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Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Northwest wine to you and bringing you to Northwest wine. Our goal is:
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'14 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Five Under Fifteen - February

Sunday, February 28, 2010 7 comments








In tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

As I wrote in my recent Focus Report, Lemberger is a signature grape for Kiona Winery and Vineyards. Kiona was the first to commercially produce the variety in the U.S. back in 1980. The Williams family, who own and run the winery, have fourteen acres on Red Mountain planted to Lemberger. Vines range from ten to thirty years in age. Kiona sales manager JJ Williams states that people who try this wine either love it or don’t (I fall into the former category). Indeed, the grape is considerably different from say a Cabernet or Merlot that consumers are used to. However, this is a wine to expand the palate without breaking the budget.

The Chateau Ste. Michelle 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah surprised me. Syrah in Washington comes in a variety of styles from big, rich, jammy wines full of fruit to meaty, earthy, funky wines full of earth and everything in between. For what I assume is a higher production wine (information not listed on the technical sheet), I was assuming the 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah would fall into the big and jammy category. My thinking here was that it’s a high production wine and there are endless acres of fruit getting a lot of heat in eastern Washington (Note: Had I checked when I bought it, the lower alcohol percentage might have tipped me off). While the taste is certainly rich and fruit-filled, the nose is much more meaty and floral than I was expecting. A very enjoyable entry-level wine in a style not frequently found in this price range.

Brothers Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first vineyard back in 1997. Thirteen years later, the Milbrandts’ vineyards encompass nearly 1,600 acres and thirteen distinct sites. For a number of years, the brothers were content to supply fruit to wineries throughout the state. However, in 2005, the Milbrandts began their own label - Milbrandt Vineyards. Gordon Hill, who previously worked at Chateau Ste Michelle, serves as winemaker. The back of each bottle of Milbrandt Vineyards wine bears the quote, "Individually we are just Butch and Jerry. But when we are working together we are like one really talented person.” The winery’s tasting room is located in Prosser.

Hedges Family Estate is a family-run winery located in the Red Mountain AVA. Tom and Ann-Marie Hedges founded the winery in 1987. Peter Hedges, Tom’s brother, serves as winemaker and general manager. The 2008 CMS Red was February’s Virtual Tasting wine. Overall the wine made me wonder about the wisdom of releasing value wines so early. This wine, a 2008 that was released at least a month or so ago, seems disjointed and in a strange spot at the moment. It’s difficult to tell if it will improve over time, but it didn’t seem to be putting its best foot forward.

No information on Distant Bay which has website with a splash page picture and nothing else. It brings me no joy to write about a wine I found so unenjoyable. However, my hope is that I have suffered so that you might not.

Kiona Estate Lemberger Red Mountain 2006 $12
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with a nose loaded with red fruit, spice, and floral notes. A fair bit of alcohol shows at times. The taste is rich and fruit-filled with a potpourri of flowers and spice. A whole lot of wine for the money. 100% Estate Lemberger. Aged in French and American oak (25% new). 13.5% alcohol. 5,100 cases produced. Recommended.

Ch. Ste Michelle Syrah Columbia Valley 2006 $13
Rating: + (Good) Dark purple. Violets along with game and berries on an enjoyable nose. A lot of fruit on a palate that is a bit extracted and tangy at times but overall is quite appealing for this price point. 96% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier. 13.5% alcohol. Recommended

Milbrandt Vineyards Traditions Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $15
Rating: + (Good) Nose shows a lot of barrel aromas including mocha and toast, along with black cherry, other black fruit, and a whiff of green pepper. The taste shows a fair amount of bittersweet chocolate but is otherwise dry and restrained ramping up a bit toward the finish. The balance of fruit, tannins, and acid isn’t quite right but still a pleasing wine that offers a lot of value. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Merlot, and1% Malbec. Katherine Leone, Wahluke Slope, Northridge, and Don Talcott vineyards. 14.3% alcohol. 5,761cases produced.

Hedges CMS Red Columbia Valley 2008 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Berries, barrel notes, green notes, and a fair amount of Syrah aromas mark the nose (the latter seems strange as the wine is only 6% Syrah). After the initial pour the nose becomes muted. The taste starts off decently but then becomes tart and thins out, especially on the mid-palate. Overall, the nose and the palate don't seem connected. Perhaps will improve with time. 48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet, 6% Syrah. 13.5% alcohol.

Distant Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2004 $12
Rating: - (Flawed) A healthy whiff of Brett, maybe more than healthy, along with pine, black pepper, and smoke. An untoward bit of sweetness on the palate. Flabby without much of any structure to speak of. Sampled twice with consistent notes. 13.5% alcohol.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from February 15th to 21st.


From around the country


The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune encourages people to check out the Washington wines at a local wine event.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel writes about Milbrandt Vineyards.


From the blogosphere


Paul Gregutt
considers whether Washington wines are ageworthy. He also talks about recent Washington grape statistics and does some fascinating number crunching looking at differences between 2000 and 2009. He also writes about upcoming wine events.

Wine and Beer of Washington State
writes about Quilceda Creek being named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award. They also give a preview of the Taste Washington and a writeup of one of the “Washington vs. The World” tastings at Seattle’s The Local Vine.

Tom Wark’s Fermentation
writes about the Taste Washington.

DrinkNectar.com
does a video blog on Kiona’s new wine club. Josh also looks at some under $10 wines, including Ch. Ste. Michelle’s 2008 Riesling and invites wine bloggers to Spokane before this summer’s Wine Blogger’s Conference.

Woodinville Wine Update
writes about Taste Washington. Shona also writes about O Wines, continues her series on Woodinville wineries who tweet and wedding ideas (Willows Lodge and Russell’s Barn).

Wine Peeps
writes about Syrah and Riesling. They also do a wine tasting dinner with Washington Syrah and pair fettucini alfredo with Ch. Ste. Michelle’s Ethos Chardonnay.

Write for Wine
writes about Desert Wind Syrah. Margot also writes about two upcoming events, the Seattle Food & Wine Experience and Rockin’ Sips.

WINO Magazine
writes about Wines of Substance being listed as the number two “Hot Small Brand” in 2009 by Wine Business Monthly.

WAWineMan
writes about the William Church 2006 Malbec. He also writes about the Zero One Vintners 2008 Riesling.

The Oregon Wine Blog
writes about Prosser’s Picazo 7Seventeen. They also write about Laurelhurst Cellars.

Schiller Wine
looks at Walla Walla’s Abeja. Christian also encourages people in Vancouver for the Olympics to travel south to wine country.

Grape Sense
compares a Washington (Ch Ste Michelle) and Chilean cabernet.

HoseMaster of Wine
writes about L’Ecole No. 41.

Yak Yak Wine
has a Washington/Calfornia tasteoff.

Vintelligence
writes about O’Reilly’s Woof Woof Riesling and Bergevin Lane’s Calico Red.

