27 May 2010
Here we grow again! Spokane continues to move ahead on its journey to becoming a wine destination for the state of Washington. Introducing the newest kid on the block, Overbluff Cellars. Some may think it crazy to start a new business (especially a winery) in today’s economic conditions, but the American entrepreneur is the hero of economic recovery. It’s also important to note that a winery with a 2010 launch date started the journey at least 3 years ago with crushing, fermenting and barreling grapes.
Overbluff Cellars is the passionate pursuit of John and Lynelle Caudill and Jerry and Penny Gibson. Each grew up around wine, John in Lodi next to Mondavi Vineyards and Jerry in Marin County, CA. John and Jerry pursued their passions independently as amateur wine makers until a chance meeting brought them together. It was a wine tasting trip to Napa that inspired the proverbial “leap” into the Overbluff adventure.
“It’s more about passion than anything. When the fun is gone, I’m through,” says Jerry. The first Overbluff Cellars release consists of 290 cases including three 2007 Cabernet from various vineyards and one 2009 Viognier. You can see a review of the Viognier and Duality Cab here. John and Jerry’s philosophy to wine making brings a Napa influence to Walla Walla fruit. They’re striving for big wines that showcase the character and quality that Washington fruit has to offer. The fruit they currently have in barrels and tanks will bring their 2009 vintage to about 1500 cases.
John and Jerry are particular about quality and consistency. Not wanting to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths with the potential for cork taint, each bottle is enclosed with glass enclosures. John emphasizes, “This still gives people the romance of popping the cork, with less potential for ruined wine.” The duo is also working with new oxygen permeable flex tanks and oak staves to gain more control of the flavor without making wines that end up over oaked.
John has left his full time job as the body shop manager for a local auto company to see his dreams come to reality. Overbluff has renovated the old Cobblestone Bakery at 620 N Washington. The tasting room is tucked behind the Victorian building and provides a nice rustic place to enjoy the wine. When the weather cooperates, be sure to enjoy a glass in the garden next to the tasting room.
Ensuring they give themselves every opportunity to succeed, Overbluff has already been very active on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to support them and stop by during their tasting room. Chances are the wine will go fast!
620 S Washington Spokane, Washington
Tasting Room Hours: 4-7pm Thursday – Saturday
26 May 2010
Acres of rolling vineyards, stunning snowcapped mountains, beautiful pristine lakes, and charming shops and villages are just some of the reasons Lake Chelan, WA is a popular destination. Nestled in the heart of the North Cascades, Lake Chelan has long been an outdoor lover’s paradise. The 50 mile lake is one of the world’s deepest at 1500 ft deep. The small town hosts visitors for boating, camping, hiking, biking and more recently, WINE. The first bonded winery opened in 2000 and now, 10 years later there are nearly 20 wineries in the area experimenting and producing everything from Riesling to Tempranillo to Pinot Noir.
A quick three hour journey from Spokane or Seattle will get you to the most beautiful place in the state to sip and enjoy wine. This is an annual trip for my wife and I. This year, we were excited to share the experience with our friends who recently honeymooned in Chelan. We packed up the car, headed to the rental house overlooking the lake for a way too short, relaxing two day wine trip. Watch the video for some amazing views from our 10 winery stop that included tasting through 46 wines! We even got the chance to do some bottling at Fielding Hills winery on our way home through Wenatchee (Thanks, Karen)!
Hard Row To Hoe
I was excited to make Hard Row our first stop. I’ve grown to really love Don and Judy from our online conversations and events. Their location is stunning with views of the rolling hills, their estate vineyards, and of course the lake. When entering their tasting room, you’re greeted with the most sensual wallpaper and decor.
Highlight Wine: Very impressed with the Dry Gewürztraminer ($18). It’s slightly oaked, smooth and zesty. Fell in love with the Zinfandel (which they get from Milbrandt Vineyards). I should have bought more. This wine is huge in fruit, spice, flavor and aroma!
Must See: Oddly enough, you have to use the restroom and see the wallpaper in there.
Four Lakes Winery
Just a short drive from Hard Row, Four Lakes sits at the top of a hill where you can see all four lakes in the area. They opened in July of 2009 and grow their fruit just outside the doors of the tasting room.
Highlight Wine: While their 2008 Estate Chardonnay was very nice, we were all very impressed with their Bordeaux blend. The wine didn’t have an approved label but the naked bottle now sits in our cellar awaiting consumption.
Must See: The view. Once the vineyards mature, this will be a special place to sit on the deck and sip some award winning wine.
