Today’s fresh sheet - reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases – includes wines from Lantz Cellars, Fielding Hills Winery, and Dunham Cellars.
Kevin Lantz founded Lantz Cellars in 2003. Lantz is a self-taught winemaker, saying, “I figured I could either get a UC Davis education or buy a bunch of equipment and just go for it.” Go for it he did - although he bought some UC Davis books as well as any others he could find along the way.
Lantz has focused the winery on small production wines - the winery produces four hundred cases annually - making a Sauvignon Blanc, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah, and a Malbec. A Mélange was recently added to the mix. This year Lantz is experimenting with making a Port-style wine using Touriga Nacional, Sousão, and Tinto Cão grapes from Red Mountain Vineyards. A late night discussion with a fellow winemaker served as the inspiration.
Lantz Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Yakima Valley 2009 $18
Rating: + (Good) Very pretty varietal aromas of grapefruit and mineral along with tropical notes and wet stone. The palate is bright, fresh, and tart with a slightly sour finish. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Buoy Vineyards, Yakima Valley. Aged 30 months in Acacia wood. 13.5% alcohol. 30 cases produced.
Lantz Cellars Premier Mélange Columbia Valley 2007 $29
Rating: + (Good) An alluring aroma profile with dark fruit, blueberry pie, spice, vanilla, and light wood accents. The palate is tight and compact with a big ball of fruit at the core along with dry, chalky tannins. A very well made wine. Oak occasionally comes a bit too far to the fore. 72% Merlot (Buoy Vineyards), 22% Cabernet Sauvignon (Lawrence Vineyards), and 6% Petit Verdot (Gilbert Vineyards). Aged 18 months in thin stave French oak. 15.7% alcohol.
Lantz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $34
Rating: * (Excellent) An appealing nose with abundant toast and smoke notes along with black cherry and a touch of anise. Very dry and chalky on the palate with firm tannins and light herbal flavors. An extended finish. A beautiful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. 94 % Cabernet Sauvignon 4% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. Lawrence Vineyards. Aged 24 months in French oak. 15.9% alcohol.
Lantz Cellars Malbec Rattlesnake Hills 2007 $29
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) A very pretty, very varietal aroma profile with plum, pepper, and light green notes. The palate is fresh and tart, dipping slightly in the middle before coming back and sailing. 99% Malbec (Verhey Vineyards), 1% Petit Verdot (Gilbert Vineyards). Aged 18 months in 265l Hungarian oak. 15% alcohol. 82 cases produced.
Lantz Cellars Syrah Rattlesnake Hills 2007 $27
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromas grab you and pull you into the glass with blueberry pie, smoke, vanilla, and licorice. The palate is tart with black and blue fruit flavors. Quite dry with a lot of tannic structure. 100% Syrah. Verhey Vineyards. Aged 24 months in Rhone-style 100 gallon casks. 15.7% alcohol.
Fielding Hills Winery
Fielding Hills Winery winemaker Mike Wade is a third generation fruit grower. In mid-1990s as the Red Delicious apple market was plummeting, he and his wife Karen decided to plant grapes in the Wahluke Slope at a vineyard site near Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Indian Wells Vineyard (see a previous post on the winery with additional details here). The Wades now have 25 acres of grapes and 1,800 acres of apples and cherries.
Though recently completing its tenth vintage, Fielding Hills has never had a tasting room. Rather, the Wades have sold their wines through a mailing list and self-distributed them to a limited number of retailers. After deciding to expand production to 1,400 cases, the Wades decided that the time was right.
At first, they thought about opening a tasting room at the winery in Wenatchee. The location is beautiful with commanding views overlooking the valley. However, after being discouraged by the numerous hoops they needed to jump through, they abandoned the idea.
Instead, the winery joined Seattle’s newly opened Urban Enoteca. Tucked away next to a bridge a short distance south of Starbucks' headquarters, the facility is stunning with plush leather seats, waterfalls and features, and a fireplace. Most importantly, however, the facility is also home to top wineries Fidelitas, Kiona, Cote Bonneville, Five Star, McCrea, and Cave B. “We’re really excited about the other wineries that are there,” Karen Wade said.
The facility is also ideal for having winery events, with several different banquet rooms and event spaces. Speaking with the Wades at the opening of the facility, they were giddy with excitement, having hired their first employee and working through the final kinks - all the while of course shepherding the children back and forth from soccer games.
Fielding Hills has consistently produced some of Washington's finest wines. The 2008 vintage releases are, however, nothing short of the best wines the winery has produced.