Cellar Mistress
looks at Columbia Crest’s Chardonnay.

Just Luxe
writes aobut Basel Cellars.

Crosscut
writes about refillable wine bottles.

The Wine Economist
writes about Riesling with callouts to Poet’s Leap and Ch. Ste. Michelle.


From the locals


Seattle Magazine
writes about Washington sparkling wines.


Leftovers

Northwest Cork and Fork
checks out Compass Wines in Anacortes.

Grape Juice
writes about the K Vintners 2008 Viognier.


That’s all folks!

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What follows is a Focus report on Kiona Winery and Vineyards. Read a .pdf version of this report here. See previous Focus reports here.

Beginnings of Red Mountain


Red Mountain is today perhaps the most coveted real estate for Washington vintners. The area, which gained American Viticultural Area (AVA) status in 2001, has over 1,000 acres under cultivation. Fruit from this AVA comprises some of Washington State’s most sought after wines. In the last decade, Quilceda Creek, Col Solare, DeLille Cellars, Corliss Estates, and Grand Reve – a who’s who in Washington wine -have all planted vineyards on Red Mountain.

Forty years ago, Red Mountain was an undeveloped piece of desert. The area’s development into a premier wine region had an unlikely beginning. John Williams was working in North Richland as a research metallurgist at General Electric when he received a circular in the mail. The circular, sent to research organizations, solicited participation in various ad-hoc steering committees for local university research programs. Among those listed was one for viticulture and enology research trials. The trials were being conducted at Washington State University under the direction of Dr. Walter Clore. An avid wine consumer, Williams applied to be part of the committee. His friend and co-worker Jim Holmes did the same. Both were accepted onto the committee; and so began the journey of two individuals who would soon have an enormous impact on Washington wine and the Red Mountain wine industry.

Establishing the First Vineyard

Williams’ and Holmes’ work on the ad-hoc committee led to an increasing interest in wine and viticulture. Soon the two friends became interested in finding a place to establish a vineyard. While today such a decision might be informed by detailed soil analysis, measurement of heat units, and the like, these were early days for the Washington wine industry. Although Williams and Holmes had researched the growing conditions on Red Mountain, their decision on vineyard location had a much more pragmatic basis. Williams’ father-in-law owned an eighty-acre parcel of land on Red Mountain.

Today, planting a vineyard on Red Mountain is an easy decision – if you can afford it. At that time, it was a novel idea. The area was desolate and had no acres under vine. Still, the parcel of land Williams and Holmes bought had southwest facing slopes and long, hot summer days that seemed ideal for growing vinifera.

The task of establishing a vineyard would not be an easy one. The area was undeveloped. A road would need to be made in order to get to the vineyard. Electricity would have to be brought in three miles. Additionally, they would have to dig a well to provide water. In the desert of eastern Washington, finding a water source was far from certain. Williams says, “We’d researched it and knew there was water about some 500 feet deep. We were at 550 feet and close to the end of our cash, and we hadn’t hit water yet, and the well driller asked us how far we wanted to go. We asked, how much money have we got left? We drilled about five more feet and hit the water.”

With the water secured, in 1975 Williams and Holmes planted four acres each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. What would soon be named Kiona Vineyard bore its first fruit in 1978. The first wine was produced in 1980.

A Red Mountain Constant

Throughout the growth of what is now the Red Mountain AVA, there has been one constant - Kiona Vineyards and Winery. Pronounced ky-OH-na, the name comes from an Indian name for the area meaning ‘Brown Hills.’ The vineyard and winery is now a family operation for the Williams family. John Williams’ son, Scott, and his brother-in-law, Glen Fukuyama, make the wines. The Williams family now has two hundred and fifty total acres under vine at Red Mountain, including Ranch at the End of the Road and Kiona Vineyard. Williams’ friend Holmes went on to establish another nearby vineyard on Red Mountain, the highly regarded Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (the original Kiona Vineyard was split with the section east of Sunset Road becoming Ciel du Cheval and the section west of the road remaining Kiona Vineyard).

As Washington wineries go, Kiona Vineyards and Winery is a reasonably large producer at 30,000 cases annually (the majority of the state’s wineries produce less than 5,000). Kiona not only has a large case production, but their portfolio also includes twenty different wines – a staggering number.

While Kiona’s red wines include the usual suspects – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah – it also includes varieties less common in Washington State, such as Zinfandel and Lemberger. White wine offerings include Chardonnay, Riesling, and Chenin Blanc. Kiona also makes several dessert wines.

History of Experimentation

Part of the reason Kiona has such a diverse portfolio of wines is that the winery has always had one foot rooted in research. Talking of his grandfather and Holmes, Scott Williams’ son, JJ, who serves as a sales manager for the winery says, “when they started growing grapes and making wine, everything was an experiment. You couldn’t go take a class or look up ‘winemaking’ on Wikipedia.” Instead, Williams and Holmes planted and worked with many different varieties to see what worked best with the land. Over time, these varieties became both family and consumer favorites. JJ Williams says, “From a strictly business point of view, it would be much, much easier to have ten wines I had to go sell as opposed to twenty plus, but that’s just part of who we are.”

Only a handful of wineries, such as Thurston Wolfe and Shooting Star, produce a varietal bottling of Lemberger from Washington fruit. Referred to elsewhere as Blaufränkisch, Kiona Vineyards made the first commercially produced Lemberger in the U.S. in 1980. Back when Williams and Holmes were working on the steering committee at WSU, Lemberger was among the many varieties found to be well suited to grow in Washington. They were particularly intrigued because it hadn’t been planted for commercial use yet in the U.S. Williams says, “In any business, the opportunity to be first with something is pretty rare. Just the idea of planting a variety that was not available anywhere in the United States was pretty attractive.” The Williams family currently has fourteen acres on Red Mountain planted to Lemberger with vines ranging from ten to thirty years in age. This is a signature grape for the winery, and it is consistently a value standout.

A Winery Apart

In addition to their large number of offerings, several other aspects distinguish Kiona from its peers. While Red Mountain is renowned for its high quality fruit, this fruit is also known for commanding high prices. Red Mountain-designated wines generally start between thirty and forty dollars and continue on up over one hundred. However, eleven of Kiona’s wines are less than $20. All are less than $35. JJ Williams says that this goes back to Kiona being a family-run winery. “Wine can and should be enjoyed just as easily on Tuesday night as it can be on Saturday night,” he says. “It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg…It’s a great thing, to provide a product that people enjoy at a price that doesn’t put them out of reach from enjoying it.”

Unlike most wineries, many of Kiona’s current releases come from older vintages. Wines from the 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008 vintages are all part of their current lineup. While the combination of relatively low prices and older wines can create a consumer misperception that the winery is backed up on vintages, Kiona prefers to hold wines until they feel they are ready to be consumed rather than asking consumers to do the same. “We own our vineyards, barrels, facilities and bottling line, so we don’t have to push new vintages out the door immediately to pay for operating expenses like a lot of other wineries do,” JJ Williams says.