The cute little bird (reminds me of Twitter) greets you when you enter the tasting room. These folks were busy, so there was not so much chit-chat among the staff and everyone was getting hungry for lunch so we tasted through the wines and made our way back to the house.
Highlight Wine: The 2008 Viognier ($19) was a beautiful tropical fruit basket that had a very crisp finish. We were also very surprised by their Pinot Noir. It was big, smoky and candied cherry. Much more robust and firm than expected.
Wine Girl Wines
Probably the newest winery in the city (considering our visit was their first full day of being open). The Blending Room, as they’re calling it, is in the heart of quaint Manson (the town North West of Chelan). The owners were still piecing together their facility recently moved their facility from Seattle to Chelan to focus on their 200 case winery full time! Best wishes, Angela!
Highlight Wine: While the label for the My Derby Wife was certainly fun, we walked out with their Kamari, a 2007 Black Label Reserve from Walla Walla. Beautifully elegant Cab/Merlot/Malbec/Franc blend that oozes chocolate covered raspberries. Only 48 cases produced
Lake Chelan Winery
Pressing ahead we moved further away from Manson and headed toward Chelan for a stop at Lake Chelan Winery. Situated right off the main road, you can enjoy a lake level view and their BBQ, served nightly. The tasting room includes a huge selection of wine trinkets, local creations, and gifts.
Highlight Wine: While our travelling companions raved about the Rose and Hard Cider, we were impressed with their NV Stormy Mountain Red. A odd pairing of Pinot Noir, Cab and Zinfandel, this was a smoky bacon infused cherry with tons of campfire components. ($22)
Situated high on a hillside, Benson is a Tuscan themed winery with breathtaking views. The estate vineyards roll down the hillside below with Lake Chelan and the Cascade Mountains just beyond that. The wines tasted at Benson were the most consistent across the entire line up. The only one I wouldn’t score a 4 or higher was the Viognier.
Highlight Wine: This is a difficult choice. We bought more wine here than at any other location. The Sangiovese was a huge flavor wine with bright red fruit and baking spices ($27). Another stand out was the 07 Cabernet Sauvignon ($38)
Must See: I highly recommend going through the tasting line up, then purchasing a glass (or bottle) and enjoy it on their patio overlooking the amazing views. It will be the highlight of your trip.
Vin du Lac
The final stop of the day was at Lake Chelan’s first bonded winery and the 2010 Wine Press Northwest Winery of the Year. It seemed like every wine on their shelf was adorned with one or more gold medals. Vin du Lac is a quaint space with peek-a-boo views of the lake, just beyond the apple orchards. If you plan your day right, you can stop here for lunch and enjoy their great food too. After a long day of wine tasting, we didn’t taste through the lineup, rather we purchased a bottle of 06 Barrel Select Cabernet and relaxed before heading to dinner
Must See: Stop here for lunch! You’ll love the outdoor seating. It’s like eating among the apple trees.
More amazing views await you at Tsillan Cellars (pronounced Chelan). Tsillan is the areas second oldest winery and is on the South shore. With an Italian villa theme, the grounds are impeccable complete with stone paths, waterfalls and Koi pond. This is most definitely a premier event location suitable for outdoor concerts, weddings, banquets and more. The Italian theme continues in their wine lineup that includes Sangiovese, Barbera, and Nebbiolo. If it weren’t for the weather and the impending drive home, we would have stayed for quite a while. Tsillan is open 365 days a year and has dinner service with their Sorrento’s Ristorante.
Highlight Wine: The 06 Bellissimi Rosso was a stunning blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc. It presented a creamy maple syrup, blackberry and cherry and was aged well to provide a nice long smooth finish.
Must See: Ring the old fashion bell when you leave. Also, this is one of the best places to just stop, rest and enjoy the view.
Our final Lake Chelan stop was also on the South shore at Nefarious Cellars. Heather and Dean Neff are making some fantastic wine from their estate vineyards and sourced grapes. Beyond the wine, they are just amazingly nice and genuine people who are passionate about what they do. When they release their red wines each year, you have to be quick because they sell out fast. We tasted through their standard line up of Viognier, Consequence (a Sauv Blanc / Aligote blend), The Spinner (Merlot, Syrah, Cab, and Malbec) and their Cabernet Sauvignon. Heather was gracious to also let us try their newly released Syrah, Riesling, Zinfandel, and special 08 Rx4. This was the most unique wine of the trip as a blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, Counoise, and Cinsault.
