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Three Red Blends from Washington

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

The three wines featured in today’s post were all purchased during my last trip to Seattle.  During my previous trips to Seattle I have focused on the international offerings.  But Jenn and I found ourselves craving the wines of Washington so I picked up some affordable red blends.  The wines of Rulo, Domaine Pouillon, and Syncline have all be featured in previous posts.  Of these three the Rulo, Syrca may be drunk now.  Gather your friends so you finish the bottle on the first night when it is forward and lush.  Pure pleasure.  Both the Domaine Pouillon and Syncline require cellar age.  I think the Syncline, Carignan-Grenache will eventually come around so please leave it in the cellar.  The Domaine Pouillon, Pierre is a beautiful, balanced wine.  With a few hours of air you get a good idea of its potential but it I would personally cellar it for several more years.  These wines were purchased at Whole Foods and Wine World & Spirits.

2009 Rulo, Syrca, Walla Walla – $16
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain and 30% Syrah from Columbia Valley.  The wine was aged for 26 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The color is a medium purple-ruby.  Tasted over two nights the light notes offers up scented violets with a touch of vanilla.  In the mouth there is ripe fruit with a sweet touch of vanilla.  The wine is creamy in texture with new oak tannins, black fruit, graphite,  and spicy coarse tannins in the finish.  This was best on the first night when it was lush.  On the second night the fruit receded a bit with some tannins and heat poking through.  *** Now-2015.

2008 Domaine Pouillon, Pierre, Horse Heaven Hills – $22
This wine is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% Syrah sourced from the McKinley Springs vineyard.  The wine was aged for 13 months in neutral French oak.  Alcohol 14.7%.  Tasted over two nights the light nose remained tight with precise aromas of scented berries and tobacco.  In the mouth the flavors start off red then take on ripe, black fruit.  Again the wine is precise with controlled sweet spices which expand in the mouth as the flavors slowly build and take on drying, chewy tannins which coat the inside of the teeth and lips.  This is well made, finishing up with a little, racy cherry candy, very fine tannins, and fresh, subtle acidity.  *** 2016-2024.

2010 Syncline, Carignan – Grenache, Columbia Valley – $20
This wine is a blend of 64% Carignan and 36% Grenache sourced from McKinley Springs vineyard.  The hand-harvested fruit is destemmed, fermented with selected yeasts in open top fermenters then aged for 11 months in neutral French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.1%.  Tasted over two nights the light nose remained tight with grapey cherry aromas.  In the mouth the flavors of hard red and black fruit mix with a little juicy acidity.  There are firm notes of graphite (rather fitting) red fruit, integrated tannins, and a little perfume.  The tannins dry the tongue a bit.  This is young and should be cellared.  **(*) 2017-2025.

Holiday Wines With Lou

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Being Christmas Lou thought it would be fun to drink some nice wines of his.  I am always happy to drink any wine that he brings over so I quickly agreed.  When he suggested Aubert, Cayuse, and a Burgundy I became quite excited.  A couple years ago I attended a high-end California Chardonnay tasting and absolutely loved the wines of Aubert.  I have been itching to drink Aubert with Jenn ever since then.  My Cayuse experience was limited (still is) but there was a bottle of 2003 Cayuse, En Chamberlin sitting in my basement, which was a generous gift from Julia, so I made good on an old promise to open the bottle with Lou. The other selections for our tasting solidified rapidly.

We double-decanted all of the red wines except for the 1995 Domaine Chauvent-Chaupin which was simply popped and poured.  Due to hectic schedules the 2003 Cayuse had approximately one hour of air before the other red wines were opened.  The red wines were served blind with the Pinot Noirs in the first flight and the Syrahs in the second flight.  My notes are in the order the bottles were tasted.

This was an enjoyable evening.  The Aubert was absolutely irresistible.  The two from Cayuse were layered and complex, allowing for innumerable small sips of enjoyment.  Towards the end of the evening I found myself drinking the Chauvenet-Chopin because its lighter maturity was refreshing.

The Aubert Starter

2008 Aubert, Larry Hyde & Sons, Carneros
There was the typical, slightly cloudy color of light yellow straw.  The rich nose was muted compared to the palate.  In the mouth there was initially a little, light spritz followed by tropical white fruit, some sweetness with a rich mouth filling body.  Then it turns a little watery midpalate before a tremendous expansion marked by pleasing acidity on the middle of the tongue.  The finish showed citrus-like fruit.  There was an effortless and long-lasting aftertaste.  I was surprised to see 15.8% ABV on the label.  This was a beautiful wine that raised Jenn’s bar for Californian Chardonnay.  Jenn thought it was an older vintage due to the complexity and type of flavors.  Both she and Lou made sure not a single drop was left in the bottle.  Lorelei commented “orange.” ****(*) Now-2016+.

