Washington Wine Report is an independent publication focused on bringing Washington wine to you and bringing you to Washington wine. Our goal is:
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Sean P. Sullivan

2019 Tour Guide

Reviewed Wineries

Some more notes on the Betz from publications.

Wine Spectator says:

Brisk and appealing for its zesty style, offering currant and blueberry flavors on a lively frame, finishing with an espresso coffee note. Drink now through 2010. 850 cases made. –HS

They give this wine 89 points.

Wine Advocate says:

While I found the 2003 Clos de Betz to contain worrisome levels of rustic, hard tannin, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Pere de Famille is an impressively powerful, chunky wine. Containing 13% Merlot, 8% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot in the blend, this medium to full-bodied wine is dense, concentrated, and deep. Its blackberry liqueur and tar flavors linger throughout its long, tannin-studded finish. Projected maturity: 2010-2022.

They give this wine 92 points.

I will get my notes up in the next few days.

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Back to California we go. Here is what Spectator has to say:

Offers a medley of berry fruit. Firm, ripe and plump, with dense red currant and red cherry flavors. Then grapey currant and hints of blackberry emerge. Finishes with firm, tight tannins. Drink now through 2009. 3,870 cases made. –JL

86 points

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Taking it up a notch, we have opened the Cayuse 2003 Armada.

Wine Spectator says:

Firm in texture, with chewy tannins that cover an earthy range of flavors, showing only modest levels of plum as the finish tightens up. Best after 2008. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 192 cases made. –HS

Wine Advocate says:

Baron’s last Syrah is the 2003 Syrah “Armada Vineyard” which spent 2.5 years in puncheons obtained from Cote-Rotie’s Rene Rostaing. The Armada Vineyard is the most densely planted in the Walla Walla AVA. The wine itself is beautifully perfumed, plush, super-rich, with layers of sweet black and blue fruits. This Syrah is at a level of quality achieved only by Sine Qua Non and Alban in the United States, by Chris Ringland in the Barossa, and by Guigal and Chave in the northern Rhone.

Wine Spectator rating? 83 points. Wine Advocate rating? 99 points.

I will get my notes up on this wine in the future.

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The 2003 Betz Pere de Famille is drinking absolutely beautifully. I will get some notes on it later. We are currently letting it sit and have moved out of the state (and country) with the following wines:

  • Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
  • Owen Roe Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2006
  • Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvedre 2005
Leave a comment and let me know what you are drinking.

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Okay, first up for New Year's Eve is the 2003 Betz Pierre de Famille. Below is what Mr. Betz has to say about this vintage.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Përe de Famille

Cabernet Sauvignon dominates this vintage in more than percentages would indicate: color, aroma, flavor and mouthfeel all identify this wine as Cabernet Sauvignon (77%). While it blends four of the classic Bordeaux varieties (Merlot 13%, Malbec 8% and Petit Verdot 3%) it still shouts Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Cabernet fraction is predominantly from Red Mountain, from the Ciel du Cheval and Klipsun Vineyards' rows that we have used for most all the past vintages. Their power and depth contributions are unmistakable. They also provide the tannic spine essential for our goals for this wine. Their muscular ways are tamed by a fraction of the Cabernet that comes from the Alder Ridge Vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills: it provides length and complexity.

While the other two varieties are minor players, their contribution is distinctive: Malbec adding juiciness, and the Petit Verdot, with its black skin, adds color and a spicy/peppery fragrance.

Red Mountain depth dominates the blend of all varieties at 68%, followed by 24% from the Horse Heaven Hills and 8% from the Yakima Valley. And it shows. In the glass, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon has an opaque black/red core. A huge currant, black cherry aroma emerges, carrying along spice, minerals and leather. It's thick and rich, with plenty of youthful tannin, yet finishes with a ripe lushness and sweet black cherry, tobacco flavor. It evolves as it opens in the glass, a sign for this taster that it has years of evolution ahead of it in the cellar.

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REMINDER: The 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year poll closes when the ball drops at midnight!

For New Year's Eve, I am going with the theme "...the year was 2003." I have a lot of wine from this vintage so it will present some dilemmas. Current front runners include:

  • Betz Përe de Famille
  • Cayuse Armada
  • Spring Valley Frederick
However, there are a lot of other horses in the running. I will look to get some notes up during the evening on what I end up opening. Leave a comment and let me know what your go to wines will be.

Happy New Year! Be safe.

