge Amphitheater. The vines were planted in 1995.
  • Grapes: 100% Riesling
  • Aging: 100% Stainless steel tanks
  • Vintage: Aged in stainless steel tanks with no malolactic fermentation. With only 1.3% residual sugar, this is a dryer Riesling.
  • Alc/Vol: 11.7%
  • Price: $16

Nose: Classic lemon-drop, green apple peel and river-stone, minerals – very Alsatian-like on the nose.

Taste: Obnoxious green apple jolly-rancher action going on the attack on the front of my palate. It rounds out to an almost white-pepper laden lemon and lemon-zest across the mid palate and than the final green-apple onlslaught on the end of the palate takes place. The amount of granny smith apples going on in this glass is insane. This is a very food-friendly wine which should age well for another 4-8years or so with a high-degree of excellent drinkability going on right now. You’ll definitely be tasting the apple component for a LONG time as it has a nice, long finish on the end.

W.E.P. Rating: 125%

Winery website: www.efeste.com

Posted in Reviews, Riesling, Washington WinesComments (2)

2004 Terra Blanca Onyx

I’ve covered Terra Blanca wines before on this site and there’s no doubt that they produce some great wines. In fact, they really are a good QPR (quality-to-price-ratio) winery that has the accolades to back up its efforts.

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Like most wineries, it too releases a flagship blended wine which is great because we as wine drinkers get to experience the winemakers vision for what he or she had invisioned. Making wine is a lot like painting on an empty canvas – like an experience-trip – but one that ultimately is uniquely our own.

Veteran winemaker, Keith Pilgrim, used all bordeaux clones in this bottle which is great as all too many wineries toss in Syrah into the mix – not a bad thing but sometimes it’s fun to see where it can go without bringing Burgundy-style grapes into it.

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard: 100% Red Mountain Estate Vineyard
  • Blend: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verlot
  • Sugar: 25brix
  • Acitidy: .550g/100ml
  • pH: 3.56
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Production: 120 cases
  • Price: $45

Nose: bright cherries and raspberries coming thru- sort of like Fruity Pebbles breakfast ceral – on the nose along with rose petal, cement dust, hints of cocoa, tar and some cola. 

Taste: Floods of fruit on the front palate – rainier cherries, some hints of dirt, baseball mit, stinky sock and blackberry. Everything goes along just dandy until it starts to hit the back-side of the palate and that’s when this wine falls apart for me. A wine of this price-range should have a good follow-through and I’m just not feelin’ it. You, however, may have a different vibe on it so  I’d highly encourage you to try a bottle.

W.E.P. Rating: 68%

Winery website: www.terrablanca.com

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (2)

Review: 2007 Boudreaux Cellars Chardonnay

Winery website: www.boudreauxcellars.com

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Just like Country music – Chardonnay has a bad rep and we can primarily thank the folks in California who have historicaly over-oaked it to death. Big players like Kendall-Jackson, Mondavi and other “grocery-store” labels have catered to an American palate which thinks it likes enough butter in its Chardonnay that it would even bring tears to Paula Deen.

Click to Enlarge

Winemaker and Washington State legend, Rob Newsom, cut his wine-making teeth, in part – by hanging out with the legendary Figgins family from the Leonetti fame. His approach to building the best wines he can, sourced from the top vineyards in the state and has really struck a chord with those who are looking for that hand-crafted experience.

Technical Data:

  • Alcohol: 13.3%
  • Vineyard Sources: 75% Celilo Vineyard and 25% Bishop
  • Cases made: 175
  • Price: $35
  • Fruit: 100% Chardonnay

Nose: Pineapple bar soap – the kind you sometimes get in a hotel – Mix in some fresh pea-gravel and that is what this nose does to me. I also get some wild flower blossom on the back-end.

Taste: Slight hints of oak are here in this unfiltered Chardonnay, however it does have a good supporting cast  from the fruit; which I am a huge fan of. Massive waves of pineapple, kiwi – huge tropical fruits here –  closely followed with a strange cocoanut flavor. It wrapes up with some nice carmel-candy action on the back-end of the palate. Good acidity and a clean finish makes this a very food-friendly chardonnay.

