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Reviewed Wineries

Fresh Sheet October 11th 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013






Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from AvenniaLong ShadowsAndrew WillGuardian CellarsStevens WinerySwiftwater CellarsMichael Florentino Cellars, and more.

Avennia

From its first releases last year, Avennia has impressed with a clear style that winemaker Chris Peterson describes as “barely, but definitively, physiologically ripe.” The new wines continue Avennia’s string of success, with each wine commanding attention.

The Oliane Sauvignon Blanc, a blend of Boushey and Red Willow vineyards, reflects the vintage’s riper style with a richness to the fruit flavors while still retaining its typicity and acidity. The Justine is the winery’s first Southern Rhone-style blend that brings a lot of complexity with thoroughly delicious fruit flavors. The true belle of the ball here, however, has to be the 2011 Arnaut Syrah from Boushey Vineyard, which brings a panoply of fruit and savory aromas and flavors accented by lively acidity. It is among the finest examples of Syrah I’ve had from this vineyard and nothing short of required reading for fans of the variety or vineyard.

Read previous reviews of Avennia here.

Avennia Oliane Sauvignon Blanc Yakima Valley 2012 $25
(Excellent) An alluring wine with a beautiful mixture of barrel spices, fruit aromas that range from peach to kiwi, and fresh herbs. The palate is rich, concentrated, and flavorful with a long, drawn out finish. A thoroughly delicious, lip smacking wine that is true to the warmer vintage while still retaining its typicity and acidity. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Boushey (approximately two thirds) and Red Willow vineyards. Barrel fermented in French oak (20% new) and aged sur lies for 7 months. 13.8% alcohol. 190 cases produced.

Avennia Justine Red Wine Columbia Valley 2011 $38
 (Excellent/Exceptional) Dark in color. An aromatically complex wine with dark cherries, huckleberries, herbs, grilled meat, and peppery spices. It’s high on the delicious scale with structured pomegranate flavors and mineral accents. An impressive first release of this wine. 46% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 24% Syrah. Aged in French oak (0% new). Alder Ridge (Grenache), Kiona Heart of the Hill (Mourvèdre), and Angela’s vineyards (Syrah). Aged 16 months in neutral French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 320 cases produced.

Avennia Syrah Arnaut Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $48
 (Exceptional) A dark, glass staining wine that brings a lot of aromatic complexity with high toned aromas of peppery spice, mulberry, mineral, and roasted meat. The palate is rich, textured and intensely flavored with lively acidity and great purity of fruit. Among the finest examples of Syrah I have had from this esteemed vineyard. 100% Syrah. Aged 16 months in French oak (15% new). 14.9% alcohol. 310 cases produced.


Long Shadows

While Bordeaux and Rhone varieties have taken off in Washington of late, the Italian varieties have lagged behind, particularly Sangiovese and Super Tuscan blends (read an article I wrote in the September/October issue of Edible Seattle magazine, on newsstands now, that discusses why). Wines like the Long Shadows Saggi, however, show that in the right hands, these wines can be superlative in Washington. Crafted by Tuscany’s Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari and shepherded by resident winemaker Gilles Nicault, this blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah brings a seemingly endless list of descriptors along with it. It’s high on the delicious scale and more than deserving of a spot in the cellar.

As with a number of Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines from the frost shortened 2009 vintage, the current release of the Chester-Kidder shows a bit of roughness to the tannins that needs some additional time in the cellar to soften.

Read previous reviews of Long Shadows here.

Long Shadows Saggi Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $45
 (Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with high toned notes of sour cherry, fresh herbs, saddle leather, coffee bean, and barrel spices. The palate is soft and supple with a compelling mouthfeel and rich fruit flavors that draw out on a tart, lip smacking, chocolate filled finish. High on the delicious scale. 62% Sangiovese, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Syrah. Candy Mountain, Boushey, Horse Heaven Hills, and Wahluke Slope vineyards. 14.60% alcohol.

Long Shadows Chester-Kidder Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $50
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatically brooding wine with dark fruit, burnt embers, smoke, chocolate, earth, and spice. The palate is big, bold, and rich with fruit flavors and dry, chalky tannins. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 17% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Candy Mountain, Dionysus, StoneTree, and Weinbau vineyards. 14.9% alcohol. 989 cases produced. 1,419 cases produced.