Fielding Hills Tribute Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $32
Rating: + (Good) Dark in color. Dark fruit, abundant sweet spice notes, and chocolate on an aromatic nose. The palate is tart and chock full of fruit with a slightly sharp note toward the finish. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 22% Syrah, 21% Cabernet Franc. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (72% new). 15.15% alcohol. 126 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Fielding Hills Merlot Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $36
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color. Dark and brooding on the nose with blackberry, red fruit, mint, milk chocolate, and sweet spices. On the palate, big and bold with opulent yet refined black and red fruit and dry chocolate. Capped off by a tart, winding finish. 91% Merlot, 5% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (72% new). 14.5% alcohol. 190 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Fielding Hills Cabernet Franc Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $30
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark and brilliant in color. The nose is seductive with herbal notes, milk chocolate, and sweet spices. The palate is big and rich with impeccable balance. The wine opens up and expands and coats the palate with dark fruit, chocolate flavors, and beautifully integrated tannins. 88% Cabernet Franc, 6% Syrah, 4% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (72% new). 15.15% alcohol. 174 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $42
Rating: ** (Exceptional) The nose is enticing with rich chocolate, blackberry, red currant, very light herbal notes, and a whiff of cough syrup accented by sweet spices. The palate is dry and tightly wound with rich, sinewy fruit flavors that cross the palate in waves and linger long after the last sip. A prototype of Cabernet Sauvignon. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (72% new). 15.2% alcohol. 192 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Fielding Hills Syrah Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $38
Rating: * (Excellent) Nose is alluring with blackberries, blueberries, bittersweet chocolate, and a whiff of licorice. The palate is rich and layered, filled with chocolate and berry flavors wrapped in silky oak textures. Glides along on the finish. A very pretty wine that displays a lush styling reminiscent of an Australian Shiraz. 94% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Aged 19 months in American and French oak (72% new). 15.63% alcohol. 174 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Dunham Cellars is one of Walla Walla’s longer tenured wineries. Eric Dunham made the winery’s first vintage in 1995. Though Dunham retains the title of Senior Winemaker, Dan Wampfler joined Dunham Cellars as winemaker in 2008. Wampfler had previously worked as a research winemaker at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates before working and Canoe Ridge Winery and then assistant winemaker at Columbia Crest.
Dunham Cellars is located in the Airport region of Walla Walla in a remodeled World War II era airplane hangar. The winery is one of the larger producers in the valley, making 20,000 cases annually. Though no stranger to large production wineries, Wampfler says of working at Dunham, “It’s either crazy or insane!”
While looking to maintain the winery’s style, Wampfler also hopes to put his own imprint on the wines. Since starting at the winery, Wampfler has implemented a number of changes, such as putting jackets on open top fermenters to better control fermentation temperatures and emphasizing hand harvesting and sorting. Tasting a number of the 2009 wines in the barrel, Wampfler seems ready to build on Dunham’s success.
Wampfler is one of several dynamic winemaking duos in the Walla Walla Valley, married to Sinclair Estate Vineyards winemaker Amy Alvarez-Wampfler.
Dunham Cellars Shirley Mays Chardonnay Lewis Estate Columbia Valley 2007 $19
Rating: + (Good) Straw, toast, and papaya mark an appealing nose. The palate shows a fair amount of oak flavors and feel but its fairly well integrated. A slight bite toward the finish is all that holds this wine back. 100% Chardonnay. Lewis Estate Vineyard. Aged in 90% stainless steel and 10% French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 329 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Four legged White Riesling Columbia Valley 2007 $14
Rating: + (Good) A very intriguing style with abundant mineral aromas along with Golden Delicious apples. The palate is off dry but the sugar is well balanced by acid and the wine possesses pleasing fruit flavors. Lingers on the palate. 100% Riesling. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 2.8% Residual Sugar. 12.3% alcohol. 2,166 cases produced. Recommended.
Dunham Cellars Riesling Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2008 $22
Rating: * (Excellent) A pleasing aroma profile that shows a mix of yellow and green apples along with abundant mineral notes. Old World in style, the palate is off dry and full of apple flavors. 100% Riesling. 2.4% Residual Sugar. 12.9% alcohol. 672 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Trutina Columbia Valley 2007 $26
Rating: * (Excellent) Distinctive aromas of mint and red fruit on the nose. The palate is elegantly structured with luscious, tart red fruit flavors. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Lewis Estate, Double River Estate, and Frenchtown Estate vineyards. 13.9% alcohol. 5,588 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon XII Columbia Valley 2006 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) An appealing aroma profile with high-toned cherry fruit, spice, and earth. The palate is tart with red fruit and has a good, tannic grip. Drinking well now but has the structure to lay down in the cellar. Lewis Estate and Double River Estate vineyards. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French and American oak. 14.3% alcohol. 1,788 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2005 $35
Rating: + (Good) Abundant earth aromas mark the nose along with red fruit and a distinctive spice component. Big and rich on the palate with delicious red fruit flavors, lots of acid, and a good deal of tannic structure. 100% Syrah. Lewis Estate, Frenchtown, and Double River Estate vineyards. Aged in French (50%) and American oak. 14.1% alcohol. 1,612 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Syrah Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2006 $75
Rating: * (Excellent) The nose shows Rainier cherries, clove, cedar, and cherry cola. The palate is big and intense, loaded with fresh rhubarb flavors. While a 2006, this is a hefty wine that could still use some time in the cellar. 100% Syrah. Aged in French and American oak. 14.4% alcohol. 453 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Dunham Cellars Merlot Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2006 $75
Rating: + (Good) Lots of cranberries and other red fruit along with licorice, light herbal notes, and mint. The taste packs a big, big punch. Tannins are a bit aggressive on an otherwise very enjoyable wine. An unapologetically big Washington Merlot. 100% Merlot. Aged in French and American oak. 13.8% alcohol. 462 cases produced.
Dunham Cellars Late Harvest Riesling Columbia Valley 2008 $19
Rating: * (Excellent) A richly aromatic wine with papaya, mango, and pineapple. The palate is thick and rich with marmalade flavors. 100% Riesling. 23% Residual Sugar. 9.5% alcohol. 750 cases produced.
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