The purity of the fruit on this wine is what I want folks to try and understand. There simply are not many chardonnay producers producing wines in this pure fashion. I had some initial reservations about the oak, however, it does stay in-check rather handedly by the fruit.

If you are used to drinking over-oaked chardonnay and are looking for a great “gateway chardonnay” in order to wean you off of the oak chips then you really need to try this wine.

Food recommendations:
Shrimp scampi
Chicken ceasar salad
Pan-seared bass

Posted in Chardonnay, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (1)

A pair of Tsillan Whites

Winery Website: www.tsillancellars.com

The name Tsillan is the original Native American word we now say as Chelan – which is a deep, long, lake up in north-central Washington State and is quickly rising up as one of the state’s destination wine tourist spots. Know for its long, hot summers and aird climate, it’s no wonder why so many people are finding excuses to start-up wineries around such a gorgeous area. 

Tsillan Cellars is really no different than quite a number of other winery stories – some rich doctor, with lot of money and time on his hands starts-up a winery to pursue his/her dreams – hires a talented winemaker and the rest (so they hope) takes care of itself. 

It’s a good thing for us wine-drinkers and the local economy of Chelan that Dr. Bob Jankelson did have plenty of both on-hand as his winery is the largest producer of wine in that area and happens to do a pretty good job of making quality wines. 


2006 Tsillan Estate Riesling:

  • Alcohol:  13.0% 
  • pH:  3.00
  • TA:  7.2g/L
  • RS:  17.0g/L
  • VA:  0.24g/L
  • F/TSO2:  28/100ppm

Nose: Green apple, hints of apricot, slight petrol and some jasime tea leaves round out the nose. 

Taste: Great river-rock-like taste that’s been laced with green apples and apricots – it’s up in my grill and I love it. Excellent acidity which makes this wine a great food wine as well. Great lingering finish that hangs around quite nicely.

This is a good wine, however, at its current price there are other Rieslings which I enjoy more like the Poet’s Leap or Ventana winery out of Monterey California. One of the great things about the Tsillan is how it really does do a good job of presenting the terrior of where its grapes came from. A solid effort.

W.E.P. Rating: 85%


2007 Tsillan Estate Pinot Grigio:

  • Bottling Alcohol:  13.99%               
  • pH:  3.29
  • TA:  6.9g/L
  • RS:  7.0g/L
  • VA:  0.02g/L
  • F/TSO2:  35/98ppm

Nose: Orange blossom, white grape skins mixed with hints of stone and gravel. I’m also picking up some nice tropic-action like mango, grapefruit and kiwi.

Taste: Waves of vanilla-laden mango and grapefruit flood the palate with excellent balance of acidity and fruit-fowardness which I’m diggin on. The finish lasts quite awhile and I really like this wine – a lot. I really appreciate the sense of earthiness I’m getting from this wine – it’s as if someone took all the fruit I’ve descibed here and buiried it in pea-gravel, clay and limestone. Even hints of flint are coming thru as well.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

Posted in Pinot Grigio, Reviews, Riesling, Washington WinesComments (0)

Novelty Hill’s WineFoot Debut

Winery Website: www.noveltyhillwines.com

For the past few years now, lots of washingtonians have been super excited about what’s been going on at Woodinville-based Novelty Hill Winery – it’s winemaker, Mike Januik is one of the state’s superstars and rightly so. His wines have a stellar track-record of kicking ass and taking names – he is held in high regard by both industry professionals and by the many fans of his work.

It was for good reason that the family-owned Novelty Hill Winery hired this guy to make its wine – and they’ve provided him a world-class vineyard in Eastern Washington called Stillwater Creek.

2006 Chardonnay – Stillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Case Production: 1,375
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • pH: 3.35
  • Total Acidity: 0.50 grams/100 ml
  • Barrel fermented in new and one-year-old French oak
  • Malolactic fermentation
  • Sur lie aging for nine months
  • Price: $22

Nose: Creamy pineapple chunks covered in vanilla – a touch of honeysuckle, minerality, and toastiness.

