Monday, November 27, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Note Bene Cellars
Tim produces only red wines from great Washington vineyards. There are still some bottles of the 2002 vintage available in addition to the current release of 2003s. Tim produced four different wines in 2002 and 2003. Most of the wines reminded us of mushroom and forest floor. This appealing earthiness seems to be a winemaker signature. Some of the wines had a flat, subdued character. Tim envisions the Miscela as a New World style wine and the Arbinare as an Old World style wine. All of the wines are blended from different vineyards and varietals. The 2002 Syrah, for example is a blend of 75% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 3% Cincault, and 2% Counoise - truly a wide ranging Rhone blend.
Among our favorites were the 2003 Syrah, a Bordeaux style blend of Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petit Verdot mixed with 83% Syrah, the 2003 Ciel Du Cheval, and the 2002 Miscela. We liked the 2002 Miscela most of all for its cool, subdued, nuanced, balance of fruit and oak. So many blends, so many choices.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Thanksgiving Wine Emergency
Monday, November 20, 2006
2004 Clayhouse Cabernet Sauvignon - Ca marche, it works, a good working horse cab that goes well with food even if not particularly exciting.
2005 Clayhouse Sauvignon Blanc - Quintessential sauvignon blanc with a straw, grassy nose, and strong grapefruit flavors. Light, crisp and pretty delicate. A really good example of the varietal, even if not particularly to my taste.
Seguras Viudas - Easy, soft, bubbly - no sharp edges - perfect for big events. Good Thanksgiving wine.
2005 Aquila D'Oro Chianti - "Italian Four Buck Chuck" - surprisingly drinkable, they must have added some Merlot to the Sangiovese to soften this wine. With good fruit and balance a great every day Chianti to have with pasta and pizza ( about $4 at Trader Joe's).
Friday, November 17, 2006
Rattlesnake Hills - No Rattlers Here!
Sheridan is amazing. All of Scott Greer's wines are excellent. The 2003 L'Orage (French for "perfect storm") is a triumph of winemaking from this young, but rich vineyard. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it tastes like an elegant refined Bordeaux with great flavors of black currants and enough tannin to age well, but it is quite delicious right now especially if you decant it an hour in advance. Sarah Fewel manages the tasting room and tells me that she and her husband are starting their own winery with Scott's help. I think she should call it Zarita Vineyards after her name in Spanish.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
2005 Trinquer (Tran-kay) - Don Corson, at Cameraderie Cellars, must have felt that this blend of Sauvignon Blanc , Semilon and Viognier really clicked (Trinquer is French for clicking glasses in a toast). I preferred it the first time I tasted it at the winery where the Viognier seemed more prominent. Now the grapefruit flavor of the Sauvignon seems to dominate. This would be a great wine with Turkey ( about $20)
2005 Panther Creek Melon - Melon is one of the grapes of Muscadet, but being made in America this wine is fairly big bodied and fruity compared to the crisp tart oyster wine made in France - a very interesting American experiment (about $20)
2005 Goose Ridge Riesling - Many of you know that I am not too fond of Riesling, but this wine is delightfully light with hints of citrus and the usual fruity and floral flavors. It went particularly well with Tandoori Chicken(about $12).
Egri Bikaver - Years ago this used to be a big red - Bull's Blood! Now it appears the bull has been exsanguinated and the blood diluted. But for four bucks at Trader Joe's it compares favorably with two buck chuck ( about four bucks).
Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel - Fruity and slightly sweet. Works well with meats, but not as interesting as Zin from the Sierra ( about $10)
Barnard Griffin Merlot/ Cab - A good standard red. Balanced, medium bodied, a good value ( about $10)
Hedges CMS - Just as good as usual. A little more refined than some of the others in this bunch(about $10).
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Okay, so is a hundred dollar bottle ten times better than a ten dollar bottle? First of all "better" is a subjective term. One man's garbage is another man's treasure. Wine rankings are only "ordinal" numbers, that is, they only say, "greater than " or "less than", but not by how much. So mathematically speaking it is impossible to say one wine is twice as good or ten times better than another. Nevertheless I have the subjective impression that wine quality does not increase in direct proportion to the price. Generally speaking, quality , on average, seems to improve with the price , but by how much? My impression is that for Washington state wines the best quality to price ratio occurs somewhere between thirty dollars and fifty dollars. My subjective impression is that many thirty dollar wines are "twice" as good as many fifteen dollar wines, but that sixty dollar wines are not necessarily twice as good as the thirties. In other words, it is a case of diminishing returns. Each time you roll the doubling cube, the quality increases less and less. So maybe a $400 wine is 20% better than a $200 bottle, but a $2000 bottle is only 5% better than a $1000 bottle. By the way, $50 to $75 seems to be the inflection point for Napa wines. But is this really what it's all about?