In terms of style, Kiona wines show a surprising amount of fruit and a softer tannin profile compared to other wines from Red Mountain. Some of the Kiona wines, such as the 2005 Merlot, are from one hundred percent free run juice. JJ Williams says, “Our winemaking style changed quite a bit in the mid 1990’s… In the 1980’s we’d throw the grapes in and press them as hard as we could. It would all go into one tank, and then all into barrels… and voila, several years later you could drink it. You see this style being used a lot now, where people make very extracted, very powerful wines with lots of tannins. They taste just like the wines we were making in the 1980s.”

Kiona now separates free run juice, lightly pressed juice, and juice pressed under higher pressure. Williams says, “Everything is kept separated during the entire process… vineyard lots, barrel use, and the extent to which we pressed the wine. So when we are ready to bottle a wine, there might be ten different versions of a wine that has differing amounts of each variable blended in.” Though most of Kiona’s estate wines are either at or close to one hundred percent variety, Williams says a good deal of blending experimentation takes place due to the number of fractions the winery creates.

The end result of this experimentation is a lineup of high Quality-to-Price Ratio (QPR) wines that consistently outperform their price points. While at times some of the wines I sampled seemed to want a bit more structure to hold up the fruit, I was impressed by how well the wines held up. The Kiona wines remained remarkably stable over several days and in some cases improved, an admirable quality often lacking in wines at similar price points.

A New Generation

One of the challenges for an older winery is maintaining consumer attention. Wine buyers are always interested in the latest thing. An older, established winery could easily become lost among Washington’s six hundred fifty plus wineries. Kiona has looked to avoid this in a number of ways. The winery opened a new tasting facility in 2007, replacing the previous facility in the cellar of the Williams’ home. The new facility has made Kiona a more attractive destination for wine tourists. Kiona also recently launched its first wine club. The winery’s plan for the club is to focus on library releases, vertical selections (one wine over multiple years), as well as wine club-only releases.

While many Washington wineries have been reluctant to embrace or even enter the world of social media, Kiona has done the opposite. JJ Williams has spearheaded Kiona’s social media efforts. He maintains an active presence on Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, he runs a blog called The 1 Eye Wine Guy (Williams lost his left eye as a teenager). The blog is composed of video segments where Williams and his wife Molly discuss a specific Kiona wine and pair it with a dish Molly prepares. The recipes are provided on-line.

Kiona will be celebrating its thirtieth vintage in 2010. Could John Williams have imagined all those years ago what Kiona or Red Mountain would become? JJ Williams says, “According to my Dad, their original plan was ‘grow grapes, make wine, get rich and quit the day jobs.’ It didn’t quite work out that way he adds, with his grandfather retiring from General Electric in 1994. No one is complaining though. While thirty years later Kiona is now one of the elder statesmen in Washington wine, the Williams family’s dedication to experimentation makes it seem young, vibrant, and positioned to attract a new generation of wine consumers.


Kiona Estate Lemberger Red Mountain 2006 $12

Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with a nose loaded with red fruit, spice, and floral notes. A fair bit of alcohol shows at times. The taste is rich and fruit-filled with a potpourri of flowers and spice. A whole lot of wine for the money. 100% Estate Lemberger. Aged in French and American oak (25% new). 13.5% alcohol. 5,100 cases produced. Recommended.

Kiona Merlot Columbia Valley 2005 $25

Rating: * (Excellent) An intriguing nose with toasted, spicy oak aromas along with earth, dust, licorice, red fruit, and floral notes. Very much an expression of Red Mountain. A pleasing wine with a palate full of fruit and flowers. Comes off a bit sweet at times and wants a bit more structure to hold the fruit and lift up the backend. Aged 24 months in French and American oak (40% new). 13.5% alcohol. 1,220 cases produced. Note: Although this wine is labeled as Columbia Valley it is 100% Kiona Vineyard.

Kiona Zinfandel Red Mountain 2005 $25

Rating: + (Good) Surprisingly light in color for such a big wine. An appealing nose with sweet spices, licorice, earth, and red fruit. Big and intensely full, with boatloads of fruit and spice on the palate. 100% Red Mountain estate fruit. 13.5% alcohol. 327 cases produced.

Kiona Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Red Mountain 2003 $35

Rating: + (Good) An intense, aromatic wine with charred and toasted oak aromas along with floral notes, red currant, and tobacco. Green olive aromas also emerge and recede. A pretty wine that is rich and well constructed with focused red fruit. The oak gets in the way a bit at times. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French and American oak (95% new). 13.5% alcohol. 915 cases produced.

Kiona Riesling Washington State 2008 $10

Rating: + (Good) A complex nose that jumps from the glass with tangerine, mineral, and tropical fruit along with floral and acidic notes. On the taste, frizzante with a well-balanced palate. This wine works, although some may prefer a leaner style and find it a bit sweet. Kiona, Sun River, Vista, Champoux, Coyote Canyon, Olsen Brothers, Hyatt, and Willard Family Farms vineyards. 12.5% alcohol. 2.5% Residual Sugar. 11,000 cases produced. Recommended.

Kiona Chenin Blanc Ice Wine Red Mountain 2008 $25

Rating: * (Excellent) A very intriguing nose with lots of dried, sugared pineapple, floral notes, and papaya. A thick wine and rich with sugar and tropical fruit flavors. Needs to be a bit colder. Fans of the super sweet sticky will enjoy this well-priced ice wine. 100% Chenin Blanc. 26.8% Residual Sugar. 9.6% alcohol. 2,700 cases produced (375 milliliter bottles).

Samples provided by winery.
Photos courtesy of Kiona Winery and Vineyards.

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This month’s Virtual Tasting is tonight from 7-9pm! The wine is the 2008 Hedges CMS Red. This wine is widely available in retail and grocery stores and costs $12.

What you need to do to participate is:

1. Buy this month’s wine from a local retailer or from the winery

2. Post your comments/tweets on the wine tonight between 7 and 9pm. Comments can be as long or short as you want (my personal favorite comment ever was “Blech!”). A good place to start is, did you like the win
e or not? Not sure? Think about whether you would buy it again. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #WAwine during the event.

Look for regular updates to this post and comments from virtual tasters starting at 7pm tonight. Hope you'll join us.

7:15pm Update: And we're off!

First, let's start with some background about Hedges.

Hedges Family Estate is a family-run winery located in the Red Mountain AVA. Tom and Ann-Marie Hedges founded the winery in 1987. Peter Hedges, Tom’s brother, serves as winemaker and general manager. Hedges has two basic tiers of wine. The first is Hedges Family Estate wines. The second is the CMS wines. Tonight’s virtual tasting wine is the red wine from this series.

