Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Walla Walla Winery VI - Adamant Cellars

Devin Stinger, winemaker and owner at Adamant Cellars, was adamant that Adamant Cellars was named after Adamantine, a very hard stone similar to rubies and diamonds in hardness. The two wines I tasted weren't adamentine at all. The 2006 Rose and the 2006 Semillon were both fresh lively summer wines. Let us hope that future releases are not too adamantine either.

Walla Walla Winery V - Tertulia Cellars

Tertulia winemaker, Ryan Raber, is a migrant from the East Coast. His friend, Christina Peet, runs the tasting room. The winery is a dramatic post-modern building with a false facade reminiscent of Rene Magritte. The wines are more traditional. The 2006 Columibia Valley Voignier was fresh and lively. The 2005 Columbia Valley Syrah had great color, a nose of toast, great fruit and it is made is a lighter style. The 2005 Les Collines Syrah was much bigger with delicious fruit. This is a winery to watch.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Walla Walla Winery IV - Balboa Winery

Hidden from view by Beresan Winery, Balboa Winery is producing what may be the best value wines in Walla Walla. Winemaker Tom Glase, a refugee from the Puget Sound area, seems to work at both wineries. All of the Balboa wines are well made and well priced. For under twenty dollars you can find the wine to your taste - these are drinker-friendly wines. All the wines have screwcaps so you know you aren't going to get stuck with a "corked" wine. The wine I liked the best was the 2006 Balboa Merlot which is perfectly balanced, has great fruit, and captures the Merlot flavors without being jammy. Here is hope for a new countertrend in Walla Walla away from increasing prices and lessening quality at some ither wineries.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Walla Walla Winey III - Trust Cellars

When I first saw a sign for this winery, I thought it was for a land trust and it never occurred to me that it was a winery. I only got here after Trey Busch recommended it. "Trust me!," Steve said to Brenda or whatever his wife's name is and that was the beginning of Trust winery. Steve Brooks and his wife are refugees from the corporate media world of Atlanta, Georgia. So far Steve has made three wines - a Riesling, a Rose and a Syrah. The 2006 Columbia Valley Riesling is a well made solid wine in an almost dry style. The 2006 Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley Rose is also well made and typical of most Washington State Rose, but not as dry as I like it. Steve says that if his 2005 Columbia Valley Syrah were a book, it would be called "Heart of Darkness." It is indeed dark and deep and big, but it is not lush and round like so many Walla Walla Syrahs. It definitely not a fruitbomb. In fact, it is made in an odd style. Big and deep (14.2% alcohol), but kind of flat in shape and sort one or two dimensional. All these wines are great first efforts and it appears that Trust is off to a good start.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Walla Walla Winery II - Sleight Of Hand

Abracadabra, abracadabra, POOF! By sleight of hand, winemaker Trey Busch, former winemaker at Basel Cellars has tranformed into a new avatar of himself, so much so that when we stopped at Sleight of Hand to inquire about another winery I didn't even recognize him. The whole magic show led me to think that we had happened upon one of the typical tourist tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla. I thought perhaps this shill was about to bring out a hook, but Trey was so helpful that we returned to taste his wines not realizing that it was the Great Wine Magician, himself, hiding under the cape. His first wine is a 2006 Gewurztraminer called, of all things, the Magician, with lots of interesting flavors and a surprising amount of body. His second wine is "The Spellbinder", a delicious 2005 Cab Franc blend that is both complex and easy at the same time. The third wine, The Archimage", is a big, significant, Bordeaux style blend with lots of nuanced flavor and plenty of backbone for ageing. Trey is one of the first winemakers to do the totally sane thing - put bottles for current drinking in screwcaps, and close wines for ageing with corks. One can't help but think that Trey has pulled off a Houdiniesque escape from some trap he was in, but, in any event he seems to be having a lot of fun and his tasting room is a lot of fun. There is a "sleight" disconnect at Sleight of Hand" as the wines in the fun bottles are really serious stuff and Trey, the Magician, is a really serious winemaker. I'm sure we can look forward to more magical potions from Trey.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Walla Walla Winery I - Isenhower Cellars