Andrew Will

The 2010 vintage releases from Andrew Will include some unique and thrilling wines. Tasting them, I kept coming back to one thought: no one in Washington (or elsewhere for that matter) is making wines that taste quite like them.

Winemaker Chris Camarda unabashedly embraced the cool 2010 vintage. Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate this is by the alcohol levels on the labels of the wines sampled below – 12.8%, 13.1%, 13%, 13.2%, 12.8%, 13.2%. These are levels almost unseen in Washington for a decade or more, but that was what the vintage provided: lower alcohol wines with ripe fruit flavors. While the aromas are somewhat more subdued than seen on previous releases, the flavors bring a rich purity without any of the excess alcoholic weight. There’s an honestly and directness to the 2010 wines that I found captivating. While drinking well now, these wines should all benefit from extended time in the cellar.

Read previous reviews of Andrew Will here.

NB: I have included below published reviews from my work at Wine Enthusiast as well.

Andrew Will Cuvee Lucia Viognier Antoine Creek Vineyard Washington State 2012 $25
(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with white peach, mineral, honeysuckle, and apple. The palate is textured with a real sense of freshness. 13% alcohol.

Andrew Will Red Wine Two Blondes Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $52
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with cherry, espresso, saline, olive, and cedar. The palate is elegantly styled with soft fruit flavors and a slightly gritty feel to the tannins. 43% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec. Aged 21 months in French oak. 12.8% alcohol. 1,073 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Andrew Will Champoux Vineyard Red Horse Heaven Hills 2010 $60
93 points. This is a blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet Franc (32%) and Cabernet Sauvignon coming from vines with an average age of 30 years. It has light but complex notes of cherries, plum, herbs, flowers and bittersweet chocolate. It’s restrained and understated in style with seamless fruit flavors, mouthwatering acids and edgy tannins that need some time in the cellar to calm down. 13.1% alcohol. 692 cases produced. – S.S. Wine Enthusiast, 11/1/2013

Andrew Will Mays’ Discovery Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2010 $45
91 points. Though Andrew Will has been known more recently for its vineyard-designated blends, this is a return to a 100% varietal offering. Coming from five year-old vines, it shows grace and texture with high toned leafy notes, herbs, bittersweet chocolate and plum. There’s a wonderful sense of tension between the lively acidity and the chewy tannins as the wine continues to open and evolve. 13% alcohol. 74 cases produced. – S.S. Wine Enthusiast, 11/1/2013

Andrew Will Sorella Red Wine Horse Heaven Hills 2010 $70
91 pointsThis blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (20%) and Cabernet Franc (7%) comes from vines at Champoux Vineyard that average 34 years of age. It’s soft and seductive with notes of coffee bean, chocolate, and olive backed by slightly gritty tannins. 13.2% alcohol. 885 cases produced. – S.S. Wine Enthusiast, 11/1/2013

Andrew Will Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2011 $25
 (Good) Lightly aromatic with green and black olive, herbs, and savory notes. The palate is medium bodied, fresh, soft, and rounded in feel with espresso and cherry flavors and a saline filled finish. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 16 months in French oak. 12.8% alcohol. 367 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Andrew Will Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $57
 (Excellent) Lightly aromatic with herbs, floral notes, citrus, coffee, cherry, and pencil box. The palate is fresh with textured fruit flavors and smooth, rounded tannins and mouthwatering acidity. 52% Merlot, 48% Cabernet Franc. Aged 21 months in French oak. 13.2% alcohol. 763 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Guardian Cellars

It’s been an eventful year for Jerry Riener of Woodinville’s Guardian Cellars. One the positive side, Riener and his wife had a child earlier this year. On the not so positive side, Riener had a so-close-to-death experience shortly thereafter it makes one shudder to think about it. We’ll leave that story for another day but, suffice to say, we are more than a little bit grateful he’s still with us.

Read previous reviews of Guardian Cellars here.

Guardian Confidential Source Merlot Columbia Valley 2010 $NA
 (Excellent) An aromatic wine with stewed raspberries and cherries, light herbal tones, and peat. The palate has a thick feel and packs a wallop with bold fruit flavors, and firm, grainy tannins. Shows a bit more alcohol than the label might suggest. 100% Merlot. Ciel du Cheval, Conner Lee, and Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged in French oak (60% new). 14.4% alcohol. 200 cases produced.

