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Reviewed Wineries

Fresh Sheet March 13th 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012






Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from JM Cellars, Woodinville Wine Cellars, Ott & Murphy, Pomum Cellars, and Balboa Winery.

JM Cellars


The 2009 vintage marks a significant evolution for Woodinville’s JM Cellars. The winery is releasing its first wine from its estate site, Margaret’s Vineyard.

Located in the southern section of Walla Walla Valley, Margaret’s Vineyard is named after winemaker John Bigelow’s wife Peggy. The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (clones 8, 6, and 32), Merlot (clones 14 and 3), Cabernet Franc (clones 1 and 8), Malbec (clone 4), Petit Verdot (clone 2), and Carmenère (VCR 702).

The initial offering from Margaret’s Vineyard is from third leaf fruit. Bigelow, who has been involved in several other vineyard projects since their inception, says that it is possible to make good wine from young vines, just more difficult.

“One of the things I learned was that third leaf inaugural vintages could be very good if you manage the new vines very closely.” For Margaret’s Vineyard, this involved cropping the vines down markedly in the third year. Whereas in 2010 and 2011 Bigelow averaged a little over two tons per acre, in 2009 he harvested a mere 0.7 tons per acre.

“Every berry that was picked is in this wine,” Bigelow says of his 2009 Margaret’s Vineyard Red Wine. The results from this inaugural vintage are impressive, featuring soft, textured, concentrated fruit flavors.

In other news, the winery has changed the name of its Tre Faniciulli – Italian for “three treasured lads” – to simply Tre. The wine was named after the Bigelows’ three sons. “They’re not lads anymore. They are still mostly treasured,” Bigelow says with a chuckle.

Read a previous post on JM Cellars here.

JM Cellars Longevity Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $42

(Excellent/Exceptional) Abundant black fruit aromas along with bittersweet chocolate and earth. The palate is silky and textured with a firm backbone of tannins and a lingering, spice filled finish. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon (Stillwater Creek, Katherine Leone, Alder Ridge), 20% Merlot (Stillwater Creek), 14% Malbec (Stillwater Creek), 12% Cabernet Franc (Ciel du Cheval), 7% Petit Verdot (Stillwater Creek), and 3% Carmenère (Seven Hills). Aged 21 months in French oak (80% new). 14.3% alcohol. 643 cases produced.

JM Cellars Margaret’s Vineyard Estate Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2009 $42

(Excellent) A perfumed wine with abundant peppery spice, herbal notes, and light milk chocolate. The palate is soft and textured with concentrated fruit flavors and a tart finish. A very impressive first release from this vineyard. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenère. Aged 21 months in French oak (75% new). 14.3% alcohol. 750 cases produced.

JM Cellars Tre Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45

(Excellent) Locked up tightly at present, this wine is lightly aromatic with blackberry and mineral notes. The palate is soft and silky with grainy tannins and a spicy top note. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon (Klipsun Old Vine, Stillwater Creek), 27% Merlot (Ciel du Cheval, Kiona Old Vine), and 18% Syrah (Klipsun, Stillwater Creek). 14.4% alcohol. 368 cases produced.

JM Cellars Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $45

(Excellent) A glass staining wine with light smoke, bacon fat, blueberries, and mineral notes on an appealing but restrained aroma profile. On the palate, a voluptuous, perfumed, meaty wine full of floral notes, bacon fat, and blue fruit. Lingers on the finish. 100% Syrah. Aged 16 months in Russian and French oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 175 cases produced.

JM Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $32

(Excellent) Dark and glass staining. Leaps up from the glass with ripe blueberries, floral notes, light smoke, and a mineral streak. The palate is rich and perfumed, full of fruit flavors and soft tannins. Lingers on the finish. A thoroughly delicious Washington Syrah. 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier. Stillwater Creek, Klipsun, and Lewis vineyards. Aged 18 months in Russian (80%) and French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 225 cases produced.

JM Cellars Founder’s Reserve Red Wine Red Mountain 2009 $75

(Excellent/Exceptional) This wine is locked up extremely tightly at present. As it opens it reveals spice, cassis, floral notes, and dark fruit. On the palate, a big, intense, tannic wine that is ripe and rich and hangs on the finish. Give at least two years or decant extensively. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (Klipsun), 13% Merlot (Klipsun), and 12% Cabernet Franc (Ciel du Cheval). Aged 22 months in French oak (85% new). 14.4% alcohol. 85 cases produced.


Woodinville Wine Cellars


Winemaker Sean Boyd of Woodinville Wine Cellars was positively brimming with excitement about his new releases when we met earlier this year. Tasting the wines, it became clear why.

Boyd’s current releases include perhaps the best Sauvignon Blanc the winery has made. Whereas in most years this wine has been aged in French oak, for the 2010 vintage, Boyd used only stainless steel due to what he felt were “perfect flavors.” Indeed this is a delicious, racy, mouthwatering wine. The new wines also include one of the best vintages of the Little Bear Creek Red Wine, the winery’s entry level offering, which is a superb $20 bottle. The rest of the lineup continues to impress, including a Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre blend that is 50% Mourvedre.