On to the wine.

7:30 Update: Popped and poured. Cork is synthetic. The wine is at 66 degrees. Put in the fridge for about 20 minutes before opening to get it down from 'room temperature.'

On the nose right off I get a fair amount of Syrah aromas which is surprising because the percentage is fairly low (more on this later). Also get a fair amount of berry. Fairly aromatic with a decent amount of barrel influence on the nose. On to the taste.

8:00 Update: Descriptions of the wine from the winery:

Dark purple in color with a nose of black cherry, cassis, with hints of tar, tobacco, and sweet vanilla toast. Black cherry and blackberry fruit continue on the palate with dried herbs and licorice. A nicely balanced wine with enough acidity and tannins to make this a more serious longer lived wine that pairs nicely with a wide array of foods.

About 63,000 cases produced.

8:25 Update: Lots of discussion going on on Twitter. Search on the hashtag #WAwine.

8:45 Update: Overall, I like the nose of the wine which is marked by berries, barrel notes, and a fair amount of Syrah aromas. Interestingly, the wine is only 6% Syrah (48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet). After the initial pour the nose becomes more muted. The taste starts off decently but then becomes fairly tart and thins out considerably, especially on the mid-palate. The nose and the palate don't seem connected. I would give this wine a dot in my rating system.

Final Update: As I mentioned earlier, lots of discussion on Twitter tonight so less updating of this post. Thanks to @DivaTink @Sturat @OR_Wine_Blog @mykrro @Shona425 @heyjenk @nwwineandre @rperro @yakyakwine @nectarwine @hardrow @WAwineman @vancdarkstar @WDWines @rexofoly @tarynmiller @HollyMHouse @KionaWine @boxboylover @lmheppner @texasgrapes for participating (apologies if I missed anybody). Search the hashtag #WAWine to see the winding and weaving thread. Thanks to those who left comments on the blog as well.

Some interesting tweets. One was about the low margin of producing wines at this price point. This wine lists for $12 and can frequently be found on sale for considerably less. After the cost of grapes, bottling, etc., how much do wineries make on wines in this category? This wine is at a high production for Washington, 63,000 cases, so the high volume offsets the low per bottle margin.

We also discussed how much everyone had paid for the wine. Prices were generally similar - about $10 to $12. One person noted having bought this for $12 listed on sale from $18 (I wrote about shenanigans like this recently).

Another discussion was around what one expects from wines at this price point - a decent daily drinker, something to serve in a party setting, something that makes a person want another glass. Personally, while I score wines independent of price, I always look for wines in the value category to match or exceed the price point. If it's an $8 wine, does it drink like an $8 wine or a $10 or $16 wine. There is a lot of competition at this price point so exceeding expectations is important.

Thanks to everyone who participated tonight. We'll do it all again next month.

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Dumas Station (WWFR 2009)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 3 comments

Reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

This is part of a report on 2009 Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend. Download a complete .pdf copy of the report here.

In 1897, James Dumas established one of Washington’s first commercial apple orchards in Dayton, Washington, a small town about twenty miles east of Walla Walla. More than one hundred years later, in 2003, Jay DeWitt and Doug Harvey started a winery in one of Dumas’ former apple packing sheds and named the winery in his honor - Dumas Station.

A fourth generation farmer and native of Walla Walla, Jay DeWitt earned an Agronomy degree (a branch of agriculture that deals with crop production and soil management) from Washington State University before moving to California to work as a crop consultant. It was there, drinking the wines of Napa and Sonoma, that DeWitt’s passion for wine – and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular - was formed.

DeWitt’s partner Doug Harvey also grew up in Walla Walla. Similar to DeWitt, Harvey’s love of wine came about living in California. At that point, Walla Walla was all about apples and wheat rather than wine. While they grew up in the same area and both lived in California for many years, Dewitt and Harvey did not meet until both returned to Walla Walla – DeWitt to raise a family and help his father farm wheat and Harvey to “slow down, travel and enjoy my wine collection” (hear hear).

DeWitt and Harvey met on the golf course where they quickly discovered their mutual passion for wine. By that time, DeWitt had turned his focus to winemaking. He made his first wine in 1998, destemming by hand one hundred fifty pounds of Merlot from Spring Valley Vineyard on the dining room floor with his wife Debbie. He says that it “wasn’t great wine, but good enough to encourage another try.” In 2002, DeWitt and Harvey made their first wine together, a “garagiste” effort. When DeWitt asked Harvey about his interest in starting a commercial winery, Harvey agreed to join DeWitt on the venture on one condition - “if we did it ourselves - and that meant everything.” The two spent all of 2003 doing the carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work needed to “have a place to follow the dream.” Dumas Station made its first commercial vintage in 2003, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot of outrageously high Quality-to-Price Ratios (QPR).

Like many, Dewitt believes that wines are made in the vineyard. It is for this reason that Dumas Station grows its own grapes, with the vast majority coming from Minnick Hills Vineyard (the winery also sources small amounts of fruit from Birch Creek Vineyard and Breezy Slope Vineyard). DeWitt worked with the Minnick Family in 1999 to establish their Walla Walla Valley vineyard. He subsequently became vineyard manager. DeWitt says, “As a winemaker I am a non-interventionist. My goal is to capture the uniqueness of the vineyard and vintage. As a grower I am much the opposite. I do everything I can to intensify the color and flavor of the grapes.”

Dumas Station’s 2006 vintage releases mark an expansion of the winery’s portfolio. The winery has released their first reserve wine – a Cabernet Sauvignon – as well as their first table wine – the Cow Catcher Red. As with previous vintages, the winery’s current releases deliver quality that exceeds their price points. At the entry level, the 2006 Cow Catcher Red Wine is a QPR standout at $19. At the top level, the winery’s Reserve is a dark, intense wine with gorgeous fruit and beautiful barrel accents. This wine only improved over several days and promises to evolve and mature over the next ten to fifteen years.

Dumas Station produces 1,000 cases annually. Wines were sampled at Merchants in Walla Walla where the winery was pouring for Fall Release and were sampled at 68 degrees (Note: The Reserve wine was resampled at 64 degrees as a bottle sample provided by the winery).

Dumas Station Cabernet Sauvignon Minnick Hills Reserve Walla Walla Valley 2006 $60
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark and opaque. Pencil lead, brambly black fruit, licorice, and light herbal aromas mark the nose. A touch of chocolate and light anise emerges and recedes. Rich and loaded with fruit on the palate along with silky oak and light stem flavors. An extended finish that rolls and evolves. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 7% Petit Verdot. 100% Minnick Hills Vineyard. 15.3% alcohol. 95 cases produced.

Dumas Station Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006 $32

Rating: * (Excellent)
An exciting nose with coffee, spice, black cherry, dust, and light herbal streaks. Excellently balanced on the palate with a persistent finish. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. 100% Minnick Hills Vineyard. 15.0% alcohol. 490 cases produced.

