Archive for July, 2011

2007 Cuillin Hills, Shackled, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley

The Cullin Hills Winery is owned and operated by Derek DesVoigne and Shannon McLeod.  The goal of the winery is to produce Rhone and Bordeaux varietal wines. The 2007 Shackled is a blend of 56% Syrah and 44% Mourvedre sourced from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard.  It was aged for 20 months in oak.  There were 185 cases produced.

2007 Cuillin Hills, Shackled, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley
Drunk over two nights, this wine has a light nose with grapey aromas, some sweet fruit, and a bit of heat.  In the mouth the red fruits have a tart flavor and dusty, sweetness.  There is interesting spice but the fruit take a high-toned, piercingly tart profile.  The wine is enjoyable but does not have any complexity yet.  Actually, I couldn’t detect any future potential for complexity.  Compared to the Robert Parker tasting note, my bottle sounds completely shut down.  Has anyone else tasted this? ** 2015-?

As July Winds to an End

Bottles to be Photographed

With the Baer Winery post published, I have  caught up on all of my Woodinville tasting notes.  Over the next several weeks I will focus on publishing the huge back log of tasting notes.  Or at least most of them!  Over the last month we have plundered our basement wine cellar to inform you about such Northwest Wineries as: Bunnell Family, Cullin Hills, Scott Paul, Buty, Twelve Wine, and Syncline.  Next week Lou and I will taste the inaugural vintage from JP Neufeld along with a selection from DeLille, Quilceda Creek, Gramercy, and others. 

Wines to be Tasted

For the European wines I will post notes on the budget priced Castillo de Monjardin, new selections from Domaine Leon Barral and Ermitage Pic St Loup, Bertrande-Berge Cuvee Jean Sirvan, and multiple vintages of  Hexamer Riesling Quarzit.  We’ll also crack open some older vintages of Tardieu-Laurent, Charbonniere, and St. Cosme.  If a bottle is in our basement cellar than it is fair game as a subject for this blog!

I finally plan to experiment with Argon, Carbon Dioxide, and Nitrogen.  My efforts at preserving opened bottles of wine simply consist of shoving the cork back into the bottle then placing the bottle in our kitchen fridge.  That tends to work reasonably well but now I will start using Private Preserve.

Whisky Rocks in a Wine Glass!!!

We will see what happens when Whisky Rocks are placed in wine.  They are a gift from my mom who thought they might be essential for the incredibly hot and humid Washington, DC weather.

Categories: Uncategorized

2007 and 2008 Baer Winery, Ursa

These wines are quite tasty with the 2007 showing a rustic side and the 2008 steps things up by showing beautifully integrated, rippling flavors.  The Ursa is available for $32-$35 per bottle and is fairly priced for the effort.

2007 Baer Winery, Ursa, Columbia Valley
This wine is 44% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest Malbec and Petit Verdot.  This wine has a light nose of assertive, red fruit.  In the mouth there are ripe, sauvage, flavors of blue fruits mixed with some new oak influences.  There is a creamy texture to the wild flavors that then turn towards blue fruits with dusty herbs.  Some heat escapes in the finish.  After two hours of air the wine settles down and softens up with sweet spices, ample sweet cinnamon, followed up by a somewhat coarse finish.  ***(*) Now-2015.

2008 Baer Winery, Ursa, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 53% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot.  It was aged for 19 months in 80% new French oak.  There were 1095 cases produced.  This wine sported a light nose of brooding black and red fruit.  In the mouth there are dark, rippling flavors of blue and red fruits.  This medium+ bodied wine has ample sweet spices, textured flavors of incense, and a vein of acidity running throughout.  After two hours of air it show lovely, sweet spiced fruit that was well-integrated with the acidity and tannins.  If you drink it now make sure you decant the wine for two hours.  Personally, I would cellar this for one year before trying again.  ***(*) 2014-2019.

Baer Winery

The Entrance

I was first introduced to the Baer Winery a couple of years ago when Julia and Clark opened up a bottle of 2006 Ursa.  I rather enjoyed it so on a later trip I drank one bottle of the 2007 Ursa and brought another bottle back home.  Knowing that I would be in Seattle this month I opened that sole bottle of 2007 Ursa before my trip.  It too was delicious.  I always planned on stopping by Baer during my Woodinville visit.   However, when I asked around for recommendations everyone suggested Baer but forewarned me they might be sold out of everything. It is considered an up and coming winery so it was interesting to receive the recommendations.