The Pinot Noir Flight

I would venture that we all preferred the Chauvent-Chopin for the mature aspect of its nose and palate.  While this will last for many years to come it was drinking quite well in the current state.  The Firesteed came across as primary in comparison and in need of several years of age.  Shane did tell me to cellar it for several more years but as it was the oldest Pinot Noir in my basement I just had to give it a try.

#1 – 1995 Domaine Chauvenet-Chopin, Vieilles Vignes, Nuits-Saint-George
This wine was imported by Robert Kacher Selections and purchased for $30 at MacArthurs.  There was a consistent garnet color throughout the glass with a touch of cloudiness.  The nose was mature with good notes of cedar.  In the mouth it was fruitier and richer than the nose.  The structured fruit made way to a racy finish, tannins, and an aftertaste of old ladies’ perfume.  There was a fairly consistent profile throughout the evening.  Jenn liked the earthniess and “salami” notes.   Lorelei commented “brown.”  This tasted tired on the second night. ** Now.

#2 – 2001 Firesteed, Citation, Pinot Noir
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels followed by seven years of bottle age before release.  A vibrant garnet color with a pigeon blood core and youthful look.  There was a fine scent to the nose.  In the mouth it revealed richer red fruit but was simpler.  Lorelei commented “Strawberry, pink.”  In the end it was a nice wine but I gave a nod to the Chauvenet-Chopin. **(*) 2014-2019.

The Syrah Flight

We then moved on to the Syrah Flight.  It was a relatively easy matter to identify what each of these three wines were for #3 and #5 bore a familiar resemblance with #4 showing less earthy, more pure, and primary fruit flavors.  #3 looked and tasted a bit older than #5.  All three wines were enjoyable and seemed to share one component, that of orange aromas in the nose.  Though the Cayuse was a step up from the Ross Andrew, the later was still a good drink and counterpoint.

#3 – 2003 Cayuse, Syrah, En Chamberlin Vineyard, Walla Walla
The fruit is sourced from the rocky 10 acre En Chamberlin vineyard planted in 2000.  This was quite opaque with a garnet rim that made me guess it was older.  There were flavors of roasted fruit, earth, and prominent notes of “olives and herbs” according to Jenn (but not in an underripe manner).  There were some orange and mango flavors along with smoke, darker fruit, and roast in this savory wine.  On the second night this showed more age. **** Now-2017.

#4 2008 Ross Andrew, Syrah, Boushey Vineyard, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Syrah produced from three different clones sourced from the Boushey vineyard.  The wine is aged for 14 months in 70% French 320 liter barrels.  This was the youngest looking wine in the glass.  The medium nose was fruitier, more pure, and higher pitched than #3 and #5.  This wine was still primary with a rich, fruity personality, some sweet flavors, nice texture, and a little heat.  Still vigorous and lively on the second night. ***(*) Now-2017.

#5 2007 Cayuse, Syrah, Armada Vineyard, Walla Walla
The fruit is sourced from the extremely dense, 16 acre Armada vineyard planted in 2001.  This was a little lighter in color than the 2003 but only just.  In the mouth the rich, delicately textured fruit was perfumed with a sweetness that Jenn found akin to “chewing gum” but in a good manner.  More youthful than the 2003 with a rough finish this wine had an incredibly expansive, persistent aftertaste.  I found the wine savory and Jenn loved the saltiness.  It was still rocking on the second night. ****(*) Now-2022.

Lou and Aaron

Three From the Northwest

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

These three bottles were purchased during my fall trips to Seattle.  The Southard was purchased for $20 and the Ayres for $28 at Soul Wine.  The Rulo was purchased for $18.69 at Pete’s Wine Shop in Eastlake.  The Southard and Ayres wineries and wines were new to me.  The Southard was a decent drink but I would recommend spending the extra money on the Ayres.  It is a beautiful wine that I would cellar for a few years.  I certainly look forward to tasting more 2010 Oregon Pinot Noirs.  While I had previously tasted the 2008 Rulo, Syrah before Jenn had not and so I was excited to share a bottle with her.  She did enjoy it and I would recommend it if you want something of good value that tilts towards the rustic.

