24 Mar 2011
Email – “Wanna drink some Bordeaux?”
Response – “Duh, winning!”
Email – “Okay, we’ll send ya some to drink online with other blawgers and the Frenchies.”
Response – “Killer!”
This is a rough synopsis of the interchange that happened between Balzac Communication and Marketing and Nectar Wine Blog (me) a few weeks back. I love Washington wine, but I’m always looking for opportunities to expand the travels of my palate. Being that the event was on a Friday night, I was running the risk of being called away by paying customers but anticipated a 4pm start time to be plenty doable.
Joining me for the tasting is one of the wine slingers at Nectar Tasting Room, Ben Hilzinger (affectionately known as Benny by all the adoring 21-24 year old lovelies that come in every Friday and Saturday). Ben is passionate about wine and has a voracious appetite for wine knowledge and experience. Alongside my tasting notes are some of Benny’s poetic ramblings.
A brief Bordeaux lesson;
- Southwest corner of France
- Wine history dating back 2000 years (thanks Caesar)
- 700 million bottles of wine produced
- Strictly controlled and regulated
Just like in America, wines in Bordeaux range in quality and price. Tonight’s tasting involved five wines from the Bordeaux Superieur AOC. Wines from this appellation come from mostly older vines and most be aged a minimum of 9 months. All five wines tasted range in price from $13-$16 (a bargain for most any region).
“If you want to earn the Bordeaux Supérieur appellation “stamp of approval,” you have to comply with particularly strict winemaking conditions that give an optimum expression of the terroir.”
The NectarView – A Trip to Planet Bordeaux
I had no idea that Bordeaux was its own planet, but I was really excited for the journey. Uncertain if we traveled by space ship or just virtually through enotravel, I figured I better strap in for the journey. My previous experiences in this price range of French wine left me thinking of trips to my grandma’s house and the smell in the 100 year old basement mixed with a little dirt and mushroom.
Wine #1 Chateau La Gatte La Butte 2006
This 100% Merlot really took me by surprise with its strength. A strong sense of place comes through in both the nose and the palate. The wine seemed a little uptight. @PalatePress said it best with “This will be better tomorrow. Too tight. The wine needs a Manhattan, a massage, and a good night’s sleep. Needs to relax.” The wine is reminiscent of dust covered cherries with a hint of pencil lead. Score this one 3/5.
Wine Slinger Ben – Wed dog nose, well structured, opens up in the back end…”I could sip this.”
Wow, he sure waxes poetic on that one…
Wine #2 Chateau de Lugagnac 2008
A 50/50 split of Cabernet and Merlot from 40+ year old vines, the vineyards sit on soils of iron bearing clay and chalk. While at first I didn’t think the Lugagnac was as well structured as the first wine (thanks @suburbanwino for calling me out), the wine opened up as it sat in the glass while I tended to a patron. Once back to the wine there was an overwhelming amount of plum on the nose. The wine had a nice fruity front but a very hollow mid-plate. The finish was a little tart. Not a favorite of mine 3-/5
64% Merlot and 36% Cabernet. The Quancard was not a favorite among several of the tasters. For me I got a little busy during the tasting on this one and couldn’t give it my full attention. My buddy @winefoot says, ” 2008 Chateau Terrefort-Quancard – rather tart for me- rhubarb, cherries, white pepper, bubble-gum and chalk dust.” From @skovi “The 2008 Terrefort-Quancard is definitely earthy; I get forest floor, tobacco, dry fruit, but not a long finish.” No score.
Wine Slinger Ben – Subtle nose…not too fruity, lingering finish, approachable earthy finish…wee bit spicy.
Wine #4 Chateau de Parenchere Cuvee Raphael 2007
A blend of 60/40 Cab/Merlot, the Parenchere had a full nose of mint, coffee, dry fruit and tobacco. Great structure on the palate with a great deal of layers. The wine is complex and needs to lay down on the couch for an hour session while I uncover the layers. At this price point, this is by far the best wine of the night. Tweet from @cellarmistress “I still can’t get over the muddy, sexy barnyard nose on this thing! Makes me want to mudwrestle! (only kidding!)” 3+/5 (big score for the little price.
Wine Slinger Ben – Wholly shit dude, this is good. Wow!