Dumas Station Cow Catcher Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2006 $19

Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent)
A fun, enticing nose marked by ground black licorice and cherries. The palate delivers on this high QPR effort. 100% Minnick Hills Vineyard. 15% alcohol. 240 cases produced.

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Woodward Canyon (WWFR 2009)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 0 comments

Reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

This is part of a report on 2009 Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend. Download a complete .pdf copy of the report here.

Woodward Canyon was established in 1981 by Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small. As one of the earliest wineries in the Walla Walla Valley (the winery itself is located in Lowden), Woodward Canyon has a track record of quality that few Washington wineries can boast.

Although Woodward Canyon crafts excellent white wines, it is the reds the winery is best known for. These wines possess tremendous cellaring potential. In terms of red wines, Woodward Canyon produces wines across the range of price points. At the low end is the Nelms Road label which accounts for about forty percent of the winery’s total production. Woodward Canyon also produces an estate Dolcetto ($20, not sampled here), an Italian variety rarely seen in Washington. For those visiting the winery, Woodward Canyon also makes a Red Wine ($20) from declassified barrels. This wine is among the best values in the state.

At the higher end, Woodward Canyon also has an impressive lineup. The Artist Series – now in its fifteenth release – features a new label each year with work from a Pacific Northwest artist. The Estate Red is a Bordeaux blend that features a large percentage of Cabernet Franc, Woodward Canyon’s tribute to Cheval Blanc. The winery also makes a vineyard-designated bottling from Charbonneau Vineyard in years that warrant it. Woodward Canyon has been using fruit from this vineyard, located in the northwestern section of Walla Walla County, since 1984. The 2007 vintage Charbonneau, released Fall Release Weekend, is another exceptional wine from this vineyard.

If there is one criticism of Woodward Canyon, it is that many of their reds take several years to become approachable. However, for those with the patience, the wines are more than worth the wait. More recent vintages seem to show a bit better in their youth without losing their long-term potential.

Woodward Canyon also produces high quality white wines. Unfortunately, those sampled on this visit were too warm (73 degrees) to be properly evaluated and are therefore not listed here.

Woodward Canyon produces approximately 17,000 cases annually. Approximately 7,000 cases of this are under the Nelms Road label. All wines sampled at 73 degrees.

Woodward Canyon Red Wine NV
$19
Rating: +
(Good) A whole lot of barrel aromas on the nose along with jammy fruit. Tart on the palate with red licorice and red, brambly fruit. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 3% Barbera, 2% Grenache, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol.

Nelms Road Merlot Washington State 2007
$20
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Not a particularly aromatic nose that is marked by mint, dust, and spice. Sharp and biting on the palate, but perhaps due to the high temperature. 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah, 3% Barbera, and 3% Dolcetto. Spring Creek, Lodmell, Champoux, DuBrul, Sagemoor, and Woodward Canyon vineyards. 14.1% alcohol. 2,679 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon
Artist Series #15 Cabernet Sauvignon WA State 2006 $49
Rating:
* (Excellent) Nose marked by mint, tobacco leaf, pencil shavings, and red, jammy fruit. Plush and full on the palate. A very enjoyable wine. Shows a bit of alcohol at this temperature. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, and 1% Merlot. Champoux, DuBrul, Sagemoor, Woodward Canyon Estate, and Charbonneau Vineyards. 14.5% alcohol. 2,472 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon
Estate Red Walla Walla Valley 2006 $59
Rating:
*/** (Excellent/Exceptional) Lots of cherry, Red Vines, and jammy red fruit on the nose. Packed full of fruit and tannins on the taste. Palate is a bit compact at the moment but will spread out. Give 3-5 years. 42% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Petit Verdot. 100% Estate vineyard. 14.8% alcohol. 294 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon
Charbonneau Red Wine Walla Walla County 2007 $69
Rating: **
(Exceptional) A bit muted on the nose at present with graphite, raspberries, and other red fruit. The taste delivers with abundant red fruit and an endless finish. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot. 100% Charbonneau Vineyard. 13.8% alcohol. 150 cases produced.

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Reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

After a lengthy delay due to a format redesign, below is a summary of my 2009 Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend report. Additional sections of the report will be posted to the blog in the coming days. Download a complete .pdf copy of the report here (Note: Hyperlinks within the .pdf are not currently working).

2009 Fall Release Weekend Walla Walla Report Summary

17 wineries visited, Over 90 wines reviewed

The first weekend in November has long been referred to as ‘Cayuse Weekend.’ For many years, members of Cayuse Vineyards’ mailing list have been traveling to Walla Walla Valley that weekend to pick up the winery’s new releases and sample next year’s offerings. With so many people passing through town – people who are clearly wine buyers - other wineries began opening for the weekend as well. Soon an unofficial event weekend formed. In 2009, the first weekend in November officially became branded as Fall Release Weekend.

This was my first time traveling to Walla Walla for this event. Most years I have attended Walla Walla Valley Holiday Barrel Tasting the first weekend in December instead. This year, I decided to mix it up a bit and see what Fall Release Weekend was all about.

The first weekend in November is a good time to travel to wine country. The roads and passes are less likely to be blocked by snow or avalanche hazard in comparison to December. Additionally, wineries have recently finished harvest and crush, so Fall Release Weekend provides an opportunity to hear winemakers’ first impressions of the vintage. As previously noted, for Walla Walla as with other areas, this year’s harvest was notable for the compression of the harvest schedule and for the October frost. Some Walla Walla winemakers reported being quite pleased with the results; some were taking a wait-and-see approach; and some reported being a bit skeptical. However, such pronouncements can often have as much to do with personality (and marketing) as anything specific to the harvest itself. As always, only time will tell.

At this year’s Fall Release there was a good deal of buzz (more than usual, that is) surrounding K Vintners’ Charles Smith. Smith had recently been named ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by Wine & Spirits magazine. At Fall Release Weekend Smith was releasing his 2006 Charles Smith Royal City Syrah. Wine Enthusiast had previously awarded this wine a 100-point rating. While some privately griped about all the attention Smith was receiving (or more specifically about the billboard with a close-up of Smith’s face off Highway 12 and the Rolls Royce he was driving around town), an equal number were pleased with the attention Walla Walla’s winemakers and their wines have been garnering.

The valley has over 100 wineries, so it is not possible to visit all of them even over several weekends. As always, I tried on this trip to visit wineries I had gone to before, as well as wineries that were new/new to me. New wineries I visited included Castillo de Feliciana, El Corazon, Plumb Cellars, Rasa Vineyards, Reynvaan Family Vineyards, and Robison Ranch Cellars.