Taste: Toasted marshmallows with hints of kiwi, pineapple, green apple peel and vanilla bean. Extremely luscious mouth-feel in a wine that does a great job of balancing the fruit and acidity. The finish lasts for days on end – easily one of the better-structured chardonnay’s I’ve had in a long time.

W.E.P. Rating: 110%

2006 Viognier – Stillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Barrel fermented in 100% French oak
  • Sur lie aged for nine months
  • Blend: 100% Viognier
  • Case Production 192 cases
  • Alcohol 13.5%
  • pH 3.51
  • Total acidity 0.59 grams/100 ml
  • Price: $22

Nose: Here we go – the nose on this wine is serious business – we’re talking HUGE amounts of pineapple, granny-smith apples, fresh carnations, a hint of flintiness and sour patch candy.

Taste: Take a fresh pineapple, top it with some kiwi, pear peel, some watermelon rine and shove it into your mouth – the explosive fruit of this wine cannot be underscored well enough in text. I get some hints of petrol, sandstone as well.

One of the best balances of fruit to acidity I’ve had in a white wine this side of Europe. I would hit this wine like the fist of an angry god – bring it on. For all you red wine snobs out there, you NEED to try this wine – this is the quintessential gateway white. This viognier is perhaps the best I’ve had at anytime, from any producer anywhere. It’s so well balanced that I’m a bit verklempt.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

2005 Syrah – Sillwater Creek:

Technical Data:

  • Aged in a combination of new and one-year-old French oak barrels for 18 months
  • Gravity racked every 3 – 4 months
  • Blend: 98% Syrah and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Case Production: 1,909 cases
  • Alcohol: 14.1%
  • pH: 3.72
  • Total acidity: 0.53 g/100 ml
  • Price: $22

Nose: Gooseberries mixed with wild, freshly-cut game – some white and black pepper corns mixed with a nice blueberry jam and pie crust overtone round things out.

Taste: Bring on the stinky-socks covered in venison and peppercorns – then shove some fresh blueberries in your mouth and that’s what you have going on in this wine. Subtle hints of cocoa round out this quality syrah.

It has an insane amount of fruit that leaps onto your palate but it’s kept in check with a good sense of toasted leather notes. Excellent balance of fruit, oak and alcohol – this is a complete no-brainer wine for the money and one I’d highly recommend.

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in Chardonnay, Reviews, Syrah, Viognier, Washington WinesComments (0)

Snoqualmie Reserve Reds

Winery Website: www.snoqualmie.com


Joy Anderson of Snoqualmie Vineyards has done an outstanding job of producing well-priced wines which do an admirable job of bringing good quality to their respective price-ranges. The wines she and her team produce have consistantly garnered wide-spread acclaim from both industry reviews and customer satisfaction.

What started out as a small winery has blossemed into one that is a part of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates wine group. This coporate infustructure allows Snoqualmie to gain better national attention and all the resources it needs to keep producing top-quality wine. 

You won’t see wines that cost anywhere north of $30 in anything Snoqualmie produces as its wines tend to be priced at no more than $25 per bottle for these reserve wines.

2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:
Technical Data:

  • Vineyard: Grapes are sourced from Rosebud Vineyards.
  • First Harvest September 22, 2005
  • Brix 27.1
  • Length 7 days on skins
  • Yeast type Premier Cuvée, BDX and D22
  • Total acidity 0.65 g/100ml
  • pH 3.65
  • Alcohol 14.2%
  • Blend 85% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 10.2% Merlot
  • 4.8% Petit Verdot 
  • Price: $25 

Nose: Black plums, black raspberry, blackberry, hints of leather and black pepper. Tons of dark fruit going on here in its smell..

Taste: Tobacco-laden plums and blackberries with hints of the elderberry coming through – this is definitely a wine that decants well and could easily sit out awhile. Firm tannins that do soften up with time. Good lingering finish but is a touch too hot with a heavy dose of road tar and tobacco.