…again, the boy has a way with words that will make your knees buckle.
Wine #5 Chateau Penin Tradition 2008
While there was a mix up in the tasting (some had 08, some had 09), I had to just drink what I had…bummer. 90% Merlot, 5% Cab and 5% Cab Franc; Ben and I disagreed slightly on the wine. For me there wasn’t a ton of depth and character. It smelled nice and nice a nice flavor but the complexities were missing. Seemed reminiscent of a new world wine with berry fruit and smooth vanilla flavors. 3/5
Wine Slinger Ben – Loving this wine, buttery morning toast, great dimensions and balance, warm & inviting, great wine to pair with food and/or stand alone.
To summarize, the overall impression of Planet Bordeaux tasting was excellent. The value to price ratio left me feeling more confident of my next French wine purchase. Now, if only we could get those Frenchies to Americanize the labels so they’re not so intimidating to the average consumer.
Other Post Recaps from Friends
The Wellesley Wine Press http://www.wellesleywinepress.com/2011/03/bordeaux-tasting-reveals-affordable.html
11 Aug 2010
If school were like this, I’d have gotten my doctorates degree! L’Ecole 41, French for “The School” district 41 is more appropriately named, “Je t’aime” for the love that it induces upon first sip. Situated in a schoolhouse built in 1915, L’Ecole teaches a master class in Washington wine class, style and marketing. Until the recent changes to Highway 12 in Walla Walla, every visitor entering Walla Wall from the West drove past the distinct schoolhouse tasting room which beckoned all inside for an enological education.
Operated by Megan and Marty Clubb, L’Ecole offers a 27 year lesson plan on Washington Wine. In previous reviews the L’Ecole Columbia Valley Cab finished 2nd in a 5 wine Cabernet shootout (4/5) and the 2007 Perigee was my June wine of the month (4/5). I recently enjoyed their 2007 Syrah, but sadly the bottle was gone before it could make its way to a review.
Visitors to their tasting room can enjoy a 1.3 acre working vineyard and tasting in two restored school rooms. Don’t worry; the Vice Principle is not around to slap your hands if you taste incorrectly. Have fun and write on their unique chalkboard counters while you’re there. Exploring the schoolhouse is half the fun while visiting L’Ecole.
As a side note, I’m experimenting with a new video format. Not sure why the video didn’t render across the full frame. If anyone knows Adobe Premiere Elements, let me know.
2008 L’Ecole 41 Luminesce
- The Stuff: 70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc from Seven Hills Vineyards, aged 4 months in neutral French oak barrels. 30% malolactic fermentation; 14.2%ABV
- The Swirl: A pale yellow honey in the glass that strikes a chord of gold
- The Sniff: Tropics and pear on the nose. Not an over the top presentation but can definitely pick out the Sauvignon Blanc characteristics added to this blend.
- The Sip: Nice gentle approaching soft fruit on the front of the tongue that opens up to a full embrace on the mid palate. An amazingly bright acidity finishes off this wine. The flavors are not overwhelming but the presentation is well balanced and thoughtful.
- The Score: At only $20 (and often less on sale or in the store), this is a super wine. I love the mix if characteristics from the Semillon and Sauv Blanc. This wine easily scores a 4/5. Find it under $15 and you’ve got a 4+/5
91 Pts Wine Enthusiast; 89 Pts Steven Tanzer
2007 L’Ecole 41 Seven Hills Merlot
- The Stuff: 81% Merlot, 11% Cab Sauv, 8% Cab Franc from Seven Hills vineyard. Aged 18 months in 40% new oak, 14.5%ABV; 1326 cases produced
- The Swirl: Good thick color presentation of plum and dark cherry but has about 60% opacity. Nice strong color to the edges.
- The Sniff: Dominate musty earth and grassy herbs that give way to dried cherry and black berry fruit. A moderate amount of cinnamon and cloves are present as well. From the video to further in the night the wine opened up into a more robust aroma of cherry (which I would expect) and vanilla.
- The Sip: A muscular merlot with good dried fruit, earthy terroir, dark fruit and mild tannin. Those that enjoy a subtle elegant merlot may find this more intriguing.