Highlight Wine: While the Rx4 was special (and come to think of it, I’m not sure why we didn’t buy it), we left with the 09 Consequence ($18) and 07 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)
While on our trip, I was of course tweeting and Facebooking along the way. Karen Wade (no relation) from Fielding Hills Winery invited us to stop by on our way home for their annual bottling party! I love Fielding Hills wine. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see them again and to participate in part of the process. Fielding Hills is in Wenatchee, just 30 minutes south of Chelan. We sat down in their quaint wine making barn overlooking their hundreds of acres of fruit trees (they manage over 5000 acres in total) and bottled their 2008 Syrah. So, if you’re drinking one of the 25 cases of that special Syrah, chances are I put the cork in the bottle!
Lake Chelan is a special place and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in Washington State to taste wine. I hope that this trip has inspired you to visit there soon. Visit the Lake Chelan Wine Valley web site for details on all the area wineries and events.
25 May 2010
Spokane’s Barrister Winery has released four new wines for 2010. These new releases are a showcase for why Barrister is getting worldwide attention for their consistency of quality, character, structure, and flavor. When co-owner and co-winemaker Greg Lipsker asked if I was interested in previewing the new releases, I had to calm myself before answering with a resounding YES! Greg and Mike are responsible for some of my favorite wines. Their Rough Justice blend was my January wine of the month.
Barrister is located in an historic 100 year old building in Spokane’s downtown core (Railroad Ave, west of Jefferson). The 25,000 square foot facility houses production, a large single stack barrel room, storage, and an expansive tasting room and event facility. Barrister offers a unique space to host your wedding, reception, corporate event, or special family dinner. Barrister is also the best stop on the First Friday Art Walk in Spokane. Check out my previous video tour of the facility and interview with Greg.
The key to Barrister wines is good fruit, patience and attention to specifics. The wines reviewed below are from some of Washington’s most prestigious vineyards, Sagemoor, Weinbau, Dwelly, Kiona and Koinonia. As you’ll note in the video, Greg and Mike take a vintage by vintage approach to their wine making, adjusting blends and barrel routines as appropriate to showcase the fruit. Their attention to detail shows in the finished product.
2009 Barrister Winery Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from Koinonia Vineyards, 0% residual sugar, .8% acidity, 14.1%abv, 136 cases produced
- The Swirl: Light and nearly clear in color, thin viscosity, clean and clear
- The Sniff: Floral aromas of white flowers, pears, and perfume. The nose offers a tight bouquet but is still elegant and fresh.
- The Sip: In agreement with Greg, this wine is summertime on the lips. A bone dry presentation that allows the crisp fruit to be front and center. Your mouth is greeting with a kiss of pear and wet stone and says goodbye with a well balanced acidity. The wine is not tart and in spite of being bone dry, doesn’t leave you feeling parched.
- The Score: At only $17, this is one of the most refreshing and well balanced Rieslings that I have discovered. With only 136 cases made, you won’t want to delay to get yours for the upcoming summer season. Drink now or store for 3-5 years. I score this wine a 4 (out of 5).
The 2009 Barrister Winery Riesling is a superb value and an amazing demonstration of Riesling fruit from Koinonia Vineyards. The bone dry finish leaves you longing for more without a tartness that leaves you parched. Pair this wine with summer, grilled vegetables, shrimp salad, light pasta, and fruit. DrinkNectar highly recommends this wine.
2008 Barrister Winery Sangiovese
- The Stuff: 100% Sangiovese from Kiona Estate Vineyards. Aged 15 months in used French oak, 14.5%abv, 149 cases produced
- The Swirl: Deep burgundy color that is 60% opaque and mellows out to bright ruby tones on the edges.
- The Sniff: An amazing presentation of big bright cherries, spice, vanilla, and hints of cinnamon.
- The Sip: Hold on Antonio, this is not your father’s Italian Chianti / Sangio. This medium bodied wine is a showcase of the hot weather from Red Mountain that produces amazingly bold fruit. In this limited tasting there was all bright cherries and hints of toast. A nice firm tannin and lingering tart finish rounded out the beautiful wine. Not representative of the variety, but made in a strong new world fashion.
- The Score: Loving the presentation of fruit and big finish, this $25 wine scores a solid 3+ (out of 5).
2007 Barrister Winery Merlot
- The Stuff: 86% Merlot from Dwelly Vineyards and 9% Cab Franc, 5% Cab Sauv; 14.8%abv, 271 cases produced
- The Swirl: Elegant bright plum colors that are about 70% opaque. Spectacular color structure that suggests quality and high extraction
- The Sniff: A Merlot worthy of putting Miles (from the movie Sideways) in his place. Fantastic aroma of smooth cocoa and berry – imagine cherry cocoa puffs with a hint of pipe tobacco smoke.
