Today’s Fresh Sheet, new and recent Washington wine releases, includes wines from Cadence Winery, Rotie Cellars, DiStefano Winery, Kaella Winery, Aniche Cellars, Stella Fino Winery, Trust Cellars, and Fall Line Winery.
When winemaker Ben Smith of south Seattle’s Cadence Winery planted his estate vineyard, Cara Mia, on Red Mountain in 2004, I wondered how long it would take for the site to shake off its youth. With the current releases, it would appear that we have an answer.
The 2008 Cadence wines include two estate bottles, the Bel Canto and Camerata. Both are clear indications of this site’s evolution with the Bel Canto among the best wines Smith has made – a strong statement given the winery’s track record of excellence. While the Bel Canto is two-thirds Cabernet Franc, the wine explores the grape’s floral aspect rather than its herbal one. This is a hide-me-deep-in-the-cellar wine if ever there were one, showing all of the classic Cadence structure with a bit more fruit generosity.
As in previous vintages, Cadence continues to also make top quality wines from nearby Ciel du Cheval and Taptiel vineyards. While all of the Cadence wines, like fine Bordeaux, require patience to fully express themselves (a 1999 I had a while back was still stretching its legs), the results are more than worth the effort, and Smith remains among the state’s best winemakers.
Cadence Winery Bel Canto Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $55
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Locked up tightly at present, this wine reveals floral notes, earth, mineral, dark fruit, and light chocolate. The palate is tightly coiled with dark fruit and firm tannins - a whopper while remaining graceful and beautifully structured. Simultaneously full throttle and far from over the top. Put this one in the cellar and forget about it for a few years to see it at its best. 67% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot.
Cadence Winery Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Dark and brooding with earth, mineral, floral notes, high toned herbal notes, and berries. Locked up tightly still, the palate is exquisitely balanced with firm tannins and lithe, sophisticated fruit flavors. Give two-plus years. 38% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot.
Cadence Winery Camerata Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $55
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Medium ruby. Locked up tightly, this wine opens up to aromas of cranberry, rose hips, floral notes, and mineral notes. The palate has focused, ripe fruit flavors on a well-integrated scaffolding of tannins that squeeze the palate before gently letting go. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot. 14.4% alcohol.
Cadence Winery Red Wine Tapteil Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) An alluring wine with high toned raspberries, cranberries, earth, sea breeze, and floral notes. On the palate, a deeply powerful wine with incredibly polished tannins and gracefully textured fruit flavors. Give it a minimum of two years or an extended decant to see it at its finest. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. 14.4% alcohol.
With his 2009 vintage reds, winemaker Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars continues to establish himself as one of Washington’s most compelling young winemakers.
As the name would imply, Rotie Cellars focuses on Rhone-style blends. Offerings include a Northern Blend of Syrah co-fermented with Viognier, a Southern White Blend from Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne, and finally a Southern Blend that is mostly Grenache along with Syrah and Mourvedre. The winery also makes a varietal bottling of Grenache, the Little G.
While each wine below is the best of Rotie Cellars’ first three vintages, the 2009 Northern Blend is something else altogether, a shockingly good wine that is among my favorites from 2011.
Of note, Boyd, who had been serving as assistant winemaker at Waters Winery, struck out on his own at the beginning of the year with the wines now being made out of Mannina Cellars.
Rotie Cellars Southern White Wine Washington State 2010 $28
Rating: + (Good) Pale lemon yellow. A moderately aromatic wine with white flowers, peaches, and orange peel. The palate is rich and textured with a huge inner mouth perfume. 50% Viognier, 30% Roussanne, and 20% Marsanne. 375 cases produced. Reviewed November 18, 2011
Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Red Wine Washington State 2009 $40
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A meaty, gamey wine full of savory notes, floral notes, mineral, sliced black olives, and ash. On the palate, the wine is full of earth, meat, and savory flavors, lingering as long as one wants to count on the finish. 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. 450 cases produced.
Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Red Wine Washington State 2009 $40
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatic, somewhat stinky wine with cranberries, raspberries, and rose hips. Tart and filled with fresh fruit flavors. As it opens up, game and earth come to the fore. Lingers on the finish. 68% Grenache, 16% Syrah, 16% Mourvedre. Aged in second fill French oak. 14.2% alcohol. 600 cases produced.
