Walla Walla dreamin' - sleep walking down Second or was it Rose or Main Street in the middle of the night, tasting the delicious 2008 WWV Roller Girl Red from SuLei, eating fabulous Burrito Lengue, the tongue Burrito from the Taco Truck, strawberries from Klicker's, possibly the best in Washington - so sweet. Walla Walla, a small banking center for an off-the-beaten-path farm community devoted to raising sweet onions and wheat, was transformed into a wine and food Mecca in less than 20 years by pioneers such as Norm McKibbin who took the chance of converting his apple orchards into two of the best vineyards in the state - Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills. Speaking of sweet, we had a nice chat with Norm at Pepper Bridge winery. He is such an easygoing unassuming guy, just down home and obviously intelligent. He told the story of how he recruited and retained his outstanding winemaker, Jean Francois Pellet. Pellet has really settled in in Walla Walla, building himself a rather large vaguely Swiss looking home right in the middle of the vineyards. It turns out Jean Francois is no conservative Swiis banker type though, but a really cool adventurer who, if I remember correctly, has spent time in the Amazon and the Sahara. Lisa, the wine club manager is no slouch either. She has done her rounds on the race track! So the principals at Pepper Bridge show the same balance of excitement and order found at Cayuse, only on a much lower key. Speaking of low key, Debbie Hanson comes to mind. She and her husband come from long standing Walla Walla farm families and now own vineyards in the "Cailloux" right near Cayuse. In contrast to Christophe at Cayuse, she is modest AND an outstanding winemaker. Cristophe, of course, is his own flamboyant self AND a great winemaker. The Norms and Deborahs and Christophes are the personalities that made Walla Walla what it is today. There are a huge number of excellent winemakers in Walla Walla today. There must be a hundred excellent wineries in Walla Walla. What a great venue for the third annual winebloggers conference #WBC10. For me, the highlights were the wine tasting events - wines from Lake Chelan, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, Australia, and Spain, even though I really would have preferred a Grand Tasting of Walla Walla wines. Fortunately I drove from Seattle so I was able to get to some of the excellent wineries not represented at the conference. To be continued...
Glencorrie produces only 700 cases of wine, but they are some of the best wines in WallaWalla. This has been a well kept secret. Even Walla Wallans don't really know about it. This is great stuff made under the supervision of Charlie Hoppes of Fedelitas fame. What is the crime? The new Hy 12 bypass, totally bypasses Glencorrie and a bunch of other outstanding Walla Walla wineries including Three Rivers, Reininger, and Cougar Crest. So your driving along Hwy. 12 from the Tri-Cities, you stop at Woodward Canyon and L'Ecole and then expect to see the other wonderful wineries west of Walla Walla. Instead you end up on the rnew improved Hwy 12 which by-passes all of the wineries on the old road. The road is blocked at the west end. There are side roads that could lead to the wineries, but no blue Hwy winery signs from the DOT indicating wineries. It is not clear whether the wineries are allowed to put out their own signs on the highway. This is criminal - a taking of private property rights from businesses that contribute to the Walla Walla and Washington State economies. These are some of the best wineries in Walla Walla and the DOT doesn't seem to want you to visit them. What a crime? YOU should make your way to them anyway despite the Department of Transportation. From downtown Walla Walla head toward highway 12 ,but before you get ther turn left onto W. Pine St which is the old highway 12 and just follow it out maybe 5 miles. You won't regret it.
