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When Wine Writers Are Wrong

Friday, February 22, 2013

As wine reviewers, there is an understanding (hopefully) that we are reviewing each wine at a particular moment in time. It is a snapshot. There is an expectation, though, that we can project that snapshot forward or that the qualitative evaluation is relatively stable. And often that expectation is correct. But sometimes it is wrong. Dreadfully wrong. This is one wine’s story.

I tasted the 2010 Eight Bells Clonal Selection Syrah - a blend of eight different varietal clones from Red Willow - in early September of last year. I enjoyed the wine and gave it a three and a half star rating (Good/Excellent). I have noted previously that many of the 2010 vintage reds from Washington require some time to fully come out of their shells. And of course, due to the nature of the wine business, sometimes wines are released and/or tasted earlier than they would ideally be.

Suffice to say that when I retasted this wine earlier this year, my first thought was, “That’s not the same wine.” But of course it was. The wine had considerably evolved over the subsequent five months. In fact, when I asked the proprietors of the winery if I could take the rest of the bottle home to see how it opened up, one of them noted that the wine improved considerably after a few hours of being open.

Indeed. Tasting the wine again eight hours later, it had fully blossomed. It was among the more exciting wines I’ve tried so far this year. Part of that excitement was the price. This is a forty-plus dollar quality Syrah hiding in a $32 bottle – and that just doesn't happen all that often. Part of the excitement though was the sheer thrill of the wine. It’s a wine that you sip and say, “Wow that’s really good!” each time - and that doesn't happen all that often either!

While some winemakers had a great deal of anxiety about the cool 2010 growing season, Frank Michiels at Eight Bells said of the vintage, “It played to our style.” This is simultaneously true and an understatement. Eight Bells made some gorgeous wines from the 2010 vintage. Better yet, the wines are extremely well priced, so it’s affordable to find out for yourself.

I don’t believe in ‘re-reviewing’ wines, so you won't find new notes on the 2010 Eight Bells Clonal Selection Syrah below. But I also don’t believe it letting grave errors stand. What I will say is that my original assessment of this wine was way off the mark. And I have never been so pleasantly surprised at being so very wrong.

Eight Bells Winery Ravenna White Table Wine Oregon 2011 $16
(Excellent) An aromatically fresh wine with sliced apple, nectarine, and mineral notes. The palate is crisp and tart with green apple flavors. 95% Pinot Gris, 5% Viognier. Methven Family Vineyard. 13.1% alcohol. 270 cases produced.

Eight Bells Winery Roosevelt Red Red Wine Yakima Valley 2010 $18
(Excellent) What’s this? A 100% varietal merlot from Hedges and Red Willow vineyards from 1990 plantings coming in under $20? Yes! It’s moderately aromatic with herbal and mineral notes, high toned red fruit, and light floral accents. The palate is tart and fresh with a compact ball of tannins and a chocolaty finish. Will only improve with some additional time in the bottle. 100% Merlot. Red Willow (50%) and Hedges vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 250 cases produced.

Eight Bells Winery Shellback Red Wine Yakima Valley 2010 $25
(Excellent) An immediately appealing wine with blueberry, black pepper, mineral, and cherry. The palate has fresh, vibrant cherry flavors with firm tannins. Still needs some time to fully flesh out. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon (Ambassador Vineyard, Red Mountain), 16% Syrah (Red Willow), 6% Merlot (Red Willow, Ambassador). Aged in French oak (40% new). 14.6% alcohol. 230 cases produced.

Eight Bells Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select Red Mountain 2010 $35
 (Excellent/Exceptional) A selection of the winery’s best barrels and all from a single vineyard, this wine sees considerably more new French oak than most of the winery’s lineup – 80%. It shows it with toasty char, spice, and mocha along with dark cherries and raspberries. The palate is rich with chocolate and cherry flavors and well balanced tannins and a long, long finish. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc. Ambassador Vineyard. 14.8% alcohol. 173 cases produced.

Picture from thegeekmates.com

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3 comments

  1. Ali Harvey Says:
  2. Great to hear the wine got a second look. I wonder if we'll see more of that with the 2010 vintage? I'm sure many wineries would like to hold onto the 2010 wines for more bottle aging before releasing, but alas...economics sometimes wins out.

     
  3. Anthony Rose Says:
  4. Why not just say: when I am wrong...

     
  5. Good for you for discussing your "error" with your readers Sean. And if you think that wine writers occasionally get it wrong, I am a financial writer. If our lot had to issue an apology every time we got it wrong, that would take up half the blogs!

     

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