Answer: The farmer went to the winery to make wine! A visit to a typical winery in France makes this obvious. During a visit to Chateau Prieure Lichine in the 1980s, I was first greeted in the courtyard by hens and roosters running about. There was no obvious Chateau or tasting room, just a group of outbuildings clustered around the courtyard with all kinds of farm equipment scattered about. Talking with winemaker, Frank Roth, confirms this. Frank works for orchidist, Mike Tagaris, one of the biggest exporter of Fuji Apples to Korea. All grapegrowers are farmers, and any winery that has estate grown grapes is by definition a farm, unless it is a factory detached from the vineyards. Even the fanciest Chateau in France, while showing a great facade, behind it all, is a farm. It is unfortunate, that some wineries now resemble a retail boutique in a mall rather than a farm. It is even more unfortunate, that so many wines are homogenized in their flavors. The flavor has been removed from so many foods such as pork and eggs, and more and more so from wine. We should be thankful to the devoted farmers who bring us grapes with character and wines with character. Of course, especially in Washington, there are farmers who only grow grapes, and winemakers who only make wine.
Here's another dozen wineries to consider:
Isenhower - Winemaker Brett Isenhower is an artist. My favorite is the 2006 Red Paintbrush.*
J. Bookwalter - somehow missed this one.
K- Vintners - Charles Smith is a talented winemaker and marketeer. Great names like Eve Chardonnay, the Velvet Devil Merlot, and Boom Boom Syrah.
Kestrel - You don't have to be a bird to appreciate these. Usually excellent wines, though quality varies somewhat. Lady in Red is available all over the place, but isn't quite as good as the earlier editions.
Kiona - Venerable Red Mountain winery. Winemaker Scott Williams makes a huge variety of wines of good quality.
L'Ecole No. 41 - Marty Clubb usually makes excellent wines. Semillon is a specialty and a special treat.
Lone Canary - Good wines at good prices.*
Long Shadows - Alan Shoup casts a very long shadow around the globe. Outstanding wines for the most part. Pedestal, Pirouette and Sequel are my favorites.
I must have missed a whole section - Maryhill, Mercer Estates, Milbrandt, Morrison Lane.
Nicolas Cole - Amazing wines at amazing prices. My favorite, once again, is the least expensive, but absolutely delicious Graeagle.*
Northstar - Started out with a bang, but seems to have lost some of it's luster. Still, good stuff.
Northwest Cellars - The fun thing about Rebert Delf's wines? You can get your own customized label. My fave is the Merlot.*
Note Bene - Note well, Note Bene! Tim Narby, another Boeing Wine Club graduate, makes delicious, interesting wines with hard to pronounce names. My favorite right now is the 2005 Abbinare.*
Novelty Hill - As I wrote last year, I've never had a bad wine from Novelty Hill. Mike Januik is an outstanding winemaker, and Novelty Hill wines are priced right.
Here are another dozen wineries to contemplate:
Efeste - Sounds Greek to me, like efcharisto! But thanks to Big Papa I found out that it is just an acronym for the owners names, nevertheless, Big Papa is Greek. The wines are well made all-Ameican wines, though the Riesling did have a wonderful smell of a pine forest reminding me of Retsina.
Elegante Cellars - Winemaker Doug Simmons is by far the happiest winemaker I've ever met. He loves his second career as a winemaker and is so grateful to be able to work with wine. What a refreshing attitude! He made a 2006 Walla Walla Cab and a 2006 Walla Walla Merlot. I preferred the Merlot.
Five Stars - Dave Huse is a big friendly man and his wine's are big friendly wines. I prefer the Cabernet Sauvignon. although Dave raved about his award winning Sangiovese.*
Gifford Hirlinger - Like so many family wineries, GH started out growing grapes. Happily, Winemaker Mike Berghan loves making wine. I prefer the 2005 Walla Walla Merlot.
Gilbert Cellars - Gilbert Cellars is a relatively new winery that has been getting accolades for it's wines lately. I preferred the Unoaked Chardonnay.
Gordon Bros. - It was a pleasure to meet Jeff's daughter, Katie Nelson who is the Marketing Director for the winery. Gordon Bros are always well-made wines with reasonable prices across the board. I aways like the Merlot and the Chardonanny. This year I also tasted the 2006 Kamiak Cellar Select Red Wine which is a outstanding Cab-based red at the very reasonable price of about $14. The Kamiak Cellar Select White is an interesting blend of Chard and SB with a 5% hint of Riesling to smooth things out. Not to my taste, but a very appealing wine nevertheless, especially at the very appealing price of about $11.