Well, 78,000 cases isn't exactly rare in Walla Walla, but wines priced at $12 and $15 are. Waterbrook winery produces some of the best values in Walla Walla. The 2008 PInot Gris has a round soft easy style with tropical fruit flavors - a great patio wine @ $12. The 2007 is a good dry quaff with hints of citrus, again for only $12. The reserve 2007 Chardonnay has a great stony, minerality at only $15. The 2009 Sangiovese Rose ($12) has a hint of orange zest in the nose followed by an amazingly dry wine in the mouth. Truly an amazing feat for an American Rose - competes with the best from Provence. The 2007 Riesling($12) at 1.4% sugar has an interesting sweet and sour character and the 2007 Reserve Cab has great black cherry flavors for only $22. Frankly the more expensive wines had little to offer at any price, but Waterbrook is a source of possibly the best values in Walla Walla
No, not the ultra expensive spice, the restaurant in Walla Walla. For our pre-Wine Bloggers' Conference we went to Saffron the hole in the wall vaguely Spanish bistro with raciones and bigger plates beautifully prepared and a very interesting wine list which they apparently consider to be "top secret." When we asked for a copy so we could write about it we were informed that it is against their policy. Vinoterrorism, foodiesocialism, green communism, industrial spying?How to promote a really great wine list? Whatever! Excellent lamb tartare, baby octopus with ganbanzos, excellent roasted bluefish accompanied by 2009 Bleue Maison "Au Contraire" Chardonnay which despite the great name was good enough, but not great. NV Prosecco Brut Ca'Vittoria was good , but not dry enough, like the 2008 Verdejo El Quintanal. 2008Rotie Cellars Syrah/Mourvedre, a good rich fairly big red. Good food, good wine, great service and a weirdly guarded wine list.
Here is the grand finale of my Woodinville reporting. These are my "bests"
from the wines tasted. Of course, some of my favorite wineries would have turned
in many "bests," too - Hestia, Adam's Bench, Brian Carter, Januik, Novelty Hill, Baer,
DeLille, Gorman, Mark Ryan. Here are "the Bests":
Woodinville Passport was a moveable feast. So many outstanding wines, so many great winemakers, so much fun and pleasure. When I "have to" taste a hundred wines or more I always spit, well, almost always. Every once in a while I involuntarily swallow. Really, I can't help it, the wine makes me do it. Sometimes it is just so good that I swallow it. One swallow does not a summmer make, but one swallow tells me how much I love the wine and think it is fabulous. When I write notes I use a three star, or three swallow system. One star wines are wines I swallow, two star wines are wines I wish I could keep swallowing, three star wines are wines where I wish I could swallow the whole thing - slowly. So for me:
* - Excellent - Gold
** - Outstanding - Double Gold
*** - Extraordinary - Platinum
+ - Best Buy + Good Value
There were an amazing number of swallows at Passport this year. Here are my faves organized by rating, but in no particular order within each category.
* 2007 Sparkman "Widerness" ($28)
* 2006 Gifford Hirlinger "Vireo" ($23)
* 2008 Des Voignes "The Groove" ($20)
* 2005 Mathews Red (?)
* 2008 Airfield "Bombshell" ($16) +
* Darby "Chaos" ($28)
* 2007 Davenport " R.H.D." ($24)
* 2007 Davenport "Continuity" ($24)
* NV Woodslake Due Ani ($17)+
* 2007 Robert Ramsay "Mason's Red" ($19)+
* 2007 Two Vintners "Lola" ($25)
** 2007 Elsom "Red" (?)
** 2008 Airfield "Mustang" - Rhone blend ($25)
** 2008 Airfield "Spitfire" ($25)
*** Patterson "Big Daddy" ($18) +
* 2007 Dusted Valley Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ($28 * 2007 Elsom Cabernet Sauvignon (?) * 2008 William Church "Bad Habit" Cabernet Sauvignon ($17)+
* 2007 Two Vintners Syrah ($21)
* 2007 William Church Syrah ($28)
* 2006 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Merlot ($22)
* 2008 Covington Barbera ($29)
* 2005 Zefina Sangiovese($25)
* 2007 Gifford Hirlinger Petit Verdot ($26)
* 2007 Elsom Malbec (?)
* 2008 Chatter Creek Grenache ($18)+
* 2007 Chatter Creek Malbec ($24)
* 2007 Barrage Cabernet Franc (?)