Cult wines do not command extreme prices because they are so much better than non-cult wines. A traditional economist might say that scarcity is the source of high prices. The two cent inverted Jenny stamp, of which there are supposedly one hundred, is worth large sums, as are rare Van Goghs, but it is desire that creates value not scarcity. There are lots of unique paintings that are essentially worthless. Desire creates cult status, more accurately, the desire to have what others have and you don't. The French post-modern philosophes emphasis "manque or "lack" as creating desire. Once you get on the mailing list at Harlan, you will try to get on some other list that you are not on. People want what they don't have and they want what others have. Rene Girard called this mimetic desire. I've got "it" and you don't! Neener, neener! You can envy me and that makes me feel like somebody. None of this of course has to do with what's in the bottle.
So if you really want great wine by great winemakers, maybe you should check out Doug's list of Cult Wine Alternatives. Fifty to a hundred dollars a bottle isn't exactly chump change, but it's not Two Thousand Buck Chuck either. Why do people buy Two Thousand Buck Chuck? Perhaps, primarily to impress themselves and their friends. On the other hand if you are a multimillionaire and a real connoisseur why not go for that last one percent increase in beauty and perfection. Of course, you really have to know what you are doing to get the very best wine. Only buying "100s" is not enough. It may be enough to impress, but not enough to choose the most beautiful wines.
Ah, well, so do the rest of us really have to drink Two Buck Chuck instead. Not really! In addition to Doug's California Cult Wine Alternatives, there at least fifty wineries in Washington state with truly great winemakers making fabulous wine at half the price of even Doug's alternatives. Of course, we have cult wines in Washington, too - Quilceda Creek, Leonetti and Cayuse in particular. If you are lucky enough to already be on their closed mailing lists you will have the opportunity to buy these Washington cults at significantly less than the asking price for California cults. There are so many great wines and winemakers in Washington it is impossible to list them all. Just for starters Mike Januik, Bob Betz, Chris Upchurch, Chris Carmada, Ben Smith, Ben Carter, Jean Francois Pellet, Marty Clubb, George Kirkish and Tim Sorensen immediately come to mind. For $30 to $50 dollars you can get great wines from Washington State. DeLille, Januik, Andrew Will, Sheridan Vineyards, Cadence, Baer, Palouse, Dunham, Walla Walla Vintners, Pepperbridge, Northstar, Reininger, Terra Blanca Onyx, and Fall Line are just a few of the many wineries in Washington making great wine. Oh yeah, and you can always buy outstandingly good Bordeaux for $20 to $40 a bottle. The list of good Bordeaux at less than two thousand a bottle is very long. A few names are Labegorce Zede, Fourcas Dupre, Fombrauge, Lannesan, and Malescasse. So don't fret, if you can't afford Two Thousand Buck Chuck, you don't have to limit yourself to Two Buck Chuck.
Monday, November 13, 2006
2005 Anglim Rousanne
2004 Brian Carter Oriana
2004 Kana White Rhone
2005 Red Sky Semillon
2005 L'Ecole Semillon
2005 Viento Viognier
2005 Canon de Sol Viognier
2005 Terra Blanca Viognier
2005 Viento Riesling
2005 Goose Ridge Riesling
2005 Hogue Genesis Riesling
2005 Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Riesling
2005 Carpenter Creek Riesling
2005 Saint Laurent Riesling
2005 Piety Flats Chenin Blanc
2005 Erath Pinot Noir
2005 Willamette Valley Vintners Pinot Noir
2005 Sagelands Rose
2005 Penner Ash Roseo
2005 Maryhill Rose of Sangiovese
2005 Chinook Rose of Cabernet Franc
Chateau Ste. Michelle
Mumm's Napa Brut
Roederer Estate Brut
Chandon Blanc de Noir
Pol Roger Brut
Friday, November 10, 2006
Three Great Seattle Wineries - Fall Line
Owned by Tim and Nancy Sorensen, Fall Line winery is living up to it's goals - balance, grace and depth. If you thought the 2003 Fall Line Red was good wait 'til you taste the 2004s. This year Tim made three wines - 2004 Horse Heaven Hills, 2004 Red Mountain, and 2004 Columbia Valley. The Horse Heaven Hills is 42% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon all from Destiny Ridge. The wine is medium bodied, smooth, balanced and graceful -delicious fruit flavors and soft velvety tannins. While it may last for five years, why wait. This wine is is totally pleasing on its own and will go well with the usual suspects, especially lamb.