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As 2008 comes to a close, so does our 2008 Reader Survey Washington Wine of the Year. You can read more about the finalists here. Polls close tomorrow at 12am when the ball drops whereupon we will declare the winner. Last call!

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Here are two 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Wahluke Slope AVA (pronounced WAH-luke). This AVA, authorized in 2006, is located just north of the Yakima valley. At present only two wineries operate within its boundaries - Fox Estate Winery and Ginkgo Forest Winery. However, grapes from Wahluke Slope constitute twenty percent of the total of the annual harvest in Washington state and make their way into a large number of wines. Wineries sourcing fruit from this AVA include Chateau Ste Michelle, Desert Wind, Isenhower Cellars, K Vintners, Northstar, and Syncline Cellar to name just a few. Some of the notable vineyards include Milbrandt, Indian Wells, and Weinbau.

Gilbert Cellars – whose 2005 Cabernet featured here is one of the finalists in our 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year – sources most of its grapes from the Wahluke Slope AVA. Brothers Sean and Nate Gilbert started Gilbert Cellars in 2004. Gilbert Cellars has an annual production of approximately 3,000 cases.

Nefarious Cellars is located in Chelan, Washington. Dean Neff makes the reds and Heather Neff the whites.

Both wines sampled at 62 degrees.







Gilbert Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2005

A funky Bordeaux-inspired nose with mushroom, black pepper, and graphite. Fairly light on the fruit on the nose but rich with it on the taste. A very tight, compact profile that finishes and then hangs. 15.1% alcohol.



Nefarious Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2005

Spicy dark cherry, white pepper, and light cassis on a nose that starts out somewhat subtle until the wine opens up a bit. Very well put together on the taste with a pleasing weight to the wine. The finish is a bit of a let down on an otherwise enjoyable wine. 15.1% alcohol. 175 cases produced.


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Voting continues on our finalists for 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year. Shortly I will be posting my notes on the 2005 Gilbert Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the only wine on the finalists list that I had not previously tried.

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The 2006 William Church Bishop’s Blend was the top vote getter in the first heat of 27 wines nominated for 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year (Note: As this wine is not yet released, I excluded it from the survey of finalists). I provided information about the other top vote getters. However, I was unable to provide detail on the Bishop’s Blend as this wine was not yet released. Since that post, I received information about the wine from Leslie Balsley, co-owner of William Church. I have included this information below.

The 2006 Bishops Blend will be released in March of 2009. Based on the positive response after its pouring at the St. Nicholas event weekend, this will be one to look for. This wine is currently available for order at the pre-release price of $18.

Please remember to vote for the finalists for the 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year if you have not already.

William Church Bishop’s Blend 2006 $18 (pre-release price)

50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 14% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot, 8% Syrah and 2% Sangiovese. Aged 15 months in new and used oak.

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Washington Sparkling Wines

Saturday, December 27, 2008 0 comments

When it comes to sparkling wine, I stick to the French. However, there are some Washington sparkling wines out there. Here are two of the higher end ones from Domaine Ste. Michelle and Mountain Dome.

Domaine Ste. Michelle is part of the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates holdings. Most of Domaine Ste. Michelle’s wines are non-vintage. However, the Luxe, is periodically made and carries a vintage designation. Rick Casqueiro is the winemaker.

Mountain Dome is located in Spokane, Washington. The winery is dedicated exclusively to making sparkling wine. This wine is two thirds Pinot Noir and one-third Chardonnay.

Both of these wines are made in the traditional Méthode Champenoise. Both are very solid wines, but I did not find either to be exceptional. Perhaps I have been too spoiled by the French over the years. For those who joined me in tasting these wines, the Mountain Dome was the clear favorite.







Domaine Ste. Michelle Luxe 2001

Apple is predominant on the nose and palate. The wine has a pleasing taste with just a touch of sweetness.



Mountain Dome Cuvee Forte NV

The nose is marked by yeast and pear. The wine is dry with a lot of apple on the taste. Doesn’t quite deliver as much as I would like at the end. A very solid wine overall though.


