Overview


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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Reviewed Wineries

A look back at 2010

Friday, December 31, 2010 5 comments

Well folks, another year of Washington wine has come to a close.

2010 was a breakout year for Washington with continued accolades and high scores. Of note, Gramercy Cellars was named Food & Wine magazine’s ‘Best New Winery in America’ – the second year a Washington winery has won a major award from the magazine. Wine Spectator devoted a cover story to Washington wine. The magazine also gave its highest scores ever to a Washington red wine – 97 points - for the Charles Smith 2006 Royal City Syrah, Cayuse 2006 Armada Vineyard Syrah, Grand Reve 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and Owen Roe 2007 Red Willow Syrah. All things told Wine Spectator rated 17 wines 95 points or higher – ‘classic’ in the publication’s definition. No other year has seen a number remotely close to this. Wine Spectator was not alone with Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate also giving numerous Washington wines high scores.

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Kerloo Cellars comes calling

Thursday, December 30, 2010 3 comments

Kerloo Cellars - named for the call of the crane - made as impressive a debut as any Washington winery last year with two compelling 2007 Syrahs from the Walla Walla Valley. The first was a vineyard designate from Les Collines Vineyard. This vineyard, located at the foothills of the Blue Mountains, is producing Syrah that goes into some of the valley’s best bottles, including wines from Gramercy, Trust, Sleight of Hand, and Rasa. The second wine was a blend from Va Piano Vineyards, where Kerloo Cellars’ winemaker Ryan Crane works as assistant winemaker, and Les Collines.

While Crane was pleased with the results of his first release (as were consumers with the wines quickly selling out), the 2007 vintage was one of Washington’s finest with near perfect growing conditions. Crane says, “2007 was easy. In 2008 I worked a lot harder.” The results, however, are equally impressive.

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Winemaker Trey Busch of Sleight of Hand Cellars remembers drinking wine when he was in his mid-20s, but like many, he didn’t give what was in his glass much thought. All that would change a short time later when winemaking would become his life’s work.

In the late 1990s, Busch met Eric Dunham who had recently started Dunham Cellars. They met through a mutual friend, Jamie Brown (now of Waters Winery), who owned a record store, Ruby Records, in Seattle. Dunham and Brown spent a night at Busch’s house in Seattle, and Dunham brought a bottle of his newly released 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon. Busch says, “I remember tasting that wine and it all clicked, like, ‘What was I drinking before that I thought was good wine?’ It was a stunner.”

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The last Virtual Tasting of 2010 is tonight! The wine is the Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Sparkling Wine NV. This wine retails for $14 and is widely available (feel free to grab a different style from the winery if you prefer). The tasting takes place from 7-8pm Pacific Time.

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 between 7 and 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #DStM during the event.

Hope you will join us!

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Reminder: December's Virtual Tasting will take place on Wednesday December 29th from 7-8pm Pacific Time. Read more about it here.

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

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The story of William Church Winery is a very much love story – both the love of two people and their love of wine. Owners Rod and Leslie Balsley met at Digital Equipment Corporation. They subsequently worked for various technology companies, including Hewlett Packard and Microsoft, before they became tired of the rat race and decided to follow their love of wine. “We looked at it as an enjoyable way to make a little bit of money,” Leslie Balsley says.

The couple’s fascination with wine began on their honeymoon in Italy. There they saw how imbedded wine was in the culture. They decided they wanted to make wine part of their lives.

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Va Piano Vineyards

Sunday, December 26, 2010 0 comments

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.

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A special Christmas round-up of stories on Washington wine from December 15th to 21st. See previous round-ups here.


From around the country…

The Illonois State Journal-Register writes about holiday gift ideas with a shout out to Milbrandt’s Late Harvest Riesling.

The Knoxville Sentinel gives their best of 2010 with a shout out to Andrew Will and NXNW.

Santa Fe New Mexican
writes about memorable wine moments in 2010 with a shout out to the Cayuse 2007 Armada.

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You cannot talk with Woodward Canyon Winery’s Rick Small without coming away excited about wine, the winery, and the Walla Walla Valley. It is simply not possible. Small could be a motivational speaker for winemakers his love of viticulture and enology is so infectious.

Small is lean and wiry, intense and passionate. Among the things he is most passionate about are viticulture and his estate vineyard. This is so much the case that Small handed off winemaking responsibilities to Kevin Mott in 2003 to focus on the vineyard. “I figure if I can bring better fruit down to him, it’s a win-win,” Small says.

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For many, the Christmas season is a time for giving to those who are less fortunate. This is how Carl Robanske spends his Christmas holiday.

