It was a beautiful sunny day (72 degrees) in Seattle as we drove over the floating bridge on Lake Washington toward the Eastside.We started the day at Columbia Winery where we picked up our "Passport." I had heard rumors that Columbia Winery wines have improved. The two glass pours for Woodinville Passport certainly didn't prove it. The 2003 Cab Franc was a pleasant wine with good fruit and a slightly acidic finish. The winery had one poor person pouring for a mob of people. The 2006 Riesling Ice wine was sweet and balanced, but not very interesting.
From Columbia we drove a short distance up Woodinville - Redmond Road to Novelty Hill Januik Winery. The new winery looks a bit like a concrete bunker on the outside and the arrangement of the tasting seem not very accessible for a handicapped person, although I suppose they must have met all the current codes. As many of you know, Mike Januik makes the wines for Novelty Hill, owned by the Alborg family of Stillwater Creek Vineyard, and he makes his own wines under his own label in a shared winemaking facility. The 2005 Stillwater Creek Viognier was pleasant enough, but not very interesting. The 2004 Stillwater Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was soft and balanced with a slightly tangy finish. the 2005 Sangiovese was full of good fruit, also with a tangy finish. In this case, it tasted totally like a good high end Chianti, perfectly balanced between American and Italian style. This would be great with Italian food. The Januik 2006 Elerding Vineyard Chardonnay was fresh, European in style, but with less body than the Cold Creek Chard and tending toward a hint of tartness. Definitely a food wine. The 2005 Syrah was good, but not particularly exciting. The 2005 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was a beautiful standout wine - soft, medium bodied with great fruit. Really a blend of all the usual Bordeaux suspects, this one was a winner. It would have been interesting to taste some of Mike's other single vineyard wines such as Ciel Du Cheval, Champoux and Seven Hills Cab Sauv, Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Roussanne, and Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay.
Last year we couldn't even find Brian Carter winery. This year we parked in the Tully's lot, hiked past Purple Cafe, the Chamber of Commerce, etc., and finally lighted upon the winery. The first wine we tasted was the 2005 Oriana, a blend of Viognier, Riesling, and Roussanne. A huge aromatic nose leads to a full-bodied wine that would go well with Asian or fusion cuisine. The 2005 Abracadabra Magical Red Blend is a witch's brew of seven varietals from three different vineyards. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! Poof! Brian Carter pulls a real beauty from a hat and at a reasonable price. It's a shame they weren't pouring the L'Etalon which is one of my favorite
Once again, the day of Reckoning was here for winemakers and owners of Adams Bench, Erica and Tim Blue. Like last year, they were pouring two pre-release wines(2006 Reckoning and 2006 Reserve Cab "V"), and one available for immediate purchase(2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red). The wines can be purchased at their website: http://www.adamsbench.com/
These three wines were amazing. My notes include "awesome", "yum", purple, beautiful, chocolate, mushroom and black fruit. This year Tim told me five of their secrets: 1) Erica switched from medicine to winemaking and thus, from bringing human babies into the world, to bringing wine into the world. I've often contended that raising vines and wines is very similar to raising children; 2) they studied enology at U.C. Davis and thus have a thorough understanding of the chemistry of wine; 3) they have a great winemaking consultant - Chris Carmada over at Andrew Will; 4) they look for physiological ripeness in the grapes; 5) Tim seemed to imply that they are covert, or maybe overt, Robert Parker fans. We brought a bottle the 2005 Horse Heaven Hills Red home for dinner. It was followed by a 1991 Phillip Togni Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Carol loved the the Adams Bench, Diane loved the Phillip Togni. I liked them both. They are made in entirely different styles. The Adams Bench , while not jammy, was very fruit forward, exploding in your mouth with a hint of sweet feel at the end. The Togni was more linear and serious, kind of like Phillip himself. Different strokes for different folks. In any event, if Tim and Erica sent their wines off to Robert Parker, I have no doubt that he would rate them in the "90s". It would be a mutual admiration society.
Across the road from Adams Bench, at Hollywood Hill Vineyard, Steve Snyder, makes wine in the opposite style. His 2007 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Estate Grown Chardonnay is made from what may be the only patch of Chardonnay grapes grown in the Puget Sound AVA. Light, tart and fresh, it is totally reminiscent of Sancerre make in the Loire Valley of France, except, of course, it doesn't have the grapefruit and grass aroma associated with the Sauvignon Blanc grape from which the Sancerre is made. Substitute lemon for grapefruit and apple for grass and you've got it! Steve is truly a garagiste! To be continued...