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Va Piano Vineyards

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Va Piano Vineyards is a true family winery. On any given visit, winemaker Justin Wylie and his wife Liz are there along with their three young children. The winery is located south of downtown Walla Walla. Once off by itself, the area around the winery is now busting with wineries.

A fourth generation Walla Wallan, Justin Wylie was inspired to start Va Piano Vineyards during his senior year at Gonzaga University. That year, he spent time studying in Florence, Italy where he fell in love with the culture, art, and lifestyle. He decided to recreate a piece of that same lifestyle back in Walla Walla. Wylie built a beautiful Tuscan-style villa in the rolling hills south of town. The winery is as scenic as any in the valley with surrounding vineyards and the Blue Mountains as a backdrop.

Now in its seventh year, Va Piano Vineyards has a number of changes afoot – all expansions and improvements. This is the first year that the winery has made a Bruno’s Blend white wine. The wine is named after Father Bruno Segatta who Wylie met at Gonzaga. This wine is mostly Sauvignon Blanc with some Riesling added. For the corresponding Bruno’s Blend Red Wine – now in its sixth iteration – Wylie made this non-vintage version a bit more Cabernet-centric. Both are guaranteed crowd pleasers at reasonable price points.

The winery is also in the midst of planning for guest rooms to be built on the property along with a small meeting center. Matched with the winery’s stunning setting, this looks to be a can’t miss proposition and an excellent addition to the valley’s tourism industry.

Reflective of both an exceptional vintage and continued development of the estate vineyard and the winery, Va Piano’s current releases are the best that the winery has made. The Semillon, consistently a standout, now uses exclusively Walla Walla Valley fruit. For the Columbia Valley Cabernet and Syrah, Wyle blends from vineyards across the Walla Walla and Yakima Valleys and looks to maintain a consistent style. For the winery’s estate club program – whose fruit comes from the estate vineyard that surrounds the winery - Wylie gets less cautious, letting the results express both the site and the vintage. “We play the Mother Nature game with the Estate program,” Wiley says.

Wylie, an attentive father, says there are similarities to raising children and winemaking. “Wine is like your kids. You want them to behave all the time and they just don’t.” I can’t speak to Wylie’s children, but the Va Piano wines are behaving quite nicely.

Va Piano Vineyards Bruno’s Blend I White Wine Columbia Valley $15

Rating: + (Good) Light straw colored. Abundant citrus aromas along with peaches, lemon drop, mineral and tropical fruit. On the palate, a crisp, clean, crowd pleasing wine. 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Riesling. Tank fermented. 13.8% alcohol. 500 cases produced. Recommended

Va Piano Vineyards Semillon Walla Walla Valley 2009 $20

Rating: * (Excellent) Yeast, dried pineapple, and citrus aromas on an alluring, aromatic wine. A beautifully rounded palate with lemon and mineral. 100% Semillon. Seven Hills, Double River Ranch, and Les Collines vineyards.

Va Piano Vineyards Bruno’s Blend VI Red Wine NV Columbia Valley $23

Rating: + (Good) Black currant, tobacco leaf, and black cherry on the nose. Big and fruity on the palate. At times a bit astringent but a lot of wine for the money. 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 10% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc. 14.3% alcohol. 910 cases produced.

Va Piano Vineyards Syrah Columbia Valley 2007 $40

Rating: * (Excellent) Abundant ground black licorice along with cherry on an aromatic wine. Big and rich on the palate with gobs of fruit and chocolate. Best Syrah from this winery to date. 100% Syrah. 14% Va Piano Estate, 16% Minnick, 32% Portteus, and 38% Lewis. Aged 15 months in French oak (30% new). 14.5% alcohol. 689 cases produced.

Va Piano Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $40

Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatic wine with abundant chocolate, licorice, red and black fruit and a whiff of pepper on a complex aroma profile. A big, massive wine full of fruit with a big tannic lick. An impressive effort. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot. Seven Hills, Portteus Vineyard, Klipsun, Va Piano Estate Vineyard, and Pepper Bridge vineyards. Aged in French oak (50% new) for 23 months. 14.4% alcohol. 934 cases produced.

Va Piano Vineyards Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 Barrel Sample

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Gorgeous aromatics full of floral notes and fresh berries. The wine has a beautiful richness to the mid-palate with lush fruit flavors complemented by a well-structured backbone.

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