Guardian The Wanted Red Wine Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $37
 (Excellent) An aromatic wine with roasty toasty oak notes, pencil lead, a cooked vegetable medley, roasted coffee beans, and plum. The palate is full bodied with a viscous, mouth coating feel. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot. Aged 21 months in French oak (75% new). 14.4% alcohol. 300 cases produced.


Stevens Winery

There’s a bittersweet note in the latest releases from Stevens Winery. The winery’s 2011 A Final Thought Sauvignon Blanc marks the final vintage from these Klipsun Vineyard grapes due to a freeze that damaged the vines.

Stevens A Final Thought Sauvignon Blanc Yakima Valley 2011 $20
(Good) Moderately aromatic with herbs, citrus, and oak spices. It’s medium bodied with tart fruit flavors and a broad feel. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Klipsun Vineyard. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13.3% alcohol. 110 cases produced.

Stevens Merlot Yakima Valley 2010 $30
(Good) The barrel spices – particularly vanilla and pencil shavings – are dominant initially followed by herbs, iodine, and red fruit. It comes off as a little green around the edges with tart fruit flavors, ramping down on the back half. DuBrul and Meek vineyards. Aged 18 months in French oak. 14.6% alcohol. 140 cases produced.

Stevens StevensFranc Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley 2010 $30           
(Good) Lightly aromatic with cherry, vanilla, dry chocolate, and abundant floral notes. The palate is front loaded with tart cherry flavors and grainy tannins. Dineen (80%) and Sheridan vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (50% new). 14.4% alcohol. 172 cases produced.

Stevens Timley Malbec Yakima Valley 2010 $35
 (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with light green notes common for Northwest Malbec along with plum, black pepper, and oak spices. The palate is lighter in body with soft, tart fruit flavors. Dineen Vineyard. Aged 18 months in French oak (80% new). 14.0% alcohol. 170 cases produced.

Stevens Black Tongue Syrah Yakima Valley 2010 $30
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine where the oak is initially front and center with spice and vanilla followed by graphite, fresh herbs, smoke, and dark fruit. It’s medium bodied with a bit of grip to the tannins leading to a warm finish. 100% Syrah. Dineen Vineyard. Aged in French oak (50% new). 14.9% alcohol. 288 cases produced.


Swiftwater Cellars

Swiftwater Cellars is a destination winery located at Suncadia Resort in eastern Washington. The winery overlooks an adjacent golf course and sits atop an old coal mine – Coal Mine No. 9, which figures into its branding. Swiftwater was founded by Don Watts and Lori Watts, with Tony Rynders and Linda Trotta overseeing the wines.

Swiftwater Cellars No. 9 Semillon Columbia Valley 2011 $18
(Decent) Labeled at 14.5% alcohol, the aromas and flavors here seem to show it. While there’s plenty of floral notes and fig to this medium bodied, textured wine, the booze is ultimately a bit too distracting. 100% Semillon. 14.5% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2010 $20
 (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with toasty spices, caramel, and stone fruit. The palate is medium bodied with tart, citric acidity. 13.5% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars Riesling Columbia Valley 2011 $18
 (Good) An aromatic wine redolent with ripe peach and floral notes. The palate is off-dry with abundant stone fruit flavors and a dry finish.

Swiftwater Cellars No. 9 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010 $NA
(Good/Excellent) Aromatically appealing with tree bark, vanilla, cherry, and moss. The palate is full of supple, dark cherry flavors with tart acids. 13.5% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2009 $55
 (Excellent) Moderately aromatic with bark, espresso, cherry, and raspberries. The palate is full, rich, textured and supple with abundant cherry flavors. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged 14 months in French oak (62% new). 14.4% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars No. 9 Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $28
 (Good) Very lightly aromatic with cherry, crushed peanuts, and oak spices. The palate is medium bodied with plentiful oak flavors and grainy tannins. 14.1% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2010 $35
 (Excellent) Moderately aromatic with smoke, blueberry, braised meat, and floral notes. It’s full bodied with rich fruit flavors. 100% Syrah. 14.8% alcohol.

Swiftwater Cellars Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $50
 (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with dry chocolate, cherry, and spice. The palate is ripe and rich with chalky tannins. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, and 2% Syrah. 14.9% alcohol.


