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Reviewed Wineries

Fresh Sheet December 18th 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012







Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Walla Walla VintnersThe Grande DallesL’Ecole No 41Tulpen CellarsSinclair Estate Vineyards, and Corvus Cellars.

Walla Walla Vintners

Long-tenured valley winery Walla Walla Vintners has some interesting changes in the works, including a redesigned website and a first-ever wine club. The new website contains a series of videos that provide the winery’s story as well as discuss the latest releases. Meanwhile the wine club releases include the winery’s first wine from its estate vineyard – a 2010 Syrah (NB: The Tulpen wines reviewed below come from this same region of the valley).

The current releases once again show Walla Walla Vintners doing what it does best - produce high quality wines that punch well above their weight class. The 2010 Merlot is an absurdly good wine for $28 and the 2010 Malbec is about as good as the grape gets here for just a couple dollars more. The former shows luxurious use of new French oak, the latter dials the oak back and let’s the fruit shine.

Read previous posts on the winery here.

Walla Walla Vintners Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2010 $28
(Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatic wine with roasted coffee bean, toast, cherry, and exotic spice. The palate is thick and weighty, full of chocolate and cherry flavors that draw out to an extended finish. An incredibly delicious wine at a knockout price. 14.2% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Malbec Columbia Valley 2009 $30
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with light herbal notes, white pepper, spice, floral notes, and dark plums. The palate is silky smooth with vibrant, soft fruit flavors and plump tannins accented by dark chocolate. A thoroughly delicious wine. 14.3% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Malbec Columbia Valley 2010 $30
(Exceptional) Dark in color. Draws you into the glass with white pepper, black and blue fruit, and spice. The palate has incredibly pure, rich, fruit flavors and velvety tannins that lead to a long chocolate and pepper filled finish. A very refined, understated wine that snaps the delicious scale in two. 100% Malbec. Sagemoor Vineyard. 14.3% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Cordon Grove Vineyard Cuvee Red Table Wine Yakima Valley    2010 $30
(Excellent) An intriguing, spice filled wine with abundant floral notes, coffee, and herbal tones. The palate has a broad, silky feel with luxurious oak flavors of coffee and chocolate that linger on a long finish. 60% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select Walla Walla Valley 2009 $48
(Excellent) An aromatically distinct wine with scorched earth, cherry leudens, coffee, pencil lead, cassis, and herbal tones. The palate has brawny tannins and is loaded with chocolate, medicinal notes, and sour cherry flavors. Less voluptuous in style than many of the winery’s offerings, this wine focuses just as much on structure as fruit flavors. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon (Tokar, Windrow, Yellowbird) and 4% Petit Verdot (Frazier Bluff). 110 cases produced. Wine club releases. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010 $32  
(Good/Excellent) A black pepper filled wine that also shows cherries, mineral, and a touch of coffee and chocolate. The palate is tart, on the lighter side of medium bodied in feel but with penetrating fruit flavors. Broadens out and ramps up in intensity after a day of being open. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2010 $36
 (Excellent) This first bottling from Walla Walla Vintners’ Estate Vineyard is aromatically brooding with coffee, scorched earth, a light floral tone, wild blueberry, and cherry. The palate is perfumed and airy in feel with savory flavors and incredible elegance with supple, polished tannins. A very pretty, very elegant wine that shows the promise of this vineyard site. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


The Grande Dalles

The Grande Dalles is an estate wine micro producer located near The Dalles, Oregon. The winery was founded by the husband and wife team Scott Elder and Stephanie LaMonica. LaMonica writes, “If I can say anything about our wines, it is this: we grow our grapes and make our wines to frame the year, whatever that may be. Minerality, earth, savoriness, reticent fruit: this is what we relish in the wines we make. We also know our wines are not for everyone, but then again, that was never the idea.”

Elder and LaMonica identified the spot they wanted to plant a vineyard using Google Earth while living in Ireland back in 2005, using the application to find just the right elevation, incline, and aspect. “Land that wasn’t even for sale,” LaMonica notes. The estate vineyard is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia Valley, just outside of The Dalles.

The Grande Dalles’ current releases include a bone dry Riesling and three red wines. All are unique in style and display the promise of this vineyard site. The most intriguing of the lineup is the 2008 Home Place Red Wine, a blend of mostly Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s one of the more distinctive Northwest wines I’ve come across lately with great aromatic complexity and an absolute mouthful of tobacco flavors. As with the winery’s Longchamp Cabernet Sauvignon, the tannins can be quite rustic and intense here. Still, the appeal and uniqueness of the wine cannot be ignored.

The Grande Dalles produces 500-600 cases of wine annually.

The Grande Dalles Leroy’s Finest Bone Dry Riesling Columbia Valley 2010 $30
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with lime, white grapefruit rind, white peach, and honeysuckle. The palate is – as the name would suggest – bone dry with a broad, textured feel that is quite unique for the varietal. 100% Riesling. 13.5% alcohol. 37 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

The Grande Dalles Home Place Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $60
(Excellent) An aromatic, incredibly distinctive wine with freshly ground tobacco, orange peel, dark cherries, licorice, and light herbal tones. The palate is absolutely loaded with tobacco flavors and a wall of rustic tannins that take a full day of being open to begin to resolve. Needs food to help temper the tannins but delivers a lot of enjoyment and is among the more unique wines I’ve come across in the Northwest. 70% Tempranillo, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc. Rock Flower Hill Vineyard. Aged 16 months in French oak. 13.5% alcohol. 115 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

The Grande Dalles Gampo Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $60
 (Good) An aromatically appealing wine with cigar box, candied cherry, herbal tones, licorice, and oodles of dark spice. The palate is subdued with grainy tannins and light fruit flavors. 80% Sangiovese (Brunello clone), 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc. Rock Flour Hill Vineyard. Aged 16 months in French oak. 13% alcohol. 80 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

