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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:
  • To help you select Pacific Northwest wines at a variety of price levels
  • To keep you up-to-date about the Northwest’s wineries, vineyards, and individuals
  • To help you plan trips to wine country
  • To connect you to the larger wine community

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Five Under Fifteen - April

Friday, April 30, 2010 12 comments







From the heart of Washington wine country, in tough times, we continue the search for good, inexpensive wines.

For this month’s Five Under Fifteen, I thought I would write a bit about labels. For many, wine is as much about what is on the outside of the bottle as what is inside it. This is especially true for wines in the value category. Wineries look for a variety of ways to catch people’s attention with label design. However, what I am always interested to see is what wineries put on the back label. Many wineries use the back of the bottle to try to express something about the wine or the winery. Here are a few examples of different types of back-of-bottle approaches from this month's wines.

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The Seattle Wine Awards

Thursday, April 29, 2010 5 comments

The Seattle Wine Awards was started by Christopher Chan in 2006. Chan, a certified sommelier, serves as Director of Wine & Spirits at Seattle's Rainier Club. He says his goal each year is to identify and recognize the Northwest’s best wines.

To do so, Chan has tasting panels sample through hundreds of wines over several days. Each panel is composed of five people, including local sommeliers and long-time industry leaders such as Jay Schiering (Mccarthy & Schiering), Phillip Dunn (Canlis), Jeff Fournier (Esquin), Jake Kosseff (Wild Ginger Restaurants), and Amy Mumma (Central Washington University).

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In honor of spring, this month's Virtual Tasting wine is the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This wine retails for $12 and is widely available. The tasting takes place tonight from 7-9pm Pacific Time.

What you need to do to participate is:

1. Buy the wine from a local retailer or from the winery

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Reminder that April's Virtual Tasting will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. The tasting will take place on Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm. Read more about it here.

Recently I wrote a post encouraging Washington wineries to become involved in Social Media. Something I believe discourages involvement is a number of myths about wineries, Social Media, and their interactions. Here’s a list of the ones I hear most frequently.

MYTH #1:
“If I just produce great wine, I can expect to be discovered and whisked away to the magic wine kingdom by some anointed wine writer or by a uniquely intelligent customer base.”

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Reminder that April's Virtual Tasting will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. The tasting will take place on Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm. Read more about it here.

A round-up of articles on Washington wine from April 15th to 21st.

From around the country…


No love this week.

From the blogosphere…

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What follows is a Focus report on Doubleback. Download a .pdf version of this report here. Read previous Focus reports here.

To whoever first said ‘There’s no going home again,’ this one is for you.

Drew Bledsoe grew up in Walla Walla, a small town in the southeastern section of Washington State. Unbeknownst to him as a child, four hundred yards from where he lived was one of the state’s finest wineries, Leonetti Cellar. This winery would ignite what is now a thriving wine community in the Walla Walla Valley. Today the region encompasses over one hundred wineries and makes some of Washington’s best wines. Bledsoe also did not know growing up that people at Leonetti Cellar would play an integral role in his future.

Chris Figgins, the son of Leonetti founder Gary Figgins, was two years behind Bledsoe in school. While the two did not know each other particularly well growing up, Walla Walla was then and remains now a small town. Bledsoe and Figgins’ lives intersected in innumerable ways. Bledsoe’s mother was Chris’ junior high school English teacher. Bledsoe’s father, a teacher and football coach, gave motivational speeches Figgins vividly recalls to this day. The message was to aim high. It was a lesson Figgins internalized.

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San Juan Vineyards

Thursday, April 22, 2010 0 comments

Reminder that April's Virtual Tasting will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. The tasting will take place on Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm. Read more about it here.

San Juan Vineyards is located in Friday Harbor, Washington on San Juan Island. The winery’s tasting room is located in a schoolhouse established in 1896. San Juan Vineyards and winery were established exactly one hundred years later by Tim Judkins and the late Steve Swanberg. Yvonne Swanberg now runs the winery, “living out my late husband’s dream.”

San Juan Vineyards first vintage was in 2000 with thirty-five cases of Madeleine Angevine from their estate vineyard. This wine, along with the Siegerrebe, which is also from estate fruit, are the signature wines for the winery. They account for thirty percent of San Juan Vineyards’ overall production.

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Reminder that April's Virtual Tasting will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. The tasting will take place on Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm. Read more about it here.

Creating an excellent $70 bottle of wine may not necessarily be easy, but it’s significantly easier than creating a wine of similarly high quality at half or a quarter of that price. However, in the current economic climate where consumers are acutely focused on both price and value, it is increasingly important for wineries to not only try to meet expectations but also to beat them. It is equally important to do so at reasonable prices.

