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).
24 May 2010
Believe it or not, sometimes I drink wine when the video camera is not on. For the first time, three of these wines end up in a review without the video camera. While I’m not the awesome text reviewer that my friend Steve Paulo is at NotesFromTheCellar.com, I thought I’d put the camera down and tell you about three wines that were truly special that we pulled from the cellar.
2006 Round Barn Cabernet
This wine was provided by Round Barn winery as a part of a Tweet and Taste event hosted by Michigan wine blogger MichiganByTheBottle.com. Shannon and Courtney Casey are promoting the mitten state one sip at a time. As a side note, they were robbed for not being included in the 2010 Wine Blog Awards for Best Single Focused wine blog. Their quality promotion of the wine regions in Michigan is top notch.
Round Barn produces wine, distilled spirits (vodka, brandy) and beer! It would seem that owner Rick Moersch and his two sons are never at a loss of beverage. Round Barn Winery is located in western Michigan on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, north of the Indiana border.
- The Stuff: % not listed on web site; 22 months in French/Hungarian oak (80/20); 13%abv
- The Swirl: Light bright purple color that is moderately translucent. Color moves out to clear toward the edges.
- The Sniff: Medium cherries with hints of graham cracker and cocoa. A mild whiff of smoky bacon begins to erupt from the glass when taking a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Medium body with thin under-ripe blackberry fruit and twigs. The smoky tobacco flavor continues on the palate. A good firm tannin structure on the back end. The acidity is slightly off balanced from the flavor presentation
- The Score: At $22 retail, I can score this a 3+ (out of 5) and really enjoyed this presentation of Cabernet from the Lake Michigan Shores AVA. I continue to be impressed with the improving quality out of the Michigan area.
Tweet from TTMI by @winegenie Palate = Red fruits on entry, tart cherries that turn to ripe black ones mid-palate. Silky.Powdery tannins.Drinkable & med. long.
Cellar Tracker Scores of 88.5 (with 2 reviews)
2007 Trio Vintners RIOT
Reason #1 for loving Twitter: GREAT PEOPLE. The folks at @triovintners (or @deniseslattery) are great folks. I love chatting with them and hearing about their wine making journey. I received this bottle in a shipment of three that included their Carménère and Tempranillo (reviewed here). Trio Vintners has been part of the incubator wineries in Walla Walla, Washington and is currently showcasing their third vintage of reds (along with some whites and roses). The RIOT is an uncommon blend of grapes that presents amazing character and personality. This is not your typical boring “red table wine” blend.
- The Stuff: 52% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre; aged 21 months in blend of new Hungarian, second and third year American, and neutral French oak; 14.1%abv; 237 cases produced
- The Swirl: Rich and thick in color. Dark plum jam
- The Sniff: A fun blend of earth, plum, cedar, and spices. Can definitely pick out the Syrah and Mourvedre components of the nose.
- The Sip: I love what the Syrah does with the Sangiovese. This is a big bold wine that has strong oak component. After about an hour the oak subsided. Nice dark berry fruit on the front of the tongue with big strong tannins. Grab a steak, sit back and enjoy! Mild cherry fruits on the mid-palate and the pepper spice was a perfect compliment without being overbearing.
- The Score: At $18 this is a wine that shines well above its price point. Don’t be fooled by the Sangio base, this is a strong wine. It comes across as slightly over-oaked but is deserving of a score of 4 (out of 5) because of the value and complexity.
2003 XSV Cabernet Sauvignon
Buried among the heart of the Woodinville Warehouse district are several gems. Within the rough exterior buildings and minimalistic tasting rooms are wine makers that are honing their skills crafting top notch grapes. With limited production many of these wineries never get national recognition or media attention. In the fall of 2009 my wife and I spent two days sipping our way through Woodinville. While several wineries stood out (Alexandria Nicole Cellars and Mark Ryan), it is the wine purchased at our last stop that now takes top honors from that trip. The XSV 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon has been haunting me ever since we drank the bottle a few weeks back. Sadly their web site is lacking in information but below is the review of an incredibly memorable wine.
- The Stuff: No info on label or web site. Assumed Cab from the LeMieux Family Vineyard 15%abv. After investigating their other wines spend about 20 months in New American Oak.
- The Swirl: Elegant dark purple and tawny port color. Nicely aged tone. The wine shows at about 80% opaque with good color to the edges
- The Sniff: Slight heat on the nose with a beautiful dried plum, cherry and raisin aroma. Subtle spices of pepper and cinnamon make an appearance as well.
- The Sip: If a wine were scored on velvet elegance, this would receive top honors. Amazing flavors of chocolate covered plums and cherries with a beautiful long smooth finish. Tight tannin without being chalky or chewy. This wine will be in its prime in 2 years but is incredibly amazing to drink now.
- The Score: At $38 (if I remember right), I can easily score this wine a 4 out of 5. If I’m ever in Woodinville again, I will certainly make a special trip to XSV again.
Scored a 3 (out of 5) on Wine Peeps in 2009
I have a confession. I’ve had this beautiful elegant and understated label staring at me for over two months. There is something engaging about the simple serif font with only the winery name and vintage on the front. There were times I even set the bottle on top of the cellar buffet just for show. Finally, the time has come to pop the cork and discover if what’s inside the bottle is as elegant and beautiful as the outside.
Penche is French for leaning bending or tilting and the winery name is taken from the old oak trees on the property. Scott and Pauline Asbill discovered the Oak Knoll property on their travels in 2001. Although wine lovers, they had no intention of creating wine, they fell in love with the panoramic views of the Napa Valley. The property originally included 4 acres of Chardonnay which Scott re-planted with three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon.