Denise and Brett Isenhower founded Isenhower Cellars in 1999 and for at least the past few years have been making excellent wine pretty much across the board. Their production is now 5000 cases and and quite varied. The 2006 Viognier is made from Walla Walla fruit and is fresh with a tangy finish. The 2006 Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Roussanne is very well made. The 2006 Horse Heaven Hills Rose is made from 42% Counoise , 41% Mourvedre and 17% Grenache and is bone dry. This is one of the best Roses I've ever had. The 2005 Columbia Valley Wild Thyme ( get it?) is ready to drink, but the 2005 Walla Walla Valley Red Paintbrush needs a little age like the 2005 Looking Glass Syrah. I thought I detected a little greenness in the 2005 Columbia Valley Wild Alfalfa Syrah. This broad array of wines made from grapes from all over Washington state is typical of winemaking here in the Northwest. Denise had the good sense to list " recommended enjoyment times on a flier, now if only wimemakers would put the same information on the back label.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

East Meets West

I heard Through The Walla Walla Grapevine that the Wild Walla Walla Wine Wonder Woman is sharing Wisdom, Wit, and Words about Washington Wine and the recent W-2 East/West Summit Meeting held in Walla Walla, Washington. Catie, my new friend and neighbor wrote a brilliant piece about the changes going on in Walla Walla, grape-growers vs. wheat farmers and all that. Catie says that our visit helped her to see Walla Walla through new eyes. I told Catie when we arranged our rendezvous that I envied her living among all those great wineries in Walla Walla. My only consolation, is knowing the great winemakers here in Seattle who turn Eastern Washington grapes into various kinds of elixir. Seeing Walla Walla through Catie's eyes was fascinating - the interconnected web of relationships and families in a small community, the old-time wheat and onion farmers vs. the grape-growers and winemakers, the desire of some for malls and chain stores. Hearing what comes through the grapevine, but can't be said in a small town.

Catie wrote about growing up in Walla Walla. I grew up in New York City. The only thing I knew about small towns and farms was from the first grade readers that pretended that all of America was rural and that city kids didn't exist. When I moved from New York to Minneapolis, I thought it was a small town. When I moved to Seattle, I thought it was a small town. When I visited Walla Walla , I didn't think it was a small town because of all the sophisticated wine and food people I met. Even though worldwide, grape-growing and winemaking are typically rural endeavors (except for factory wines), wine people share a "citizen of the world" kind of camaraderie based the joy and pleasures of the grape. This certainly was true of Catie and the the gang of four palates from the West.

Apparently, some Walla Walla folks are afraid their town will get bent like Bend, Oregon. Not too likely, if Walla Walla continues to meld East & West - the best of rural Eastern Washington and the best of urban Western Washington. In contrast to Bend, Walla Walla has made an effort to preserve it's historic buildings. In fact, some wineries have played a role by placing tasting rooms in historic buildings. Forgeron has an entire winery in an old forge. If Walla Walla spends the money in all those main street banks wisely "they" can create the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps "Fusion" will be the next new winery in Walla Walla. Thanks, Catie, for a great visit and a new perspective on Walla Walla.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Crop - Ten New Walla Walla Wineries

The excitement this time around came from talking with the new crop of winemakers in Walla Walla. Trey Busch, of course, is not a new winemaker, but his current avatar as a Magician is. Trey is now owner and winemaker at "Sleight of Hand". We will conjure up some more about this new magician in a future post. Ned Morris worked with John Abbott at Abeja when he was called to Amaurice by Tom & Kathy Shafer. Ned wasn't sure if he was ready, but it is clear from the wines he is making that he is more than ready. Devin Stinger at Adamant Cellars was adamant that the winery name had nothing to do with being adamant, but rather was named after the semiprecious stone Adamentine. Trio Vintners, right next door to Adamant, is a collaboration of among three recent graduates from the Enology and Viticulture Program at Walla Walla Community College. Tim Boushay, Denise Slattery, and Steve Michener pooled their talents to produce three new wines at their new "startup" winery at the Walla Walla Airport wine incubator - no Quonset huts for these folks. At Tertulia, Christina Peet runs the tasting room for winemaker Ryan Raber. Steve Brooks at "Trust" is a refugee from the corporate media world. Thomas Glase winemaker at Balboa Winery hails from Puget Sound. Dawn Kammer and Mary Derby at DaMa aren't actually winemakers. They describe themselves as " negociants" the French term for people who buy wine and market it. Radio Moguls, Tom and Cheryl Hodgins own Skylite Cellars with two good tourist locations - one on 2nd street in Walla Walla and the other on highway twelve on the way into town. Troy Lewick, a good ol'boy from the South, makes wine at Hence Cellars. Tune in for posts on specific new Walla Walla wineries.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wine Notes

Bob reports that the 2003 El Mirador Syrah was a terrific wine. It started out with a lot of fruit and currant flavors and evolved into something very soft and velvety with lots of minerals and soil. Robin really liked this one . It is definitely a sleeper ion the hyperbolic space of Walla Walla, yet it is virtually unseen outside the winery tasting room.

