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Reviewed Wineries

2012 Walla Walla Valley Report Part I

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Below is Part I of a report from the Walla Walla Valley including wines from Rotie Cellars, Gramercy Cellars, Sleight of Hand Cellars, Waters Winery, and Rasa Vineyards.

Rotie Cellars


A cool vintage like 2010 plays right into the hands of winemaker Sean Boyd at Rotie Cellars who aims to make wines in a more restrained style. The latest releases show Boyd taking full advantage, with the 2010 wines some of the best the winery has produced to date.

Of note, the 2010 Southern Blend – a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre - includes more Grenache than recent vintages, enough so that it could be varietally labeled. This wine shows why a number of winemakers are excited about the prospects of southern Rhone varieties in Washington. Meanwhile, the 2010 vintage of the Northern Blend – Syrah co-fermented with Viognier – comes exclusively from the Walla Walla Valley for the first time, though the winery continues to label its wines ‘Washington State.’ The new releases also include the winery’s first 100% Mourvedre, hailing from Block #34 of Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills.

Rotie Cellars Southern White Washington State 2011 $28

(Good) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatic wine with aromas of white flowers, honeysuckle, ripe peaches, and marzipan. The palate is medium-plus bodied with a textured feel, full of citrus flavors. 50% Viognier, 30% Roussanne, and 20% Marsanne. Fermented and aged in stainless steel.

Rotie Cellars Southern Blend Washington State 2010 $40

(Exceptional) More Grenache driven than recent vintages, this is an aromatic dazzler with abundant red raspberries, white pepper, earth, and garrigue. On the lighter side of medium bodied, the palate is perfumed with tart, plump, ripe fruit flavors, soft tannins, and refreshing acidity. The best Southern Blend the winery has made to date. 75% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre. Aged in neutral French oak. 700 cases produced.

Rotie Cellars Northern Blend Washington State 2010 $40

(Exceptional) This is the first time Rotie’s Northern Blend has come exclusively from Walla Walla Valley fruit and, once again, this wine delivers. This is an aromatic wine with floral notes, mineral, black pepper, black olive juice, and a meaty streak. The palate is full of soft, meaty, perfumed savory flavors with bright acidity and a long persistent finish. Fans of this rising star winery will not be disappointed. 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. Dwelley, Patina, and SJR vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 605 cases produced.

Rotie Cellars Dre Mourvedre Washington State 2010 $60

(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with white pepper, savory notes, light floral notes, and herbal notes. The palate is medium bodied and tart with soft, plush fruit flavors. 100% Mourvedre. Block 34, Alder Ridge. 15% alcohol. 100 cases produced.


Gramercy Cellars


The latest releases from Gramercy Cellars include a new addition to the lineup – the 2009 L’Idiot du Village – a play on the Cotes du Rhone Villages name. This wine is mostly Syrah from Minnick Vineyard with the balance Grenache from Alder Ridge. Meanwhile the 2009 Lagniappe continues a string of stunning Syrahs from this winery and is among my favorite wines this year.

Gramercy Cellars L’Idiot du Village Columbia Valley 2009 $42

(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with fresh, brambly red raspberries, a touch of pepper, smoked meat, light floral notes, and orange peel. The palate is textured and full of clean, crisp red fruit flavors that linger on a tart finish. 85% Syrah (Minnick), 15% Grenache (Alder Ridge). 14.2% alcohol.

Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $45

(Exceptional) An aromatically compelling wine with a meaty, gamey streak, high toned floral notes, black olive juice, and ash. The palate is perfumed and textured, full of savory flavors. High on my list of favorite Syrahs this year. 100% Syrah. Minnick, Forgotten Hills, and SJR vineyards. 13.7% alcohol. 352 cases produced.


Sleight of Hand Cellars


Winemaker Trey Busch at Sleight of Hand Cellars offers another strong lineup of wines with his latest releases. Of note, the 2011 The Magician White Wine, typically a blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer, is all Evergreen Riesling due to the cool growing season. The standout from the new releases is the Funkadelic Syrah, which hails from Richard Funk’s (Saviah Cellars) estate vineyard in the Rock region of the Walla Walla Valley. Wine this good from fourth leaf vines? The future for this vineyard (and area) is bright. Perhaps the most exciting part of my visit, however, was tasting barrel samples from Busch’s 2010 and 2011 wines which look to be ones to look forward to.

