Fresh Sheet July 6th 2011

Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from J Bookwalter Winery, Cadaretta, Dowsett Family, and Idilico.

J Bookwalter Winery

J Bookwalter Winery
is located in Richland, Washington. The winery was founded in 1983 by Jerry and Jean Bookwalter.

For many years Bookwalter focused its efforts largely on Riesling and other white wines. Their son John, who now owns the winery and serves as winemaker, recalls that when he came to work there in 1997, it was making a staggering ten different white wines. Gary Figgins of Leonetti Cellar said to him, “You guys need to reinvent yourself!”

This is exactly what John Bookwalter has done during his time at the winery. Bookwalter made his first wines “vine to wine” in 2000. Since that time his focus has been on making “finesse driven” wines, with a particular focus on blending.

One of John Bookwalter’s early wines from the 2002 vintage was called ‘Chapter 1.’ The book motif subsequently became a theme for the winery with names such as Foreshadow, Subplot (though not reviewed here this is a consistently high QPR wine), Conflict, and Antithesis.

From the 2000 through 2008 vintages Bookwalter worked with consultant Zelma Long. Starting with the 2009 vintage he has worked with top French winemaker Claude Gros. The results have been dazzling, with the winery’s current lineup competing with the state's best. The Bookwalter wines are all rich and hedonistic, stylistic and age-worthy.

The winery has also been extremely successful in hosting music at the winery Wednesday through Saturday. The result is a destination winery with a lineup that can’t be beat. The winery also has a tasting room in Woodinville in the schoolhouse area.

Despite the winery’s success, Bookwalter remains humble. “I’m still in the rookie class of winemaking,” he says. Bookwalter promises to continue with his book-based wines with the occasional Chapter Series offering, saying with a laugh, “When I hit Chapter 7 I’m closing the doors and locking them up!”

J Bookwalter Winery makes approximately 12,000 cases annually.

J Bookwalter Winery Couplet Chardonnay-Viognier Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $20

Rating: + (Good) The combination of few words fill me as much fear as these two - Chardonnay and Viognier. These two grapes are incredibly easy to foul up on their own let alone trying to blend them. However, there is nothing to fear with this wine from Bookwalter, one that beautifully combines the best that these grapes have to offer. An aromatic wine with floral notes, peaches, pear, and spice. The palate has abundant peach, melon, and apple flavors with crisp, mouthwatering acidity. 74% Chardonnay, 26% Viognier. Co-fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13.5% alcohol. 1,184 cases produced. Recommended.

J Bookwalter Winery Foreshadow Merlot Columbia Valley 2008 $40

Rating: * (Excellent) Pleasing, initially oak-dominated aromatics of toast and spice which give way to abundant cherry notes. On the palate a silky, hedonistic wine with rich fruit flavors and a lingering finish. Merlot 81%, Syrah 11%, Petit Verdot 3%, Malbec 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Conner-Lee, Elephant Mountain, and McKinley Springs vineyards. Aged 18 months in new and used French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 1,468 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Foreshadow Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $40

Rating: * (Excellent) Pretty French oak spices along with herbal notes, black cherry, and licorice. The palate is full of rich fruit flavors with abundant oak accents and silky tannins. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Dionysus, Conner-Lee, Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, McKinley Springs, and Elephant Mountain. Aged 20 months in French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 1,850 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Antithesis Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A compellingly aromatic wine with a cornucopia of dark cherries, berries, and spice along with herbal notes. On the palate, a hedonistic, rich wine with incredible inner mouth perfume, density, and exceptional length. 45% Cabernet Franc, 45% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Conner Lee, Ciel du Cheval, and Dionysus vineyards. Aged 16 months in new and used French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 205 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Conflict Red Wine Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007 $50

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Abundant notes of spice, earth, dark fruit, and licorice. A spectacularly rich wine that explodes across the palate, buffeted by soft tannins. A show-stopper of hedonistic delight. 66% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc & 1% Petit Verdot. 91% Conner Lee, 7% McKinley Springs, 2% Ciel du Cheval. Aged 20 months in French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 572 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Conflict Red Wine Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2008 $50

Rating: ** (Exceptional) Intoxicating aromatics of spice, potpourri, blueberries, raspberries, and black fruit along with French oak accents. A delicious, fruit laden palate with silky tannins. 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and 10% Malbec. Aged 20 months in new and used French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 208 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

J Bookwalter Winery Protagonist Red Wine Red Mountain 2007 $50

Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) An aromatic wine with black fruit, dust, licorice, and scorched earth. Deliciously rich fruit on a perfectly put together palate with slightly assertive but still well integrated tannins. 69% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, and 2% Petit Verdot. Ciel du Cheval (65%), Klipsun Vineyard (25%), Conner Lee, and Elephant Mountain vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 938 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Protagonist Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $55

Rating: ** (Exceptional) French oak aromas leap from the glass with toast and spice followed by waves of cherry, smoke, and licorice on a wine that immediately demands attention. Rich and intense on the palate with winding fruit flavors. Capped off by a long finish. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah. Conner Lee and Elephant Mountain vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak. 15.2% alcohol. 146 cases produced.