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Christmas wine

Friday, December 26, 2008 0 comments

Well, I ended up opening the Cougar Crest Anniversary Cuvee 2003 for Christmas. Somehow I couldn't bring myself to drink a bottle of plonk for the holidays. I can't say that I had fully recovered from my cold so my senses were somewhat affected. Still, it was quite an enjoyable wine. I have had a good deal of 2002 and 2003 Cougar Crest wine of late. The 2002 Cougar Crest Cabernet when we paired it with other Washington 2002 Cabernet seemed like it was quite past its prime. Additionally, when I had the 2003 Cougar Crest Syrah in the past few months, it has seemed as if it is on the downward path and wasn't overly enjoyable after being exceptional about a year and a half. This was a wine that I had truly loved, so I was a bit surprised to see it drop off so quickly. I was interested to see how the 2003 Anniversary Cuvee was holding up. Overall the color of the wine definitely showed some age with some browning along the edges. Quite interesting for a wine that is only five years old. Still, it had the classic Cougar Crest nose of spice and birthday cake along with a mouth coating taste filled will cherry. The wine is clearly past its peak, but I would say still has one to three years to be very drinkable and enjoyable.

Leave a comment and let me know what you ended up opening.

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Okay you Christmas celebraters, the day is almost upon us. I am interested in hearing what wines people are planning to open for the holiday. Personally, I have a bottle of 2003 Saviah Une Vallee and a 2003 Cougar Crest Anniversay Cuvee on standby. However, I have a cold that has left me unable to taste much of anything so they may stay in the cellar. Leave a comment and let me know what you are planning to open tomorrow so I can live vicariously. Happy holidays to all.

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Okay folks, I have launched a survey of the finalists for the 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year.

By the powers invested in me, I have made several executive decisions. First, I have removed two wines from consideration whose release date is in 2009 - the William Church Bishop’s Blend 2006 and Efeste Joile Bouche Syrah 2006. What you say? These were the top two vote getters! Fear not, this type of capricious rule change to affect the outcome of an election has a long and proud history. These two wines will be incarcerated until next year’s survey. Given the positive responses they both received from the pouring at the St. Nicholas event weekend, these will be wines to seek out. Secondly, rather than having a survey of the top three vote getters as I had previously indicated, I have listed the top four as there was a tie for third.

Given that this is a holiday week, I am thinking that the chances of a Garnet Revolution in the blogosphere are minimal.

I have provided below additional information about the finalists where it was available. If you know of any locations these wines are still being sold, let me know in case people who haven't had them want to give them a try. This survey will be open until 11:59pm on December 31st whereupon we will declare the winner. Let the voting begin!

Gilbert Cellars 2005 Estate Syrah
Gilbert Cellars 2005 Estate Cabernet

Brothers Sean and Nate Gilbert started Gilbert Cellars in 2004. Their first release was a 2004 Claret which was followed by a 2005 Malbec, Petit Verdot, Estate Syrah, and Estate Cabernet. The latter two wines are finalists for in our survey. Gilbert Cellars has an annual production of approximately 3,000 cases and sources most of its grapes from the Wahluke Slope AVA. Gilbert Cellars’ Tasting Room is located in Yakima. Gilbert Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $26 92% Cabernet; 8% Syrah. 312 cases produced. Gilbert Cellars Estate Syrah 2005 $26. 100% Syrah. 260 cases produced.

Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel 2005
Forgeron gets its name from the French word for “blacksmith.” Forgeron Cellars, founded in 2001, is a Walla Walla winery. Marie-Eve Gilla is part owner and winemaker. The winery produces approximately 4,500 cases annually. Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel 2005 $30 100% Zinfandel from Alder Ridge, Clifton, and Les Collines vineyards. 485 cases produced.

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Quilceda Creek was founded in 1978. The 2005 Cabernet is the winery’s third vintage to receive a perfect 100 point rating from Robert Parker in the last four vintages (the 2004 vintage was off a step at 99 points). This is an accomplishment no other winery in the world has matched. Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 $115. 97% Cabernet; 3% Merlot. Champoux, Galitzine, Klipsun, and Taptiel vineyards. 22 months in 100% new oak. 3,400 cases produced.

Honorable Mention (To Be Released in 2009)

William Church Bishop’s Blend 2006
William Church, established in 2005, is a Woodinville, Washington winery. The winery is named after the owners’ fathers, William Edgar Balsley and John Church Lind. William Church produces approximately 1,000 cases annually. William Church Bishop’s Blend 2006 Information about this wine not currently available.