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Magician White Wine Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $18

(Good) An aromatic wine with abundant green apple, white peach, and mineral notes. The palate is off dry, full of green apple flavors with mouthwatering acidity. 100% Riesling. 2% Residual Sugar. TA 1.1g/100 ml. 12.5% alcohol. 600 cases produced.

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Enchantress Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $28

(Excellent) Pale lemon yellow. A moderately aromatic wine with spice, green apple, and pear. The palate boasts a textured, rich mouthfeel with tart acidity. 100% Chardonnay. Aged 11 months in neutral French oak. 13.4% alcohol. 150 cases produced.

Sleight of Hand Cellars Spellbinder Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $18

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with cranberry, raspberry, and spice. The palate is soft and textured with tart fruit flavors. An enjoyable, easy drinking wine with a raspberry filled finish. 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 5% Sangiovese, 4% Syrah, and 2% Petit Verdot. Aged 11 months in neutral oak. 13.4% alcohol.

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Archimage Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45

(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with sweet spices, dark chocolate, floral notes, and red fruit. The palate is full of rich, ripe, soft fruit flavors and chocolate with velvety tannins. 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Franc. Seven Hills, Blue Mountain, Red Mountain, and Chelle den Millie vineyard. Aged 23 months in French oak (50% new). 14.8% alcohol. 300 cases produced.

Sleight of Hand Cellars The Illusionist Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45

(Excellent) An aromatic wine with abundant oak spices, blue fruit, cherries, and herbal notes. The palate has soft cherry flavors accented by chalky tannins. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah, and 8% Cabernet Franc. Red Mountain, Blue Mountain, and Lewis vineyards. 14.9% alcohol. 375 cases produced.

Sleight of Hand Cellars Levitation Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $40

(Excellent) Dark in color with a purple rim. An aromatic wine that announces itself with floral notes, blueberries, game, and mineral notes. The palate is soft and textured, full of chocolate and blueberry flavors and gauzy tannins. 100% Syrah. Lewis and Les Collines vineyards. Aged 17 months in French oak (42% new). 14.9% alcohol.

Sleight of Hand Cellars Funkadelic Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010 $60

(Exceptional) An intensely aromatic wine full of earthy funk, iron, smoked meat, ash, light floral notes, and black olive juice. The palate is perfumed and soft with a plush feel and grainy tannins. 98% Syrah co-fermented with 2% Viognier. Funk Family Vineyard. Aged 11 months in French oak (16% new). 14.7% alcohol. 150 cases produced.


Waters Winery


The latest releases from Waters Winery contain some wrinkles to the lineup. For the 2011 vintage, fruit for the Prelude White Wine, still 60% Roussanne and 40% Viognier, all comes from Alder Ridge Vineyard. The winery also introduced a new member to its lineup, the 2010 Tremelo Red Wine. This wine is mostly Syrah from Forgotten Hills Vineyard along with a splash of Grenache from Old Stones in the Rock region of the Walla Walla Valley. While fruit from Forgotten Hills has typically gone into a single vineyard Syrah from the winery, the cool 2010 vintage was hard on this marginal growing site, so no single vineyard wine will be produced.

Waters Winery Prelude White Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $30

(Good) Pale lemon green. A moderately aromatic wine with melon and pear. The palate is medium bodied with tart fruit flavors and just a touch of residual sugar. 60% Roussanne and 40% Viognier. Alder Ridge Vineyard. 13.5% alcohol. 175 cases produced.

Waters Winery Tremelo Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2010 $40

(Excellent) Labeled as a red wine, this could just as easily be labeled Syrah with just 8% Grenache from Old Stones Vineyard added to the blend. Fans of Waters’ Forgotten Hills Vineyard-designated Syrah – not made in 2010 - will see hallmarks of this vineyard here on a brightly aromatic wine with pepper, earthy funk, spice, ash, and mineral notes. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied with soft, tart red fruit and savory flavors. 92% Syrah, 8% Grenache. Aged in neutral French oak. Reviewed July 17, 2012

Waters Winery Cappella Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2010 $40

(Excellent) An aromatic wine with high toned floral notes, earth, cherry, and savory notes. The palate is full of ripe, plump cherry flavors that display great precision and intensity. 60% Cabernet Franc (Old Stones) and 40% Merlot (Seven Hills). Aged in neutral French oak. 188 cases produced.

