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It seems almost impossible to believe that Corliss Estates is now finishing its tenth year. The winery spent much of this time below periscope depth. The first two vintages were made and discarded when they did not meet the quality standard the winery was looking to set. The subsequent vintages – starting with the winery’s first releases from the 2003 vintage – have been nothing short of sublime. However, even these wines took many years to find their way into consumers’ hands.

Corliss Estates’ inaugural wines were not released until fall of 2008. Winery owners Michael and Lauri Corliss prefer to drink wines with some age on them, so the Corliss wines receive extended time in barrel and in the cellar before release. While this requires a great deal of patience and expense on the winery’s part – and money is no object at Corliss with no expense spared to try to make the best wine possible – it means that, unlike many high end wines, consumers can find immediate satisfaction upon release. However, the Corliss wines are also made for the long haul. The result from Corliss Estates is the best of both worlds for the wine consumer - wines one can purchase and immediately enjoy upon release but that can also lay down in the cellar for many years to come.

The 2005 vintage wines constitute Corliss Estates’ third release. Each of these wines – the Red Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah - demonstrates why Corliss deserves to be considered among the best wineries in Washington State. The wines are simultaneously bold and nuanced, powerful yet refined.

The current releases were crafted by winemaker Kendall Mix. Mix left Corliss Estates last year to take a position close to home at Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery. Since that time, the winery has decided to use a team approach for winemaking with Michael Corliss providing increasing amounts of input and direction. The winery has also hired a top-flight consultant for occasional assistance as well. Additionally, Erik McLaughlin was recently hired as Director of Wineries.

In addition to Corliss Estates, Michael and Lauri Corliss have also opened a sister winery – Tranche Cellars (see reviews of the consistently excellent Tranche wines here). A third, Red Mountain Vineyard, waits in the wings. With these three wineries and a strong team in place, look for Corliss Estates and its sister wineries to make an increasingly large impact on the Washington wine scene in the decades to come.

Corliss Estates Red Wine Columbia Valley 2005 $65

Rating: ** (Exceptional) A very pretty, seductive nose with cedar, dust, coffee bean, caramel, and black cherries. A big but beautifully integrated wine plush with black cherry fruit accented by silky oak flavors. A thirty-plus second finish. 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Petit Verdot. Red Mountain, Stillwater, Weinbau, Northridge, Bacchus, and Stonetree vineyards. Aged 33 months in French oak (73% new). 14.9% alcohol. 450 cases produced.

Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2005 $75

Rating: ** (Exceptional) The aromas are arresting. Light herbal notes, high-toned cherries, licorice, earth, and cedar interweave on an elegantly expressive nose. A powerful wine that opens up and expands, coating the palate with espresso flavors and rich black cherries. Hangs on and on at the finish. More structured than the Red Wine and a bit more brooding. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot. Dionysus, Weinbau, Bacchus, Stillwater Creek, Northridge, and Stonetree vineyards. 15.1% alcohol. 228 cases produced.

Corliss Estates Syrah Columbia Valley 2005 $55

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Compelling aromatics of campfire, smoked meat, berries, and earth rise up on a dark, brooding aroma profile. On the palate, a big, multiple swallow wine full of dark fruit and chocolate. The oak is beautifully integrated along with lithe tannins. 15.1% alcohol. 96% Syrah co-fermented with 3% Viognier and 1% Grenache. Stillwater, Birch Creek, Stonetree, and Evergreen vineyards. Aged 34 months in French oak (64% new). 15.1% alcohol. 388 cases produced.

Samples provided by winery.

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5 comments

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. I have a question about the bottling at Corliss. The 06, 07, 08 are all bottled and cellared, or are they still in barrels? That would make me ask if Kendall Mix was the wine maker on the 06,07,08. I hope that Mr. Corliss knows what he is doing.

     
  3. Anon, a great question. I would think that the 2006 and probably the 2007 would be in bottle already. The others should still be in barrel. The winery has been giving the wines almost three years (34 months) in oak and then "more than two years" in bottle before release.

     
  4. Anonymous Says:
  5. Anon,

    The 2006 wines were finished and bottled before Kendall's departure. The 2007 wines were blended by our winemaking team of Andrew Trio and Griffin Frey with assitance from Michael Corliss and our consulting winemaker, Philippe Melka. The 2007s are now bottled and ageing in bottle. The 2008s have been blended (same team) and will be bottled in the next couple months.
    I believe you fill find the upcoming wines continue to get better each year, building upon the quality that Kendall originally established.
    Erik McLaughlin, Winery Director
    Corliss Estates

     
  6. Anonymous Says:
  7. Sean,

    A point of correction. The 2007 wines were blended before I left Corliss Estates, but bottled after I left. The new winemaking team took over blending with the 2008 vintage.

    Kendall Mix.

     
  8. Kendall, thanks for the correction. Much appreciated.

     

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