This is a straight-forward cab which presents itself pretty good for the money – I don’t find it to be huge fruit-bomb which some folks may actually prefer but it does seem to be pretty well balanced if it weren’t for the hot finish.
W.E.P. Rating: 90%

2005 Reserve Merlot:
Technical Data: 

  • Vineyards: A majority of the merlot grapes come from 25-year-old vines are grown on the Wahluke Slope. The remainder of the Merlot and Petit Verdot come from the Yakima Valley.
  • First Harvest September 29, 2004
  • Brix 27.2
  • Length 6 days on skins
  • Yeast type Premier Cuvée
  • Total acidity 0.56 g/100ml
  • pH 3.57
  • Alcohol 13.57%
  • Blend 89.5% Merlot,
  • 10.5% Petit Verdot
  • Price: $25
Nose: Plum, blackberry, cedar plank, black cherry – hints of vanilla.
Taste: Excellent balance of fruit, pepper, vanilla notes and a hint of cedar box.. The finish brings a hint of veggie action which I like and lingers very nicely. Ends w/ a lot of fresh tar and tobacco drowning in blackberry.
The merlot is my favorite out of these three as it is the most balanced between purity of fruit and oak. I’m always a huge fan of wines which have a long finish and this merlot doesn’t disapoint.
2004 Reserve Syrah:
Technical Data:         

  • Vineyards: 100% Columbia Valley
  • First Harvest September 20, 2005
  • Brix 26.6
  • Length 6 days on skins
  • Yeast type D254
  • Total acidity 0.58 g/100ml
  • pH 3.70
  • Alcohol 14.3%
  • Blend 94.2% Syrah,
  • 5.8% Mourvedre
  • Price: $25
Nose: pepper, freshly killed game, loganberry, blackberry and some leather shoe-lace.
Taste: Right off the bat you get fresh game wrapped in loganberries and blueberries mixed in with white pepper. Take that and sprinkle in bits of leather and that’s what you have in this wine. Good fruit on the front and mid palate but falls a bit flat on the backend.
Here’s a syrah which could’ve been better than it is as it has a lot of the great syrah components I look for (blueberries and pepper), however, doesn’t do anything at all for me on the finish. If you start strong and finish short of the end-zone, it’s still not a touchdown.

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

Fidelitas gets jiggy with Optu

There’s little doubting that many in the Wine industry regard Charlie Hoppes as one of the State of Washington’s more premiere winemakers. His passion and know-how are about as good as you can find anywhere.

When he first kicked out his original “Optu”, it wasn’t called Optu it has the name of Meritage – and while the name has changed, it still consists of a blended wine which is made to be greater than the sum of its parts.

For the first time, Fidelitas has laucnhed an Optu white wine which I find really interesting as it sets to raise the bar for Charlie and Fidelitas in its efforts to help elevate the seriousness of white wine. All too many times, in many wine circles, white wine can sort of get a bad rap – red wine snobs; jeesh.

2007 Optu White Wine:
Technical Data:

– Vineyards: 54% Gamache Vineyards, 35% Stillwater Creek Vineyards, 11% Rosebud Vineyards
– Varietal Composition: 54% Sauvignon Blanc, 46% Semillon,
– Aging: 9 months: 40% new French oak
– Alcohol: 14.5%
– Release Date: Fall 2008
– Price: $32

Nose: Pineapple, kiwi, lemon, vanilla with hints of pea-gravel and limestone.

Taste: Flavors of vanilla-toasted pineapple rings right off the grill floods the front palate which is closely followed up with nice notes of grass, hay, lemon drops and lingers with hints of kiwi. I also get really green – raw – asparagus tips on the end as well. Excellent acid/fruit balance.

This is an exceptional white wine that really needs to be tried by those who “think” they dont’ like Semillon or even Sauvignon Blanc – the balance of fruit and toastiness from its oak aging is very well done.

W.E.P. Score: 90%


2005 Optu Red Wine:
Technical Data:
– Varietal Composition: 55% – Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% – Merlot, 6% – Cabernet Franc, 3% – Malbec
Vineyards: Weinbau Vineyard (40%), Conner-Lee Vineyard (20%), Kiona (18%), Stillwater Creek Vineyard (9%), Champoux Vineyard (9%), Boushey Vineyard (4%).
– Oak Aging:  21 months – 50% new French and American Oak
– Alcohol: 14.9%
– Release Date: Fall 2008
= Price: $40

Nose: Bell pepper, leather glove, blackberry, black cherry poprocks, euchaliptus, dry mud, clay and road-tar.