One winery that has thus far consistently met this challenge is Tranche Cellars. Tranche Cellars, located in Walla Walla, is the second of three wineries founded by Michael Corliss and Lauri Darneille. The first, Corliss Estates, opened in 2008 to much fanfare, producing some of the year’s best wines. The third winery, RMV Cellars, will have its first release this spring.

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


From Around the Country


The Chicago Tribune writes about Charles Smith.

Business Week
writes about Betz Family Winery.

Wine Spectator writes about Washington trying to lure wine tourists.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette picks up last week’s Seattle Times story about Bainbridge wineries as do numerous other outlets.

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Like many a wine lover, I was raised on cork. I loved the experience of opening a bottle of wine. I loved the sound. I loved the ‘romance’ of it all.

While I noted over the years the various alternative closures being used, I never took much interest in them. Screw caps? Screw that! I love my cork. Vino Loks? Vino what? Forget about it.

This was my mantra for years. I heard the discussion that was going on but always thought that cork had won the battle or had at least won the battle with me.

Until now.

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The Figgins family has already left an indelible mark on the Washington wine industry. Gary and Nancy Figgins founded Leonetti Cellar in 1977. The winery was the first in the Walla Walla Valley, which now is home to over one hundred wineries.

Leonetti, which has a thirty-plus year history of producing some of Washington’s finest wines, is also one of the few wineries in the state with a second generation Washington winemaker. Gary and Nancy’s son Chris Figgins began working at the winery in 1996. Figgins now holds the position of Chief Executive Officer and Director of Winemaking.

So after more than thirty years of winemaking and with a new generation at the helm, what will the family do for an encore?

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Read the Twitter stream of my #socialwine interview by @CraigSutton where we discussed wine blogging.

In honor of spring, our April Virtual Tasting wine will be the 2009 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. This wine retails for $12 and is widely available. The tasting will take place on Wednesday, April 28th from 7-9pm Pacific Time.

What you need to do to participate is:

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

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España ha llegado a Washington!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 2 comments

Reminder to join me tonight at 6pm PT for an interview by Craig Sutton. The interview will take place on Twitter using the hashtag #socialwine. Read more about it including how to send in your questions here.

Spain has arrived in Washington! So says Doug McCrea.

At McCrea Cellars, Doug McCrea has been one of Washington wine’s pioneers, continuously exploring new grape varieties in partnership with Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards. After several decades of exploring Rhone grapes, McCrea has now set his sites on Spanish varieties.

McCrea’s new venture, Salida Wines, gets its name from the Spanish word to ‘exit’ or ‘leave.’ For McCrea, the term is a metaphor for the fall harvest. Salida Wines had its beginnings in the fall of 2006. That year, Doug McCrea received one ton of Tempranillo. Fruit for this wine came from Two Coyote Vineyard. This vineyard, which produced its first fruit that same year, is located northwest of Zillah in the Yakima Valley.

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


From Around the Country…


Wines and Vines writes about Taste Washington and marketing Washington wines.

WineBusiness.com writes about Cadaretta winemaker Virginie Bourgue leaving to focus on her own winery. Bourgue will continue to consult for the winery.

Palm Beach Post
writes about Whitman Cellars 2005 Cabernet.

The Sacramento Bee republishes a story from the Seattle Times about Bainbridge wineries.

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Last June I wrote about a number of Walla Walla wineries contemplating opening tasting rooms in Woodinville. Since that time the list of wineries has greatly expanded and now includes wineries from throughout Washington State. Woodinville, already home to more than forty-five wineries and tasting rooms, has seen an additional ten facilities open recently in the area. Wineries that have opened tasting rooms include Airfield Estates, Alder Ridge, Cañon del Sol, Dusted Valley, Eaton Hill, Gifford Hirlinger, Goose Ridge, Isenhower, Otis Kenyon, and Tefft. Amavi, Pepper Bridge, and Zerba plan to open tasting rooms in the near future. More are sure to follow (the steady influx has been well documented by Woodinville Wine Update).

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

Reynvaan Family Vineyards was established by Mike and Gale Reynvaan in 2004. The Reynvaan’s son Matt serves as winemaker.

Reynvaan had its inaugural releases last year (see review here), two Syrah-based wines and one white blend. All of Reynvaan wines are from estate fruit. The winery currently has two vineyard sites, In the Rocks, which had its initial plantings in 2005, and Foothills in the Sun, which had its initial plantings in 2007. The family currently has twenty-six acres planted.
This second vintage from Reynvaan Family Vineyards builds on the first. Both the In the Rocks Syrah and The Contender show additional depth due to additional age of the vines. The winery has also added a third red wine for the 2008 vintage, The Unnamed, which is a blend of Syrah co-fermented with Viognier.