As the education, consultation, and passion continued, they began selling grapes to popular wineries and in 2005 took the proverbial leap and create Penche Wine. Paul is a wine grower and together with his wife and consulting wine maker Jay Buoncristiani they collaborate on each vintage for quality and direction.
The grapes for each wine are hand picked, hand sorted, re-sorted, and fermented in small containers before being stored for one year in new French oak. After blending trials and deciding on the proper blend, the wine is returned to barrel for an additional 6-9 months before bottling. The wines reviewed below represent only the second release in the fulfillment of passion and a dream!
2006 Penche Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 88% Cab (Penche Vineyard) 5% Cab Franc (Saunders Vineyard), 3% Malbec (Caldwell Vineyard), 2% Merlot (Larry Hyde Vineyard), 2% Petit Verdot (Penche and Saunders Vineyard); 100% new French oak for 18-21 months; 14.8%abv, 364 cases made
- The Swirl: A dark thick extracted purple/plum with rim of bright neon glow; nearly 100% opaque
- The Sniff: Bright red cherry, currant, and slight toasted oak. Very opulent and aromatic
- The Sip: Big fruit forward cherry flavors with cassis. A chalkiness settles on the mid-palate but the acidity washes it away within a few seconds on the finish.
- The Score: At $60, this is on the upper side of the price point for many people. I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) and can highly recommend it for anyone that buys wine in this price point. The wine could / should still see 3 more years in bottle to soften up the chalkiness. If opening immediately, should decant and pair with a big hearty steak!
92 Points Wine Enthusiast for 2005 vintage
The 2006 Penche Cab Sauv comes alive with bright cherries and toasted cedar. The mouth feel is big, rich and fruit forward. The grip on the tongue is released with a nice balanced acidity and lingering finish. Cellar 3-10 years. $60, DrinkNectar Rating = 4
- The Stuff: 40% Cab, 38% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec; 20 months in new French oak, 14.8%abv 289 cases
- The Swirl: Dark purple with softer tones. Edges move toward jewel tone garnet. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: A wonderful representation of each of the five Bordeaux grapes. The bright cherry fruit is softened by black cherries and cocoa. A whiff of blueberries graces the nose as well.
- The Sip: A smooth mouth feel from front to back. The fruit that presents itself on the nose is also present on the palate with lively flavor all across the mouth. The tannin is less pronounced than on the Penche Cab, but still provides enough structure to pair with food
- The Score: At $40 I score this wine a 4+ out of 5. It is a large wine that is graceful like a offensive lineman in ballet class. It’s bold, smooth and elegant without losing the strength of the Cabernet grape.
No other reviews could be found.
The 2006 Penche Argent is a river of bold flavorful black cherry, cocoa, and well integrated spices. Expect an elegant flavor with strength to pair with food. Argent positions itself well as a sipping wine or to impress at dinner. $40, DrinkNectar Rating = 4+
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
06 May 2010
On Memorial Day weekend Spokane will officially welcome its 17th winery, Overbluff Cellars. I recently stopped and talked with John Caudill and Jerry Gibson about their opening and upcoming release in preparation for Spring Barrel tasting weekend. While some logistics keep them from having a fully operational tasting room for the weekend of May 7-9, you can get a sneak peek of their wine at Hotel Lusso.
Overbluff Cellars will be pouring their four releases at Hotel Lusso (on Post) from 11AM – 5PM, Friday through Sunday. In a previous post I outlined how you can attempt to hit ALL sixteen participating wineries over the weekend. Check out the post which includes a map you can download and print.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy the world’s first review of Overbluff Cellars wine (I think)!
2009 Overbluff Viognier
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 16.5%abv, about 90 cases made, vineyards are Spofford and Les Collines
- The Swirl: A walk down the yellow brick road. This wine shines pure yellow gold with hints of viscosity and some wicked legs (attributed to the high ABV); enclosed with a glass closure.
- The Sniff: Ripe cantaloupes, tubarose flower and that baked sugar cinnamon smell from an apple pie. Take a deep sniff and you’ll pick up on the strong alcohol aroma
- The Sip: Beautiful flavor profile with very nice mouth feel and tropical fruit flavors. A rippin’ acidity and overwhelming heat (from the alcohol) unfortunately throw off the initial flavors.
- The Score: At $19, I can only score this wine a 3 minus out of 5. The effort and fruit are spectacular but the misfortune of elevated sugar levels during harvest have resulted in too much alcohol during fermentation for my tastes. If you like your whites to have a sense of elegance and sophistication, then you may be surprised by the alcohol level.
2007 Overbluff Duality
- The Stuff: A blend of 50% Cabernet from two Walla Walla vineyards (LaTour and Windrow) The wine spent a full two years in oak (not specified) and is enclosed with a glass closure; 13.8%abv, 50 cases made
- The Swirl: Deep purple with excellent coloration at the edges that shine like jewels. The wine is about 70% opaque
- The Sniff: The immediate aroma on this wine is a beautiful cherry and blackberry. A rich fruit forward nose that lightens to subtle notes of dark chocolate. Lacks a definitive spice on the smell.
- The Sip: The fruit gently jumps across your tongue but is almost immediately encroached by some sharp tartness and tannin on the mid-palate. The acidity and finish are both nicely balanced. My general take is that this is still a very young wine that could see another five years before being opened. If opening early, decant for at least 30 minutes to allow the wine to breathe.
- The Score: At $31 retail, I score this wine a solid 3+ out of 5 for having good fruit presence and strength on the back end. My recommendation would be to buy and hold. If you want to open a bottle make sure that it is being accompanied by food and friends (as all good wine should be).
As a side note, I tasted the Duality Cabernet with a dinner that included strong garlic pasta with red sauce and a tomato basil garlic bread. The wine made the dinner better!
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.