As usual, Boyd works with top sites, including Stillwater Creek, Conner Lee, Dineen, and Meek. Of note, though the bottles are not labeled as vineyard designates, the 2009 Syrah and 2009 GSM Red Wine are 100% Stillwater Creek.

Read a previous post on Woodinville Wine Cellars here.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2010 $18

(Excellent) Pale lemon green. Beautifully pure aromatics of white grapefruit, gooseberry, and a whiff of tropical fruit. A seamless spine of bright acid runs from beginning to end of this very pure expression of Sauvignon Blanc. A mouthwatering wine that is like biting into a tart white grapefruit.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Little Bear Creek Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $20

(Excellent) Dark in color. An aromatic wine with toasty spices, brambly fruit, dark roasted coffee beans, herbal notes, and peppery spice. A fruit filled wine made in a dry, restrained style. Lingers on the finish. An extremely high QPR offering. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec. Dineen, Conner Lee, Stillwater Creek, and Meek vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 600 cases produced.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $30

(Excellent) A dark, glass staining wine. Aromatically expressive with dark cherries, black fruit, and dry chocolate. The palate is full of fruit flavors and silky tannins with a tart finish. 100% Syrah. Stillwater Creek. Aged 21 months in French oak (40% new). 14.8% alcohol. 164 cases produced.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Indomitable Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45

(Excellent) An aromatically appealing, complex wine with cedar, chocolate, dark fruit, very light herbal notes, and spice. The palate is soft but structured with smooth, silky fruit flavors. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc. Conner Lee (50%) and Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged in French oak (100% new). 14.2% alcohol. 220 cases produced.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2009 $40

(Excellent/Exceptional) Closed up initially, this wine opens to reveal cherry and exotic spices. The palate has a beautiful mouthfeel with textured fruit flavors and ripe tannins. A lip smacking wine that lingers on the finish. 100% Cabernet Franc. Stillwater Creek, Conner Lee, and Dineen.

Woodinville Wine Cellars GSM Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $40

(Excellent) A dark, glass staining wine. Aromatic with dark fruit, spice, white pepper, and freshly hewn wood. The palate is simultaneously rich and voluptuous while also showing restraint. 50% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, and 25% Grenache. Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Aged 20 months in French oak (50% new). 14.9% alcohol. 100 cases produced.

Woodinville Wine Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $NA

(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine that is locked up pretty tightly at present with cedar, cherry, dark chocolate, and high toned herbal notes. The palate is refined with smooth, supple tannins and dark, lush fruit flavors.


Ott & Murphy


Whidbey Island’s Ott & Murphy is all about artistry and experimentation. At the winery, Eric Murphy, David Ott, and Diane Kaufman focus exclusively on small lot wines. To wit, all of the wines below have a production of a miniscule 150 cases or less.

How many wineries feature not one but two viogniers, including a single vineyard offering from Elephant Mountain? Meanwhile the winery’s Double Bluff Red Wine features Syrah, Cinsault, and Grenache in almost equal measures – something rarely seen in the state. Even the varietally labeled wines often contain percentages of other grapes as winemaker Eric Murphy clearly enjoys the art of blending.

For vineyards, Ott & Murphy uses a variety of sources, including Coyote Canyon, Sugarloaf, Elephant Mountain, Spice Cabinet, and Boushey. The use of new oak is generally restrained. Additionally the white wines sampled here did not undergo malolactic fermentation.

Read a previous post on Ott & Murphy here.

Ott & Murphy Viognier Columbia Valley 2010 $20

(Good/Excellent) Pale lemon yellow. A moderately aromatic wine full of peach, creamsicle, and floral notes. The palate is crisp, tart and clean with a creamy feel without getting overweighted, carried along by lime-like acidity. 77% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, and 3% Marsanne. Sugarloaf, Elephant Mountain, Coyote Canyon, and Boushey vineyards. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak. 13.3% alcohol. 125 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ott & Murphy Viognier Elephant Mountain Vineyard Rattlesnake Hills 2010 $31

(Good) Pale lemon yellow. More lightly aromatic than the Columbia Valley offering, this wine shows nectarine and light floral notes. The palate is full but with restrained fruit flavors. 100% Viognier. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak sue lie for 12 months. 13.1% alcohol. 1.1g/L RS. 50 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ott & Murphy L’Entente Blanc Marsanne Yakima Valley 2010 $27

(Good) Medium yellow. An aromatically restrained wine with peach, spice, floral, and almond notes. The palate is weighty and textured with a spice and flower filled finish. 79% Marsanne (Boushey, Elephant Mountain), 11% Viognier (Elephant Mountain), and 10% Roussanne (Coyote Canyon). Aged in neutral oak on less for 12 months with weekly battonage. 13.3% alcohol. 85 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ott & Murphy Double Bluff Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2009 $19

(Good/Excellent) An aromatic and appealing wine with red fruit, game, spice, and mineral notes. The palate is fresh and ripe, full of lively brambly, red fruit flavors that linger on the finish. 35% Syrah (Coyote Canyon, Sugarloaf), 32% Cinsault (Coyote Canyon), 30% Grenache (Spice Cabinet), and 3% Roussanne (Coyote Canyon). Aged 18 months in French oak (20% new). 14.4% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ott & Murphy L’Entente Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $31