Rotie Cellars Little G Grenache Washington State 2009 $50
Rating: * (Excellent) Light in color. An aromatic, distinctly stinky wine with saline, floral notes, game, earth, and white pepper. The palate is light bodied with silky fruit flavors that call out to the Old World. One of the more unique, intriguing Grenache made in the state. 100% Grenache. 14.5% alcohol.
DiStefano Winery was founded by Mark Newton and his wine Donna DiStefano in 1983, making it one of the first wineries in this now teeming region. Newton serves as winemaker.
The winery sources its grapes from Roza Hills and Willard (Yakima Valley), Bacchus and Dionysus (Columbia Valley), Rosebud and Weinbau (Wahluke Slope), and Alder Ridge (Horse Heaven Hills).
All of the wines in the current lineup are fairly high in alcohol, coming in between 15.0% alcohol and 15.5%. Some of the wines manage to hold it well, but for others it becomes distracting.
DiStefano Winery Domenica Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $28
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Medium ruby. Aromatically dominated by milk chocolate, wood spice, red fruit, licorice, and light herbal notes. The palate is soft and silky, full of tart, tart cherry flavors that linger on the finish. Alcohol shows through at times. 15.0% alcohol. 420 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
DiStefano Winery Sogno Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007 $32
Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatically appealing, very varietal wine with milk chocolate, black cherries, and very light herbal notes. The palate is full and ripe with abundant cherry flavors. Shows a bit of heat on the finish on an otherwise quite enjoyable wine. 82% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. 15.5% alcohol. 580 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
DiStefano Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $32
Rating: + (Good) Medium ruby. Aromas of cherry, licorice, campfire, oak spice, and high toned herbal notes. An extremely ripe – almost sweet – wine full of cherry fruit flavors and chalky tannins. Alcohol shows through at times. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. 15.2% alcohol. 356 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
DiStefano Winery Meritage Columbia Valley 2008 $28
Rating: + (Good) Medium ruby. A moderately aromatic wine with sweet spices, cherry, wood spice, herbal notes, and licorice. The palate is medium bodied with smooth cherry flavors and textured tannins. Shows a considerable amount of heat. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot. 15.0% alcohol. 600 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
DiStefano Winery Syrah R Columbia Valley 2007 $32
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Medium ruby with a purple tinge at the rim. Aromatically a bit closed up with chocolate, spice, cocoa, and raisined fruit. The palate is quite ripe showing a lot of heat. 15.0% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Dave Butner had his first release from Kaella Winery last year. The winery, located in Woodinville’s Warehouse District, is named after a combination of his daughter’s names, Katie and Ella.
The current releases from Kaella offer a unique opportunity to explore Conner Lee Vineyard. Butner has produced 100% varietal bottlings of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon from this site, each in second fill oak. Butner says he intended to make a Bordeaux-style blend but found that none of the blends were more than the sum of their parts. The result is a rare opportunity to look at wines from a single winemaker across a series of varietals with minimal influence of new oak.
For the 2009 releases, Butner made one barrel of each wine bringing his total production to 125 cases. He doubled this to 225 in 2010 and again to 500 in 2011.
Kaella Winery Sangiovese Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2009 $25
Rating: + (Good) Medium ruby. An aromatically appealing wine with dusty cherry, raspberry, chocolate, and earth. The palate is tart with a big blast of acid that runs from start to finish. Pair this one with some food to bring it into check. 100% Sangiovese. Aged in second fill French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 25 cases produced.
Kaella Winery Merlot Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $30
Rating: + (Good) Medium ruby. Toasty spices and oak notes dominate initially followed by red fruit and light herbal notes. The palate is soft and medium bodied, trailing off a bit in the second half. 100% Merlot. Aged in second fill French oak. 13.2% alcohol. 25 cases produced.
Kaella Winery Cabernet Franc Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $35
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Medium ruby. Leaps up from the glass with chocolate and cherries accented by high toned herbal notes. A soft, fruit-filled wine with a tart uptick on the finish. 100% Cabernet Franc. Aged in second fill French oak. 14.3% alcohol. 25 cases produced.