Grape Group - Grape Group is not a Winery, but, rather, a marketing group under the umbrella of Precept Brands. This is a three-fer: Rainier Ridge, Willow Crest, and Apex II. Willow Crest is the standout, as Dave Minick is an outstanding winemaker, another one to add to the "Best winemakers."
Guardian Cellars - A new winery from the Woodinville incubator, again under the aegis of Mark Ryan. The 2006 Chalk Line is an excellent blend of 50% CS, 22% Malbec, 17% Syrah, 11% Merlot. The 2006 Gun Metal is a more traditional blend of 46% CS, 43% CF, 1% M. A winery to watch!
Hestia Cellars - I like to think that I discovered Shawn Jones, but then, maybe Shawn discovered me. In any event, I was one of the first wine writers to recognize the quality of what Shawn was doing. Big amazing wines from a small winery. The Syrah is my favorite.*
Hedges - A pioneer on Red Mtn. Very good wines, but not usually spectacular. The "CMS" is widely distributed and a good value,. The Three Vineyards is also widely available and quite good.
Hogue - Headline: Asparagus growers make wine. Mike and Gary Hogue pioneered Washington State wines. The winery has passed through several corporate hands, but the quality of the wine is consistently good. All three product lines, regular, Genesis, and Reserve are good, but, as is so often the case with me, I prefer the simplicity of the regular line which is widely available in supermarkets and a good value, especially on sale.
Hyatt Vineyards - Well, you'll never get this at the Hilton, but so what. The wines are good values at about $10/bottle. The 06 Chard is light and easy. The Riesling is relatively sweet, but appealing.*
That's it! More than a baker's dozen if you unbundle the Grape Group. Tune in for three more dozen vignettes.
Why did the farmer go to the winery? What do you think? Tune in next Monday for my answer.
Yes, beer! After laboring all day around tanks and barrels smelling of wine, lifting lugs of grapes, punching down must, sloshing fermenting grape juice around, washing down the winery and equipment, does a winemaker, cellarmaster, cellar rat want to smell more wine? No, of course not, he or she wants something refreshing to relax with and cool off with - beer. Of course, winemakers do drink wine, usually at dinner or with a wine tasting group of winemakers and other wine types. Interestingly, though, it seems winemakers usually drink their own wine or the wine of their neighbors, friends and competitors. Very few are knowledgeable about the wines of the world, with two exceptions. I once asked Kent Callaghan why his wines were head and shoulders above the quality of his fellow Arizona winemakers. His answer - he drinks and tastes wine from all over the world. It was truly a pleasure to talk wine with Kent. Ditto, James Mantone! He brings a depth of knowledge to winemaking that is truly awesome. He knows world wines, chemistry, microbiology, biodynamic farming, but most importantly he has a philosophical bent and has really thought about life and how he wants live it. He makes wines that reflect this and are truly a gift in the sense described by Lewis Hyde in his books such as Trickster Makes This World. Beer is good, wine is better, except on a really hot day after work.
Here's the second dozen wines from Taste Washington. Again, Wanderlust wines have an asterisk.
Caderetta - French winemaker, Virginie Bourgue opened her own winery, after working with Annette Bergevin and Amber Lane at Bergevin Lane. I was really curious to taste her wines, but somehow this never materialized.
Chateau Ste Michelle is the Godzilla of the Washington wine world, responsible for approximately half the cases produced in the state. Most wines are adequate with a few standouts.
Columbia Crest - Owned by Ste Michelle, the winemaking approach seem to be quite different. Even though they produce around a million cases in a factory-like building there is careful attention to boutique techniques such as punch downs. At all three levels they produce excellent wines. The "Two Vines" series seem to be basically unoaked. The Merlot and Chardonnay can be had at virtually any gas station in Washington. Frequently on sale at about $7, these are two of the world's all time bargains. The Grand Estates line has seen some oak and is about 50% higher. Supposedly, good food wines I have never been as fond of them as the Two Vines. My neighbor, Chao, was just getting into wine when he discovered the Syrah Reserve. This is a knockout wine for the $30 price. A wealthy acquaintance, drank the Merlot Reserve as her everyday wine. I would do the same if I could afford it. I wonder if she is still doing it or whether she has downshifted to the Grand Estates,
Columbia Winery - Even though I have known some of the founders, frankly, with the exception of some of David Lake's wines , I've rarely had a Columbia Winery wine that I really liked.
Cote Bonneville - Sorry, I missed this one.