2009 Southard, Roussanne, Lawrence Vineyard, Columbia Valley
This wine is 100% Roussanne from the first crop at the Lawrence Vineyard.  This is a crisp wine with an initial period of weighty fruit then mildly, sweet flavors develop before it turns to steely stones, white fruit, and a tad of toast. * Now-2015.

2010 Ayres Vineyard and Winery, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
This is produced by the McLeroy and McClure families, where Brad McLeory worked under Veronique Drouhin at Domaine Drouhin Oregon.  The estate contains 15 acres of Pinot Noir planted in 2001.  This wine is produced from both estate and Eola Hills fruit.  This started with brighter red fruit and acidic cherries in an engaging manner.  The textured red fruit some red grapefruit acidity, with the acidity pleasing to swish around the mouth.  The flavors become lifted with air.  All in all this is a young and promising wine. **(*) 2014-2019.

2008 Rulo, Syrah, Walla Walla
This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from the Clifton & Clifton Hill and Ranch at the End of the Road vineyards.  There are blue fruits on the nose.  In the mouth there are ample blue fruit and stone flavors that are a bit spicy with some heat.  The acidity reveals on the sides of the tongue before there is a racy, sweet cinnamon note in the lifted aftertaste.  With time this bottle showed some midpalate heat and minor toast notes. **(*) Now-2015.

Recent Purchases from Soul Wine

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I shook it up by purchasing two Northwest white wines and only four red wines during my last trip to Seattle. I purchased the Rulo, Syrah from Pete’s Wine Shop with the remaining bottles purchased from Soul Wine upon Michael’s recommendation.  I have a few more trips coming up so by the time these bottles have recovered from any bottle shock I will be back to taste them.  So stay tuned!

White Wines

  • 2010 Maison Bleue, Au Contraire, Chardonnay, French Creek Vineyard, Yakima Valley
  • 2009 Southard, Roussane, Lawrence Vineyard, Columbia Valley

Red Wines

  • 2008 Domaine Pouillon, Katydid, Horse Heaven Hills
  • 2010 Ayres, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
  • 2009 Syncline, Syrah, McKinley Springs Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills
  • 2008 Rulo, Syrah, Walla Walla

An Affordable Washington Wine with a Cool Label

October 10, 2011 1 comment

I purchased this bottle of Gifford Hirlinger from Pike & Western Wine Shop during my last trip to Seattle.  The full retail price is an attractive $14.  This is a tasty bottle of wine which I recommend you drink now.  It is a daily drinker that you may quaff or give some thought too and you will be pleased.  With too much inspection you will be distracted by the developing coarseness and heat.

2008 Gifford Hirlinger, Stateline Red, Walla Walla Valley
This wine is a blend of 46% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 4% Tinta Cao, 3% Tempranillo, and 1 % Petit Verdot.  The wine was aged for 18 months in 95% neutral oak and 5% new oak.  Those nose reveals blue fruits and sweet spice.  In the mouth the wine is front-loaded with flavors, mainly red fruits with a dark fruit undertone.  There is a wee bit of sweet spice midpalate and some spiciness in the finish.  The soft flavors thin out a bit as fine tannins develop and the profile turns a bit rough with some heat.  Drink now. ** Now.

A Tasting With Lou

Aaron and Lou Tasting the Bagged Wines

Lou came over on Tuesday night to taste some wine.  He was interested in trying his 2005 DeLille D2 so we settled on tasting five Washington Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot blends and one ringer.  The wines were double-decanted about 15-30 minutes before we started tasting.  They were served at wine-fridge temperature and brown-bagged.  The leftovers were divided and enclosed with Private Preserve so that we could retaste them on the next night.  We spit a fair amount, which was a good thing, as these wines get into the 15.2% ABV range.

Lou and Jenn Enjoying Themselves

This was a fun tasting.  At first the five Washington wines showed some differences but still came across as a homogeneous group compared to the Tulip Winery ringer.  But as the evening progressed the different trajectories became evident and on the second night all of the wines reached markedly different destinations.

Aaron and Lou with Leftover Wine

If I had to rank these wines I would put the Quilceda Creek and Gramercy Cellars in the top group, followed by the DeLille and JB Neufeld in the next group with the Spring Valley Vineyard and Tulip Winery rounding it out.  Lou and I agreed that the Quilceda Creek and Gramercy Cellars shined through on the second night with the DeLille Cellars and JB Neufeld suffering a bit.  I highly recommend that you try the wines of Gramercy Cellars which you may readily find at Seattle stores.  I wished that the DeLille and JB Neufeld survived better because I did enjoy them.

