Woodinville Passport: Novelty Hill and Mike Januik
On my return to Columbia Winery to get a replacement copy of my "Woodinville Passport"which apparently fell out of my pocket early on, I thought I would taste some Columbia Winery wines. You may have noticed that for the most part I have never been particularly fond of Columbia wines, but I thought I would at least try the Red Willow Sangiovese. No Passport, no wine! Such rigidity! As recompense, I immediately headed to Novelty Hill where I hoped for a better reception and where I knew there would be so many good wines. I once said that I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill. This time I tasted through so many good wines made by Mike Januik. The tasting room staff led by Diane were extremely helpful and accommodating. Destiny poured so many excellent wines, that I quickly developed palate fatigue as they all started to blend together in my mind. One reason for this is that winemaker Mike Januik has a very distinct winemaker signature. Virtually all of his wines are made in a smooth seemless style, well balanced, medium bodied with lots of fruit. Almost all of Mike wines are delicious. There are very few winemakers who are so consistent, just as there very few wine regions that are consistent. Chinon, Dolcetto, Champagne, Port and Sherry are the consistent regions. Mike and Tim Narby at Note Bene winery are among the few truly consistent winemakers. In Mike's case perhaps this comes from his years of experience at Chateau Ste. Michelle. This consistency makes it easy to choose wine from a wine list or a retail shelf. The truly amazing thing is consistency at such a high level. Tasting Mike's wines is like tasting flight of Bordeaux First Growths and then trying to pick the best one. Each wine would be outstanding on it's own and tasting them together tends to diminish them all. They become average , except that the average is extremely high. So forgive me if these notes seem somewhat similar. Rather than give numeric ratings I will give you the asterisk system that I actually use when tasting wines. Only really good wines, wines that I really like, get stars - three stars = outstanding, two stars = extraordinary, one star = excellent. These notes are pretty much in the order presented from light and white to big and red.
1) *2005 Novelty Hill Semillon - GRASS, a pleasing grassy nose leads to a smooth, balanced wine with good minerality - great! Gives L'Ecole Semillon a run for the money.
2) 2006 - Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc - As most of you know I'm not too fond of S.B., This one was like a cool fresh stream without that annoyingly tart grapefruit flavor. The anti-New Zealand Sauv.
3) **2005 Viognier - Minerality, hint of citrus, lively, not big and heavy like so many Viogniers, definitely a food wine. If I were using numbers I would have given in a 90.
4) ** 2006 Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay - Minerality, citrus, food wine. The Cold Creek was the first Januik wine we tasted and we fell in love with it's cool French style reminding us of a French Meursault. This vintage is lighter and less full bodied than our first Cold Creek Chard from Mike.
5) ** 2007 Januik Elerding Chardonnay - Bigger, fuller oakier than the Cold Creek. Reminiscent of a French Chassagne Montrachet white Burgundy.
6) * 2006 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Chardonnay - OAK, oak nose, big mineral apple, fruit, citrus. Somewhat like a French Puligny Montrachet.
7) 2005 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Sangiovese - light color, cherry nose, light cherry flavors, need a year or two to diminish the tannins.
8) ** 2005 Januik Columbia Valley Merlot - This blend of 91%, 7% Cab Sauv, 2% Cab Franc is soft and smooth with cherry vanilla flavors - the quintessential Januik wine. Blended from Klipsun, Ciel Du Cheval, Conner Lee and Weinbau grapes, it has a heck of a pedigree.
9) 2006 Januik Klipsun Merlot - Blended with 4% Cab Sauv, this one has a complex nose with notes of toast.
10) * 2004 Novelty Hill Stillwater Merlot - Amazing berry nose with hints of blueberry. Round & soft - friut, fruit, fruit.
11) ** 2006 Januik Ciel Du Cheval Petit Verdot - Strawberry/rhubarb nose, yum, so soft, like a Merlot - not as big and structured as the 2004.
12) *2004 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Syrah - Soft, toasty nose, Light fruity, refreshing, delightful Syrah.
13) *** 2006 Januik Lewis Vineyard Syrah - WOW! Toast and fruit - speechless.
14) * 2006 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - round soft fruit.
15) * 2006 Januik Ciel Du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon - Wow! great fruit.
16) 2006 Januik Champoux Cabernet Sauvignon - blueberry - palate fatigue.
17) 2006 Januik Reserve - 88% Cab. Sauv., 7% Cab Franc, 3% Malbec, 2% Merlot - Champoux and Weinbau
Well, that's more than a baker's dozen. Across all price ranges, delicious wines. One of the tasting room staff recommended the Januik Red Wine which was not available for tasting so I bought a bottle. It couldn't be bad. I also tasted the newly released 2006 Novelty Hill Stillwater Malbec which was excellent, same style but bigger and fuller. I finished with the Rose, a great palate cleanser. What a tour de force!