Fresh Sheet October 2nd 2012

Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Maison Bleue, Native Sun, Waterbrook, Hard Row to Hoe, and Avennia.

Maison Bleue
For anyone interested in the subject of Washington wine – or wine in general for that matter - the 2010 red releases from Prosser’s Maison Bleue are nothing short of required reading.

Earlier this year the winery released its 2010 reds from Upland Vineyard. Now Maison Bleue releases its two Boushey Vineyard reds, the 2010 Le Midi Grenache and 2010 Liberte Syrah. These wines are as compelling as any being made in Washington right now.

The Le Midi Grenache boasts layers of complexity with black and red raspberries, pepper, and herbal notes. The 2010 Boushey Syrah is a dark, brooding wine that only continues to ramp up in intensity after a day of being open. The freshness and intensity of both of these wines is dazzling, and the emphasis here is squarely on the fruit with barely a trace of oak present.

The latest releases from the winery also include the winery’s second white release from the 2011 vintage – the Notre Vie Viognier. While in the wrong hands this grape can often get viscous and oily, the 2011 Notre Vie possesses an ethereal lightness while still retaining depth.

Read previous posts on Maison Bleue here.

Maison Bleue Notre Vie Viognier Arthur’s Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $25
(Exceptional) An aromatically compelling wine with white peach, honeysuckle, cream, spice, and mineral notes. The palate is full and drawn out with a textured feel and crisp flavors with a pronounced spice and citrus filled finish. Retains an incredible sense of lightness while still displaying great depth. 100% Viognier. Sample provided by winery.

Maison Bleue Le Midi Grenache Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $35
(Exceptional) An aromatic dazzler that boasts pure black and red raspberries, white pepper, garrigue, anise, currant, and mineral notes – this is an aroma profile to spend some time lingering over. Broadens out and expands across the palate with the purest flavors of kirsch and licorice with an herbal accent. Lingers on the finish. The intensity of fruit here is breathtaking with this wine raising the bar for Washington Grenache to new heights. 100% Grenache. Fermented with approximately 30% whole berries. Aged 10 months in 3-4 year old French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Maison Bleue Liberte Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $40
(Exceptional) An aromatically complex wine with dark plum, mineral, huckleberry, currant, floral notes, licorice, and orange peel. The palate is arresting with rich, incredibly concentrated, pure, textured flavors of pomegranate, plum, and pepper, and a finish that persists for nearly a minute. This is a spectacular, mouthful of a wine that only ramps up in intensity as it opens up in the glass and will aged for as long as you care to keep it. As good as the winery has made to date and one of the best wines I’ve had this year. 100% Syrah. Fermented with approximately 30% whole berries. Aged 10 months in one to two year old French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Native Sun

Native Sun is a new winery from winemaker Kyle Johnson of Purple Star Wines. Here Johnson, formerly the winemaker at Olsen Estates, turns his attention to Red Mountain fruit. These two wines both come from Kiona’s Heart of the Hill Vineyard. Once again, Johnson shows a skilled touch – and there is no winemaker in Washington making more compelling varietal bottles of Petit Verdot than Kyle Johnson right now.

Native Sun Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2009 $50
(Exceptional) Closed up at present, this is an aromatically appealing wine with spice, dark fruit, floral notes, and mineral notes. The palate is rich and creamy, full of dark fruit flavors, spice, and grainy tannins. Finish lingers on and on. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot. Kiona, Heart of the Hill. Aged in 100% new French oak. 14.4% alcohol. 104 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. 

Native Sun Petit Verdot Red Mountain 2009 $50
(Excellent/Exceptional) Completely opaque. This wine is quite closed up right now with mineral, floral notes, and bittersweet chocolate. The palate is incredibly rich and full, loaded with full throttle dark fruit flavors and firm but well-integrated tannins. 100% Petit Verdot. Kiona, Heart of the Hill. 14.4% alcohol. 52 cases produced. Sampled at 69 degrees.

Hard Row to Hoe

Lake Chelan’s Hard Row to Hoe is named after a row boat taxi service that ferried miners from town to a brothel at Point Lovely. The winery makes a diverse lineup of wines – from sparkling to still to sweet with fruit sources ranging from estate to areas across the Columbia Valley.

The standout from the latest releases is an estate Cabernet Franc. This is winery’s second vintage of this wine, and it makes one wonder if this grape might find a home in this nascent growing region.