  1. Quilceda Creek Vintners and Gramercy Cellars
  2. DeLille Cellars and JB Neufeld
  3. Spring Valley Vineyard
  4. Tulip Winery

2007 Spring Valley Vineyard, Uriah, Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Valley
I bought this at Pete’s Wine Shop in Eastlake for roughly $45.  This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 285 Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot, and 6% Malbec.  It was aged for 18 months in 65% new French oak barrels.  On the first night there was a nose of sweet red fruit with some heat.  In the mouth the red fruits were a little bit gritty and seemed sensitive to heat.  There were plenty of chewy, fine to medium textures tannins that were enjoyable.  There were ripe, sweet components that reminded me of old lady’s perfume and a bit of spiciness to the finish.  On the second night the perfumed coated the lips with a metallic tinge.  The fine tannins felt more oak sourced and the spicy finish persisted.

2005 DeLille Cellars, D2, Columbia Valley
Lou bought this somewhere.  This wine is a blend of 51% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.  It was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak.  This wine started with a nose of dusty, dirty earth and notes of black cherry underneath.  While Jenn found it “sketchy at first” it cleaned up with air.  There were harder flavors of rip, black-red fruits and a creamy finish with mineral notes.  On the second night the nose had faded but the enjoyable black fruits were still present.  The fruit was mixed with minerals and the finish took on a stone-like profile with very blue fruits.  There was still a creamy component and many stone/mineral flavors that coated the mouth in the aftertaste.

2008 JB Neufeld, Cabernet Sauvignon, Artz Vineyard, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley
I bought this for $32 at City Cellars in Seattle.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 19 months in 80% new French oak barrels.  There were aromas of red fruits with a piercing component that reminded me of a greener Merlot.  In the mouth the flavors were pure with red fruits mixed with powerful and definitive, very fine tannins.  This seemed much different from the others with its red fruit profile.  On the second day there were good, pure fruit flavors that become more blackberry.  There were very fine, grapier tannins.  The overall profile become more compact and closed than the first two wines.  Jenn found the finish became sharper and was “hard to drink.”

2007 Quilceda Creek Vintners, Red Wine, Columbia Valley
Lou bought this from the mailing list around $32 if I recall.  This wine is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec.  This started off with a good nose of red fruit and herbs.  The mouthfeel was creamy with black cherries and sweet spice flavors.  Layers of herbs developed midpalate but the flavors dropped off a bit in the finish.  This was a young, big wine, but pleasant to drink.  With a bit more air an inky pervasiveness developed and a mouth-filling aftertaste left scented herbs.  On the second night the fruit showed a lovely spiced component.  It still showed young but again, a pleasure to drink.  The complex fruit holds up to the ample fine tannins.  I found a little more heat to the wine and hints of wood toast.

2005 Tulip Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Judean Hills, Israel
Lou bought this at the winery for roughly $25.  The blend is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and if Lou remembers correctly, was aged in Californian oak for 18 months.  On the first night there was a good nose of sweet (instead of ripe) fragrant berries.  The mouth was very rich with cool blue fruits in the finish and a spicy aftertaste.  It was jam-packed with fruit and incense.  A nice wine but huge and overtly amped up.  On the second night there was a bit of a chemically, varnish note to the nose.  Notes of old, musty wood preceded the sweet fruit that had become one-dimensional and lacked supporting acidity.  It did not hold up too well.

2007 Gramercy Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley
I bought this at Pete’s Wine Shop in Eastlake for no more than $45.   This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  I first found a nose of Concord grape juice and wood toast.  But with time there were flavors of red and blue fruits, a nice mouthfeel developed, and the tannins felt resolved and integrated at the midpalate.  The aftertaste was grapey with some tart flavors.  At the end of the evening a dark core became apparent.  On the second night there were great flavors of dark red fruit and this great core of sweetly spiced blue fruit that carried through to the aftertaste.  There were cool lifted fruits, some puckering tannins, then notes of sour red fruits.  This showed better on the second night.  Lou and Jenn really enjoyed this wine from the start whereas I was a bit skeptical.  But as the evening progressed it was obvious that this was an outstanding wine.