Efestē Jolie Bouche Syrah 2006
Efestē, pronounced like the letters F-S-T strung together, was named after the last names of founders Ferrelli, Smith, and Taylor. Efestē is located in Woodinville, Washginton . Their winemaker is Brennon Leighton. Efestē has an annual production of approximately 6,000 cases. Efestē Jolie Bouche Syrah 2006 100% Syrah primarily from Boushey Vineyard with a small amount from Ceil du Cheval Vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel and stored in French oak for 18 months (25% new). Unfined and unfiltered. To be released in February 2009. Information graciously provided by Brennon Leighton.

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The first heat of the 2008 Reader Survey Wine of the Year is complete. First let me say I was impressed by the diversity of the entries. This is a statement on just how much good Washington wine is out there. There were 27 entries and 163 votes received. Below are the tallies with votes listed after the wines and percentages in parentheses. Next up, a survey of the finalists.

William Church Bishop’s Blend 2006 - 82 (50%)

Efeste "Jolie Bouche" Syrah 2006 - 30 (18%)Gilbert Cellars Syrah 2005 - 21 (12%)

Gilbert Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - 19 (11%)

Forgeron Cellars Zinfandel 2005 - 7 (4%)

Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - 7 (4%)

Long Shadows Chester Kidder 2005 - 4 (2%)

Boudreaux Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - 3 (1%)

Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard 2004 - 3 (1%)

Dunham Cellars Lewis Vineyard Merlot 2005 - 3 (1%)

Chateau Rollat Edouard de Rollat 2005 - 2 (1%)

Ch Ste. Michelle Riesling Cold Creek Vineyard 2007 - 2 (1%)

Fielding Hills Cab Sauvignon 2005 - 2 (1%)

Fielding Hills Wahluke Slope Syrah 2005 - 2 (1%)

JM Cellars Tre Fanciulli 2005 - 2 (1%)

Nicholas Cole Cellars Camille 2004 - 2 (1%)

Abeja Cabernet Reserve 2005 - 1 (0%)

Betz Family Le Parrain 2005 - 1 (0%)

Corliss Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 - 1 (0%)

Darighe from Woodhouse Family Cellars 2003 - 1 (0%)

K Vintners The Boy 2005 - 1 (0%)

Watermill Reserve Syrah 2005 - 1 (0%)

Woodward Canyon Old Vines Cabernet 2005 - 1 (0%)

JLC Spofford Station Syrah 2004 - 0 (0%)

Nodland Cellars Private Blend 2005 - 0 (0%)

Owen Roe DuBrul Vineyard Merlot 2006 - 0 (0%)

Ross Andrew Syrah Boushey Vineyards 2006 - 0 (0%)

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Long time readers of this blog will note that this is my first off-topic post.

For the last nine hundred and eleven days, Michael Sullivan, my brother, has swum in Lake Washington every day without fail. The Swim Streak, also referred to as The Streak!, began on June 24th 2006. The Streak began in the summer but evolved into a daily, year round day ritual. Michael had said a long time ago that he would stop swimming when the water got too cold. Somehow it never did, despite reaching temperatures in the low forties and many cold, snowy days and nights. Throughout the winter, Michael swam in gloves, booties, a cap, and neoprene shorts. The streak received news coverage from the Seattle PI and Evening Magazine. Ironically, Michael's front page picture on the Seattle PI showed him standing in the snow at the waterfront.

Yesterday, December 21st, the streak came to an end, a casualty of four consecutive days of snow - the Snowpocalypse - that has visited western Washington depositing over a foot of snow in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Determining that it would be foolish to attempt to drive over the many hills and dales to get to the lake, Michael brought the streak to an end.

Doing anything every day for a year requires an enormous amount of energy and commitment. Doing it for over two and a half years is almost unimaginable. Swimming in Lake Washington every day for nine hundred and eleven days was an amazing accomplishment. Michael, I am proud of you and your commitment to doing something you loved. We all enjoyed following the streak's many statistics - the night swims, the rain swims, the snow swims. Today, we salute you. Long live The Streak!

To read more about my brother's Swim Streak, go to Don't forget to leave a comment and congratulations.

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A summary of articles from December 15th to 21st on Washington wine.

In my featured article this week, Terry Christiani fom Famous and Non-famous Strangers writes a compelling article about wine’s carbon footprint and what you can do to help minimize it. Among other things, Christiani says it is time to start thinking out of the bottle and into the box.

From around the country…

The Nashville City Paper recommends some Washington wine with callouts to Dunham and Magnificent Wine Company.

The Gloucester Daily Times writes about looking for bargain sparkling wine with callouts to Mountain Dome and Domaine Ste. Michelle.