J Bookwalter Winery Chapter Three Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $78

Rating: ** (Exceptional) An arresting wine with spice, licorice, earth, char, and black fruit. Stunningly rich and powerful yet with refined elegance. A wine that almost overwhelms the senses. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot. Conner-Lee, Ciel du Cheval, Elephant Mountain, and McKinley Springs vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 207 cases produced.


is owned by the Middleton family. The family’s roots date back to 1898 when they started a lumber business in Aberdeen, Washington. The family also owns California-based Clayhouse Wines as well as Buried Cane, all under the umbrella of Middleton Family Wines.

Cadaretta is named after one of the family’s schooners, used to ship timber down to California in the 1920s. The winery, which was established in 2005, is located in Walla Walla. An estate vineyard, Southwind, was planted in the Walla Walla Valley in 2008.

Acclaimed Australian winemaker Larry Cherubino recently joined the winery as Director of Winemaking. Brian Rudin serves as resident winemaker, with the Cadaretta wines made at Walla Walla’s Artifex. The winery does not currently have a tasting facility but is open at Artifex for events and by appointment.

Since the beginning, Cadaretta’s SBS – a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon Blend – has been a consistent standout. This trend continues with the 2010 vintage. Indeed this wine is one of my favorite whites to date from the 2010 vintage with racy, mouthwatering acidity. The Windthrow is a Southern Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Grenache.

Cadaretta SBS Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon Columbia Valley 2010 $23

Rating: * (Excellent) A delicious, aromatic wine with gooseberry, mineral, and citrus notes. Palate has a full, rounded feel, full of white grapefruit favors with tart, mouthwatering, racy acidity. A very clean, extremely enjoyable wine. Oysters anyone? 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon. Spring Creek, Frenchman Hills, and Rosebud vineyards. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 14.1% alcohol. 820 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Cadaretta Windthrow Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $50

Rating: * (Excellent) Aromatically appealing with blueberries, red fruit, and spice. The palate is tart and full of plump fruit flavors. A lingering cranberry-filled finish. 36% Syrah, 29% Mourvedre, 18% Counoise, and 17% Grenache. Pepper Bridge, Stone Tree, Alder Ridge, and Alice vineyards. Aged in French oak (36% new). 14.6% alcohol. 110 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Chris Dowsett at Dowsett Family Wines is serious about Gewurztraminer (see a previous write-up on the winery here and a recent post by Through the Walla Walla Grapevine on the winery here). Perhaps it is because Gewurztraminer was the first wine Dowsett ever made back in 1983? Perhaps it is because this grape can be so versatile with food pairings? Whatever the reason, Dowsett shows a dedication to the grape that borders on fanaticism – and he consistently crafts the state’s best. The 2010 Dowsett Family Wines Gewurztraminer is a thoroughly delicious wine with all of the grape’s floral notes and spice along with the bright acidity of the 2010 vintage.

Dowsett Family Wines Gewurztraminer Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2010 $22

Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatic wine that is like walking through a field of white flowers while holding a freshly cut grapefruit. Tart with racy acidity with loads of spice and grapefruit flavors. Some might find it almost a bit too tart for their taste – others might find it almost a bit too delicious. 173 cases produced.

I wrote about Idilico in a recent Five Under $15 piece. The winery is a sister brand to Pomum Cellars. With Idilico, Spanish native Javier Alfonso looks to bring Iberian peninsula wines to the masses. The 2009 Garnacha - if you want to see Alfonso bristle, refer to the grape as Grenache - hails from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain.

Idilico Garnacha Washington State 2009 $20

Rating: + (Good) Leaps up with red fruit, crushed peanuts, and wood spice. The palate is tart, soft and fruit filled. Aged 12 months in neutral French oak. 14.0% alcohol. 74 cases produced.

