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Walla Walla Valley Report 2012 Part V

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Below is Part V of a report from the Walla Walla Valley including wines from Dunham CellarsWoodward CanyonDumas StationTranche Cellars, and Balboa Winery. Read Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, and Part IV here. Photograph at left by Richard Duval.



Dunham Cellars

Dunham Cellars is one of Washington’s big little producers with case production on a number of wines that reaches into the low thousands with its widely distributed Three Legged Red reaching higher. The winery was founded in 1995, making it one of the valley’s elder statesmen.

Red wines sampled at 67 degrees.


Dunham Cellars Shirley Mays Chardonnay Lewis Estate Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $24
 (Good) An aromatic wine with pear, lemon, and yellow apple. The palate is fresh, clean, and light bodied. 100% Chardonnay. Aged in stainless steel (70%) and French oak. 13.3% alcohol. 1,021 cases produced.

Dunham Cellars Riesling Lewis Estate Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $20
 (Excellent) A mineral driven wine with citrus, lemon drop, and light petrol notes. The palate is off-dry with well balanced acidity. 100% Riesling. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 11.8% alcohol. 2.1% Residual Sugar. 598 cases produced.

Dunham Cellars Trutina Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $26
 (Excellent) An aromatically compelling wine with cocoa powder, dark fruit, and sweet spices. The palate has taught tannins and tart dark fruit flavors. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 6% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec. Lewis, Double River, Frenchtown, Phinny Hill, and Double Canyon vineyards. 13.5% alcohol. Aged in French and American oak. 3,879 cases produced.

Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon XV Columbia Valley 2009 $45
(Excellent) An aromatic wine with spice box, cocoa, and red fruit. The palate has broad, restrained fruit flavors and is made in a refined style with enough tannins to lay down in the cellar for years to come. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lewis, Phinny Hill, Wallula, and Double Canyon vineyards. Aged in French and American oak (65% new). 13.8% alcohol. 1,406 cases produced.

Dunham Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $35
(Excellent) Aromatically locked up at present but when it opens it reveals blueberries, violets, and sweet spices. On the palate, a broadly appealing wine that is packed tightly with dense fruit flavors and a somewhat surprising amount of tannins. 100% Syrah. Aged in French (59%) and American oak. 13.8% alcohol. 602 cases produced.

Dunham Cellars Syrah Lewis Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007 $75
 (Excellent) A classic Lewis Vineyard aroma profile with cherry cola, dark fruit, and sweet spices. The palate explodes with dense cherry and cocoa flavors that draw out across the palate. 100% Syrah. Aged in French (75%) and American oak. 14.4% alcohol. 475 cases produced.


Dumas Station

Dumas Station is located off by itself in Dayton, Washington – about a half hour east of downtown Walla Walla. The winery focuses on making Walla Walla Valley designated wines from Minnick Hills Vineyard (two miles north of Walla Walla), Birch Creek (at the southern end of the valley), and Breezy Slope (at the base of the Blue Mountains). These diversely situated vineyards are managed by winemaker Jay DeWitt.

While Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s flagship wine, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc are also in the mix. Of note, the winery is planning a new Bordeaux-style blend, Cuvee No. 439, and also recently remodeled its tasting room, located in an old apple packing shed.

Read previous posts on Dumas Station here.

Dumas Station Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2008 $32
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with high toned herbal notes along with green tea, floral notes, dark raspberries, and cherries. The palate is soft, sweet, and fruit filled with velvety tannins. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. Minnick Hills Vineyard. Aged 22 months in American and French oak (80% new). 15% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Sampled at 67 degrees.


Tranche Cellars

Despite making wine for a number of years, Tranche Cellars – a sister winery to Corliss Estates – is truly just starting to spread its wings. The latest releases show an increasing focus on the winery’s estate vineyard, Blue Mountain. Among the more majestic sites in the Walla Walla Valley, this vineyard - originally planted in 2002 - has seen a great deal of additional planting in recent years. Plantings include Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Picpoul Blanc, and Clairette Blanche. Wait…what? Indeed, Clairette Blanche makes its way into Washington. While it will take time to see what becomes of these efforts, the current releases provide much to enjoy in the meantime. Like the Corliss wines, the Tranche wines see extra time in barrel and bottle prior to release to the benefit of all.

Red wines sampled at 67 degrees. Read previous posts on Tranche Cellars here.

Tranche Cellars Slice of Pape Blanc White Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $30
 (Excellent) This southern Rhone inspired blend is full of apricot, floral notes, and melon. Lighter on its feet than some recent vintages, the palate has a textured feel, full of stone fruit flavors. Roussanne and other Rhone varieties aged in neutral French oak and stainless steel. 14.2% alcohol. 424 cases produced. Sampled at 57 degrees.

Tranche Cellars Pinot Gris Columbia Gorge 2009 $16
 (Good) An aromatic wine with apple skin, citrus, and abundant lees notes. The palate is off dry with vibrant acidity and mineral notes throughout. Swiftwater Vineyard. 13.9% alcohol. 498 cases produced.

Tranche Cellars Estate Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $35
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatic, glass staining wine with abundant sweet oak notes along with spice, dark fruit, and floral notes. The palate is made in an oak-driven style with abundant rich dark fruit flavors and grippy tannins. 100% Syrah. Blue Mountain Vineyard. Aged 30 months in French oak. 378 cases produced.