* 2007 Barrage "Secret Weapon" Syrah (?)
* 2008 Two Vintners Zinfandel ($20)
*** 2007 Pomum "Tinto" Tempranillo ($25)+
* 2005 Canon De Sol Meritage (?)
* 2007 Pondera Salon II (?)
* 2007 Des Voignes "Solea" ($30)
* 2007 Irlandes Reserve Syrah ($34)
* 2007 Covington Cabernet Sauvignon ($35)
* 2007 Irlandes Reserve "Karma" ($44)
* 2007 Sparkman "Kingpin" ($56)
** 2007 Pondera "Cuvee" (?)
** 2007 Robert Ramsay Mourvedre ($42)
***2007 Pomum Syrah ($36)
***2007 Robert Ramsay Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
* 2007 Red Sky Semillon ($18)
* 2009 Efeste Riesling ($10)+
* 2008 William Church Viognier ($21)
* 2006 Pomum Riesling ($18)
** 2008 Isenhower "Snapdragon" Roussanne blend ($19)+
* 2009 Covington "Josie" Rose ($15)+
* 2009 Patterson Rose ($18)
* 2008 Chatter Creek "Dry" Orange Muscat ($18)+
* 2009 Patterson Late Harvest Roussanne ($22)
Truly a movable feast! How sweet it is! These days we need some sweet endings. BTW, Northwest Totem's Late Harvest Viognier is consistently good and another sweet thing. Almost all of the wines that Hestia, Adam's Bench, Novelty Hill and Januik offer up almost always make me want to swallow. You will, too! Almost never a bad wine from these outstanding wineries. You can pretty much count on quality from them and the other wines rated here. The 2007 vintage is profound. You must stock up on these wines. The 2007 vintage was one of the best in Washington and many of these wineries have reduced their prices by about 15%. This year for the first time in a while, I could have used $20 or $25 as a cutting point rather than $30. Twenty dollars is a lot closer to the $14-$15 price point that most consumers use. Why were there so many swallows? Because 2007 was an almost perfect year in a "Perfect Climate," Here you have over 50 recommendations not counting at least another 25 from my top faves - Hestia, Adam's Bench, Novelty Hill and Januik (see Tour Des Favorites - 9/9/09 in the archives). There must be at least another 25 from wineries I didn't get to - DeLille, Betz, Brian Carter, NW Totem, Gorman, Mark Ryan, Darby, Baer, Edmonds, etc,. - so over 100 top wines from over 100 wineries. That's why the annual Wine Bloggers Conference should come to Seattle/Woodinville next year! Here is proof that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for truly excellent wine. These are special wines. Vintages like this don't come along that often and the wines are affordable. So much pleasure, for relatively little expense. Okay, so maybe it's a little more than twice as much as you usually spend for wine, buy half as much and double your pleasure. I wish the Washington wine commission would pay this shill a commission :) Enjoy!
As we mentioned, we skipped a lot of oldies but goodies to make room for some newcomers, but you should not skip them. They are fabulous, reliable and sometimes hard to get - Adam's Bench, Andrew Ross, Betz, Brian Carter, DeLille, Doyenne, Gorman, Mark Ryan, Novelty Hill, and Januik. These wines are so good and so reliable that if you see a bottle grab it or better yet visit these wineries and taste. You will not be disappointed..
Newbies to check out include Elsom, Portrait Cellars, Swede Hill, Tempest Sol, Davenport, Robert Ramsey and Two Vintners made by the winemaker at Covington Cellars under his own label.All of these "new" wineries are producing excellent wine. Elsom, Two Vintners and Robert Ramsey are standouts! Did I leave anybody out?