Robanske works as a teacher at Garrison Creek Middle School in Walla Walla. Several years ago he was looking for more ways to make an impact on young children’s lives. Robanske was particularly interested in working with orphaned children.

“I don't know exactly why or when or even what was the catalyst to prompt my interest in children with no family. I do know that it was something deep though, some strong call in my heart to love children who don't believe they are loved,” Robanske says.

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Five Under $15 - December

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 0 comments







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

Pacific Rim
is Washington State’s Riesling specialist. This beautiful dessert wine – the 2007 Vin de Glacier – hails from Selenium Vineyard. Grapes were frozen and then pressed with the resulting juice approximately 36 Brix. The wine was then fermented to 16% Residual Sugar but the wine retains the acidity to pull it off. The final result is a compelling wine that drinks like a wine of a much higher price point - a perfect punctuation to any meal.

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Fresh Sheet December 21st 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 0 comments







Today’s fresh sheet - reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases – includes wines from Lantz Cellars, Fielding Hills Winery, and Dunham Cellars.

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Like many, Kevin Correll of Woodinville’s Barrage Cellars began making wine as a hobby before deciding to start a commercial winery. Affable, humorous, and self-deprecating, Correll says, “I still call it a hobby because I’m certainly not making any money!”

Correll made his first wine in a carboy in 1997. In 2002 he made his first barrel of wine while assisting at Wineglass Cellars. By 2005, he had launched Barrage Cellars.

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Holiday Gift Giving

Saturday, December 18, 2010 1 comments

Well the holiday season is once again upon us. After much procrastination, with one week to go until Christmas, it’s time to starting thinking about what to get your Washington wine loving friends.

2010 offers a few easy options with a couple excellent new books recently released. The first is Paul Gregutt’s Washington Wines & Wineries: The Essential Guide, 2nd Edition. This is nothing short of a must-have for anyone interested in Washington wine specifically and wine more generally. As I wrote in my review, the second edition is much like a new book, with double the number of winery entries and numerous chapters significantly revised.

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Well folks, another year and another Reader Survey – now the 3rd annual – has gone by. Before formally announcing this year’s winners, let me thank all those who sent in nominations and took part in the voting.

My intention in starting the Reader Survey three years ago was to hear about what Washington wines my readers thought were most exciting from the year gone by and what wines they were most excited about in the coming year. This goal remains.

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A round-up of stories on Washington wine from December 8th to 14th. See previous round-ups here.


From around the country…


Wine Spectator
writes about the vineyard freeze (Note: May require subscription).

D Magazine recommends Seven Hills Winery’s 2007 Klipsun Cabernet.

Anchorage Daily News picks Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2008 Indian Wells Cabernet as its pick of the week.

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Fresh Sheet December 14th 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 0 comments







Today’s fresh sheet - reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases – includes wines from Cuneo Cellars, Crayelle Cellars, Northwest Totem Cellars, and Guardian Cellars.

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Reminder: Voting on the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch continues until Thursday at 9pm.

Like many, Joe Forest of Tempus Cellars graduated from college at a loss for what he wanted to do next. An English Literature major at the University of Washington, Forest started his post-college career working at Seattle’s Wild Ginger.

Known for its exceptional wine list in general and Washington wine list in particular, Forest gained exposure to a broad array of wines during his time at the restaurant. Forest’s father was a home winemaker, so wine had always been part of the household. His experience at Wild Ginger, however, piqued his interest and opened up a new world.

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Preliminary voting for the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch has now ended and final voting has begun. The full results of preliminary voting are below.

Finalists for 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year are:

Adams Bench Cabernet Sauvignon Red Willow 2007
Adams Bench V Red Wine 2007
Reynvaan In the Rocks 2008

Finalists for 2011 Wine to Watch are:

Adams Bench Reckoning 2008
Reynvaan Stonesscence 2009
Efeste Tough Guy 2008
Grand Reve Collaboration Series V Red Wine 2008

You may vote for any one of the finalists in each category. Voting goes from Sunday 12/12 to Thursday 12/16 9pm

Enjoy!

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December's Virtual Tasting will be an end of year special - the Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry Sparkling Wine NV. This wine retails for $14 and is widely available. Feel free to grab a different style from the winery if you prefer. The tasting will take place on Wednesday December 29th from 7-8pm Pacific Time.

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 8pm. For those on Twitter, follow me @wawinereport. I will be using the hashtag #DStM during the event.

Hope you will join us!