Tranche Cellars Estate Cabernet Franc Walla Walla Valley 2008 $25
(Excellent ) An aromatically appealing wine with cocoa, floral notes, and high toned herbal notes. The palate is dry with firm tannins. 100% Cabernet Franc. Aged 30 months in French oak. 132 cases produced.

Tranche Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2007 $40
 (Excellent) This first estate Cabernet from the winery’s Blue Mountain Vineyard is an aromatically appealing wine with high toned aromas of herbal notes, black cherry, and cocoa. The palate is big and brawny with bold flavors and firm tannins. Aged 30 months in French oak. 138 cases produced.


Woodward Canyon

One of the joys of the last two vintages in Washington has been tasting through the abundance of high quality white wines being produced. Valley stalwart Woodward Canyon has certainly been a beneficiary of the cooler conditions in this regard, with the winery’s estate Chardonnay and Chardonnay shining. Co-owner Rick Small also notes that the winery’s whites fit in well with the Northwest landscape, saying, “Our 2011 whites were absolutely meant for Northwest seafood.”

While the cooler conditions of 2010 and 2011 allowed many white wine producers to excel, they also presented some challenges in terms of red grapes. Of note in this regard, Woodward Canyon will not be producing a 2010 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon – with 1996 the only other vintage that has been missed.

Read previous posts on Woodward Canyon here.

Woodward Canyon Estate Sauvignon Blanc Walla Walla Valley 2011 $26
(Excellent) Pale lemon-green. A moderately aromatic wine with melon, spice, pear, and light herbal tones. The palate has a textured mouthfeel with lively acidity. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermented in stainless steel. Aged in neutral French oak. 13.2% alcohol. 139 cases produced. Reviewed  November 7 2012

Woodward Canyon Chardonnay Washington State 2011 $44
(Excellent) Pale lemon yellow. Very lightly aromatic with spice, the underside of a pineapple, and almond. The palate is medium bodied, understated with a great deal of subtlety with lively acidity. 100% Chardonnay. Fermented in French Burgundy barrels (20% new). Celilo (67%) and Woodward Canyon Estate vineyards. 13.3% alcohol. 733 cases produced. Sampled at 57 degrees. Reviewed  November 7 2012

Woodward Canyon Merlot Columbia Valley 2009 $44
 (Good) Medium ruby. An aromatic wine with coffee, spice, red fruit, and light herbal notes. The palate has abundant vanilla and red fruit flavors that linger on the finish. 100% Merlot. Weinbau Vineyard. 15.8% alcohol. 301 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon Washington 2009 $54
 (Excellent) An aromatic wine with high toned herbal notes, abundant vanilla notes, dark fruit, and spice. The palate is loaded with dark fruit flavors and grainy tannins with abundant oak accents leading to a vanilla and spice filled finish. The oak is heavy here but the wine largely has the fruit intensity to match. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Champoux, Woodward Canyon Estate, Sagemoor, Spring Creek, Charbonneau, DuBrul, and Weinbau vineyards. 15.8% alcohol. 2,421 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Estate Reserve Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2009 $79
(Excellent) An aromatic wine with cocoa, floral notes, dark fruit, and vanilla. The palate is full of chewy dark fruit flavors and abundant oak accents with grainy tannins. 43% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. 16.0% alcohol. 181 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2009 $89
(Excellent) Dark ruby. An aromatic wine with coffee, high toned herbal notes, dark fruit and spice. The palate is rich and liquorous, full of ripe, sweet fruit flavors. The dials are all turned way up here. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. Champoux (60%), Sagemoor (33%), and Woodward Canyon Estate vineyards. 16.7% alcohol. 643 cases produced.


Balboa Winery

Tasting through the lineup at Balboa Winery is always a unique experience. Most of the wines come from Walla Walla Valley fruit, and Balboa is moving increasingly in this direction. Additionally, many of the wines are aged in a low percentage of new oak and sometimes even in neutral barrels – a rarity in Washington.

Balboa Winery Merlot Walla Walla Valley 2010 $28
(Good) Medium ruby. A brightly aromatic, appealing wine with red cherries, earth, and dusty chocolate. The palate is light bodied with orange peel and citrus flavors and firm tannins. Pepper Bridge Vineyard. 14.4% alcohol.

Balboa Winery Twenty-six Eleven Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $30
 (Excellent) A brooding, earthy wine with cranberry and currant. The palate is restrained and fresh with pure fruit flavors and soft tannins. An intriguing, very unusual bottle for Washington. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 18 months in neutral French oak. 14.2% alcohol.

Balboa Winery Constrictor Red Wine Pepper Bridge Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2008 $36
 (Good) An aromatically reticent wine with spice and red and black currant. The palate is fresh and clean with pure fruit flavors and well integrated tannins. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, and 12% Merlot. Aged 18 months in neutral French oak. 14.2% alcohol.

Balboa Winery Mith Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $40
 (Excellent) A lightly aromatic wine with spice and dark fruit. The palate is lush and fruit filled with an undercurrent of firm tannins. Give one to two years.

Balboa Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2010 $24
(Good) Very lightly aromatic with light floral notes and herbal notes. The palate shows more Old World styling than new with a lot of structure and light fruit flavors accented by mineral notes. 14.8% alcohol.

Balboa Winery Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley 2009 $28
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with vanilla, exotic spice, green olive, tobacco leaf, and cherry. The palate is silky and plush with restrained fruit flavors and a spice filled finish. 100% Tempranillo. John Cockburn Ranch Vineyard. 14.2% alcohol. Aged 20 months in neutral French oak. 94 cases produced.

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