Castillo de Feliciana is a new winery south of downtown Walla Walla. The winery was founded by Sam and Deborah Castillo. Ryan Raber, formerly of Tertulia Cellars, serves as winemaker. El Corazon was founded by Spencer Sievers and Raoul Morfin. El Corazon focuses on varietal bottlings of less common grapes – such as Carmenère and Cabernet Franc. The winery also ages its wine in mostly neutral oak. The results are pure expression of the variety. Plumb Cellars is a new winery founded by a group of friends. The winery’s first releases include three red wines, a Merlot, a Cabernet, and a ‘Damn Straight’ Red Wine. Rasa Vineyards is a new winery founded by brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane. The winery has released two Syrah-based wines, one called QED and one called Principia. Both of Rasa’s inaugural releases are among the most exciting new wines in Washington State.

While the valley seemed fairly crowded as it does on any major event weekend, the crowd seemed a bit more focused on the wine than unusual. Indeed, many were in town to pick up their Cayuse wines. A number of people wore buttons marking the thirteenth anniversary of Cayuse Vineyards. Although Fall Release Weekend was born out of Cayuse Vineyards’ release event, starting in 2010 Cayuse will no longer be participating in the event. Cayuse announced last month that they will be moving their release event from November to April, with the next event in 2011. Time will tell how this affects the number and nature of the visitors on Fall Release Weekend.

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Taste Washington

Thursday, February 18, 2010 4 comments

Reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

They say Christmas comes but once a year. For Washington wine lovers though, this year it comes in both March and December.

This year’s Taste Washington is March 27th and 28th. Put on each year by the Washington Wine Commission, this is the state’s premier wine event. The weekend is broken up into two days. The first day features a series of educational seminars. This year’s seminars include:

Boushey Vineyard
- Recently noted by Paul Gregutt as his favorite Washington Syrah vineyard, this seminar focuses on how this vineyard expresses itself in the glass.

Food and Wine pairing
– Acclaimed chef Tom Douglas will lead this pairing seminar. Attendees will get to vote on which pairing works best, Tom’s or the Somm’s.

Quilceda Creek
– Alex Golitzin from Washington’s heralded Quilceda Creek will join a panel discussion on the flavor differences of the two AVAs – Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills - that comprise their award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons.

Which One’s Washington?
– Get a primer on blind wine tasting from a panel of experts. Audience members will get to guess which wines are from Washington State.

Mighty Malbec
– Malbec has emerged as a hot new variety in Washington. Find out what makes this grape so distinctive in here.

Washington’s Icons of Tomorrow
– Everyone always asks, “What’s the next great Washington winery?” Find out here and see if you agree.

The Value Challenge
– Compare wines from around the world with their Washington counterparts with the same price point. Which provides the better value? You decide!

Read more about each of these seminars here.

The second day of Taste Washington is the Grand Tasting. Washington now boasts 650+ wineries. Over 200 of them are pouring at this event (see a list of participating wineries and wines being poured here). Approximately 75 local restaurants will be serving food as well.

I have been increasingly excited about this event but never more so than after a tweetup tonight at El Gaucho hosted by the Washington Wine Commission (search on the hashtag #TasteWA to see the discussion). The event featured wines from Long Shadows, DeLille, Woodward Canyon, àMaurice, Barrage, Betz, Januik, Pepper Bridge, Beresan, Cadence, Dusted Valley, Waters, and Col Solare. While the wines from these wineries were exhilarating, this represents only the smallest fraction of wineries pouring at Taste Washington. Every year I come away with a treasure trove of new wines and wineries.

Tickets for the seminars (which sell out quickly I might add) vary in price and are on sale here. Tickets for the Grand Tasting are $75 (4-7pm) and $125 (2-7pm) and are on sale through select retailers (avoid the fees) and Ticketmaster (pay the fees).

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Reminder that this month's Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

Chris Dowsett was in junior high school when his family purchased a small vineyard in Forest Grove, Oregon. During school breaks he would work at the vineyard and, later, at the winery. He made his first wine with his father in 1983 – ten gallons of an Oregon Gewürztraminer.

Flash forward to 2007. After working in California, Oregon, and Washington, Dowsett was working as the resident winemaker at Artifex, a custom crush facility in Walla Walla. As part of the position he was able to produce 300 cases of his own wine. Dowsett Family Winery was born.

Over the years Dowsett has maintained a passion for the grape he made his first wine from. “I love a dry Gewürztraminer, with good acidity…It works so well with foods that sometimes are difficult matches with wine. Try it with spicy Thai or Mexican, salty foods like Ham or other cured meats or seafood like Scallops or clams,” he says. In addition to the Gewürztraminer, Dowsett also makes a Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre blend called Devotion Red.

Dowsett currently works at Walla Walla’s Buty Winery, assisting winemaker Caleb Foster. Future Dowsett wines will be made at this facility. While he says he would like to make a bit more of his white wine, Dowsett wants to keep the winery very small.

A fingerprint adorns the Dowsett Family Winery label. In choosing the family name for the winery Dowsett says, "We wanted something that would be reflective of the fact that we were a small family winery, that focused on producing a few wines that were grown, fermented and supplied with packaging by people we considered friends or family."

The 2008 Dowsett Gewürztraminer hails from Celilo Vineyard. Located in the Columbia Gorge, Celilo is one of the premier sites for white wine grapes in Washington State. The vines for Dowsett’s 2008 wine come from a block planted in 1984. Unlike most vineyard managers in the state who have to irrigate their vines, Rick Ensmenger and his team at Celilo are able to dry farm this block and others due to the higher-than-average rainfall of the area.

Both the age of the vines and the experience of the winemaker with this grape show on this sensational effort. I purchased this wine from Full Pull Wines which continues to impress with their weekly, handpicked offerings (and take a bite out of my wallet I might add).

Dowsett Family Winery Gewürztraminer Columbia Gorge 2008 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) A thrilling nose with loads of floral aromas, melon, apples, and acidic notes. Crisp and acidic with a dollop of grapefruit on the palate. An excellent wine that demands food to be fully appreciated. 100% Gewürztraminer. 13.9% alcohol. 100 cases produced.

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This month’s Virtual Tasting will be the 2008 Hedges CMS Red. This Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah blend is widely available in retail and grocery stores and costs $12. The tasting will take place on Thursday February 25th from 7 to 9pm.

What you need to do to participate:

1. Buy this month’s wine from a local retailer or from the winery

2. Post your comments/tweets on Thursday February 25th between 7 and 9pm. Comments can be as long or short as you want (my personal favorite comment ever was “Blech!”). A good place to start is, did you like the wine or not? Not sure? Think about whether you would buy it again. For those of you on Twitter, I will be using the hashtag #wawine.

See posts from previous Virtual Tastings below.