Tasting the Wines on the Second Night

Amavi Cellars and Pepper Bridge Winery

July 19, 2011 2 comments

The Amavi/Pepper Bridge Entrance

I promptly started my day at noon by visiting the Amavi and Pepper Bridge tasting room.  These are sister wineries that share the same founding partners and wine maker.  Except for the Amavi Semillon wine all fruit is sourced from Walla Walla.  The Pepper Bridge wines are made exclusively from the estate’s Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills vineyards.  Amavi also sources grapes from the Les Collines, Goff, and some contract vineyards.  The Amavi wines may be drunk shortly after release whereas the Pepper Bridge wines are structured for aging.

The Amavi/Pepper Bridge Tasting Room

Jennifer Schmitt was pouring wine.  She is currently the restaurant and wine manager at The Barking Frog and was previously the sommelier at Sea Star.  All of these wines are well made.  The large oak programs cause the Pepper Bridge wines to show ample tannins but fortunately do not show the vanilla aspect.  The 2006 Pepper Bridge, Cabernet Sauvignon was a highlight and has made me curious to try older vintages.

Three Wines from Amavi Cellars

2010 Amavi Cellars, Semillon, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 88% Sémillon and 12% Sauvignon Blanc.  The grapes are sourced from  59% Les Collines, 23% Seven Hills, and 18% Goff vineyards.  It was aged in used French oak.  This wine has a fresh nose of citrus and lifted aromas.  In the mouth this roundish wine reveals plenty of minerals.  Not Rated.

2008 Amavi Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Syrah, and 3% Cabernet Franc.  The grapes are sourced from  45% Seven Hills, 41% Pepper Bridge, 8% Les Collines, and 6% Goff vineyards.  The wine was aged in 88% French, 6% Hungarian, and 6% American oak of which 30% was new and 70% used.  This wine has a nose of lifted blue fruits and some pepper notes.  The flavors are delineated in the mouth with very fine tannins.  This is accessible and drinking well.  Not Rated.

2008 Amavi Cellars, Syrah, Walla Walla
This 100% Syrah wine is made from grapes sourced from 49% Seven Hills, 24% Pepper Bridge, and 27% Les Collines vineyards.  The wine is aged in 19% new and 81% used French oak.  This wine has a riper nose of purple fruit and does not show the pepper notes revealed in the previous Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  There is a tighter feel with minerals and finer tannins comes out as purple fruits develop in the aftertaste.  Not Rated.

Three Wine from Pepper Bridge

2008 Pepper Bridge, Merlot, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec.  These grapes are sourced from 51% Seven Hills Vineyard and 49% Pepper Bridge Vineyard.  The wine is aged for 17 months in 47% new and 53% used French oak. This wine has a somewhat closed nose of dark fruits and it is immediately obvious that these are made in a different style.  There is more concentration to this savory wine.  There is good medium bodied flavors with fine integrated tannins.  This well-done effort currently does not offer as much as the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not Rated.

2008 Pepper Bridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot,  4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are sourced from 58% Seven Hills Vineyard and 42% Pepper Bridge Vineyard. The wine is aged for 20 months in 48% new and 52% used French oak. This wine has a similarly dark nose as the Merlot, with more heady aromas.  In the mouth it is somewhat round with some salt, licorice, and a perfumed finish.  The finish shows some heat and wildness while the aftertaste leaves an ample amount of fine, mouth coating tannins.  This has strong potential and needs at least a few years in the cellar.  Not Rated.

2007 Pepper Bridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot,  5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are sourced from 58% Seven Hills Vineyard and 42% Pepper Bridge Vineyard. The wine is aged for 20 months in 52% new and 48% used French oak.  This wine is has a lovely nose of darker, meaty fruits.  There are richer flavors in the mouth, some roast.  There are fine coating tannins but they are less overt than in the 2008.  There is power lurking below in this wine.  While it clearly needs some age I do not think it will reach the level of the 2006.  Not Rated.

2006 Pepper Bridge, Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla
This wine is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. The grapes are sourced from 56% Seven Hills Vineyard and 44% Pepper Bridge Vineyard. The wine is aged for 21 months in 55% new and 45% used French oak  This wine is in a great stage right now.  Again, there is a dark, meaty nose, with inky flavors delivered with a good mouthfeel.  The purple waves of flavor develop into long-lasting blue fruits with a creamy aftertaste.  I rather enjoyed this and am very happy that Jennifer opened up the bottle.  Not Rated.