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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.

Tanks

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

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

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

Efeste

The Efeste Sign

After Matthews Estate I drove over to the Woodinville Warehouse WineriesEfeste is located off to the side and is a working winery, tasting room, and test kitchen.  Efeste is pronounced like the letters F, S, and T which are the initials of the last names of the owners: Daniel Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin Taylor. Brennon Leighton is the wine maker and gained his preference for indigenous yeast while working at Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Although there was a small private event taking place and a tour, Daniel kindly poured the wines for me to taste and Brennon also stopped by the tasting bar.  I really liked the 2008 Ceidleigh Syrah and on a future visit I would certainly look for the Eleni and Jolie Syrahs.

Tasting Room Entrance

2010 Efeste, Feral, Sauvignon Blanc, Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard.  It was made with indigenous yeast and aged in 100% neutral French oak.  The nose was definitely wild with grassiness.  There are grassy flavors in the mouth with a sour-tilt to this different wine with notes of grape fruit.  While it is interesting, I was quite distracted by the grass aromas and flavors.  Not Rated.

2010 Efeste, Evergreen, Riesling, Evergreen Vineyard, Ancient Lakes
This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from the Evergreen Vineyard. It was made with purchased yeast.  More floral fruit of peaches, well done, fills the mouth with the aftertaste. A step up from the Feral Sauvignon Blanc.  Not Rated.

Tasting Room with Daniel and Brennen in the Background

2008 Efeste, Ceidleigh, Syrah, Red Mountain
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 40% Klipsun, 34% Ciel du Cheval, and 26% Ranch at the End of the Road vineyards.  It was made with indigenous yeasts and aged for 15 months in 22% new French oak.  There was a light nose of pure, dark red fruit and some lipstick.  In the mouth there are wild flavors of dark berries combined with heat breaking through.  The flavors turn towards pervasive, bright fruit, with an incense note that is consistent and attractive throughout.  My favorite wine of those tasted.  Not Rated.

2008 Efeste, Final-Final, Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah.  The grapes were sourced from Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Kiona, Sagemoor, Bacchus, Red Willow, Boushey, Weinbau, and Stone Tree vineyards.  It was made with indigenous yeasts and aged in 54% new French oak. There is an interesting nose, similar wildness, but with harder fruit of black cherries and berries.  There are some scents in the finish and plenty of tannins.  This might be in an awkward, youthful state and should settle down in a year.  Not Rated.

2008 Efeste, Big Papa, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced with 35% source drom Kiona, 27% from Klipsun, 20% from Sagemoor, and 18% from Weinbau vineyards.  The vines average 31 years of age.  It was made with indigenous yeast and aged in 83% new French oak.  This is a young wine that reveals dark flavors of blackberry and other black fruits but no complexity.  There are plenty of tannins and medium-bodied flavors. The tannins develop and put this wine just over the top.  Not Rated.

Women's World Cup Final in the Tasting room

Matthews Estate

After leaving the Amavi, Pepper Bridge, Ross Andrews, and J. Bookwalter complex I headed north towards the warehouse district.  I saw the Matthews Estate tasting room and made a quick decision to stop by.  I had a glass of the 2007 Matthews Claret during my last visit to Seattle so I have always wanted to try more of their wines.

Matthews Estate was started in 1993 and until recently, produced their wine in Woodinville.  This is evidenced by the design of the building and the fact that there are still bits of stainless steel equipment about.  There is certainly change at this estate.  The Estate Red Wine was declassified into the Claret in 2006 then the Estate Red Wine program was terminated.  Aryn Morell was hired by Matthews in 2007 and became the winemaker in 2008.  Matthews estate then moved production to Walla Walla with Aryn becoming a consulting winemaker as he also moved to Walla Walla to start a wine consulting company.  According to the Washington Wine Report Aryn’s focus is to produce “less forward, more elegant” wines.  Aryn is also the winemaker at Tenor.  If they can produce wines of restraint like the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from selections such as the 2007 Claret, they will be on track to elevate the entire portfolio.

Matthews Estate Tasting Room, Woodinville

2008 Matthews Estate, Blackboard, Red Wine
This wine is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Malbec, and 1.5% Petit Verdot sourced from 52% Horse Heaven Hills and 48% Columbia Valley.  It was aged for 20 months.  This wine has a light nose, of soft fruits but is still forceful.  In the mouth it is disjointed with black currant and some roughness.  There are coarse flavors in the finish.  A decent wine that needs some time to settle down.  Not Rated.

2006 Matthews Estate, Claret, Columbia Valley
This was aged for 20 months in 50% new and 50% in 2-3 year old French oak.  All of the flagship Estate Red Wine was declassified into the Claret.  This has a nose of meaty, red fruit and sour, red berries.  While this nose is softer than the Blackboard the dark core is mixed with some spice.  The flavors fill out in the mouth with blue fruits and a pleasing texture midpalate.  The aftertaste leaves very fine, puckering tannins on the lips and in the mouth.  Not Rated.

2007 Matthews Estate, Claret, Columbia Valley
This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, and 2% Malbec.  This was aged for 22 months in 40% new and 60% in 2-3 year old French oak.  With the Estate Red Wine officially cancelled those sources are now dedicated to the Claret.  As a result the Claret is made from a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon than in the past.  This wine is more forceful with a meatiness that is appealing.  In the mouth the flavors are almost creamy with black berries and sweet minerals towards the middle.  It is almost too plump with chocolate notes in the aftertaste and pervasive flavors.  This is a significantly bigger wine than the 2006 and straddling the line of too much.  Still, it is a step up from the Blackboard.  Not Rated.

