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

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Press Juice

Here's the juice on the First Press Grand Tasting held in Phoenix to support Arizona Public Radio. So in case you didn't get it, First Press is a pun, a jeu de mots, a play on words. Public radio is the "First Press" and the best wine comes from the first "pressing." What a great line up of wineries, most from the four hottest regions in the U.S. - Washington State, Sonoma and Paso Robles in California, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Once again, so many wines, so little time! I think I got to taste wine from almost half the wineries.

For a while, I poured wines from Balboa Winery in Walla Walla. These are some of the best values in Walla Walla wines. Winemaker Tom Glases purposefully set out to make reasonably priced wines from Walla Walla - a real rarity, but he cheated a little by sourcing the grapes from all over the Columbia Valley, thus avoiding the $3000 per ton, $30 a bottle equation. The wines are very user-friendly, fruit, forward, almost jammy, but not in-your-face .

I first fell in love with St. Laurent Riesling. Unfortunately, there was none to taste, so I tasted through the available wines. These wines are made from St. Laurent's 600 plus acre vineyard in the Wahluke Slope AVA. The Lucky Red and White are good values at about $15. The white is a medium-bodied fruity blend. Easy drinking, but not if you like a dry mouthfeel - kind of like a Chenin Blanc even though it is 50% Sauv Blanc and 15% Riesling among others. The reds were surprisingly good especially the Merlot.

Methvan - a new one from Oregon. The 2005 Pinot Noir Eola Hills is a great value at about $25. Mushrooms in the nose lead to classic sour cherry flavors. A nicely built, medium-bodied wine.

Note Bene - Once again Tim Narby is a consistent producer. The Abbinare and Miscela were particularly nice - beautifully balanced. It was a pleasure to renew my acquaintance with Sales and Marketing Director, Mark Rashap.

John Bell's 2003 Willis Hall Cabernet had outstanding fruit. John is one of the many great winemakers producing wine in the Puget Sound area from grapes trucked in from Eastern Washington. John's wines are difficult enough to find in the Seattle area. You might have better luck in Arizona.

Aaah - Lachini! So nice to see Ron Lachini again. Pinot Gris can be so boring, but the 2007 pinot Gris was wonderfully dry and really wowed me. The 2006 Estate Pinot Noir was outstanding as usual.

Nicholas Cole - The 2006 GraEagle Red Wing may not be Screaming Eagle, but less than $30, it is a lot more reasonably priced and it is delicious. The Camille is a good bigger sister.

The 2006 Red Mountain Saviah Syrah is an exceptionally elegant version of Syrah, more like a Syrah from the Yakima Valley.

Robert de Leuze has pretty much taken over the management of ZD Wines from his father. The wines have lightened up since his father pioneered Pinot Noir in California. I have a bottle of 1976 ZD Pinot that still appears to be intact.

Justin himself was pouring at the table right next to me. His Justification blend certainly doesn't have to justify itself to anyone. The 2006 Obtuse was way too dense for me, too sweet for my taste. The Savant really knew what it was doing and the Syrah was making me happy, too. The Chard was exquisite, beautifully balanced between hint of fresh citrus notes and stone fruit with a little oak thrown in.

The Basel Cellars wine were better than the last time I tasted them. The '06 Claret has a smoky nose lots of black fruit and is a perfectly balanced wine.

Bruce Cohn was pouring his Sonoma Valley wines. The '07 Sonoma County Chardonnay blew me away. Very French, somewhere between a Macon-Villages and a Pouilly-Fuisse, perhaps like a St. Veran. Another perfect wine. The 2006 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon is a great value.

Ann Anderson was pouring her Walter Dacon Syrahs. I finally found out who Walter Dacon was - Lloyd's grandfather. all of the Walter Dacon wines were wonderfully fruity and well balanced , but pleasingly more elegant than the jammier previous vintages.

Michal David, the Lodi winery, has great names for their wines such as their flagship Seven Deadly Zins and the wine isn't bad either The Petite Petit is a Petit Sirah souped up with a little Petite Verdot - a good value at around $20.

Hunt Cellars in so Robles is making good wines. I especially liked to Maestro.

I never even knew that Willamette Valley Vineyards made anything other than Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The 07 Pinot Gris was outstandingly fresh and lively. The Riesling was dry fresh, crisp and floral - just right.

I only regret that I wasn't able to taste B Cellars, Bonovia, CADE, Cana's Feast, Kathryn Kennedy, Loring, Northwest Cellars, or Stuhlmuller among others.

Altogether, an outstanding group of wineries supporting Arizona Public Radio.

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