(Good/Excellent) Dark in color. Fascinating aromas of stewed rhubarb, red fruit, mineral, white pepper. The palate has a ripe, full, textured feel. Finishes a bit tart on this otherwise very enjoyable wine. 78% Syrah (Elephant Mountain), 17% Mourvedre (Elephant Mountain), 3% Mourvedre (Elephant Mountain) and 2% Roussanne (Coyote Canyon). Aged 22 months in French oak (25% new). 14.3% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Ott & Murphy Grenache Columbia Valley 2009 $27

(Good) Lightly aromatic with red fruit and spice. The palate is soft and fruit filled with a spicy finish. 79% Grenache, 13% Cinsault, 8% Syrah. Spice Cabinet, Sugarloaf, and Coyote Canyon vineyards. 14.3% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Pomum Cellars


Located in Woodinville’s warehouse district, Pomum Cellars is the work of winemaker Javier Alfonso and his wife Shylah. The winery is named after a Latin term for fruit.

The new releases from Pomum include the winery’s flagship wine, the Shya Red Wine, and the Tinto Tempranillo. The Shya is a Bordeaux-style blend hailing from the Yakima Valley. The Tempranillo meanwhile comes from various sites in the Columbia Valley.

Of note, for the 2009 Tinto, Alfonso incorporated new Tempranillo and Graciano blocks that were planted specifically for the winery at Upland Vineyard. These include the first Ribera del Duero Tinta del Pais clones imported from Spain.

Alfonso is currently the only Spanish winemaker working in Washington State. To further explore Spanish varieties in Washington, Alfonso has founded Idilico. Releases from this winery have thus far included Albarino, Garnacha, and Tempranillo (read reviews here).

Read a previous post on Pomum here.

Pomum Cellars Shya Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $38

(Good) Dark ruby. Very distinctive aromas of herbal notes, floral notes, black tea, and tart cherries. At times teeters toward the green veggies realm, which some may find a pretty accent but others may not. Palate is tart with a ball of cherry flavors concentrated in the middle and grainy tannins. 62.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.8% Cabernet Franc, 11.1% Merlot, 7.5% Malbec, and 3.7% Petit Verdot. Upland, Elerding, Sheridan, DuBrul, Dineen, and Konnowac vineyards. Aged 17 months in French (89%) and Hungarian oak. 14.7% alcohol. 639 cases produced.

Pomum Cellars Tinto Tempranillo Columbia Valley 2009 $25

(Good) A distinctive floral note along with orange rind, leather, spice, and red fruit. The palate is perfumed with floral notes, chewy red fruit, and grippy tannins. The floral notes – almost reminiscent of Viognier – get a bit distracting at times. 76.2% Tempranillo, 19.4% Garnacha, 2.7% Graciano, and 1.7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Elerding Six Prong, Upland, and Elerding Desert vineyards. Aged in 225L French (97%) and American barrels. 14.3% alcohol. 245 cases produced.


Balboa Winery

Balboa Winery is located in Walla Walla. Tom Glase serves as winemaker and Tom Waliser as vineyard manager.

For its wines, Balboa draws from both its estate vineyard, LeFore, located in the Rocks region on the Walla Walla Valley, and numerous other sites which Tom Waliser managers. These include Pepper Bridge, Candy Mountain, Stone Valley and others.

Balboa’s wines are always notable for their freshness and purity of fruit. The wines sampled below include a single vineyard Rocks region syrah at a seldom seen $24 price point. Notably, this wine only picked up steam after twenty-four hours of being open. The Pandemonium Syrah meanwhile comes exclusively from Block 19 of Pepper Bridge vineyard. For those looking to explore Walla Walla Valley terroir, these wines offer an excellent entry point.

Balboa Winery Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2009 $24

(Good/Excellent) This wine is a single vineyard, Rocks region Syrah at a seldom seen price point. It is lightly aromatic with mineral, a touch of funk, floral notes, and savory notes. The palate is soft and lithe with red fruit flavors that coat the palate. This wine continued to pick up steam after twenty-four hours of being open. Give extended time in the decanter to see it at its best. LeFore Vineyard. 14.5% alcohol.

Balboa Winery Sayulita Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007 $40

(Excellent) Starts out a little reduced before opening up to reveal bright, fresh red cherries and cranberries. The palate has lush, fresh fruit flavors and chalky tannins. There is a real freshness to this wine that is completely captivating. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Syrah. Pepper Bridge Vineyard. 14.1% alcohol. 200 cases produced.

Balboa Winery Pandemonium Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $40

(Excellent) Lightly aromatic with sea breeze, savory notes, light floral notes, and bacon fat. The palate is perfumed with restrained red fruit flavors and savory notes. A beautiful, unique wine with a compelling freshness. 100% Syrah. Pepper Bridge Block 19. 14.6% alcohol.


Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Exceptional)
(Excellent)
(Good)
(Decent)
(Not recommended/Flawed)

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