2008 Matthews Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Matthews Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon since the last bottling of the 2001 vintage.  It is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Stillwater Creek and Hedges Vineyards.  It was fermented then aged for 21 months in 100% new French oak puncheons. This is made from declassified Tenor fruit.  It is a tightly wound wine with a nice mixture of wood and grape tannins.  The red fruit is almost tart and is delivered in a compacted manner that still reveal good flavors.  I enjoyed tasting the restraint.  This will have a strong showing after several years of age.  Not Rated.

J. Bookwalter

The J. Bookwalter Tasting Room Entrance

After visiting the Ross Andrews tasting room I headed over to J. Bookwalter.

The winemaker is a blending machine.  Not only is he capable of blending vintages but he adroitly blends varietals and vineyards.  I have included the compositions for various wines, not only because the vineyard sources are so important in Washington, but because I love the names.  Before my trip to Woodinville I had never heard of Elephant Mountain Vineyard nor Ranch At the End of the Road.  These wines do a good job of containing their alcohol and coming across as medium-bodied.  But the strengths of this winery lie at the extreme ends.  My recommendation is to drink the NV Subplot while the highly allocated Chapter 3 matures.

The Tasting Room

2010 Couplet
This is 74% Chardonnay and 26% Viognier entirely from the Connoer-Lee Vineyard in Columbia Valley.  It was fermented and aged in stainless steel.  This wine has a fresh, but sweet nose reminiscent of banana.  It is quite sweet and tart in the mouth with banana, brown sugar, and spice.  It is a bit odd and has a persistent aftertaste of sweet spice.  Not Rated.

2010 Anecdote
This wine is 100% Riesling that 34% was sourced from Charbonneau, 19% from Sagemoor, and 19% Bacchus of Columbia Valley with the remaining 28% from Sugar Loaf in Yakima Valley.  It was fermented and aged in stainless steel. This wine a light nose that combines funk and freshness.  It is a little sweet in handling the fruit but also acidic.  It leaves the impression of being forcefully made.  Not Rated.

Some J. Bookwalter Reds

NV Subplot #25
This is the 25th non-vintage wine made since 1983.  This is a blend of 48% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Barbera.  This is a blend of vintages encompassing 20% 2010, 32 % 2009, 37% 2008, 1% 2007, 7% 2006, and 3% 2005.  This saw a mish-mash of stainless steel and used French oak for aging.  This reveals purplish highlights in its color.  There are tart red fruits then ripe aromas mixed with darker notes.  With some air there are sweet, spiced aromas.  This is richer in the mouth, with ample sweet spice then soft, purple fruits, with some stuffing and surprisingly, no noticeable wood tannins.  It is actually an interesting wine and the best value.  It was my favorite along with the Chapter 3.  Not Rated.

2008 Foreshadow, Merlot
This wine is a blend of 81% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, and 2% Cabernet Franc.  These grapes were sourced from five vineyards: 33% Ciel du Cheval and 25% Klipsun (Red Mountain AVA), 24% Connor- Lee (Columbia Valley AVA), 11% Elephant Mountain (Yakima Valley AVA), and 7% McKingley Springs (Horse Heaven Hills AVA).  The wine was aged for 18 months in new and one to two-year old French oak barrels.  I found soft, Merlot flavors that were gentle in the mouth and monotonic.  Not Rated.

2008 Foreshadow, Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc.  These grapes were sourced from six vintages: 26% Dionysus and 15% Connor-Lee (Columbia Valley AVA), 18% Klipsun and 10% Ciel du Cheval (Red Mountain AVA), 27% Mckinley Springs (Horse Heaven Hills AVA), and 4% Elephant Mountain (Yakima Valley AVA).  The wine spent 20 months in new and one to two-year old French oak barrels.  This showed brighter, red flavors as compared to the Merlot, along with some cinnamon toast spice.  A bit simple like the Merlot.  Not Rated.

2009 Antagonist
This wine is a blend of 88% Joseph Phelphs Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Merlot.  These grapes are sourced from 88% Elephant Mountain (Yakima Valley AVA) and 12% Conner-Lee (Columbia Valley AVA).  It was aged for 16 months in new and  used French oak barrels.  This has the largest mouthfeel yet with purple, Syrah flavors that are balanced by an articulate nose.  There is heat in the finish, ample spice, and very fine tannins in the aftertaste that are from newer oak.  Not Rated.

The J. Bookwalter, Chapter 3

2007 Chapter 3
This wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot.  The grapes  were sourced from 47% Conner-Lee (Columbia Valley AVA), 23% Ciel du Cheval (Red Mountain AVA), 22% Elephant Mountain (Yakima Valley AVA), and 8% McKinley Springs (Horse Heaven Hills AVA).  It was aged for 20 months in new French oak barrels.  There is a bit of fresh tuna, sweet sushi from the barrels, then sweet fruit followed by dark berry flavors.  The dense flavors are not overdone as they move on to a great mouthfeel. This wine needs age before it fully expands.  There is good potential if you do not mind some obvious oak in your wine.  Not Rated.