The Tasting Room

When I walked into the tasting room Lisa Baer was pouring wine.  She explained that the 2008 Ursa was sold out but they still had the 2010 Shard and 2008 Arctos.  Wine Spectator pre-released the scores for their wines and the 2008 Ursa received a huge 95 Points!  I believe the Arctos received 91 points.  I was a bit bummed because I wanted to return home with some Ursa.  Fortunately, there is a supply in the distribution chain so using the list of stores that carry Baer Wines I was able to bring a few bottles home.


Baer Winery was founded in 2000 by Lance Baer.  From the initial release of 200 cases of Ursa in 2003, the winery has switched properties, introduced two more wines, and in 2007 settled in the Woodinville warehouse area.  The current production lies at 2,000 cases per year but may grow up to 2,500 cases per year.  Lance sadly passed away in 2007 leavint the winery to be owned and run by father Les and sister Lisa.  The grapes are exclusively sourced from Stillwater Creek Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

Stainless Steel Barrels for the Shard

Following the tasting I was given a tour of the production area.  Every square foot of space is used.  I even spied cases of 2008 Ursa waiting for a distributor to pick it up!

New Barrels from Tonnellerie Sylvain

My follow-up post will contain my notes on the 2007 and 2008 Ursa.

Pallets of Wine (including Ursa) and Barrels

2010 Shard, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Stillwater Creek Vineyard.  It was fermented and aged in 75 gallon Stainless Steel barrels.  There were 432 cases produced.  This was bottled less than three weeks prior to my tasting.  There is a good nose of grass and stones.  In the mouth there were flavors of white stone fruits, apples, in this crisp wine.  Not Rated.

2008 Arctos, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot.  The grapes were sourced from Stillwater Creek Vineyard.  It was aged for 19 months in 80% new French oak.  There is a good nose keeping the character of the winery with inky, dark purple fruits.  This is youthful compared to the Ursa with a savory quality to the dark fruit, “bay leaf”, and subtle, tasty tannic flavors.  I would personally cellar this for a couple of years.  Not Rated.

New Corks

Barrage Cellars

The Entrance

With less than one hour left I had time to visit one more winery before stopping by Baer Winery. A few people had recommended stopping by Barrage Cellars so I did.  This is another young winery.  It was founded in 2006 by owner and winemaker Kevin Correll.  Kevin started off in 1997 by making wine at home followed by volunteering at three different harvests.  He began taking classes at UC Davis and received his winemaking certificate in 2008.  The Barrage name is a combination of Barn and Garage and is a tribute to the first two locations where he made wine.  Today he produces single varietal wines where he often blends across vineyards.

Previous vintages of the red wines have seen approximately two years of barrel aging in 50% new and 50% second-fill French oak.  The alcohol levels have also danced around 15%.  The wines fell into three tiers with the Outcast Cabernet Franc at the top.  This is a wine with potential and certainly worth trying.  The other reds and the Nuclear Blonde Chardonnay are in the middle.  Perhaps with a bit more finesse and less barrel time these wines will rise to the level of the Outcast.  The Riesling was at the bottom and came across as an experiment.

The Tasting Room

2008 Nuclear Blonde
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the Conner Lee Vineyard.  The vines are seven years old.  It was 100% barrel fermented in neutral French oak for 12 months sur lees.  There were aromas of cheese and biscuits on the nose.  The flavors are ripe with good mouthfeel and a nervey quality.  The aftertaste leaves residual sweet-spices.  It is somewhat disjointed between the nose and mouth.  Not Rated.

2008 Trifecta
This wine is 100% Merlot sourced from Les Vignes de Marcoux, Sheridan, and Conner Lee Vineyards.  There were some green notes on the nose.  In the mouth the ripe fruits are delievered in a medium-bodied package.  Not Rated.

2008 Outcast
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from Boushey and Sheridan Vineyards.  This wine was bottled 6-7 months ago and is a well made selection.  The red and blue fruits mix with hot spices in this rich wine.  There are sweeter spices towards the finish as the flavors water down a bit.  I preferred this over the Trifecta.  Not Rated.

2007 Double Barrel
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 40% sourced from Red Willow, 30% Sheridan, and 30% Destiny Ridge Vineyards.  It was aged for 25 months in 50% new French oak.  There is a restrained nose.  In the mouth the black berries compete with some sweet, agressive tannins.  Not Rated.

2008 Eclipse
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the Les Vignes de Marcoux Vineyard.  This wine spent 24 months in barrel.  The nose contains strong aromas of bacon and toast from the barrel.  There are spicy black fruits along with sweet blue fruits.  This is nicely done but I really prefer the Outcast.  Not Rated.