- The Sip: The very front palate of this wine is a semi-sweet medium cherry flavor that presents hints of baking cocoa on the mid-palate. A bright hint of blueberry jumps out at the back end as you begin to swallow the wine. A surprisingly strong and well structured finish complete this well crafted Merlot.
- The Score: At $25 this Merlot can compete among the ranks of wines twice the price. I score this a 4+ (out of 5) and put it up there with the top 3 Merlot I’ve had in 2010.
The 2007 Barrister Winery Merlot is a showcase of what Merlot can be. With smooth elegant cherry and cocoa flavors the addition of Cab Franc and Cab Sauv bring to light a bright blueberry spark and a strong finish. This wine could be a casual sipping wine and would stand up well to grilled burgers, BBQ ribs, and a mild red pasta dish. DrinkNectar highly recommends this wine as one of the top Merlots of the year.
2007 Barrister Winery Sagemoor Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet from Sagemoor Vineyards in Walla Walla, 15% Merlot and 10% Syrah also from Sagemoor Vineyards; aged 20+ months in 75% French and 25% American oak; 15.2%abv, 210 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Thick and inky with stormy night characteristics. The wine is about 90-95% opaque and is nearly black at the middle of the glass
- The Sniff: An aroma of blackberry and plum saturates the nose. A slight alcohol heat with spice accompaniment throws off the aroma profile only slightly.
- The Sip: The wine has bottle aged well and despites its youth of 3 years, is a fairly smooth offering for a big Cab (probably softened by the addition of Merlot). Big dark spicy cherries showcase the flavors with undercurrents of red raspberry and dark chocolate. Slight hints of oak, but very subtle. The finish lingers for quite some time, but presents a little burn on the swallow.
- The Score: A beautiful wine that will resonate with big Cab lovers. The high alcohol is the only moderately off-putting part of this wine. Avoid pairing this with spicy dishes which will compound the heat. At $33 I score this wine a 4 (out of 5).
04 May 2010
For month’s I’ve been dying to try Barili Cellars. Everyone I’ve talked to for the last six months raves about them…but they are sold out. I drive by…they’re closed. Their first release…gone in just a few short months. The anticipation has been building to try the wine, the myth the legend that is Barili Cellars.
Barili Cellars was born because of a scheduling conflict. For several years, Russ Feist and Steve Trabun had been independent home wine makers. They honed their craft in small barrel productions of beautiful Columbia Valley fruit. In the fall of 2005, Russ’ schedule kept him from being able to pick up grapes from his source in Prosser. Steve, who sourced grapes from the same place, agreed to take Russ’ grapes to him. In addition to the grape connection, Steve and Russ work for the same Northwest company. The Barili relationship began.
In 2007 Steve and Russ began the steps to open Barili Cellars by sourcing grapes that would become their first release. Steve’s wife, Dana completed WSU’s Enology program in 2009. She, along with Russ’ wife Marlene, help in every step of the process. Bonding was secured for production facility but that space couldn’t be used as a retail location. After connecting with local businessman Steve Salvatori they moved into an entrepreneur center that acts as an incubator for start ups. Mr. Salvatori helped transform the space into an awesome tasting room AND winery production facility. In the Spring of 2009 Barili opened and their production of 150 cases nearly instantly sold out.
Having fully moved production to their downtown space, Steve and Russ have ramped production up to 350+ cases for 2010 with the Barreling Red Blend (1/3 each of Merlot, Cab and Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Viognier. The red wines spend 16 months in American / Hungarian oak and the Chardonnay spent just 30 days in barrel during fermentation. All of their wine is 100% self-distributed. If 2009 is any indication, you won’t want to delay if you want to drink some Barili Cellars wine.
Currently, Barili is sourcing grapes from vineyards in Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Hills and Prosser. When talking about the future, Steve and Russ are excited to continue refining their process and will most likely increase production to about 500 cases. They’re looking to lock down their grape sources, move to tighter grained oak, and continue to make great fruit forward wine that people love.
Barili is open on special event weekends like Spring Barrel Tasting, Holiday Wine Festival and First Friday’s from 5-8pm.
608 W 2nd Ave
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
After waiting six long months, I finally got to try all of their new releases including this Cab Sauv. One word of advice to you…hurry. Two words to Steve and Russ…make more.