Cougar Crest - Deborah Hansen is an outstanding winemaker. Of, the wines tasted, I was especially fond of the whistle clean, refreshing Viognier.*
DeLille - It is hard not to like DeLille wines, that includes the Grand Cru and the Doyenne line, too. "D2" is frequently my favorite as was the case once again withe 2006 vintage. I usualy like the Doyenne "Aix" and Syrah. My favorite white is the Doyenne Rousanne, though these vintages were not quite as wonderful as some in the past. The Grand Cru has the potential to become a Washington State "cult" wine. Kind of like a somewhat tannic Chateau Latour that needs to age.
DiStefano Winery - All quite good, no particular favorite.*
Domaine Poulin - My favorite from winemaker Alexis Poulin was the 2007 Deux, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Donedei - Winemaker, Carolyn Lakewold has an interesting story which we wil have to reserve for another time. Her wines are expensive but with production of only about 800 cases, there is barely enough supply to match the demand. The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon tasted like a raspberry, coffee, chocolate truffle in a glass.*
Dunham - Winemaker, Dan Wampler has taken over most of the winemaking from Eric Dunham. The wines are beautiful and this year the 2006 Trutina was especially good.*
Dusted Valley - Ever since Chad started making wine in his garage several years ago, his wines have been big bold and charming. The Dusted Valley Stained Tooth Syrah is a little monster that stains your teeth. The Viognier is a cool refresher with good body. All I wrote for the Boomtown Cab was "WOW. The Boomtown Pinot Gris had a great nose and lots of character.
There's another dozen. Tune in next week...
Yes, Washington came to Arizona. It appeared that the event for buyers in the trade was dominated by Wanderlust Trading. Why? Because Wanderlust doubled the number of Washington State wineries available in Arizona. What a fabulous event for people in the "trade". An opportunity for retailers and restauranteurs to taste the fabulous wines of Washington State. With about 75 wineries presenting over three hundred wines, this was a royal opportunity for wineries to present to their wines to the retail trade. But here's the problem: so many small businesses are freaked out by the current financial melt down that they can't bring themselves to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity to present something new, to save themselves and offer wondrous wines to the consumer who is open to incredible wines at incredible prices from Washington State. So here's the deal! No one who drinks wine has cut back on their c0nsumption. Everybody from millionaires to us peasants has cut back on what they pay for a bottle of wine. If you were drinking $200 bottles, you've cut back to $100 or less. If you were drinking $60s, your down below 30. Fifteen's are drinking $5 to $10. If you were drinking two buck chuck, hopefully you can afford jug wine. Everybody has cut their pricepoint by 50% or more. Washington State wines are incredible on their own, but in this economy, they are even more attractive as alternatives to California and France. At about half the price of their overseas brethren and their neighbors to the south, they represent the perfect pricepoint in the most severe recession since the great depression. So here are my comments on Washington State wines at Taste Washington Phoenix in alphabetical order. Wineries marked by an asterisk are represented by Wanderlust Trading Company.
Abeja - Winemaker John Abbott ( should definitely be on the great winemaker list) presented his 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon which tasted like a light airy chocolate souffle in a bottle. His Chardonnay is outstanding with lots of minerality in an almost European style.*
Airfield Estates - An up and comer we first tasted at Debuts and Discoveries in Seattle. Winemaker Marcus Miller produces amazingly good wines at pretty reasonable prices.
The 2007 Bombshell Red is an amazing blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Syrah, Malbec, Sangiovese, Cinsault and Counoise.*?
Alder Ridge, Six Prong, & Zefina - The Six Prong Red from Horse Heaven Hills another blend of multiple grape varieties at a reasonable price Cab Sauv, Zin, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot and Cab Franc went into this one. The 2004 Zefina Serience Red from Horse Heaven Hills is a blend of of Rhone varietals, including Grenache, Syrah, Counoise, Mourvedre, and Cinsault.
Badger Mountain & Powers Winery - The 2007 Badger Mtn Organic Riesling is a classic, balanced Riesling at a very reasonable price (about $12). The 2007 Powers Merlot is big, but not jammy at a reasonable price of about $16.
Balboa Winery & Beresan Winery - Tom Glase wanted to bring reasonably priced wines to WalaWalla and he did. The Merlot of the softest wine followed by the Syrah. The Cab Sauv has a little more structure, just as it should. They are all wonderfully user-friendly, with soft round velvety flavors at reasonable prices*
Barnard Griffin - Rob Griffin is a Washington State wine Pioneer. Despite production of 70,000 cases all of his wines are well made and reasonably priced.
Basel Cellars - These wines are usually excellent. The 2006 Claret is way better than some previous vintages and priced right at about $22.*
Bergevin Lane - These are all excellent wines in a softer more elegant and refined style than many Walla Walla wines. The Calico Red and Fruitbomb are outstanding values, especially the Fruitbomb with a nose that literally explodes out of the glass. An amazing value at about $11.*
Boudreaux Cellars - Winemaker Rob Newsom makes outstanding wines (another one who should be added to best winemakers). His Chardonnay was not available for tasting, but you should look for it. It really is like a great White Burgundy. The 2005 Cab Sauv is only 80% Cab Sauv, with the rest of the space reserved for the likes of Merlot, Syrah, etc.,The 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills is excellent, but a little pricey at over $100.*
Brian Carter Cellars - Brian Carter is another outstanding winemaker. He works magic with all of his wines. I am especially fond of his Abracadabra and L'Etalon.
Bunnell Family Cellar - Regrettably, I somehow missed this one and I have to confess that I know nothing about Bunnell. It is on my list for next time.
Buried Cane - Another one I missed. Planned to come back and somehow didn't get there.
Well, that's a dozen. Tune in for six more parts of this series.
Quiz: What do winemakers drink? Tune in next Monday for my answer. What do you think?
Fifty lucky winners attended the "First World Food And Wine Championship" at Dove Mountain Grill just at the entrance to the Ritz Carlton PGA championship site. World class Master Sommelier, Laura Williamson and three star quality Chef Bruce Yim, put on an amazing performance last night at their first Winemaker Dinner at the Grill with Bergevin Lane owner, Annette Bergevin, Many of the lucky guests were friends of Annette's father, Gary, founder of Canoe Ridge winery. Some were friends of friends - just a few degrees of separation. The lovely Lille, said, "This is the last enchilada I'll ever eat, because no other enchilada could ever live up to this braised duck enchilada" served with Magret of duck atop in an ancho chile chocolate sauce. Laura must have seen me coming to serve "Duck Two Ways" paired with the perfect red wine for southwest cuisine - 2006 Bergevin Lane Calico Red*, a blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv, Syrah, Zin and Cab Franc.
The evening started with NV Mountain Dome Sparkling* wine from the small Spokane Washington winery specializing in limited production bubbly. The wine is Brut in style, that is to say, dry. Not big and yeasty, it was the perfect apero, or aperitif. It is an amazing value priced at a very reasonable $17, less than half the price of a comparable French Champagne. This was followed by an amuse-bouche of Asian Pear Panzanella with warm brie and dried apricot vinaigrette paired with an amazingly crystalline 2007 Bergevin Lane Viognier drawn straight from the barrel.
The duck two ways was a hard act to follow, but, no problem, a totally deconstructed post-modern BLT did the trick. Trickster, Bruce Yim served thinly sliced roasted pork loin with rosti potatoes (hash browns?) Arizona Tomato Salad and bacon demi (the last BLT?) accompanied by 2005 Bergevin Lane Syrah* - the perfect match - each enhancing the other. Like so many of Annette's other wines, the Syrah has a soft gentle touch, a delightful contrast to some of the huge monsters out of Walla Walla.
No sweet wine and dessert in the desert for Annette! Instead, a cheese course paired with 2006 Bergevin Cabernet Sauvgnon. The cheese called Pave d'Auphinois on the menu looked, smelled and tasted like d'Affinois to me. Whatever it was, it was fit for a Dauphine when matched with the Cab. An evening fit for a King or a Dauphine!
Attention all snowbirds in Tucson. Tonight's the night! James Mantone, co-winemaker with his wife, Poppy, will be at Vintabla tonight to present his knockout Rhone style wines such as Syrah and Mourvedre. If you think you don't like Syrah, think again. This is mind-blowing stuff. If you like Cab with steak, you'll love this stuff. If you haven't tasted Syrah before, here's a chance to taste incredibly crafted, elegant, refined Syrah, in a softer style than usual. If you are in Tucson for the big golf event take your group to Vintabla in the Catalina Foothills for a peak experience. Master Sommelier, Laura Williamson, and Chef Bruce Yim, always score better than par.
Last night the Washington Wine Commission held a Taste Washington event for the Arizona wine trade at the Valley Ho Hotel in Phoenix. Many of the best wineries in Washington were represented by some of the best winemakers in Washington. While such outstanding wineries as DeLille, L'Ecole and Gordon Bros. have been available in Arizona for a while, Wanderlust trading company has virtually doubled the number of great Washington wines available in in the suinshine state. A number of the winemakers were trying to figure out how to become snowbirds themselves. The wines themselves were fabulous - the creme de la creme. Newer wineries such as Hestia, Gilbert, Airfield, Elegante, Guardian and Gifford Hirlinger were accompanied by their older brethren such as Dunham, Abeja, Boudreaux, Dusted Valley and Seven Hills. I will be reporting more on this Taste Washington event interspersed with reports on winemaker dinners over the next week or two. Tune in....
I was going to call this post Five Fabulous Wines followed by Five More Fabulous Wines, but by now there are eleven or twelve of them. How about a Dozen Best? Why are they Fabulous? Well, they certainly are not Robert Parker "100s", but they are each interesting in their own way. An asterisk indicates a Wanderlust wine.
1) 2005 Chateau Le Commanderie De Queyret, Bordeaux Superior - What is so fabulous about this wine? It is sooo true to character. Fairly light and bright, it has amazing black cherry flavors. The perfect Bordeaux Superior, this relatively light style Bordeaux at it's very best. The first day it had a fair amount of light, but astringent tannin which pretty much cleared up after being in an open decanter for 24 hrs ( about $12).
2) 2005 Fall Line "Horse Heaven Hills" Red - Much more tannic than the 2004, here's another one that needed to breathe for 24 hrs. Soft, velvety texture with a nose and taste of chocolate, coffee, mocha and tobacco combined with black fruit ( about $30 at the winery)*
3) 1995 Elio Altare Barolo "Vigneto Arborino" - Kind of like an old Italian aristocratic uncle. Dare I say it - smelling of old age, but food friendly. Mahogany in color, and tasting of wood paneling, it probably would have been more agreeable to the American palate at a younger age, but a pleasure nevertheless.
4) 2006 Trio Mourvedre "Den Heed Vineyard", Yakima Valley - A gift from Mary and truly a gift. How nice to taste a real wine with character. On the back label, Steve Michener, Tim Boushay, and Denise Slattery describe Mourved as " a cousin to Syrah with broad shoulders and a bit of wild streak." Let the wild rumpus begin! " WILD THING!", indeed -rustic, brambly, garrigue, yet there is good fruit. Like an old time rodeo - Let 'er buck! Delicious!
5) 2006 Adams Bench "Reckoning", Wa. St. - OMG, the day of reckoning is here! When you taste this wine, you will think you died and went to heaven. Pretty big, fairly dark, but rick in fruit, fruit, fruit. A style that would please Robert Parker, but most importantly it pleases me and it will please you, too.
Well, I guess that is the first Fabulous Five. Tune in for the next five or more.
This is the third annual Unofficial Classification of Washington State Wineries. The 2008 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 600 wineries,there must be more than 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 emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. 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 or as they say on Wall Street, past performance is no guarantee of future results.The Washington State wine scene continues to be exciting. New wineries are cropping up everywhere and established wineries are moving on to new frontiers. Several top Puget Sound wineries have invested in their own vineyards in Eastern Washington and you can sense the excitement this is generating among winemakers. Exclusion from this classification, in no way represents a commentary on the quality of a winery. In most cases, it simply means 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 as "deferred", if I have reason to believe they are worthy, but haven't tasted enough of their wines.
Premier Grand Cru ( Extraordinary)
Deuxieme Grand Cru (Outstanding)
Terra Blanca - Onyx
Spring Valley - Uriah
Troisieme Grand Cru ( Exceptional)
Canon de Sol
Columbia Crest Reserve
Lattitude 46 N
Sleight Of Hand
Spring Valley Vineyards
Walla Walla Vineyards
Quatrieme Grand Cru ( Excellent)
Glacial Lake Missoula
Vin Du Lac
Cinqieme Cru ( Very Good)
Columbia Crest "Two Vines"
DeLille Grand Cru
This is actually impossible, since there are well over 600 wineries in Washington, and undoubtedly more than a hundred great winemakers, so I will just name some winemakers who come to mind in no particular order. I look forward to hearing your faves and suggestions.
Well, we are up to thirty-one and could just keep going. We've heard that Christophe Baron is a great winemaker. We'll just have to wait 'til we taste his wines. I know I've left out dozens of great winemakers in Washington. I guess this shows the absurdity of ten best lists and how far Washington has progressed. Now that you've seen my loose associations, why not add yours? Oh, yes, we left out all of the Long Shadow winemakers. Yes, but are they Washington winemakers? Can we all get to 100? How about a Zagat approach? I know you all will be atwitter about this.