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Charles Lill, Greg Lill, Jay Soloff, and Chris Upchurch founded DeLille Cellars in 1992. Upchurch serves as executive winemaker and vineyard manager. Chris Peterson, a product of Walla Walla’s enology and viticulture program, holds the title of winemaker.

Located in Woodinville, Washington, DeLille is dedicated to making Old World-style wines from New World fruit. While a number of wineries in Washington favor a big, bold style that takes advantage of eastern Washington’s ability to produce extremely ripe fruit, DeLille’s flagship Bordeaux-style blends – Harrison Hill and Chaleur Estate - are noteworthy for their restraint and elegance.

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Long time readers know that I occasionally point out events I feel have particular merit. Seattle Uncorked's 9th Annual Syrah tasting, which takes place Wednesday April 21st, is such an occasion.

Outside of Taste Washington, this is one of the Seattle-area events I look forward to most each year. It is rare to have the opportunity to sample dozens of Syrah side-by-side. However, to be able to focus on the wines from one particular region, in this case Washington State, is a unique opportunity. Washington Syrah has garnered a great deal of critical attention. While consumer response remains somewhat mixed despite offering good value compared to their counterparts from other regions, the grape continues to excel here.

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Abeja (WWFR 2009)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 0 comments

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

Abeja – Spanish for bee – is located east of downtown Walla Walla in a beautiful setting that houses the winery and a Bed and Breakfast. Winemaker John Abbott had been studying veterinary medicine at Oregon State University when he developed an interest in the science of wine production. After taking a sensory evaluation course, he decided to transfer to Fresno State to study viticulture and enology.

Upon graduation, Abbott intended to return to his native state of Oregon to focus on its signature grape, Pinot Noir. However, after stops in Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge and Acacia wineries, his interests began to change. When an opportunity arose at Canoe Ridge Vineyard, he took a chance, moving to Washington in 1994. After eight years at the winery where he established a reputation for Cabernet and Merlot, Abbott left Canoe Ridge in 2002, founding Abeja with his friend Ken Harrison in 2004.

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Pomum Cellars was founded by Javier and Shylah Alfonso. The word ‘Pomum’ comes from a Latin term for fruit. In naming the winery, Javier Alfonso says, it “is our homage to the heroes in this perpetual story that manage to capture the essence of the land and preserve them until they are released into a beverage we really can’t survive without.”

Javier Alfonso, who serves as winemaker, grew up in the Rivera del Duero in Spain. There he says, “Wine was always a part of life.” Contrasting Spain with New World areas such as Washington, Alfonso describes winemaking in Spain was “free” saying, “vineyards were already planted generations ago by your ancestors on land you owned in the worst possible patches. The vines didn’t require planting, irrigation, or fertilizing. All you had to do is prune in winter and collect your reward at the end of the season.”

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A round-up of stories about Washington wine from March 22nd to March 31st.

Buckle your seatbelts folks. This round-up is a long one.


From around the country…


ABC News picks up the AP story about Washington topping 650 wineries along with many other outlets.

The Pennsacola News Journal writes about Charles Smith wines.

The Chicago Tribune lists Seven Hills 2008 Talcott Vineyard Viognier on its listed of recommended Easter wines.

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

Castillo de Feliciana is a new winery that had its grand opening Fall Release Weekend. Originally envisioned as a “retirement project” for dentist Sam Castillo and his wife Deborah, the winery has quickly become all that and more.

Named after Deborah’s grandmother Feliciana, Castillo de Feliciana boasts a beautiful tasting facility with the Blue Mountains serving as a backdrop. The winery design was inspired by the Andalucía region of Spain. The facility has an outdoor patio space, a beautiful indoor tasting area, and surrounding vineyards. The estate vineyard is seven and a half acres planted to Tempranillo, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Albariño. The first harvest is expected in 2011. About half of the wines produced in the future will be from estate fruit and half will be sourced from other vineyards.

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Washington has seen a meteoric rise in the number of wineries in the state since the start of the new millenia. There were approximately one hundred and fifty wineries in Washington in the year 2000. By the end of 2009, there were more than four times that number. Washington now boasts more than six hundred and fifty wineries with a new one added almost every ten days. Of the many wine regions across the state, perhaps no area has been as integral to this increase - or has been producing such exciting results - as the Walla Walla Valley.

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Quilceda Creek, Washington’s twelfth bonded winery, was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. The winery, located in Snohomish and named after a nearby creek, is the standard bearer for Washington wine. It is a banner the winery has carried high, receiving three 100-point scores and two 99-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate in the last five vintages. Scores from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have been nothing to sniff at either ranging from 93 to 98 points.

With Quilceda Creek only open once a year due to zoning regulations, the annual release of the winery’s flagship Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should be cause for celebration. Unfortunately for the last two years, circumstances leading up to the event have been, how shall I say, a wee bit stressful?

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