Meanwhile the Cleveland Plain Dealer recommends Domaine Ste. Michelle’s Brut.

The San Jose Mercury News writes about ices wines with callouts to Hogue and Eroica.

The Rocky Mountain News also writes about dessert wines with a callout to Kiona.

From the blogosphere…

Wine Press Northwest reports on Chateau Ste. Michelle harvesting grapes for ice wine and the cold weather snap.

Paul at Swordfern writes about trying a Corliss Estate barrel sample and Dusted Valley Vintners 2006 Chardonnay.

Beyond the Bottle writes about Seven Hills 2005 Syrah.

Wine Peeps writes about Boudreaux Cellars 2004 Cabernet and Quilceda Creek’s 2002 Cabernet.

Spirit of Wine reviews the Randall Harris 2006 Merlot.

Cork Savy writes about women winemakers with callouts to Washington’s Holly Turner (Three Rivers), Marie-Eve Gilla (Forgeron), and Virginie Bourgue (Bergevin Lane).

Berkshire Review writes about Rainier Ridge Cabernet.

The Seattle PI blog writes about local wine bars. writes about kosher wine with a callout to Pomum.

Fight Hangovers writes about the implications of climate change on the wine country in the Northwest.

A Meal Without Wine writes about Columbia Crest’s Two Vines Vineyard 10 Rose 2007.

The Wine Curmudgeon writes about sparkling wines with callouts to Domaine Ste. Michelle.

Through the Walla Walla Grapevine writes about Lowden Hills “See You There” Syrah.

Wino writes about wine and charity.

Dan the Wine Guy writes about Yakima Valley and Rattlesnake Hills wineries with callouts to Airfield Estates, Portteus, Thurston Wolfe, and Silver Lake.

From the locals…

The Eastside Business Journal also writes about the ice wine harvest.

KIMA TV reports on Zillah-area wineries collecting food for Northwest Harvest.

KEPR TV reports on the winter weather in Walla Walla.

The Seattle Times writes about the federal report on the Black Rock reservoir project.

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Reininger Winery is located on the way in to Walla Walla. The winery was founded in 1997 by Chuck Reininger, a Walla Walla native. The Reininger brand focuses on Walla Walla fruit whereas their second label, Helix, focuses on fruit from the Columbia Valley.

Sandhill Winery is a small, family owned winery located in the Red Mountain AVA. The winery has an annual production of approximately 3,000 cases.

Cougar Crest is located close by Reininger on the way in to Walla Walla. The winery was established in 2001 by Deborah and David Hansen.

In the blind tasting, the Sandhill was the clear favorite of the group. This wine was drinking beautifully and appeared to have a lot of life left. The wine was classic Red Mountain with abundant floral notes and beautiful structure. The Cougar Crest on the other hand every one in the group agreed appeared to be past its prime. The Reininger was harder to pin down. It was an intriguing wine but was hard to get a sense of where it was overall on its lifecycle.

We finished the tasting off with a 2002 Whitman Port which is 100% Cabernet from Red Mountain. While some would correctly object to this wine being called a Port as others would if a Washington wine were called a Bordeaux, it was an enjoyable finish to the tasting.

Obviously Washington is a reasonably young wine region with a lot of new wineries. It remains to be seen how well many of the wines will stand up over time. Overall, my sense is that, not surprisingly, how the wines age is specific to the winery’s style. The Sandhill was doing exceptionally well and seemed if anything better than the last time I had tried it. At the same time, this is not surprising as their wines have a solid tannin profile and structure. The Cougar Crest on the other hand was a disappointment where the wine seemed to have trailed off dramatically since I last tried it several years ago. However, this was one of the winery’s first vintages and Cougar Crest’s wines tend to be more fruit forward and have less of a tannin profile.






+Reininger Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2002

Tobacco and touches of oak on the nose along with generous amounts of black and sour cherry. On first pour, there is also a bit of earthiness and black pepper. On the taste, the wine is marked by cherry and black olive. 92% Cabernet; 5% Cabernet Franc; 3% Carmenere. 1,340 cases produced.



Sandhill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2002

A beautiful nose with floral notes, spice, earth, and dried fruit. On the taste, the wine has an elegant, European style with lots of tannins and structure without being overpowering.



Cougar Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2002

On the nose there is a lot of black pepper and an herbaceous quality. The wine seems a bit untoward and uneven. One the taste, there is a quick attack but it trails off quickly.


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