Sean P. Sullivan


  1. i just wonder why bookwalter doesn't submit their wines to any competitions that are made up of tasting panels of professionals rather than just single, not blind reviews. i know it's because they wouldn't stack up that well with the rest of the state and that wouldn't help his marketing blitz. good venue for music . . .wine isn't worth $50+ though

  2. Anon, I actually spoke with John Bookwalter about this in regards to this year's Seattle Metropolitan wine issue. His reasons for not submitting wines to competitions have to do with concerns about the legitimacy of large format, panel tastings. Obviously there is a large body of research which discusses these competitions pro and con. Bookwalter prefers the single reviewer format. Whether it is blind or not would not appear to be the issue as he has submitted wines to Wine Ethusiast (non-blind), Wine Spectator (blind), and Wine Advocate (varies) in the past.

  3. you were on the SWA panel this year. From your experience was there any reasons not to trust a panel of wine professionals (and no offense to you) that have incredible credentials and have been formally educated in viticulture and viniculture? tasting panels don't receive thousands in marketing dollars and don't rely on one person. a person could argue that a single individual could have a bias or prejudice where as in a blind format with multiple tasters that is a lot less likely to happen. that's why dictatorships are bad. he's afraid.

  4. if anyone wants an eye-opener as to how flawed a single reviewer system is i invite you to take a look at paul gregutts scores for wine enthusiast. over the past 24 issues paul gregutt has scored walla walla wines an average of 4 points higher than any other ava in the state. anyone in the know will understand why this is perplexing even with the inferior fruit that the weather has given the walla walla ava in the last three years. how can these wines be so great with crappy years in the vineyard? is there magic dust that k vinters and doubleback sprinkle on their wines? maybe the people at cayuse have secret vineyards in walla walla that aren't affected by freezing weather?

  5. Anon 11:19pm, I think an important thing to understand about competition tastings is that they are conducted in a variety of different ways, with different scoring systems, and with different cut-offs for what qualifies for a medal. Much of this is often opaque to consumers, which I personally have always had a concern with.

    For example, is there a 'quality cutoff' based on score to receive a medal or are the wines graded on a 'curve,' meaning that the highest rated wines within a category will receive medals regardless of what their actual numerical scores are? Different competitions have different ways that this is done. It's also important to keep in mind that competitions are not necessarily completely removed from any financial incentives. There is some incentive to give out medals, although judges are almost always shielded from this.

    Perhaps most difficult to me is that because of the differing ways panel tastings are conducted it is impossible to compare a silver medal at one competition to a silver medal at another competition with much validity. It is also impossible to compare medals to numerical scores. Some competitions have a lot of validity due to the procedures that they use and some have less. This is very difficult for consumers to tease out. In contrast, it's easier to compare point scores because at least you know everyone is using the same rating system (although some are blind, some are not, etc), and over time one can compare how one reviewer compares to another. No system is perfect though.

    Finally, one other thing that I will mention is that tasting panels are often tasting hundreds of wine in a single day. This presents a number of challenges for raters. You can try this for yourself if you get a bunch of friends together and have everyone bring a wine. Try tasting 16 Cabernets in a 20 minute period and making sense of it. It's considerably different than tasting a more limited number of wines over a longer period.

    Of course it's worth noting that some individual reviewers, such as Dr. Jay Miller at The Wine Advocate, taste a large number of wines per day (hundreds) when rating wines. I would imagine that this might get a bit easier if it is something one does day in and day out but still not ideal (or particularly enjoyable I might add).

  6. Anon 11:30pm, I took a look at the WE database and didn't see an easy way of slicing and dicing by AVA unfortunately so couldn't check this out. I did do an in-depth comparison a while back of WE, WA, and WS which you can read part III of here I think doing direct AVA comparisons in terms of scores is a tricky thing to do as one has to consider both where the winery is and where the grapes came from which can often be different. I also wouldn't expect that scores across AVAs would necessarily be equal.

    The last two vintages, 2009 and 2010, were indeed challenging in various regions of the state, but I wouldn't say that they were "crappy years" in Walla Walla or elsewhere. 2005-2008 were all excellent vintages, which is much of what has currently been released for reds, such as the Doubleback wine you refer to. For challenging vintages, my experience has been that good growers find a way to grow good fruit and good winemakers find a wine to make good wine.

    Christophe Baron at Cayuse is actually an excellent example. He buried canes before the freeze in 2010 (as he has done before), subsequently cut his vines back to the ground earlier this year, and when I visited the winery several weeks ago the vineyard was in bloom. Things looked great. Meanwhile some folks who didn't take the same steps lost their entire crop. Part of what separates Cayuse and other wineries.

  7. He's a troll, Sean. I'd bet money he's the same guy who left the ridiculous comment on your second rose article.


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