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

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Conserve Water, Drink Wine

We were back to the old stompin' ground in Santa Barbara County, Los Olivos. We wanted to leave some time for the Foxen Santa Maria area, so we skipped Santa Ynez, Lompac/Buellton, and Solvang. We couldn't resist Los Olivos, but we really wanted to get to Foxen Road. No toilets, no water, just wine - that's Los Olivos. We skipped some old friends such as Consilience and Andrew Murray(rude reception). We always have fond memories of Andrew Murray Esperence, but wonder what it is like these days.

We started at Arthur Earl where the 2006 Viognier tasted like a peach tree with a little bark thrown in. Altogether a fruity, friendly wine, but, like most of its Olivos cousins, too fruity for my taste. I need some minerality and stoniness. The Rhone blend of Grenache, Counoise, Cinsaut and Syrah had a great nose with nice hints of vanilla in the flavor, but ultimately the lean mean taste of Counoise came through. The 2006 Tempranillo was a winner with a nose of cherry and Havana cigar.

Next a stop at Stolpman to pick up a wine club allocation for a friend. How agreeable the little red house just off the main street of Los Olivos . What a relief from the claustrophobic feel of the tasting room in Solvang surrounded by Scandinavian bric-a-brac stores - a Danish mortuary for great wine. The 2006 L'Avion has a deep golden color, almost russet, reminiscent of a big white Burgundy in style, structure and color, although, of course, the flavor profile is different since this is no Chardonnay, but a Rousanne with a touch of Viognier. The 2006 Grenache is beautiful, light and elegant - a good example of this style. We tasted two Syrahs, but the most interesting wine was the 2006 "La Croce" a cross between Syrah and Sangiovese. This seems to be a new trend in Los Olivos, the first of three such crosses.

Across the street at Carina Cellars we tasted wines created by winemaker Joe Tensley who also has his own line of wines. The 2007 Viognier had a subtle nose, followed by a round fruity peachy wine. Another fruity Viognier from Los Olivos. It's a style! We tasted several Syrahs - our favorites were the 2006 Terra Alta and the co-fermented 2006 "7 Percent" Syrah, that is, 7% Viognier, 93% Syrah.

At Coquelicot (kok - li -ko) Kerry very ably served up the offerings. The 2006 Estate Chardonnay was very light and perfumed - a good patio wine. The 2006 Estate Chardonnay was more classic, but still very fruity - flowers in a glass. The 2006 Estate Syrah tasted of roasted coffee. The very good 2006 Black Oak Vineyard Syrah was round balanced and flavorful. The 2006 "Mon Amour" Estate Bordeaux Blend was very lovable, round, fruity and perfumed - a come hither wine. The 2006 Estate Cabernet Franc was an odd C. F. with spice that might lead one to think of Syrah. The winemaker's notes say it tastes of roasted pasilla pepper, still an unusual , if not unpleasant, taste profile for a Cab Franc.

Qupe recently opened a new tasting room at the entrance to Los Olivos from the north. Stealthily manned by Ethan, one of owner Bob Lindquist's able winemaker sons, Ethan, quietly poured wines from Qupe, his father's wines, from Verdad, his step-mother's wines, and "Ethan" his own wines. He quietly recommended his brother Luke's wines at Tres Hermanas. The 2006 Verdad Rose was, good, but truly, the 2007 Verdad Albarino was even better. Fruitier than a Spanish Albarino, but still recognizable. The Qupe Roussanne was round and fruity, the Qupe Los Olivos Cuvee, a Syrah/Mourvedre blend, was light to medium-bodied, round, with good fruit. I have spent years searching for this wine in San Francisco ever since my son-in- law had a bottle and loved it. Ethan's 2006 Sangiovese was round, medium-bodied, and spicy - no lean mean Chianti, this one. Ethan's Cuvee Los Alamos Syrah was excellent, too. His father's Qupe 2006 Syrah from the Stolpman vineyard was really good, too, with a nose of black fruit and toast. In truth, this is a family of very talented winemakers. Es verdad! Truth telling even extends to the tasting notes offered. Just the facts, ma'am! Vineyards, grapes and ageing. That's it. No hype about "lead pencil and cassis." Just the data. They're not going to tell you what you "should" taste or try to influence you. You decide how it tastes to you and whether you like it or not. This is truly rare.