The 2001 Godspeed Chardonnay is finally up to speed. Larry Stricker and his son, the mountain men from one of my first posts have a north facing vineyard on Mt Veeder. They make wines to age, with a slightly European character. This Chard has come into its own. Dry, steely, stony, like a Chablis or Pouilly Fuisse. Here's a California rarity - a white that needs to be laid down in a cellar for several years.

2004 Covey Run Chardonnay - Tasted from a half bottle, it still could use a few more months of age to bring it together. Medium bodied, but still not quite integrated, this wine is on sale at Grocery Outlet for less than $5/half bottle. A great value at this price.

2094 Marcillac "Lo Sang del Pais" (The Blood of the Country) from Domaine du Cros is imported by Wine Traditions of Falls Church, Va. Wine Traditions specializes in obscure wines from the Southwest of France such as Irouleguy and Gailliac . The reds are wonderful wines and since they are still obscure the price is right. The Marcillac ( Mar-ci-ak) tastes like a very good Sangria without the sugar and citrus added. Truly an excellent summer wine.

2006 Edna Valley Chardonnay - Just not as good as previous vintages. Tart green apples predominate to the exclusion of the usual stoniness which usually accompanies typical California "tropical fruit and Vanilla." Not the usual "best buy " this year.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Walla Walla Continued

I'm back, I think I'm back, I know I'm back. Am I really back? The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglay! Looking at my last post, I see it's only been a week since I've posted anything. It seems like a month. I finally diagnosed my password problem. My computer was remembering all kinds of User Ids and passwords except the ones that counted. Now I have to enter that information every time I blog. I wish my computer would remember just the correct info.rmation. Any ideas anyone?

So I've been drinking more than I've been writing. Look for wine notes interspersed with posts on our visit to Walla Walla. I think we left off at Elmer's in Walla Walla. I vaguely remember writing about L'Ecole. Frankly, much as I have loved L'Ecole wines in the past, I've been disappointed by the last two vintages. Even the Apogee replacement, Ferguson, was disappointing after starting off with an incredibly appealing and complex nose. Apogee wasn't made in 2004, since the 2004 Walla Walla grapes that traditionally go into it were damaged by frost. The Ferguson was put together from grapes sourced in the Columbia Valley. Let us hope that L'Ecole has already reached its perigee and is back on the ascent. Reininger, also, hasn't seemed up to par since moving from the airport to a brand new facility on highway 12 on the way into town from the Tri-Cities. And while I am at it, Beresan was somewhat disappointing this year, too. Ash Hollow wines were average. Skylite winery which has an interesting farm family history and a kinky marketing story about Hinie, needs to elevate their wines from the family farm level. We thought that prices seemed to be rising and quality declining. Could it be hat succcess ha sgone to their heads.What were the highlights? Cougar Crest, Amaurice, Pepper Bridge, Sleight of Hand, Forgeron and ten new Walla Walla wineries. Look for upcoming posts on ten new Walla Walla wineries and on Walla Walla restaurants.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Puget Sound Cabs

Puget Sound Cabs? You can't grow Cabernet Sauvignon in the Puget Sound region, but you can truck grapes over from Eastern Washington AVAs such as Red Mountain. Some of the best Cabs in the state are made here in the Seattle area. First and foremost is Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, awarded "100" point scores for two years in a row by Robert Parker, the Pied Piper of wine by the numbers, but truly an excellent wine. Not to be outdone by Quilceda Creek, DeLille is going for the gold with its Grand Ciel wine from its new Red Mountain vineyard. Their current offerings, such as the Harrison, are excellent. Ross Andrew made an intense Cab that should prove to be superb with a few years in the cellar. Staying in Woodinville and the Eastside, new wineries such as Red Sky and Edmonds have been making very good Cabernets, too. Mike Januik is truly a master winemaker as proven by the Cabernet under his own label and the Novelty Hill moniker. Bob Betz rounds out the leaders here. John Bell at Willis Hall makes excellent wines. In Seattle's industrial area we find outstanding blends from the South Seattle Artisanal Wineries (SSAW) including Cadence, Fall Line, OS, and Note Bene. Over on Vashon Island, Chris Carmada continues to turn out excellent vineyard specific Cab blends. Up in Port Townsend, Sorensen winery produces an outstanding Cab from Ciel du Cheval fruit. Farther out on the Peninsula, Don Corson makes a really good Cab at Cameraderie. On Whidbey Island, Blooms Winery made a very good Cab from the family vineyard in Mendocino. Quite an interesting selection of Cabs made right here in Puget Sound.
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