Taste: Floods of black fruit – I’m talkin, blackberry, black plum, black cherry and black raspberry – if it’s black, it’s in here. An insane amount of fruit with a smooth transition across the mid-palate into a finish that lingers for months.

This wine is has an excellent layering effect of black-fruit flavors – HUGE, BOLD black flavors in fact, I’m sure there will be folks who try this wine who won’t “get it”. Also, you’ll want to decant this wine for several hours to enjoy it at its fullest. It could easily lay down for 10 years or more but who wants to wait that long to drink good wine?

W.E.P. Score: 95%

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Reviews, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Washington WinesComments (0)

2007 Pacific Rim Vin de Glaciere Riesling

Price: $18
Winery Link: http://rieslingrules.com 

Many wine drinkers today have sorta given sweeter wines a bat rap – I mean, who can handle all that sugar on ones palate, right? Well, outside of wine-newbies (who tend to gravitate towards the sweeter side), there’s a lot one can appreciate with wines of this fare if you either have them on the right kind of day or pair em’ with the proper foods – the kind that can really compliment the wine.

Pacific Rim – a winery which prides itself in its many styles of Rieslings produced, has kicked down a sweeter wine this time around and frankly I think you owe it to yourself to try these sort of wines. it has that sort of richness and balanced sweetness which – to me – makes it kick ass.

Technical Data:
Acid: 0.88%
pH: 3.14
Residual Sugar: 16.0%

Nose: Sweet honey-covered apricots, pears and golden delicious apple – a slight hint of cinamon in the backdrop.

Taste: Pear nectar not at all unlike the juice you find in a can of fruit cocktail but without the overly heavy sugar. This is a sweet wine for sure but not one I’d consider to be a desert wine, really. Some folks would, however, I’m not one of them as I don’t think it has the ultra-mad sweetness I Layers of golden apple are coming thru in a huge way here – excellent finish – superb in fact. I love how the sugar kicks in across the mid-palate, yet the wine has a very crisp, lingering finish.

W.E.P. Rating: 110%

Foods I’d hit w/ this:
Really spicey Thai Food
Jerk-rub beef
Buffalo wings
Big, bad stinky chesses!

Posted in Reviews, Riesling, Washington WinesComments (0)

2005 Maryhill Syrah

Winery Link: www.maryhillwinery.com
MSRP: $20.00

Maryhill is one of the top wine producers of Washington State when you consider the amount of wine it produces at the quality to price points it charges. While there are going to be better quality wines from ultra-botique producers, few if any can match Maryhill’s quality-to-quantity ratio.

I’m usually more impressed with the Maryhill wines than I am not – namely its Zinfandel has really won me over in a lot. We recently got our hands on a bottle of its 2005 Syrah – this is my first time with a Maryhill Syrah so I was more than curious about tasting it.

Technical Data:
Alcohol: 14.5%
Vineyard Sources: 44% Tudor, 29% Gunkel, 19% Baily, 8% Milbrandt
Barrel Specs: 1-3yr mixed French and American Oak for 14-months
Acidity: 0.64
ph: 3.73
Residual Sugar: .13
Cases Made: 1333

Nose: Fresh game, blueberries, blackberries, black and white pepper, leather glove and some stinky sock are all here.

Taste: Good amounts of blueberry, vanilla and pepper – even pick up the leathery notes in it, however, its finish is too hot for my palate.

Overall Summary:
Not a bad effort on Maryhill’s behalf – in fact, I’m sure it’d smooth out some more if you lay it down for another year or two. It could be a food-friendly wine if you pair it with foods which would help mask the heat a bit – maybe a veal chop or marinated flank steak would be good with it.

The problem for Maryhill and this wine is that there are other Syrah’s in its same price range which I feel deliver a better experience.

W.E.P. Score: 80%

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)