Michael Florentino/Gecko Cellars

Michael Florentino and Gecko Cellars and both sit under Gecko Wine Company and are based out of Woodinville’s Warehouse District. Winemaker Brad Sherman started out like many in the Woodinville wine industry – volunteering at area wineries. He subsequently began making wine at home and taking classes at UC Davis before making the jump to starting a commercial winery. Michael Florentino produces approximately 1,000 cases per year with many of the wines made in very small lots.

Gecko Cellars Chameleon Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $19
 (Decent/Good) An aromatic, direct wine with cherry, herbs, and red fruit with light oxidative notes. The palate is ripe with sweet, succulent fruit flavors and grainy tannins. An enjoyable easy drinker. 64% Syrah, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 2% Grenache/Mourvèdre/Cinsault/Barbera. 14.8% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Gecko Cellars Sangiovese Yakima Valley 2009 $19
 (Decent) A lightly aromatic, somewhat muted wine with cranberries, raspberries, and light oxidative notes. The palate is light in feel with plump fruit flavors and a dry lick of tannins. 91% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot, and 4% Syrah. 14.8% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Michael Florentino Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2009 $26
 (Decent/Good) A moderately aromatic wine with sweet barrel notes, cherry pie, and oxidative notes. The palate has light fruit flavors and firm tannins. 100% Sangiovese. Kiona, Chandler Reach, Kestrel, and Elephant Mountain vineyards. 14.8% alcohol. 112 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Michael Florentino Monastrell aka Mourvèdre Red Mountain 2010 $25           
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine redolent with peppery spices and dark cherries. The palate has firm, dry tannins and citrusy acidity. 14.9% alcohol. 66 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Michael Florentino Primitivo Columbia Valley 2010 $NA
 (Decent) Moderately aromatic with herbs, prune, leather, and dried fruit. The tannins are soft and round but the alcohol is far out front here and distracts. 15.9% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


Onesies

Result of a Crush was founded by Amanda Reynvaan and Angela Reynvaan Garratt with their brother Matt Reynvaan (Reynvann Family Vineyards) serving as consulting winemaker. While the information regarding this wine and project is limited – and the wine is listed as non-vintage – it is unmistakable tasting it that there is a fair amount of Rocks fruit in the bottle, presumably declassified juice from the Reynvaan program. Is it at the quality level of the Reynvaan wines? Not even close. Is it standing outside the ballpark of those wines? You betcha. At this price, drink up.

Result of a Crush Red Table Wine NV $25
(Excellent) Jumps straight out of the glass with saline, earthy funk, ash, and savory notes. The palate is fresh and elegant in style – my guess would be that there is a good chunk of 2011 fruit in here - but still with good depth and intensity of flavors and length on the finish. For those looking for an entry level Rocks wine to see what all the fuss is about, look no further. Drinks better on the second day than the first. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


Golden Ridge Cellars is an under-the-radar winery located in the Walla Walla Valley. The winery was founded by Michael Rasch. Rasch and his family moved to the valley in 2007, and he subsequently studied viticulture and fermentation science at Walla Walla Community College. The winery’s estate vineyard was planted to six acres Merlot and two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998 with guidance from the legendary Paul Champoux of Champoux Vineyard. Golden Ridge’s first wine was from the 2008 vintage. The wines remain nano-produced at 110 cases in 2009. Golden Ridge is open by appointment only.

Golden Ridge Cellars Estate Red Walla Walla Valley 2009 $30
(Good/Excellent) An aromatically intriguing wine with light spices, dill, jalapeno, cherry, smoke, and licorice. The mouthfeel is broad and appealing with soft, sinewy fruit flavors backed by grainy, tightly wound tannins with a chalky, wood-spice filled finish. 62% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon. 80% new oak. 14.4% alcohol. 110 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Brian Carter Cellars Tuttoroso Red Wine Yakima Valley 2009 $29
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatic and appealing wine with raspberries, cherries, and dusty earth. The palate is tart with high acid and puckering fruit flavors. Have it with food to see it at its best. 68% Sangiovese, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah. 14.2% alcohol.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Cold Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $30
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatically alluring wine with dark cherries, cocoa, butterscotch, and sweet spices. The palate is rich, ripe, and high octane, showing some warmth on the finish. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 21 months in French (58% new) and American (18% new) oak. 15% alcohol. 5,000 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair 96 Cedars Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $25
 (Decent/Good) An aromatic wine that smells a bit dried out with dried black cherries, dried herbs, medicine cabinet, and black licorice. The palate has firm, tightly wound tannins and light fruit flavors. 14.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

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