21 Grams Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $125

(Excellent) From the first sniff, it is clear that this is a serious wine with floral notes, raspberries, cocoa powder, tobacco, herbal notes, and light green olive notes. The palate is full of cherry flavors with a firm backbone of tannins. Out of the gate the tannins can be a bit aggressive here but once they calm down this wine sings. Give a few years in the cellar or extended (extended) time in a decanter. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cold Creek and Pepper Bridge vineyards. Aged in French oak (40% new).


Rasa Vineyards


The latest releases from Rasa Vineyards show brothers Billo and Pinto Naravane continuing to play and experiment with their offerings. The new wines include the winery’s first Petit Verdot, labeled ‘Living in the Limelight’ after the Rush song and the grape’s frequent use as a minor blending component. They also include two new single vineyard Syrahs. The first, Occam’s Razor, comes from Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley. The second, Doctrina Perpetua, hails from Bacchus Vineyard in the Columbia Valley.

Rasa Vineyards Living in the Limelight Petit Verdot Columbia Valley 2009 $55

(Excellent) Dark in color. A lightly aromatic wine with floral notes, bittersweet chocolate, and cherry. The palate is soft but structured with tar and cherry flavors leading to a hyper-extended finish. 90% Petit Verdot (Dionysus Vineyard), 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. Aged in French oak (20% new). 15.0% alcohol. 80 cases produced. Sampled at 61 degrees.

Rasa Vineyards Vox Populi Mourvedre Columbia Valley 2010 $45

(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with orange peel, violets, and spice. The palate is soft and supple with lithe fruit flavors and soft tannins. 100% Mourvedre. Monette’s (Rocks region) and Alder Ridge vineyard. 14.1% alcohol. Sampled at 61 degrees.

Rasa Vineyards Occam’s Razor Block 10 Syrah Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $60

(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic but complex wine with bittersweet chocolate, floral notes, mineral notes, blueberry, and raspberry. The palate is plush and bold with ripe, focused fruit flavors while retaining a great deal of subtlety and sophistication. 100% Syrah. Aged in French oak (20% new). 15.2% alcohol. 88 cases produced. Sampled at 61 degrees.

Rasa Vineyards Doctrina Perpetua Syrah Bacchus Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $60

(Excellent/Exceptional) A dark, glass staining wine with great aromatic complexity including tar, dark fruit, chocolate, coffee, violets, and mineral notes. The palate is ripe and full without being overweighted, full of dark fruit flavors and ripe tannins. 100% Syrah. Bacchus Vineyard Block 5. Aged in French oak (30% new). 15.8% alcohol. 179 cases produced. Sampled at 61 degrees.



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)

Readers, please note that Blogger, where this site is hosted, has upgraded to a new version which has significant bugs and formatting issues. There are, at present, no work arounds, so you may see significant formatting errors within the posts.

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3 comments

  1. Ryan Messer Says:
  2. Aside from Waters, I hit all of these wineries on my last trip to WW at the end of June this year. And we only got to try one other wine aside from the Funkadelic at Sleight, but it was well worth the trip! I think I liked the Vox a little more than you did. All great wineries, and wines for that matter. People really need ot go and experience these tasting rooms though. Rotie just has a great vibe and is a fun place to drink some great wine. Steve Wells takes about as good of care of us as imaginable at Gramercy. It was "Scorpions Saturday" at Sleight of Hand when we went there, and they were actually playing it on vinyl and Trey let us choose some other artists to listen to as well. With a wine name like Limelight, you know the folks at Rasa are into Rush. But the coolest thing was when that played as Billo's ringtone on his phone. I highly recommend anyone to make the trip (if you don't live there) and check them all out. Set it up before though as some are not open without an appointment most days.

     
  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. Sean

    Have you ever visited Adamant Cellars in the Airport area? I tasted there last May and was pleasantly surprised with what they had, but would be interested in your take on their wines.

    I particularly liked their Semillon and Syrah blends

     
  5. Anon, I haven't tasted the Adamant wines for a number of years at this point. Thanks for the heads up. I'll give them another look.

     

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