The Red Mountain is 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc, and 10 % Cabernet Sauvignon from Artz Vineyard. For years, Fred Artz has quietly been Red Mountain Man,managing much of the fruit on the mountain for others. Now he has his own vineyard. This wine has the typical Red Mountain backbone on which to hang a rich deep dark fruit panoply. Typically structured, it is still quite drinkable on it's own and would be great with beef or buffalo. This wine will probably last for ten years, and certainly could benefit from one to two years of cellaring. It will be interesting to see how this wine evolves, but you could easily drink it tonight.
The 2004 Columbia Valley is one hundred percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Forty-six per from Boushay Vineyard, 46% Artz Vineyard, and 8% Destiny Ridge. Here we have the backbone of Red Mountain fruit from Artz balanced by the always soft, velvety fruit from Boushay. Right in the middle between the Red Mountain and the Yakima Valley Boushay - perfectly balanced.
All these wines were aged for eighteen months in French oak barrels. Just enough to give them some backbone, but not so much as to make them undrinkable in their youth. Hand sorting, destemming and gentle basket pressing have yielded wines that are graceful enough to drink now with enough depth to keep for a while and improve for several years. The Horse Heaven Hills is full of grace, the Red Mountain has depth and the Columbia Valley is perfectly balanced.
If you missed the open house on November 4th, don't despair, the SSAW ( South Seattle Artisan Wineries) will be open again, three more times this year from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on November 18, December 2, and December 9. In addition to Fall Line, Cadence, Note Bene, and O-S will be open for tasting on these dates. What an opportunity to taste great Washington state wines at reasonable prices for the quality. Solve your holiday giving issues, with delicious wines that will show you to be a real wine connoisseur. Salute!
Packaged in a big, impressive heavy bottle, the 1996 Beringer Howell Mountain Cabernet Franc was quite big and flavorful, although it seemed a little old at ten years of age.
The 1983 Chateau Palmer, definitely improved in the decanter throwing off a little volatile acidity and ending up to be a very pleasing wine with typically elegant Margaux black currant flavors and prominent acid and tannin as is so frequently the case as the fruit mellows, exposing the backbone of the wine.
The 2005 Anglim Paso Robles Rousanne just might be the best Rousanne we have ever tasted. Big bodied, broad fruit, lots of minerality - mouthfilling and refreshingly dry - wow!
2004 Falkner Temecula Valley Chardonnay - Although there was no evidence of cork taint on the cork, the sweat socks smell and taste of 2, 4, 6 -trichloroanisole (TCA) in the wine was overwhelming.
The 1974 Sterling Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is a sterling wine in its prime. Gentle, soft mellow fruit - very pleasing, if somewhat unidimensional.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Three Great Seattle Wineries - Cadence
It is exciting that Ben and Gaye's new vineyard, Cara Mia, on Red Mountain is already producing fruit. Can't wait to taste it. In the meanwhile, the 2004s were all good, but somewhat more tannic than the very ripe 2003s. We thought we detected hints of greenness and vegetative notes in some of the wines. We liked the Klipsun best this year, perhaps, because it seemed the most accessible with delicious black fruit flavors. The Ciel du Cheval was bigger and more structured than the 2003, in a style somewhat similar to Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval. IMO, the Tapteil Vineyard blend was better than the Cabernet made by Taptiel Vineyards themselves. As usual the Bel Canto was beautiful. The Camerata, made from 100% Reserve Tapteil Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, was powerful, but not overwhelming, just as a Cabernet should be. All of the wines will benefit from some ageing, especially the Ciel du Cheval and Tapteil wines.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Sangiovese di America
We wanted to see what American winemakers could do with Sangiovese. We tasted 1997 Columbia Winery Red Willow Vineyard Sangiovese made by Washington state Master of Wine, David Lake. California was represented by 1997 Long Vineyards Napa Sangiovese made by Zelma Long. These wines were head and shoulders above the straw covered Chianti. The Red Willow sangio was soft and elegant, whereas the Long Vineyards wine still had considerable tannin and was more rustic in style. It is not really clear whether these differences reflected "terroir" or winemaker style. Red Willow does produce outstanding Sangiovese grapes as witnessed by the Red Willow Sangiovese wine made by Mark Wysman at Yakima Cellars. To check the effect of age we opened a 2004 "Lucia" Sangiovese from Andrew Will which was bigger and more tannic, closer to the Long Sangio than to its Washington cousin from Red Willow. We tasted two California supertuscans - La Storia from Trentadue and Duo from Estancia. Unfortunately, a surprising number of the wines we tasted were spoiled in one way or another including secondary fermentations in the bottle, TCA, and other abnormalities. Is this more evidence of the " difficulty" of the Sangiovese grape? Perhaps! In any event, Washington state is making softer fruitier, cleaner sangiovese than Italy, but, perhaps it lacks the character of Tuscan sangiovese. We ended the tasting by comparing Nebbiolo di Klipsun from Wilridge with 1995 Revello Barolo. The Revello had been decanted four hours in advance. IMO, it was the best wine of the evening - balanced, medium bodied, fruity with moderate tannin. This wine would go well with the food to follow. Can raw unadulterated Sangiovese be improved upon? Definitely! But despite, Miles' Sideways anti- Merlot soliloquy (rant?) I'd rather be drinking Merlot than Sangiovese.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Great Wine Quote
"Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them; and Champagne makes you do them."