Hard Row to Hoe Semillon Columbia Valley 2011 $18
(Good) Though labeled as Columbia Valley this is single vineyard Semillon – with 8% Sauvignon Blanc added – from Rosebud Vineyard on the Wahluke slope. The winery’s first, it’s a moderately aromatic wine with fig, lemon, and spice. The palate is medium bodied - quite tart - with a creamy feel and abundant lemony flavors. Alcohol occasionally pokes through. 92% Semillon, 8% Sauvignon Blanc. Aged 8 months in neutral French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 0.1g/100ml Residual Sugar. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Shameless Hussy Roussanne Viognier Columbia Valley 2011 $NA
(Not Recommended) Almost water white, this is an aromatic wine with ripe -  almost overripe - red apple along with pear and barrel notes. The palate is tart and quite sharp with the fruit flavors coming off as somewhat bitter. Tasted twice with consistent notes. 50% Viognier, 50% Roussanne. Lonesome Springs Ranch and Wadkins vineyards. Aged in stainless steel and neutral oak. 13.2% alcohol. 1% Residual Sugar. 250 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Shameless Hussy Merlot Columbia Valley 2010 $25
(Good) This Merlot – blended with 20% Petit Verdot – all hails from Riverbend Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope. The color is quite pale and this is a lightly aromatic wine with coconut, char, red currant, and dusty spice. The palate is light bodied with delicate, fresh red fruit flavors and chocolate. A very delicate expression of this vineyard. 80% Merlot and 20% Petit Verdot. Riverbend Vineyard. Aged in French and American oak (20% new). 14.5% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Burning Desire Estate Cabernet Franc Lake Chelan 2009 $45
(Good/Excellent) This is the second vintage of this estate Cabernet Franc from Hard Roe’s plantings on the north shore of Lake Chelan. It’s an aromatically intriguing wine with cedar, mushroom, floral notes, vanilla, and coconut. The palate is simultaneously lean in feel with plump, ripe cherry flavors and soft tannins. Finishes just a touch hot and the oak can distract a bit at times, but the fruit here shows promise for this young vineyard. 95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot. Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards. Aged 18 months in American oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 175 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Primitivo Columbia Valley 2010 $32
(Decent) Light in color. Lightly aromatic with pink peppercorn, tarragon, tealeaves, chocolate, and cherry. Though listed as 15.5% alcohol, the palate doesn’t come off as anywhere near that ripe, winding up on the lighter side of medium bodied with chocolate flavors and finishing a touch tart. 100% Primitivo. Doebler Vineyard. Aged 18 months in French oak (25% new). 15.5% alcohol. 0.40g/100ml Residual Sugar. 225 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Petit Verdot Columbia Valley 2010 $30
(Decent) Dark in color but not opaque. A moderately aromatic wine with potting soil, cherry, and violets. The palate is medium bodied, tart and citrusy with grapefruit flavors. 92% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot. Lonesome Springs Ranch. Aged 18 months in French oak (25% new). 14.5% alcohol. 160 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Hard Row to Hoe Lickity Split Red Blend Columbia Valley 2008 $17
(Decent) Hard Row makes this 375ml-sized blend of Syrah and Primitivo to have as an aperitif or bring to a picnic. It’s an aromatic wine with dark chocolate, sweet spices, and whisky barrel. The palate is just a hair off dry with cacao and dark fruit flavors. 83% Syrah and 17% Primitivo. Weinbau and Sagemoor vineyards. Aged in 80% French (20% new) and neutral American oak. Available in 375 ml only. 13.8% alcohol. 0.22g/100ml Residual Sugar. 150 cases produced.

Hard Row to Hoe Good in Bed Brut Rose Sparkling Wine Lake Chelan 2010 $40
(Good) This sparkling wine – the first from Hard Roe and made in the traditional method with a non-traditional blend of Pinot Noir and Sangiovese – hails from Bear Mountain Ranch Vineyard in the Lake Chelan appellation. It’s pale strawberry colored with aromas of cherry, strawberry, and brioche. The palate is light, delicate and quite dry with cherry flavors and a tart finish. 50% Sangiovese, 50% Pinot Noir. Bear Mountain Ranch. 10g/L dosage.

Hard Row to Hoe Ice Breaker Ice Cider Dessert Wine NV $40
(Decent) Made from Braeburn apples, this medium amber cryo-dessert wine is aromatic with dried apples sprinkled with sugar along with abundant apple skin notes. The palate is viscous and thick with a mixture of sweet and tart fruit flavors. Not designed to simply sit and sip for dessert, this wine will pair perfectly with a post-dinner cheese plate. 26% Residual Sugar. 10% alcohol. 80 cases produced.

Waterbrook Winery

Waterbrook Winery is one of Walla Walla Valley oldest wineries, established in 1984. Precept Wine purchased the winery in 2006 and subsequently completed work on a new production facility and tasting room 2009.

Over the years, Waterbrook has excelled at producing quality wines at reasonable prices. The winery’s reserve tier is designated for limited production, ‘best of the best’ wines.

Waterbrook Winery Reserve Merlot Columbia Valley 2009 $24
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with cedar, chocolate, cherry, and dusty spice. The palate is soft and appealing with polished tannins and supple fruit flavors with abundant oak accents. 100% Merlot. Mirage and Canyon Ranch vineyards. Aged 26 months in American, French, and Hungarian oak (30% new). 13.9% alcohol. 2,407 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Waterbrook Winery Reserve Malbec Columbia Valley 2009 $24
(Good) Moderately aromatic with spice, lavender, blueberry, and plum. The palate is plush with blue fruit flavors and soft tannins. 100% Malbec. Canyon Ranch Vineyard. Aged 20 months in American (59%), French (31%), and Hungarian oak (30% new). 13.9% alcohol. 1,193 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Avennia, a new project from Marty Taucher and winemaker Chris Peterson, is one of the more exciting wineries to enter the stage in 2012. This is the winery's first white release – a varietal Sauvignon Blanc hailing from Boushey Vineyard. Read a previous write-up on the winery here.

Avennia Sauvignon Blanc Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $25
(Good/Excellent) An aromatically intriguing wine with smoke, toast, roasted nuts, citrus, and a complex medley of grass and herbal notes. The palate in medium bodied with a creamy feel, starting out broadly and then pulling back and showing a sense of lightness and elegance on the back half accented by tart, lemony acidity throughout. A style that will fit in best at the dinner table rather than sitting and sipping. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Barrel fermented in French oak (10% new) and aged sur lies for eight months. 225 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Rating System

Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.

(Not recommended/Flawed)

Readers, please note that Blogger, where this site is hosted, has upgraded to a new version which has significant bugs and formatting issues. There are, at present, no work arounds, so you may see significant formatting errors within the posts.

Sean P. Sullivan

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