January Columbia Crest Grand Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

December '09 Virtual Tasting - Brian Carter Cellars Abracadabra 2007

November '09 Virtual Tasting - Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet 2007

October '09 Virtual Tasting – Owen Roe Sinister Hand 2008

September '09 Virtual Tasting – Novelty Hill Cabernet CV 2006

August '09 Virtual Tasting – Barnard Griffin Cabernet 2007

July '09 Virtual Tasting – Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2008

June '09 Virtual Tasting - Waterbrook Melange Noir 2006

May '09 Virtual Tasting - Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah 2007

April
'09 Virtual Tasting- Columbia Crest GE Shiraz 2006

March '09 Virtual Tasting - Magnificent Wine Co. House Wine 2006

February '09 Virtual Tasting - Hedges CMS Red 2007

January '09 Virtual Tasting - Columbia Crest GE Merlot 2006

December '08 Virtual Tasting - Ch. Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Cab 2005

November '08 Virtual Tasting - Russell Creek Tributary Red 2006

October '08 Virtual Tasting- Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet 2006

September '08 Virtual Tasting - Tamarack Firehouse Red 2006

August '08 Virtual Tasting- L'Ecole No. 41 Recess Red 2006

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from February 8th to 14th.


From around the country


The Wall Street Journal writes about efforts to change state liquor laws across the country, including recent efforts in Washington.

The Pottstown, Pennsylvania Mercury writes about Magnificent Wine Co.’s House Wine.


From the blogosphere


In preparation for this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Paul Gregutt does a week of stories on essential Washington varietals starting with Riesling then moving on to Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet, and Syrah.

The Oregon Wine Blog
writes about Dusted Valley Vintners. They also write about Cabernet Franc, with callouts to Kestrel, Tamarack Cellars, Dusted Valley, and Gamache, and the Exotic Wines Festival put on by Seattle Uncorked.

Seattle Wine Gal
writes about the social media benefits of tweetups.

WAWineman
writes about the 2007 Kennedy Shah Tempranillo. He also writes about K Vintners 2007 El Jefe.

Through the Walla Walla Grapevine
weighs in on the importance of social media.

Wine Peeps
writes about the WBC or Bust campaign sponsored by WineChatr leading up to this year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference. John ticks a couple Washington wines off his bucket list. Kori writes about Saviah Cellars’ 2006 Une Vallee and the 2006 Mackay Duck Press Red.

Beyond the Bottle
also writes about the WBC-or-Bust campaign where wine bloggers can wine a road trip to this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference. Thad also writes about the 2007 Vin du Lac “Lehm” Dry Riesling.

Yak Yak Wine
writes about Jones of Washington. Chris also writes about VineHeart’s Tempranillo.

Woodinville Wine Update
continues its series on weddings at wineries writing about DeLille Cellars, Januik, and JM Cellars. Shona also writes about the Cooper Winery Co. and Northwest Totem Cellars tweetups.

Wine and Beer of Washington State
writes about the 2008 Rulo Birch Creek Chardonnay. They also write about the 2003 Northstar Merlot, Walter Dacon Wines, and a Washington Wine Super Fan contest.

Wine Muse
writes about Woodslake 2006 Syrah.

Palate Press
lists its favorite wines of 2009 with a callout to Gramercy Cellars 2007 Inigo Montoyra Tempranillo.

Schiller Wine
writes about the Poet’s Leap Riesling.

Write for Wine
writes about the WBC-or-Bust campaign. Margot also writes about Trio Vintners.

Dr. Vino
asks whether the recession could lead to a liberalization of wine laws in state’s such as Washington.

Zino Vino
writes about lunch with Allen Shoup.

Wine Tonite!
does a blind tasting of Washington reds with callouts to Buty, Apex, Bridgman, DeLille, Terra Blanca, and Januil.

Drinks Daily
writes about Domaine Ste. Michelle.

Mr. Goldfinger
writes about Washington wine country.

Pacific Northwest wine, beer, and food ramblings
writes about the 2005 Hogue Terroir Cabernet.


From the locals


The Olympian
writes about the Washington House approving beer and wine tastings in grocery stores.

The Yakima Herald writes about last week’s red wine and chocolate weekend as does The Columbian.

The Kitsap Sun writes about a new Bainbridge winery, Fletcher Bay Winery.

The Everett Herald writes about Everett rethinking its approach to boutique wineries.

KATU
writes about the potential privatization of liquor distribution in Washington.

KNDO writes about Valentine's day weekend in the Yakima Valley.

That’s all folks!

See something about Washington wine that I missed? Send the link to wawinereport@gmail.com and I will include it in the next round-up.

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While highly regarded and highly rated, Washington red wines have had something of a glass ceiling in Wine Spectator over the years. As noted previously, ninety-six points has been a high water mark for Washington in this publication. In fact, of the many Washington wines reviewed by Wine Spectator each year, only seven wines from three wineries - Cayuse, Leonetti, and Cote Bonneville - have even received a score of 96 points. This spans over 4,000 wine reviews.

This is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather it is an indication of the rare air of such scores in this publication. To wit, in the most recent twelve months, only 38 out of 6,127 red wines reviewed by Wine Spectator have received scores of 97 points or higher (0.6% for those keep track at home). That said, no Washington wine has ever been in that group.

Until now.

In its upcoming issue Wine Spectator has awarded Charles Smith’s 2006 Royal City Syrah a 97 point rating. This makes it the highest rated Washington red wine by this publication. The 2006 Royal City Syrah, released last November and sold out long before that, received a 100 point rating from Wine Enthusiast – its first for a Washington wine – and a 98 point rating from Wine Advocate. This is, quite simply, a recording breaking wine. It is also another feather in the quill-filled cap of winemaker Charles Smith who was also named Wine & Spirits ‘Winemaker of the Year’ in 2009.

This rating continues an unprecedented string of recent accolades for Washington wine, most prominently Wine Spectator’s naming the Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon its ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2009. While some may wonder about the overall significance of such scores and accomplishments, have no doubt. Consumers, retailers, distributors, restaurants, and others who impact the wine industry take notice.

So what does all this increased attention mean? It means Washington is entering a new phase in its development as a world-class wine region. Buckle yourself in and enjoy the ride.

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Cooper Wine Company

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 6 comments

Cooper Wine Company, located on Red Mountain, is a new winery that had its first releases at the end of 2009. The winery is named after owner Neil Cooper. Cooper had been working in the farming and seed business for ten years when he felt it was time for a change. With lots of involvement from “corporate America” as well as a downturn in the economy resulting in a surplus of seeds, he began to look elsewhere. Sometimes bad circumstances provide the best inspiration. “As the economy continued to remain uncertain, I made an inconceivable decision to shut down farming operations and put all resources into the wine business on Red Mountain,” he says.

Cooper met Fidelitas winemaker Charlie Hoppes in 2002 through a mutual friend. When he decided to enter the wine business, turning to Hoppes as consulting winemaker was a logical choice. Enthusiastic, humble, and immediately likeable, Cooper - Coop to his friends - describes himself as a novice at winemaking saying “I am…on a very quick learning curve.” While he expects his influence on winemaking decisions to grow over time, he intends to continue to take advantage of other’s expertise in the future.