Since Longoria was just next door, I couldn't resist the opportunity to revisit an old friend. The 2007 Pinot Grigio was pleasantly balanced, the 2007 Cuvee June Rose was pleasingly dry. The nose of the 2006 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido, put me off, the nose of of the 2006 Clover Creek Syrah was toasty and appealing. The "06 Blues Cuvee was complex and jazzy. The 2006 Clover Creek Tempranillo was round, balanced and delish, but all of this was just a prelude to a mind-blowing wine - the 2006 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is from Rick Longoria' only estate vineyard. I had only one thing to say about this wine - "Fantasic!" Like Miles in "Sideways," I have spent years searching for truly great Pinot and have only found a few bottles in Burgundy and a few more in Oregon that satisfy me. This one is spectacular and worth every penny of its $54 price point. Well, it looks like we only left a few hours for the Foxen Santa Maria area but that's better than last time.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Best of Taste Washingon

  • It's really unfair to name "Bests" of Taste Washington without tasting all of the wines, but who can taste through 800 some odd wines in four hours. Wines from many of the following outstanding wineries surely would have made the list: Amavi, Andrew Will, Baer, Barrage, Betz, Brian Carter, Buty, Cadence, Camaraderie, Darby, DeLille, Fall Line, Gorman, Hightower, Isenhower, L'Ecole, Nicolas Cole, Note Bene, O-S, Pepper Bridge, Reininger, Sheridan, Soos Creek, Spring Valley Vineyards, Syzygy, Willis Hall among others. So as usual these are really my faves among wines tasted:

  • Best Of Show - Saviah "Une Vallee"
  • Best Winemaker - James and Poppie Mantone
  • Best Winery - Quilceda Creek
  • Best New Winery - Barrage, Martinez & Martinez,
  • Best Winery Name - Falling Rain
  • Best Winery Architecture - Tertulia
  • Best Wine Name - Recession Red
  • Best Overall Quality - Januik, Novelty Hill
  • Best Value - Gordon Bros.
  • Best Puget Sound Winery - Palouse
  • Best Woodinville Winery - Hestia
  • Best Yakima Winery - Airfield
  • Best Walla Walla Winery - aMaurice
  • Best Cascade Winery - Vin Du Lac
  • Best Riesling - Palouse
  • Best Gewurztraminer - Sleight of Hand
  • Best Chardonnay - Amaurice, Sparkman
  • Best Viognier - Cougar Crest, Amaurice
  • Best Red Blend - Adam's Bench, Balboa, Quilceda Creek
  • Best Rhone Blend - Rotie Cellars
  • Best Malbec - Amaurice, Beresan, Gifford Hirlinger
  • Best Syrah - Hestia, Palouse, Saviah, Syncline, Walter Dacon
  • Best Mourvedre - Syncline, Trio
  • Best Cabernet Sauvignon - Dusted Valley, Hestia

Monday, May 04, 2009

Taste Washington Seattle

Back to Taste Washington. Let's try doing this in alphabetical order. Airfield Estates has been growing grapes for a while. Recently Marcus Miller has started making wines that are appealing and reasonably priced. Anna Schafer, continues to make outstanding wine at aMaurice Cellars. Both the 2006 Viognier and Chardonnay have a stony European quality. The Malbec is fabulous. Balboa wines have been friendly "value" wines, but now they are going upscale with "Mith" the outstanding Sayulta from Walla Walla grapes, but is this the time to start offering $40 bottles. I guess we will see. It seems to me that Beresen wines fell off a little this year, but not the 2006 Malbec. Everyone seems to be hitting home runs with Malbec. Caderetta had a nice Merlot. Chad at Dusted Valley ventured into the high end with an outstanding '06 Reserve Cab for $45. The 2007 Stained Tooth Syrah is always good at $24. Gifford Hirlinger came up with another really good Malbec. All of the wines from newcomer Gilstrap were excellent.

The 2007 Riesling from Palouse was light and balanced. The 2006 "Ahh" Syrah brought "oohs and aahs" as did the Cab Franc and the Cab Sauv. All of the Ponum and Ponder wines were excellent. Quilceda Creek 2006 Red Wine - "That's really good!" The Saviah 2006 Reserve Syrah was excellent, but the 2006 "Une Vallee" Red Wine was outstanding - velvety and smooth! Once again, Trey Busch worked his magic with the 2007 "The Magician" Gewurz and the "Spellbinder" Red Blend. Chris Sparkman's 2007 "Lumiere" Chardonnay will light up your life and lighten your burdens. The 2007 Syncline Mourvedre from Horse Heaven Hills is heavenly and since Syncline is biodynamique should help you get centered in your life. The trio of winemakers at Trio Vintners made an outstanding Rhone Style Mourvedre that is delightfully rustique and reminiscent of southern French wine. It appears that virtually all of Larry Lehmbecker's wines have won awards for their friendly unoaked style. Newcomer Ward Johnson's Cab Blend was worthy and of course, Lloyd Andersen's Walter Dacon Syrahs were all big fruity, jammy and delish as always. I alway seem to prefer to prefer the C'est Syrah Belle.

Four hours is just not enough time to do justice to so many outstanding winemakers, wineries, and vineyards, but Taste Washington is a great way to discover new wineries and find out which wines you really like. I've often said that the only way to buy wine is to taste it yourself at the winery. At Taste Washington the wineries bring the wine to you all in the same place making it easy to choose your faves for the year.
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