- Jean- Antheme Brillat- Savarin
Prosser - East Yakima Valley Wineries
Sandidge has opened a new tasting room at a “wine mall” just east of Prosser. They are making excellent wine, especially Syrah. Here is another great opportunity for terroiristes – a chance to compare syrah from three great vineyards - Minick, Klingele, and Boushay. These three wines are beautiful in their own distinctive low keyed way. The Boushay is the most subtle of the three - smooth , seemless, and velvety. The Klingele is spicier, and the Minick has more backbone. These wines are so reasonably priced – Boushay $16, Minick $18, Klingele $20 – that you really must try them . If you join the wine club you get a discount of 20 or 25% reducing the price to close to $12 a bottle. Why not order a mixed case ( no, I am not on commission). Apart from Canon de Sol, these may be the best Syrahs from the Yakima Valley. Lighter in style than Walla Walla Syrah and even Syrah made from Yakima Valley grapes by Walla Walla wineries, this is a more refined style, less sauvage (wild) and in-your-face than Walla Walla wines.
Sandwiched between Sandidge and Kestrel is Cowen Vineyards. This vineyard has been growing grapes for a number of years but only recently opened their tasting room. The wine are good and easy and so are the prices. The 2005 Gewurz had nice classic nose, the Rose and Merlot were good and the 2003 Tartan Red is a good table wine. The 2003 Cab Franc had a somewhat hot finish, but the 2003 Cab Sauvignon was quite nice with soft fruit, light to medium body, and vanilla and berry flavors. If you are a home wine maker you can buy grapes from Cowen for 50 cents a pound or $1000 a ton.
Kestrel is on a roll! All the Kestrel wines are good. Of the regular bottlings we liked the 2003 Syrah best. Of the premium wines, we particularly liked the 2002 Old Vine Merlot and the 2003 Co-ferment Syrah. The coferment had 8% Viognier added during fermentation much in the style of a Cotes Rotie. Kestrel won several medals this summer at the Northwest Wine Festival including the expensive, but very good, 2002 Raptor Red and the reasonably priced and well named Lady in Red red table wine.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Three Great Seattle Wineries - DeLille
The 2004 Doyenne Syrah was a knock out! Big, fruity, elegant and refined, it tasted like a European Rhone wine. It should, it even has 3% Viognier blended in, just like a Cotes Rotie. Mostly from Red Mountain fruit (59%), but beautifully balanced and softened by Yakima Valley fruit from Boushay Vineyard. Both the 2004 Chaleur and the 2004 Harrison are both blends of about 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and a tiny bit of Petit Verdot. The Chaleur, however, is mostly from Red Mountain fruit, whereas the Harrison is vitually all Yakima Valley fruit. You can tell! The 2004 Chaleur Estate Red is a beautiful Bordeaux style blend with complex fruit flavors and a bit more tannin than the Harrison. The 2004 Harrison Hill is awesome. Virtually all the fruit came from Harrison Hill Vineyard, Washington's second oldest vineyard, making the vines at least 30 years old. This dark, dense wine has strong resemblance to Bordeaux with its complex fruit, great concentration, and good backbone.
DeLille is clearly on an upward trajectory headed toward 100 points one of these days. In fact, the 2004 Harrison showed more complexity and interest than the 100 point 2003 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon which is a softer easier wine. The Harrison is more like the bigger, more complex 1998 Quilceda Creek. Definitely a winner! We can't wait to taste the 2004 Grand Ciel from DeLille.