- The Stuff: 50% Cabernet from Dineen Vineyards and 50% Cabernet from Seth Ryan Vineyards; 90 cases, 14%abv
- The Swirl: Good bright color reminiscent of a plum but with about 30% translucence. The color dissipates towards the edges
- The Sniff: Immediately struck by good structured raspberry and pepper aroma with a nice subtle hint of oak
- The Sip: The wine comes alive as it crosses your palate. There is a good structure of fruit, black berry and cherry, that then morphs to smooth cocoa. The finish has medium, well balanced acidity and a great pepper spice that lingers for quite some time. The wine still feels a little young and could cellar for another 5-7 years but is still approachable today.
- The Score: At $22 (their most expensive offering), I can easily score this wine a 3+ (out of 5). If they ever have it on sale pick up more than one. This is one wine that won’t disappoint for an elegant steak dinners or the everyday BBQ.
26 Apr 2010
“That is so cool, he makes his own alcohol,” exclaimed Tim during a family reunion trip with Tracy’s extended family. That weekend in 1999 gave birth to a new Spokane winery. The journey would still take several more years, but by the fall of 1999 Tracy and Tim acquired some Walla Walla Cabernet, hit the books, talked with winemakers and began experimenting with making wine. Over the years, one wine turned into five different wines and by 2007, Nodland Cellars became Spokane’s lucky 13th winery. Those early pre-release years were all about education and refining the process. Classes at UC Davis, Walla Walla Community College and the “school of hard knocks,” says Tracy led to their passion for “creating a small amount of the best wine we can make.”
Tim and Tracy focus on one red wine each year. If the vintage is right, they’ll also produce a Riesling (but it sells out almost as soon as it’s bottled). Their Red Blend is a traditional, pre 1870 style, Bordeaux blend. They drive across the state to source all six original Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and even Carmenere. In a time when wine making can be very corporate and driven by profits and business efficiencies, every cluster of grapes is hand harvested, hand sorted, crushed, barreled, racked and bottled by Tim and Tracy. The majority of their fruit comes from one acre each at Pepperbridge and Seven Hills vineyards. Their blocks are next to the same blocks used by Leonetti, Reininger, and Pepperbridge.
Both Tracy and Tim said that their favorite part of the process is blending. Once the grapes have gone through their two years in oak, each wine is tasted and then mixed together like brush strokes on a canvas. As they blend they share thoughts and ideas and the picture comes together as a beautiful work of art. It’s not about slapping together traditional blending percentages. It’s about marrying the fruit together so that each showcase their strengths without overbearing the other.
Tim is a lawyer by day. When I asked what type of law he practiced, he joked, “very little.” Actually, Tim is a hard working, defense lawyer with an amazing reputation for integrity. Tim’s primary focus is DUI defense. The irony is not lost that Tim owns a winery AND defends those who drink and drive. Tim is also an accomplished jazz musician. While he is very skilled at everything he does, you can tell from talking with him that jazz and wine are his passions. Tracy is always hard at work at the tasting room and their 1200 square foot wine making facility. She is a talented artist. “I make wine, I drink wine, and I paint wine,” says Tracy. Often times you can arrive in the tasting room and find Tracy painting something new while Tim jams on his guitar. Tracy even puts a little bit of Nodland wine into every painting. The residue sentiment is collected when they clean the barrels and that dark inky purple paste is added to anywhere wine is used in a painting.
Tim’s love of jazz and Tracy’s love of art is how the Nodland Cellars label was born. They had an artist line up that they wanted to use, but as the time drew near, she disappeared on a walk about in Australia. Scrambling, Tim and Tracy discovered artwork by Tim Rogerson. As luck (or fate) would have it, Mr. Rogerson agreed to paint the label and created a beautiful image of Tim on guitar, and Tracy on the microphone (with a glass of wine in her hand).
The Nodland’s produce 400 cases per year and self distribute almost 100% of the product through their mailing list, tasting room and restaurants like Latah Bistro, Melting Pot, Beverly’s, Wild Sage, Nikos and local stores like Vino, Rocket Market, Bottles, Huckleberry’s and Wine Styles. Tim and Tracy would love to keep production low but are always looking to expand if the fruit is special. They may even consider moving from their current location (11616 E. Montgomery, in the Spokane Valley) if the right opportunity presents itself. The tasting room is open Noon – 4pm, until they sell out. Call ahead 509.927.7770.
The Current Line Up:
2005 Red Blend $35 (SOLD OUT)
2006 Red Blend $35
- 38% Cab Sauv, 28% Merlot, 14% Carmenere, 12% Cab Franc, 6% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot
2006 Reserve Cab (McClellan Vineyards) $45 – only 40 cases produced – REVIEWED HERE
- 94% Cab, 5% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot