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What follows is a section of Part II of the 2011 Walla Walla Valley report. Look for the full report in an upcoming post. Read Part I here.

As the first modern day winery in the Walla Walla Valley, Leonetti Cellar celebrates its 34th vintage this year. During this time, the winery’s history of success and accolades is nearly unparalleled. The new releases continue to build on Leonetti’s elite reputation.

Chris Figgins assumed head winemaking responsibilities from his father, Gary Figgins, in 2000. Since that time he has completed the winery’s transition to using all estate fruit from the Walla Walla Valley for its wines. The results thus far have been impressive.

Even for a family with such a long winemaking history, every vintage is different and sometimes it doesn’t come easily. 2010 was a difficult growing season across much of Washington with unusually cool temperatures. Figgins says that some of the winery’s vineyards came in at 1.4 tons per acre, a fraction of what they might normally yield. Still, Figgins is excited about the results. “They’re the darkest wines I’ve ever seen,” he says.

The new releases from Leonetti Cellar from the 2008 and 2009 vintages are as impressive as any I have had from the winery. The Sangiovese shimmers with intensity and is as good of a domestic Sangiovese as you will find. The Merlot boasts incredible purity of red fruit. The Cabernet Sauvignon – a completely stunning wine – is a prototype for the varietal, showing tremendous complexity and tannin integration. The Reserve Red Wine, the least immediately accessible of the new releases but the most compelling, is all about elegance and continued to broaden and improve over a series of days. It is more than worth the wait.

On all of the new releases, the oak is considerably dialed back and the fruit more front and center. The wines all have an incredible freshness and exceptionally well-integrated tannins. There is a beautiful balance between elegance and power. Each wine displays why Leonetti Cellar continues to be at the top of the class.

Leonetti Cellar Sangiovese Walla Walla Valley 2008 $60

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Brightly aromatic with cranberries, raspberries, floral notes, earth, and spice. Incredibly clean and powerfully rich, thundering across the palate with waves of tart red fruit flavors while never getting heavy or overweighted. Grabs the tongue, squeezes, and won’t let go. Exceptionally well-integrated tannins and a lingering, fruit filled finish. 92% Sangiovese, 8% Syrah. Pepper Bridge, Seven Hills, and Mill Creek Upland vineyards. Aged 22 months in mostly neutral French oak. 14.8% alcohol. 809 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Leonetti Cellar Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2009 $70

Rating: * (Excellent) Closed up tightly at present with bright aromas of raspberry compote, a touch of strawberry, and light spice notes. The palate is dense, lush, and filled with beautifully pure red fruit flavors and exceptionally well-integrated tannins. Lingers on the palate with clean fruit flavors. Give one to two years. 78% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc. Mill Creek Upland, Loess, and Seven Hills Old Block. Aged 15 months in new and used French oak. 14.3% alcohol. 2,471 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008 $85

Rating: ** (Exceptional) An aromatically compelling, complex wine with seductive aromatics of sage and other herbal notes, earth, high-toned black cherry, red fruit, roasted espresso bean, and whiffs of licorice. Rich and broad on the palate without being weighty with incredibly pure, focused, fruit flavors. The tannin integration is beyond exceptional. Hangs and hangs on the finish. A beautiful expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. Give two plus years. 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 4% Carmenère, 3% Malbec. Mill Creek Upland, Loess, and Seven Hills vineyard. Aged 22 months in new and neutral French oak. 14.6% alcohol. 2,980 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Leonetti Cellar Reserve Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $135

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Aromatically brooding with cassis, black cherry, coffee grounds, red fruit, licorice, and very high toned herbal notes. Locked up extremely tightly at present, this wine only reveals itself after several days of being open. On the palate, loaded full of fresh red and black fruit flavors and a tart, cranberry-filled finish. Tannins are extremely polished and the fruit flavors are supple. A multiple swallow wine that is simultaneously rich and sophisticated. Will age gracefully indefinitely. Give at least 3 years but patience will be rewarded with extended cellaring. 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. Mill Creek Upland, Loess, Seven Hills, and Leonetti Old Block. Aged 23 months in new and neutral French oak. 14.7% alcohol. 1,131 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

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