Cooper Wine Company focuses mainly on Bordeaux-style reds using fruit from exceptional vineyard sources including Champoux, Weinbau, Boushey, and Stillwater. The winery has released three wines from the Columbia Valley: a Pinot Gris, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Bordeaux-style blend called L’Inizio (“the beginning”). A Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Windrow Vineyard will be released in the future which Cooper is extremely excited about. Fans of Charlie Hoppes style will notice his hand here on these intensely flavorful, focused wines.


The winery has an eight acre estate vineyard with plans to plant an additional ten acres. The vineyard, located on Sunset Road on Red Mountain, is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Cooper brings an extensive background in agriculture, and he is excited to work with his estate fruit. “With a three generation agricultural background, I am very close to the dirt. Having a small estate vineyard and open ground to plant more, I am able to keep to my roots.”


Cooper Wine Company made 500 cases in its first vintage (2007), 1,000 in its second, and 1,650 last fall. Cooper anticipates reaching about 2,500 over time. The winery is set to have its grand opening in April.


Cooper Wine Co. Pinot Gris Columbia Valley 2008 $20

Rating:
* (Excellent) An appealing nose with tropical fruit and light spices. The palate has a very pleasing weight to it without being heavy. A healthy dollop of fruit rounds out this perfect summer wine. 100% Pinot Gris. Goose Ridge Vineyard. Aged mostly in stainless steel. 100 cases produced. Sampled at 63 degrees.

Cooper Wine Co.
L'inizio Columbia Valley
2007 $40
Rating:
* (Excellent) Nose marked by coffee, vanilla, cherry, and light oak spices. A creamy mouthfeel on a wine that is richly flavored with fruit. Shows a fair amount of oak aromas and flavors at times, especially as it warms up. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. Weinbau, Conner Lee, Northridge, Champoux, Stillwater, Red Mountain, and Boushey Vineyards. Aged in new French (60%) and American oak (40%). 14.9% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sampled at 64 degrees.

Cooper Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $35

Rating:
* (Excellent) A subtle nose with cherry, light oak spices, and high toned coffee notes. Tightly compact with rich cherry fruit on the taste. Finish lingers. Needs time to open up and expand but a beautiful wine that is a pure expression of Washington Cabernet. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in new French (60%) and American oak (40%). 14.8% alcohol. 96 case produced. Sampled at 67 degrees.

Note: Wines sampled as part of a ‘Tweetup’ of Seattle-area tweeters. The tasting took place in Bothell at Russell’s Dining (@RussellsDining) and was set up by @DivaTink with @coop_cwc pouring the wines. Attendees were @SeattleWineGal @TarynMiller @Shona425 @NicoleEvents @YasharSeattle @LittleBlue (let me know if I missed anybody). The tasting used the hashtag #coopwine.

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Fresh back from a trip to the east coast I bring you...

A round-up of stories on Washington wine from February 1st to 7th.


From around the country


MSNBC writes about Washington considering getting out of the liquor business. This AP story is picked up all over the country.

The Anchorage Daily News recommends Ch. Ste. Michelles HHH Sauvignon Blanc.

PRWeb publishes a press release on Washington trying to expand its presence in foreign markets.

Wines & Vines writes about the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.


From the blogosphere


Drink Nectar does a poll asking what Washington’s signature grape is. Josh Wade also writes about Liberty Lake Winery and passes out some monthly honors for January. He also does a collaboration on Kiona wines with The Wine Whore.

Beyond the Bottle
writes about Vin du Lac’s 2008 Vie! Viognier. Thad also writes about Pacific Rim’s Sweet Riesling.

Schiller Wine
writes about Ernst Loosen.

WINO Magazine
writes about Woodinville Wine Cellars Sean Body.

Through the Walla Walla Grapevine
writes about Tom Maccarone and Jake Crenshaw buying Walla Walla’s beloved Merchants.

Ambassador of Wine writes about L’Ecole No. 41’s 2007 Seven Hills Vineyard Merlot.

Woodinville Wine Update
does a series on Woodinville winery wedding ideas. See one on Columbia Winery here. Shona also writes about the latest Walla Walla winery to enter the Woodinville scene, Otis Kenyon.

FoodWineTravel writes about Northwest wines with a look at wines from Champoux vineyard.

The Oregon Wine Blog looks at Matthews Cellars. The also write about Grenache with callouts to Dusted Valley and K Vintners.

Wine and Beer of Washington State
writes about Gamache Vintners 2004 Estate Syrah and 2006 Boulder Red. They also announce the results of their reader poll on top tasting rooms with callouts to Walter Dacon, Kiona, Hard Row to Hoe, Alexandria Nicole, and Benson Vineyards.

Wine Peeps writes about Washington wine available in San Francisco.

Write for Wine writes about L’Ecole No. 41.

Yak Yak Wine writes about Red Mountain’s Cooper. Chris also writes about Maison Bleue and Tucker Cellars.

Spirit of Wine writes about the 2006 Shimmer Shiraz Merlot.

Wine Muse writes about Gilbert Cellars Allobroges.

Wine Book Club writes about L’Ecole No. 41.

One Rich Wine Guy writes about O Wines.

The Wine Dog Review writes about the Gorge in winter.

WAWineman writes about the 2007 Pomum Cellars Tinto. He also writes about Gramercy Cellars 2007 Tempranillo, Albacela’s 2007 Cuvee Tempranillo, and Ross Andrew’s 2008 Pinot Gris.

Wine and Spirits Guide does a video post on Waters Interlude.

Family Wineries of Washington State
gives a legislative update.

Wine Tonite!
does a Washington wine tasting.

RJ’s Wine Blog
posts some wine tasting notes, including ones from Woodward Canyon, Terra Blanca, Long Shadows, and Tamarack.


From the locals


The Eastern Oregonian writes about O Wines.

The Star On-line writes about a new winery getting started in the Grand Coulee area.

The Tri-City Herald writes about the potential for sustainable practices to grow wine sales. They also write about the continued good fortunes of the Washington wine industry despite the economy and consumers shifting to value wines.

KVEW writes about a meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. KNDO also writes about this as does Good Fruit Grower.

Woehler
writes about Kennewick’s St. Joseph’s wine tasting. Barnard Griffin and Kiona walk away with top honors with Anelare and Snoqualmie also receiving gold medals.

Wine Press NW
remembers Tom Stockley, author of Winery Trails of the Pacific Northwest.

The Snohomish County Business Journal writes about Puget Sound wineries and tasting rooms.


Leftovers (articles I missed from previous weeks)


Seattle Wine Blog
gives an unofficial classification of Washington wineries.

Washington Wine Guy
checks out some Wednesday wines, with callouts to Cayuse and Quilceda Creek.

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