2009 Riesling
This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from Dineen Vineyard.  Tasted last this Riesling is intended to be off-dry.  The nose was a bit offputting and not that great.  In the mouth this obviously sweet wine lacked acidity.  Not Rated.

The Barrel Room

Update to Post on 2008 Weingut Leth, Roter Veltliner, Hofweingarten

When I first looked into this wine I could not find any information about the Hofweingarten on the Weingut Leth website.  I found some information on the Domaine Select website but I was still curious so I contacted Weingut Leth.  Franz Leth replied earlier this week and kindly included a label image and information about the wine.  This is a selection produced specifically for Domaine Select.  It is made in a manner to “combine perfect fresh and fruity character with creamy texture.”  I have updated the 2008 Weingut Leth Fels, Roter Veltliner, Hofweingarten, Lagenreserve, Wagram post.

The Hofweingarten is made from grapes sourced from various loess soils.  Loess is German word meaning “loose” and stems from usage in the Rhine valley.  These are layers of wind-blown silt that are a mixture of loam, sand, and chalk.  They are loosely cemented by calcium carbonate.  These loess layers are up to 20 meters thick in the Wagram area.  This allows the vine roots to reach deep for water and minerals.

Loess Soils, Image from Weingut Leth

It is always a joy to correspond with a winery.  Not only do I get to learn more but I get to conveniently share it.

2007 Darby Winery, The Dark Side, Syrah, Columbia Valley

This is a bottle I bought last year from McCarthy & Schiering for $25.  This is a rather forceful wine but if you like that style, this bottle is a great value.  I also had a bottle of the Chaos at Portalis Wines earlier in the year.  After one hour of air it really started to shine and I remember liking it very much.  I believe Clark and Julia liked it as well.

2007 Darby Winery, The Dark Side, Syrah, Columbia Valley
The grapes were sourced from Sheridan, Stonestreet, Boushey, and Discovery vineyards.  There were 275 cases produced.  This wine is very dark in the glass.  It had a dark nose of roasted earth and red fruit.  Jenn noticed some grass or straw aromas.  In the mouth this medium bodied wine was not heavy but had constant, forceful delivery of the flavors.  There are black fruits and gravelly flavors, assertive coarse tannins, and notes of smoked bacon.  Everything starts spiraling out in the finish and verges on losing control.  ** Now.

Live Wire by Darby Winery

The Entrance

After tasting the wide range of wines at Sparkman Cellars I walked down a few doors to Live Wire which is produced by Darby Winery.  Darby is a relatively young winery with the first commercial release back in 2005.  Live Wire is the second label and was recently launched this spring.  While the Darby Winery label encompasses both single varietal and blended wines, the Live Wire label focuses only on single varietal wines.  The Live Wire wines are also a bit less expensive.  The tasting room is spare with a vintage industrial vibe to it.

It is certainly easy to find amped up wines from Washington that feature big, concentrated flavors and lots of new oak.  The Darby and Live Wire wines are certainly big and forceful but the alcohol is kept reasonably in check.  I have certainly enjoyed some Darby wines in the past, with some abundant and complex flavors, but they are not my preferred style.  I rather liked Le Deuce but this is the only Darby white wine that I have tried.  If you are a fan of this style or only looking to drink a glass or two then check these wines out.

Tasting Glasses

2010 Darby Winery, Le Deuce
This wine is a blend of 58% Viognier and 42% Roussanne.  The Roussanne was aged in stainless steel tanks and the Viognier was aged in 100% neutral oak barrels.  There were 185 cases produced.  This wine was round and rich with floral flavors that were easy to drink.  There were flavors of sweet white peach and honeysuckle supported by lively acidity.  The rich mouthfeel was pleasing.  Not Rated.

Bottles and Tasting Notes

2008 Live Wire, Cabernet Franc
This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from Stillwater Creek, Stonetree, and Sheridan vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 50% new French oak.  There were 200 cases produced.  This wine was dark purple in the glass.  There were concentrated blue/purple fruits with some herbs and spice.  There are barrel influenced flavors that become apparent towards the finish.  It drank well at a cooler temperature.  Not Rated.

2008 Live Wire, Syrah
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from Discovery, Boushey, and Dineen vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 30% new French puncheons and 70% neutral barrels.  There were 275 cases produced.  This wine shows the peppery side of Syrah in a full-bore style.  The flavors were very concentrated producing a big wine with delicious salty and savory characteristics.  Not Rated.

2008, Live Wire, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Conner Lee, Sheridan, Stillwater Creek, and Double Canyon vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months, 25% in new French oak and 75% in one year old French oak.  There were 300 cases produced.  This wine steps up the concentration even more with massive flavors of dark berries and fruits along with tannins and a spicy edge.  Not Rated.