The Grande Dalles Longchamp Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $NA
(Good) The first vintage of this estate Cabernet named after a wine shop in France, this is an aromatic wine with black and red licorice, tobacco, herbs, and cassis. The palate has firm, rustic tannins that squeeze tightly, surrounded by flavors of cherry and earth. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Rock Flour Hill Vineyard. 13.5% alcohol. 215 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


L’Ecole No 41

L’Ecole No 41’s latest releases include a rare Seven Hills Vineyard-designated Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. This distinctive site, located in the southern section of the Walla Walla Valley, accounts for nearly one third of L’Ecole’s red wine production. With its first plantings in 1981, Seven Hills is one of the older vineyards in the valley, though most of the vines on the now 230-acre site are considerably younger. The vineyard is known for producing wines with supple tannic structure and elegance and these two wines – as well as the others reviewed below from this site – show this in abundance.

Read previous posts on the winery here.

L’Ecole No 41 Merlot Columbia Valley 2009 $25       
 (Good) This wine has the stuffing but doesn’t seem to have quite blossomed yet. It’s very lightly aromatic with bay leaf and barrel spices. The palate is chock full of red fruit flavors back by firm, chalky tannins. 76% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot. Seven Hills, Pepper Bridge, Candy Mountain, Bacchus, Dionysus, Klipsun, StoneTree and Weinbau vineyards. Aged 18 months in oak (30% new). 14.5% alcohol. 4,000 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $37
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with cedar, raspberries, herbal tones, and medicine cabinet notes. The palate is soft and lush with smooth tannins and rich red fruit flavors. 76% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc. Aged 18 months in French oak (40% new). 14.5% alcohol. 1,190 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $32
 (Good/Excellent) A lightly aromatic wine with high toned aromas of sage, espresso, anise, and black currant. The palate is full of dark fruit flavors with firm, slightly dry tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Bacchus, Dionysus, StoneTree, Mirage, Alder Ridge, Candy Mountain, Klipsun, Pepper Bridge, Stillwater Creek, and Seven Hills vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 4,210 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009 $37
 (Good) An aromatically appealing wine with cedar, mocha powder, herbal tones. The palate is soft and understated with supple tannins and ripe fruit flavors. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Seven Hills, Loess, Pepper Bridge, Va Piano, and Yellow Jacket vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak (40% new). 14.5% alcohol. 2,230 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Estate Cabernet Franc Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $36
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with dusty spices, mocha, licorice, and a medley of floral and herbal notes. The palate is rich and opulent, loaded with cherry flavors and chalky tannins. 100% Cabernet Franc. Aged 18 months in French oak (33% new). 14.5% alcohol. 220 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Estate Petit Verdot Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley  2009 $35
 (Excellent) Lightly aromatic with potting soil, peat, and floral notes. The palate is full of dark cherry flavors with a layer of firm tannins brooding just below the surface. 100% Petit Verdot. Aged 18 months in French oak (40% new). 14.5% alcohol. 99 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $25
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with boysenberry, olive, mesquite, and chocolate. The palate is plush with fruit flavors and soft, pillowy tannins. 14.5% alcohol. 2,280 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

L’Ecole No 41 Perigee Red Wine Estate Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2009 $50
 (Excellent) An aromatically complex wine with cedar, clove, high toned herbal notes with occasional pepper aromas sneaking through, earth, pencil lead, and a medley of red and black fruit. The palate has sinewy dark fruit flavors and firm, grainy tannins that should benefit from some additional time in the bottle. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, and 4% Petit Verdot. Aged 22 months in French oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 1,210 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Tulpen Cellars

These two new wines from Tulpen Cellars are unique in that they are some of the few wines coming out of the Walla Walla Valley - or Washington for that matter - where the vineyard was dry farmed, meaning that no irrigation was used. Both wines come from Yellow Bird Vineyard in the Upper Mill Creek area of the valley. The vineyard sits at an elevation of 1,450 feet and receives 20 inches of rainfall annually.

Read previous posts on the winery here.

Tulpen Cellars Grenache Yellow Bird Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2010 $34
(Good) Medium ruby. An aromatic wine that pronounces itself with red and black raspberries, cranberries, slate, and peat. The palate is tart and tangy with vibrant red fruit flavors. If you can get around the tartness, there’s beautiful fruit here. 95% Grenache. 5% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol. 32 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Tulpen Cellars Tempranillo Yellow Bird Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2010 $34
 (Excellent) A brightly aromatic wine with a complex medley of aromas including sour cherry, raspberry, peat, tobacco, dark cherry, dark flowers, and spice. The palate is subdued – noticeably lower in alcohol than many in Washington – with exceptionally well integrated tannins. A compelling wine, unique for the Walla Walla Valley and for Washington. 100% Tempranillo. 13.0% alcohol. 69 cases. Sample provided by winery.


Onesies

Sinclair Estate Vineyards Pentatonic Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $40
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with barrel spices - cedar, bittersweet chocolate, and caramel – along with blackberries. The palate is silky smooth and lightly structured with incredibly soft dark fruit flavors and barrel accents. A very pretty, finesse driven wine.  50% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Sangiovese, 7% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lewis, Wallula, Stone Tree, Yellow Bird, Pleasant, and Les Collines vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 330 cases produced.

Corvus Cellars Cuvee Red Mountain 2009 $19
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with dark cherries, black currant, black licorice, and spice along with a kiss of caramel. The palate shows remarkable restraint with subtle fruit flavors and grainy tannins with some Old World styling. A superb value at this price. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 8% Cabernet Franc. 14.3% alcohol. 600 cases produced.

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