Kaella Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $35
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Dark in color with high toned herbal notes along with cherry, mocha powder, and light herbal notes. The palate is soft and textured, silky and sultry, full of chocolate and cherry flavors and velvety tannins. A very pretty, very pure expression of Cabernet. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in second fill French oak. 25 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kaella Winery Syrah Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $35
Rating: . (Decent) Medium purple. A lightly aromatic wine with plum and spice notes. The palate comes off as tart and somewhat disjointed with grainy tannins. 100% Syrah. Aged in second fill French oak. 15.6% alcohol. 25 cases produced.
Aniche Cellars is a new winery located on Underwood Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. The winery focuses largely on blends. “Think Halle Berry, mutts and Bordeaux,” the winery’s website says.
Rachael Horn serves as winemaker. Horn came to wine after working in education as well as in the hospitality industry. One day she was waiting a table and waxing about the joys of wine when the customer she was talking to said, “’You are so passionate about wine, why don't you make it?’" Inspired, Horn subsequently attended the WSU Enology and Viticulture program.
AniChe is named after a combination of the names of the Horn’s children, Anais and Che. The winery’s logo is a peacock feather with the name written as if it were from a quill. Each of the wine names, typed in Underwood font in a call out to the winery’s location, is named after a literary character. The specific references are on the back of the label. For example, “Lizzy” is named after Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennet. “I’m a failed writer,” Horn explains.
All of the AniChe wines are unfined and unfiltered, resulting in sediment and a slight cloudiness in some. Of the wines sampled below, the whites were generally more successful than the reds, including a rarely seen bottle of Albarino.
AniChe Cellars had its first commercial vintage in 2009 and is producing 2,500 cases annually.
AniChe Cellars “Come and Go” Albarino Dutchman Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $20
Rating: + (Good) Pale lemon yellow and slightly cloudy with some precipitate. An aromatic wine full of ripe peach, apple, melon, and pear aromas and flavors. The palate is tart and rounded, dipping in the middle, but coming back with a nice zing of acidity that carries it along to a lingering finish. An enjoyable bottle of this seldom seen varietal. 100% Albarino. Fermented and aged in plastic. 13.2% alcohol. 90 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended
AniChe Cellars “Lizzy” White Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $22
Rating: + (Good) Pale in color with some precipitate. Lightly aromatic with pleasing notes of marzipan, apple, and a touch of honey. The palate is medium bodied with a broad feel, losing a bit of its rhythm in the second half, coming back together for a lemony finish. Overall, a very clean, enjoyable wine. 65% Roussanne (Alder Ridge), 35% Marsanne (Boushey). Fermented and aged in plastic. 13.9% alcohol. 150 cases. Sample provided by winery. Recommended.
AniChe Cellars “Orlando” Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $26
Rating: . (Decent) Medium ruby. Lightly aromatic and a bit volatile at times with spice, red vines, and crushed nuts. The palate is soft and supple with abundant red fruit flavors. 66% Tempranillo (Underwood Mountain) and 34% Grenache (Elephant Mountain). Aged in neutral oak. 13.4% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
AniChe Cellars “Goat Boy” Red Wine Rattlesnake Hills 2009 $36
Rating: . (Decent) Green veggies, cherry, and a touch of chocolate on an aromatically subdued wine. The palate is soft and full of cherry flavors with soft tannins and a tart finish. 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 12% Cabernet Franc. Elephant Mountain Vineyard. Aged 14 months in French oak (30% new). 14.7% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
AniChe Cellars “Moth Love” Red Wine Rattlesnake Hills 2009 $34
Rating: + (Good) Medium ruby. Abundant Red Vines and red fruit aromas along with dusty chocolate and a mineral streak. The palate is medium bodied, soft and tart with a lingering finish. 48% Syrah, 34% Mourvedre, 18% Grenache. Sugarloaf and Elephant Mountain vineyards. Aged 14 months in French oak (30% new). 15.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
AniChe Cellars “Atticus” Syrah Rattlesnake Hills 2009 $34
Rating: + (Good) Medium purple. Lightly aromatic with light spices, red berries, and dusty chocolate. The palate is soft and tart with minimal oak influence. Comes in at a whopping 16% alcohol but doesn’t show it. 97% Syrah (Elephant Mountain) and 3% Viognier (Underwood Mountain). 16% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stella Fino Winery
Stella Fino Winery, owned by Matt and Marlene Steiner, is located in the Walla Walla Valley, south of the Washington-Oregon border in the ‘occupied area.’ The winery also has a tasting room in Hood River.