Door to the Back Room

2007 Domaine Santa Duc, Les Aubes, Vacqueyras

Domaine Santa Duc produces many wines that I enjoy.  This wine is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah sourced from les Aubes and la Ponche in Vacqueyras.  The les Aubes parcel has sandy slopes.  The le Ponche parcel has lime-chalk soils.  It was aged for 18 months in casks on lees.

I have twice bought this wine for $24 from MacArthur’s.  If you like full-bore Vacqueyras then this bottle is for you.  It is well made and certainly worth the price.  It is an attractive drink right now because it is vigorously youthful and the ripe tannins are not bothersome.  It certainly has the stuffing to age for the short to medium term, it just depends on how you like your wine.

2007 Domaine Santa Duc, Les Aubes, Vacqueyras
This wine has a light to medium nose of rich, spiced fruit.  In the mouth it immediately delivers heady blue fruits, creamy flavors, grit, and spices.  There are ripe tannins that coat mouth as spicey midpalate develops.  The profile of the wine is sensitive to heat so be careful to drink it at cellar temperature.  Jenn noted, “Completely full mouth experience.  A storybook wine.”  ***(*) Now-2022.

Sparkman Cellars

After tasting wine at Efeste I drove across the street to the main wine warehouse area.  I first stopped at Sparkman Cellars where Bryan Keavy was pouring wine.  Sparkman Cellars was founded in Woodinville back in 2004 by Chris and Kelly Sparkman.  It is very much a family run winery where they provide a comfortable and inviting tasting room.  The wines are quite good and show development potential from aging.  I rather liked the Lumiere Chardonnay, thought their Malbec showed that it might be the next fun grape for Washington, and the Wilderness and Stella Mae, though rather different styles, were adroitly made.

The Tasting Room Entrace

The Tasting Room

2010 Sparkman Cellars, Pearl, Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc with 56% sourced from the Evergreen and 44% from the Klipsun vineyards.  It was aged for eight months in 56% stainless steel and 44% neutral French oak.  There was an intense nose of nearly full-strength stone-fruits, grass, and a little candy. There are grass notes in the mouth with ample flavor of grapes, tart fruit with a mouthfilling aftertaste.  Not Rated.

2010 Sparkman Cellars, Lumiere, Chardonnay, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the Columbia Valley.  It was aged for eight months in 40% new French oak.  The color of this wine is very light. The nose is full of old-school aromas and stones that are interesting. In the mouth there are some barrel influences mixed with flavors of white and yellow fruits. A nice wine.  Not Rated.

Wines that I Tasted

2009 Sparkman Cellars, Preposterous, Malbec, Red Mountain
This wine is 96% Malbec and 4% Syrah sourced from the Klipsun Vineyard. It was aged for 18 months in 23% new French oak.  This wine smoothly delivers dark berries and spice in an easy to drink manner. While it retains a Malbec profile it is made in a Washington style that is sure to gain fans bored of Argentine Malbec.  Not Rated.

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Wilderness, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 18% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, and 6% Petit Verdot.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Kiona, 2 Blondes, Hedges, La Coye, Sheridan, DuBrul, and Les Gosses vineyards.  It was aged for 18 months in 45% new French oak.  A light nose of red fruits, stones, and purple berries. There is much more going on in the mouth. The initial burst of flavors is a complex blend of NW fruit but then it fades off leaving a dark aftertaste. This would be an attractive wine at a lower price.  Not Rated.

Tasting Room Decor

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Ruby Leigh, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 42% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Hedges, Kiona, Two Blondes, and Dubrul vineyards.  It was aged for 20 months in 56% new French oak.  A light nose but with focus. There is a good mouthfeel to the dusty fruit that turns spicy in the finish.   Not Rated.

2008 Sparkman Cellars, Stella Mae, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon 21% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  The grapes were sourced from Klipsun, Kiona, and Hedges vineyards.  It was aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak.  This has more power than the Ruby Leigh, in a structured and controlled manner. The concentrated blackberry flavors have an enjoyable inkiness.  Good stuff that needs some age and a step up from the Ruby Leigh.  Not Rated.

2009 Sparkman Cellars, Ruckus, Syrah
This wine is a blend of 75% Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Syrah grapes were sourced from the Klipsun vineyard and the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Klipsun and Kiona vineyards.  It was aged for 15 months in 26% new French oak.  Purple in color and flavor with ample savory flavor. This is an enjoyable wine with some red candy flavors.  Not Rated.

Barrels in the Back Room