How many cities have over 100 wineries and tasting rooms within their metropolitan areas? Paris? New York? San Francisco? Try Seattle! Seattleites are so used to being able to taste wine at the Tasting Room downtown or heading south a few miles to the South Park industrial zone that they sometimes rebel at the idea of a trip to Woodinville "out in the sticks". Of course, MIcrosofties who work right next door, would tell you it's worth it to drive a mere half an hour to reach some of the best wineries in the world.
This year there were a disproportionate number of outstanding wines to taste and purchase. Is that because 2007 may have been the greatest vintage ever in Washington State or because the wine makers have been honing their skills? Wine in Seattle? Where do they grow the grapes? Not in rainy Seattle? Grapes are trucked over the Cascade Mountains in small lugs for the Puget Sound artisans to make their wine. Recently, the grapes have been followed by Eastern Washington wineries from the AVAs such as the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla. Save three to five hours of driving time by going to Woodinville. As Willie Sutton said, you go where the money is, and as Vladimer Putin said, you do what you have to do. So it was a pleasant surprise to find Brett Isenhower setting up his tasting room for the weekend. Brett's wines are excellent. Some other wonderful interlopers from Eastern Washington include Goose Ridge, Airfield, Alder Ridge, Canon De Sol, Irlandes, and Dusted Valley.
You really should organize your trip to Woodinville geographically, otherwise you will drive yourself crazy driving all over Woodinville and getting lost. Fortunately the vast majority of wineires and tasting rooms are pretty much concentrated in a few areas. In the northern end of town are two warehouse districts full of wineries. North of North Woodinville Way you will find dozens of wineries tucked away in a commercial zone. Enter the zone and you will be barraged with cool wineries such as Barrage, Sparkman, Gorman, and Patterson to name jsut a few. Efeste is an outlier just up the street on the opposite side. BelowWoodinville Way is another "warehouse" district buried in the midst of newly built housing. "Would you run down to the winery, dear, and pick up a bottle of wine for lunch." Here you will find giants such as Hestia, Covington, Pomum, and Chatter Creek. If you not exhausted and anesthetized by now head down to the intersection of 140th Pl NE and NE 144th St. Here you will find most of the refugees from Eastern Washington.
Further south on HY 202 you will find such bright stars as DeLIlle and Betz wineries. Although(they were closed and didn't participate in Passport, they are must taste wineries, as are Januik, Novelty Hill, Brian Carter and Adams Bench which is "out in the stick" less than a mile down NE 146th Pl. Tune in next time (whenever that is!) for some new wineries, some tasting notes, and the Best of Woodinville using my new "three swallow" system.
BTW, you don't have to wait 'til Passport weekend to taste Woodinville wines. Most of the wineries are open weekends and some everyday.
I was so excited when a friend brought this white from the Languedoc. It is so difficult to find wines from the Southwest of France and they almost always are great values. Langue D'Oc, language of the Occitan, probably antedates the Roman occupation of Gaul. This Picpoul speaks the language of the South of France. Fresh, dry, and fruity with hints of peaches, pears and a hint of lemon. Although frequently recommended as a pairing with oysters, IMHO the Hugues De Beauvignac is not dry enough for such a match. With a profile somewhat similar to a dry Riesling, this is a perfect patio wine or aperatif for those who say "dry", but prefer a little hint of sweetness or at least some fruit ($11-$14)
A Woodinville Passport will transport youfor a few hours of paradise whether yours is a rockin' time, a sexy date, or a dreamy smooth red. Don't let your Evil Twin, Bully you into joining the Riff Raffin the Wilderness. Be an Outlaw for a few hours, get in touch with your Dark side, step into the Chaos with your Big Daddy and Barrage your friends withfine wines. Duke it out with your best friend over who is really in the Groove. Enjoy the Continuity and Serendipity of the Final Final wines next week @seattlewineblog.