Matt Steiner, who serves as winemaker, grew up in the Bronx, where his great-grandmother, Stella Fino, settled after emigrating from Italy. He describes the path he took to the world of wine as follows:
“After graduating college with an economics degree in 2001, I began my professional career as most recent grads in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area do. I started working in finance, wholesale banking to be exact. After my office was destroyed in the September 11th attacks, I started poking around for a different career path.”
After exploring several possibilities, Steiner and his wife decided to pursue their interest in wine. “We quit our jobs at the end of July 2004, bought a car, stuffed what we could fit from our apartment in it, left the rest on the street corner, and headed to a place we had never been before.”
Steiner started out working crush by day, bartending at night. He soon began taking classes at Walla Walla Community College’s Enology and Viticulture program. In 2005 he purchased his first fruit, Sangiovese and Barbera, for Stella Fino.
Steiner, who as you can tell, is infinitely quotable, says he has learned a lot along the way. “From 2005 through 2008, I was adamant about picking early for lower alcohol and higher acid, aging the wine in barrel for 2 years and never using any new oak,” Steiner says. “The resulting wines were lean and austere in their youth, but, for example, the 2005's and 2006's are beginning to show very well now and will continue to age for next several years.” Indeed, the wines sampled here show a work in progress, but Steiner’s commitment cannot be questioned.
Of starting the winery, Steiner says, “You have to be committed to it if you are willing to get up and work from 8 am to 5 or 6 pm at a day job and then go and work in a winery, without any employees, until 12 am (during crush its 2 or 3 am) everyday and put in 16 hrs every Sat and Sunday. When someone buys a bottle of my wine, they are truly purchasing a piece of my blood, sweet, tears, stress, lack of sleep, and absolute commitment…But mostly I hope they are just purchasing a bottle of wine they will enjoy with some friends over dinner.”
Stella Fino produces 1,000 cases annually.
Stella Fino Winery Reserve Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 2009 $25
Rating: . (Decent) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatic wine with toasty oak spices, vanilla, and lemon. The palate is tart and full with abundant oak flavors. 100% Pinot Grigio. Aged for 11 months in stainless steel and oak. 14.1% alcohol. 90 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stella Fino Winery Barbera Columbia Valley 2008 $25
Rating: + (Good) Brightly aromatic with fresh raspberry jam along with ground cranberries and rose hips. The palate is light bodied and clean in a lean style with bright acidity and restrained use of oak. An easy drinking wine that doesn’t stand up on its own but has a place at the table. 100% Barbera. 13.5% alcohol. 175 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stella Fino Winery Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2009 $28
Rating: . (Decent) Medium ruby. Moderately aromatic with raspberry and cranberry notes. The palate is tart and grippy, finishing a bit bitter. 100% Sangiovese. 14.3% alcohol. 160 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stella Fino Winery Sangiovese Les Vignes de Marcoux Yakima Valley 2009 $50
Rating: . (Decent) Toasty oak spices rise up from the glass – some spendy wood was clearly used for this wine - along with dusty raspberries. The palate is tart and soft with a puckering, slightly bitter finish. 100% Sangiovese. 14.4% alcohol. Less than 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
This is the second vintage of varietal Cabernet Franc from Walla Walla’s Trust Cellars, and it continues to be an impressive addition to the lineup.
Trust Cellars Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2008 $32
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromatically closed up initially with raspberries, cherries, floral notes, rose hips, herbal notes, and light mineral notes. Plump, ripe tannins and cherry flavors glide across the palate leading to a fruit filled finish. 100% Cabernet Franc. 70 cases produced.
What’s this? A Bordeaux-style blend from Red Willow Vineyard at $28? Indeed, Tim Sorenson of south Seattle’s Fall Line Winery always produces high quality bottles at can’t be beat prices, and this Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend is no exception.
Fall Line Winery Red Wine Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008 $28
Rating: * (Excellent) An alluring wine with coffee grounds, earth tones, floral notes, and red fruit. The palate is dense and compact with intense red fruit flavors. It’s hard to find many wines made from this top Washington vineyard that are less than thirty-five dollars and up, let alone one with this level of quality. 53% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. Aged 18 months in French oak (36% new). 269 cases produced.
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