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Voting for the Preliminary Round of the Reader Survey 2010 Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch ends tonight at 9pm. Read details about the survey here.

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Preliminary voting continues for the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch until Saturday at 9pm. Read about it here

A round-up of stories on Washington wine from December 1st to 7th. See previous round-ups here.

From around the country…


Late to the party but welcome just the same, MSNBC asks whether Walla Walla is America’s new wine capital.

The Wall Street Journal writes about Long Shadows.

Reuters
writes about alternatives to Champagne with a callout to Domaine Ste. Michelle.

Wines & Vines
writes about Washington wine rules in limbo.

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Preliminary voting continues for the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch. Read about it here. What follows is a Focus report on Soos Creek Wine Cellars. Download a .pdf version of this report here. Read previous Focus reports here.

With twenty-one vintages under his belt, David Larsen of Soos Creek Wine Cellars is one of Washington’s longer-tenured winemakers. A former marathon runner with the slender frame to prove it, Larsen’s soft-spoken, humble nature belies a man of focus and talent.

Larsen has taken a slow, steady, almost methodical approach to Soos Creek. “With the winery, I’ve always been very conservative,” Larsen says. Working in The Boeing Company’s finance group taught Larsen the meaning of risk. He is a man who thinks long-term and looks to go the distance. He wants his wines to do the same.

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All those years ago (Off-topic)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2 comments

It was thirty years ago today, but somehow it seems much closer. I was eleven years old watching Monday Night Football in bed on an old black and white TV in my room. There was a lot of static and snow, and I heard the announcer, Howard Cosell, say that somebody – I couldn’t hear whom - had been shot and killed in New York City. “Probably some celebrity,” I thought, focusing on the game. It was a little after 12am east coast time.

A few moments later my oldest brother called on the phone to tell me the news. Indeed it was some celebrity. But not just any celebrity. John Lennon had been shot dead in New York City.

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Ok folks, preliminary voting for the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch has begun! Use the surveys on the right-hand side of the blog to cast your vote. Those receiving these posts via email, go to www.wawinereport.com to vote.

A few notes about the nominees. I eliminated nominations that did not contain a vintage date, as well as any wines from back vintages. While I planned to cap the list at 60 wines, I let it expand to 70 in the interests of inclusion. Also, due to the number of entries, I am changing the rules to allow people to vote for any three nominees in each category (as opposed to two).

Below are the dates for the preliminary voting and the final voting. Enjoy!

Preliminaries
Tuesday 12/7 to Saturday 12/11 9pm
Vote for any three wines in both categories from those wines nominated (2010 Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch).

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Reminder: Nominations for Reader Survey 2010 Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch close at 9pm tonight. Read how to nominate wines here.

Chris Sparkman of Sparkman Cellars is a man with his priorities well defined. “First is family. Second is quality of life. Third is making damn good wines,” Sparkman says.

Sparkman Cellars is located in the Warehouse District in Woodinville (NB: The winery is also opening a tasting room next to Purple Café and Wine Bar in the Schoolhouse district later this month). The winery was started in 2004.

Chris Sparkman – Sparky as he is known to his friends and many avid followers – was born in Nashville, Tennessee with an accent to prove it. Sparkman started out as an academic, working on an endangered species program. With his trademark sense of humor, Sparkman says that this work, “confirmed that I’m not a G-man.”

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Reminder to nominate wines for the 2010 Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch. Read how here.

A round-up of stories on Washington wine from November 22nd to 30th. See previous round-ups here.

From around the world…


The Toronto Sun writes about the Woodinville Warehouse District inspiring a Toronto winery.


From around the country…


Wine Spectator
writes a cover article on Washington wine – a must read for any Washington wine lover (Note: May require subscription. Highly recommend picking up the hard copy).

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Fresh Sheet December 2nd 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010 4 comments








Today’s Fresh Sheet - reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases – includes wines from Sinclair Estate Vineyards, Convergence Zone Cellars, Hestia Cellars, and Viento Wines.

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Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to select the 2010 Reader Survey Wine of the Year and 2011 Wine to Watch!

The Reader Survey Wine of the Year is intended for the one Washington wine in 2010 that stood out among all those you tasted. The 2011 Wine to Watch is for a pre-release wine you tasted that will be released in 2011 that you believe will be exceptional.

Here is how it works.

Nominations
Wednesday 12/1 to Monday 12/6 9pm
Nominate up to three Washington wines in each category via comment or e-mail (wawinereport@gmail.com). Please state whether the wine is to be considered for ‘2010 Wine of the Year’ or ‘2011 Wine to Watch.’

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