- The Score: At $37 it is more than most people would drop for a Merlot they haven’t tasted. If you’re looking for a bright cherry vanilla Merlot, you may want to pass, but if you’re after a warm earthy muscle Merlot, give it a go. Decanting this wine is recommended. 3+/5
92 pts Wine Enthusiast (Paul Gregutt); 91 pts Wine Advocate
2007 L’Ecole 41 Apogee
- The Stuff: 60% Cab Sauv, 30% Merlot 6% Malbec, 4% Cab Franc; 22 months in 50% new oak. 1630 cases produced, 14.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Thicker and slightly cloudy in color with dark purple tones. No jewelry here.
- The Sniff: A medium brightness of black berry and black cherry fruits along with subtle hints of cocoa and earthiness.
- The Sip: Big boy wine with a good firm structure of dark fruits and strong chalky tannin. If you’re looking to sip now, decant for several hours. Would recommend this wine as a special cellar project to pull out in 2013 when it would be more smooth and elegant. Great layers of fruit and firmness.
- The Score: At $50 a good percentage of people will not risk their money without a sample or a strong recommendation. The Apogee is not quite the pinnacle of what it is shooting for but it will be there in 3-5 more years. I score this a 4/5 based on potential.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
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
02 Dec 2009
Gonzaga Bulldogs; once the cinderella of college Basketball. Washington State Cougars; once the cellar dwellers of the PAC-10 conference. Both teams are now solid contenders with Gonzaga making the NCAA conference for 10 straight seasons and WSU reaching the Sweet 16 in 2007. Tonight, Dec 2, they battle in Spokane at the MAC.
Spokane wine is an underdog among the growing Washington wine explosion. WSU, in the Palouse, and just a short drive to the prestigious Walla Walla wine region. Tonight they battle in the drinknectar challenge!
WSU is represented by their new head coach, the top scorer in the nation Klay Thompson and Cougar Crest Winery. The 2005/6 Bordeaux style blend (with Syrah). Winemaker Deborah Hansen offers a smooth smelling and tasting blend that give the Cougars a strong showing. The wine lack a lot of intrigue and character but has a nice finish. Proceeds from this wine go to support ICU, neurosurgery, and trauma doctors who help give life to winemaker Deborah Hansen’s daughter.
The Zags are represented by 10 years of winning tradition, the 2nd winningest active coach, a young inexperienced team wanting to prove themselves again, and Grande Ronde Cellars. Grande Ronde procures their grapes from the Walla Walla region but calls home 902 W. 2nd Ave in Spokane. The 2005 Cellar Red is a traditional Bordeaux style blend. The sniff is more dynamic and the sip is more floral, perfume, and spice.
Grande Ronde Cellars 2005 Cellar Red
- The Swirl – Medium tone with a very nice purple jewel tone. Moderately see through
- The Sniff – Immediate sense of clove and cinnamon spice. The berry comes through on the back-end. A slight floral element presents itself
- The Sip – Still spicy on the sip with a good interesting flavor. Dark berry fruits begin to present themselves and the finish lingers for quite some time. Tannins, alcohol and acid are not dominant. My wife noted a perfume / soap taste.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$ The wine has a wide flavor profile and gives the drinker a lot to consider but in the end there is too much perfume as it finishes.
Cougar Crest 2005/6 Dedication Three
- The Swirl: The Cougar Crest is slightly more cloudy but still mildly translucent. Lack of legs for low residual sugar.
- The Sniff: Not as much aromatic presence on this wine. More fruity with cherry being the most predominant.
- The Swirl: Good smooth flavor profile. The wine lacks a lingering finish but presents a hint of chocolate at the end. This wine has slightly more acid but less tannin and moderate alcohol.
- Price to Value Ratio $$$+ With a more easy drinking feel and an overall stronger quality, the Cougar Crest is the better value for $20.
Led by senior Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga overcomes a 14 point deficit to beat the Cougars 74 to 69. Once again the hustle, strong coaching winning experience prevail. As far as the wine goes the final decision rests with you. If I were to buy another bottle for another game, I would choose the Cougar Crest only because of the mild flavor profile. Like I said in the video, if you are after a more dynamic taste experience, then go with the Grande Ronde. Great showing by Spokane and the Palouse. Basketball game goes to Gonzaga, wine goes to Cougar (Crest).