Every year Taste Washington produces a new crop of wineries. Some of these wineries may not be brand new, but they are new to me and of recent vintage. They are listed in alphabetical order:
As usual Taste Washington was a great experience. Over 800 wines from over 200 wineries, just scratch the surface of the Washington wine field. Washington State winemakers have established a tradition of not following tradition and thinking outside the box. They are willing toexperiment withanything that works. Washington grapegrowers grow all kinds of varietals including such Rhone varietals as Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsault.Looking for Tempranillo, Zin or Pinot Noir, look no further. Want an inexpensive everyday wine? How about Boomtown, Revelry, Dama, Balboa, Barnard Griffin, Columbia Crest or Red Diamond. Looking for an "affordable" cult wine ( I know, it's an oxymoron),try Quilceda Creek, Leonetti, Cayuse or Delille's Grand Cru. Oreven more affordable and more available - Andrew Will,Pepper Bridge, or CadenceThere are so many outstanding Washington wines, it's a crime to only be able to taste a hundred or so, but given the time available I would have only 10 seconds to taste each wineand travel to the next booth. This time, even though I was tempted into tasting from the first part of the alphabet by such beauties as Buty, Cadence and Caderetta, I did manage to get to the the other end with such wonders as Willis Hall. Unfortunately, there is a big hole in the middle.Again, the section featuring vineyards was fascinating. I tastedDeLille's excellent Harrison Hilland several bottles made bythe family that owns Upland vineyard. Since I will be reporting on Woodinville Passport this Apriland the Third Annual Wine Bloggers conference in Walla Walla this June, I tried to avoid Woodinville and Walla Walla wineries this time around. Although it seemed that attendance was down, quality was up. The 2007 vintage produced many outstanding wines and may well be the best Washington State vintage yet.
This year, I am trying a new approach to my Tasting notes. I recorded my impressions and winemakers' discussions of their wines we will see how it comes out. Of course, later we will have the usual lists of bests and faves and new wineries. This kind of reminds me of the "live" blogging we did at the first wine blogger's conference in Santa Rosa in 2008.
For reasons unknown, Pine and Post came up first.. As usual, the Chardonnay from 2007 is a good quaff at a reasonable price. Ben Smith is so excited about his new vineyard and the amount of control he can exercise over the fruit. This year he had an opportunity to to make a blend with 30-40% Petit Verdot. The 2007 Taptiel was deep and linear, needed some age as usual. The Bel Canto was indeed Belle. - "almost a fruitbomb, but not in your face - beautiful!" 2007 Camerata - 85% Cab S, 15% cab, Fr., 15% merlot.Cadence winemakers Gaye and Ben have exceeded their usual high standards. Great stuff. Buy the 2007s. Speaking of which, right next store, the lovely Virginie Bouguefrom the Luberon in France, wasexplicating on her 2007s..She makes wine inan expansive style which still retains the character of the Northwest - the perfect balance of American fruit and French charcter and backbone. The 2007 Syrah has some Sangio and other things in it - "that is fabulous, it even has a little bit of chocolate in the back, this Syrah is a standout wine.."Virginie, you are very outgoing." Yes I have a different personality." "Hey, Jeff, how are you?" "All of these wines are spectacular." Premier wines - rhone style blend, like Chateauneuf Du Papes-.
Lots of tannin, Buty- tasted wines made for restrants such as the Herbfarm and Canlis - outstanding "house" wines....
Even though Washington and Wall Street have declared the recession over, the rest of us know that we are still up to our eyeballs in it. As early as the beginning of 2008, Patterson Wine Co. in Woodinville, Washington offered a 2006 Recession Red. Made from Cab grapessourced from such classy vineyards as Klipsun Vineyards on Red Mountain,they hadn't quite gotten it, pricing itin the $20 vicinity. Along came Recession Wine Company makingdecent plonk for about $4 according to http://www.splashfood.com/. Most consumers have cut their price point, but not their consumption. If you were paying $10 you've moved down to $5, $7 you're down to $3.one world wide web wag sent around a "hoax" alleging a consumer survey showing that Chateau Traileur Parc was the winning name for Walmart's branded wine, Oak Leaf We recentlyoffered a tasting class ofRecession Reds. The rule was no bottle over $5, but wines could be purchased on sale. For under $75, I was able to purchase 14 bottles of wine. The tasters were average consumers who like wine.
The most interesting resultwas that,for the most part, the wines were not bad, similar in quality, and quality didn't correlate with price.We started with NV Barefoot Pinot Noir from California and there was universal agreement that the wine was unpleasantly acidic.Next we tasted seven lowpriced Merlotsblind.They were:
1)NV Southern Point- Walgreen's - $3
2)NV Charles Shaw - Trader Joe's - $3
3) NV Double DogDare - Total - $3
4) NV Oak Creek- CVS - $3.50
5) 2008 Searidge - Safeway - $4
6) 2008 Turning Leaf - CVS - $5
7) 2004 Columbia Crest "Two Vines" - Safeway, $5
There were no statistically significant differences among the wines. There were no really bad wines and no real standouts - just good enough wine for great prices. It was just a matter of personal preference. I preferred the Columbia Crest and the Charles Shaw, but then you might call me a wine snob. Most of the tasters preferred the least expensive wines without knowing the prices.
The same procedure was followed for a tasting of six Cabernet Sauvignons:
1) NV Pacific Peak - Total - $2
2) NV Inglenook, Chile - CVS 1.5 L - $5
3) NVQuail Oak -Safeway -$3
4) NV DoubleDog Dare - Total - $3
5) 2009 Charles Shaw - Trader Joe's - $3
6) 2008 Searidge - Safeway - $4
Again, there were no meaningful differences among the average scores.I had a slight preference for the Inglenook.
So, guess what folks, you can get a pretty decent everyday quaff for just a few bucks. So kick back and enjoy while you wait a few more years for the recession to be over. BTW, what do you think Greenspan, Paulson, Geithner, and Ken Lewis are drinking?
This is thefourth annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2009 Unofficial Classification Of Washington State Wineries represents my personal, perhaps, idiosyncratic or eccentric, opinions of the quality of Washington State wineries. Out of more than 650 wineries, thereare at least a hundred producing great wine. About half of the wine produced in Washington comes from wineries owned by Chateau Ste. Michelle. The other 600 some odd wineries are mostly small artisanal family enterprises typically producing 2000-3000 cases, in some cases up to 20,000 cases or more. The AP reports that Washington wineries are increasing their production.The emphasishas beenon quality rather than quantity. Let us hope it remains so.In contrast to other classifications of wine such as the 1855 classification of Bordeaux, the Unofficial Classification of Washington Wineries is not set in stone and changes every year. Since it is retrospective, it does not necessarily predict future rankings, past performance is no guarantee of future results.This has been a difficult year with so many people unemployed, retirement funds cut in half, and a housing market that is limping along at best.In general, it appears that most people have lowered the price they are willing to pay for a bottle of wine,but have not cut consumption.Wines at the topof the list be special wines for special occasions, whereas wine in the "Cinqieme"group tend to be outstanding values. Exclusion from this classification, in no way represents a commentary on the quality of a winery. In many cases, it may simply mean that I am not familiar enough with the wines or winemaker to form an opinion. On the other hand , not all Washington wines and wineries are great, so only the best that I am familiar with are listed here. Wineries are listed in alphabetical order and not ranked within each category. Wineries are listed as "deferred", if I have reason to believe they are worthy, but haven't tasted enough of their wines recently.
Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)
Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)
Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)
Sleight Of Hand
Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)
Vin Du Lac
Walla Walla Vineyards
Cinqieme Cru ( Very Good)
Columbia Crest "Two Vines"
Martinez & Martinez
Pavin & Riley
Pine & Post
Canon De Sol
Columbia Crest Reserve
Glacial Lake Missoula
Latitude 46 N
Terra Blanca - Onyx