08 Jun 2010
You remember that game you played as a kid, duck duck goose? Some of you may have played it with your four year old just the other night. This wine review has nothing to do with that game, but it did come to mind when I received the wine for review. The other thing that I think of when I look at Duck Pond Cellars label is that old Nintendo game, Duck Hunt. Could be the ducks on the label, but I wanted to get out the grey plastic pistol and fire away.
Duck Pond Cellars is located in Dundee, Oregon. I previously reviewed their 2007 Red Blend (which was a crazy value) and their 2007 Syrah (which wasn’t a personal favorite). One thing is sure, Duck Pond is shooting for some crazy values that are way more than child’s play (see how I brought back the two references from earlier, nice eh).
For this review, I decided the wine needed to make the 400 mile trek back to Oregon. The ducks longed to fly in their native land, so I packed them along during our Memorial Day weekend trip to Portland. The Oregon/Washington connection is strong with Duck Pond as all the grapes used for these wines were sourced from sister winery/vineyard Desert Wind in the Wahluke Slope AVA. Just like real ducks, these grapes fly south at harvest to prepare for their fermentation and storage.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 95% Chardonnay, 4% Semillon, and 1% Gewurtraminer that was fermented in 90% stainless steel and 10% in barrel (4 months in new French and American); Partial malolactic fermentation; 15% abv; 19,665 cases produced; all Desert Wind Vineyard fruit
- The Swirl: Great golden yellow tone with a slight creamy quality
- The Sniff: An abundance of tropical flower and fruit with a good amount of heat as well.
- The Sip: Good rich mouth-feel without feeling flabby and fat. I really appreciate the fruit components of pear and pineapple along with other topical flavors. Everything is going well for this duck until the finish which is slightly stinging due to the alcohol.
- The Score: At only $10, this is a crazy value because the wine has some great aroma, flavor, acidity and minerality. The only misfortune is the heat on the finish. Pair this wine with food to compensate for the alcohol (preferably something sweet or rich). I score it a 3 out of 5.
Cellar Tracker score of 84 with four reviews
- The Stuff: 89% Merlot and 11% Cab Franc from Desert Wind Vineyard; Aged 14 months in 20% French and 80% American oak barrels; 14.5% abv; 12,721 cases produced
- The Swirl: Deep rich purple color with about 70% opacity. Slightly watered down at the edges.
- The Sniff: Good strong components of dark berries, leather, and wood. The American oak is prevalent but not attacking. Nice to get a good nose at this price point
- The Sip: The fruit flavors are fun and rich but they don’t hang and play very long. They fly the next and make way for a pleasant velvet milk chocolate mid palate with a better than average structure on the back end.
- The Score: At $10, this is a definite recommend. The wine is pleasing, and although slightly over oaked, it has some very nice fruit flavors and aroma that will make a good value drinking experience. I score this wine a 3+ out of 5
The 2005 Duck Pond Cellars Merlot doesn’t have any formal reviews on Cellar Tracker. It makes a strong showing to be considered for the Under $10 Value Team, but will have to ride the bench due to tough competition from Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 7% Syrah from Desert Wind and Sacagawea Vineyards; aged in a combination of French and American oak; 14.5%ABV; 5824 cases produced.
- The Swirl: A thick muddy jammy purple that reminds me of a dark stormy sunset. The wine is about 90% opaque.
- The Sniff: Dark berry, gamey meat aromas, leather and stone. The nose is intriguing and throws me off from a traditional Cabernet, not in a bad way.
- The Sip: The mouth feel of the wine is a slight disappointment from the nose. The fruit elements are not strong and the expected spice and depth is not there. The wine is not off in flavor but only provides glimpses of what it could be. I would liken this to being the little brother who only played little league where the big kids moved on to the pros.
- The Score: While there is nothing off putting about the wine and it would make a great addition to any table to be paired with summer grillin’ or light pasta, I score it a 3 (out of 5) because of the lack of anything that stands out. Only $12 retail.
04 Jun 2010
“Red wine, that’s what I like, that is what we make,” says Michael Haig of Whitestone winery. The Whitestone vineyard is located on the shores of Lake Roosevelt 60 miles west of Spokane. The vineyard microclimate is perfect for growing Bordeaux style grapes (Cab, Merlot and Cabernet Franc). For a full history of Whitestone and my previous interview with Michael Haig, see the DrinkNectar review.
I’m a huge fan of Bordeaux style blends. I feel that each grape brings individual characteristics to a wine that when properly done create a symphony of flavor and character. Whitestone is known for their Pieces of Red blend (reviewed here) and has recently released a Meritage blend using the best from their vineyard and highest quality French oak barrels. Whitestone holds the distinction of being the only estate grown, produced and bottled winery in Spokane.
Reviewed here are the Merlot, Cabernet Franc and the Lake Roosevelt Red non-vintage blend.
2006 Whitestone Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Merlot from Lake Roosevelt Shores estate vineyard; 14.6% ABV
- The Swirl: Light plum with ruby edges and about 60% opaque. The wine is beginning to show some browning due to aging.
- The Sniff: A moderate bouquet of thin sour cherry fruit with hints of tobacco and oak
- The Sip: Thin on the front palate with the fruit coming late to the party. There is a cranberry / pomegranate flavor that starts tart then goes to a nice elegant finish. Slightly hot on the finish but has good acidity. Not a full flavor sipping wine but a nicely made wine to pair with food (grilling).
- The Score: The lack of structure and flavor at the $22 price point leads me to score this wine as 3 out of 5. I would hold off on buying this wine just to sip but would certainly recommend it with dinner.
2006 Whitestone Cabernet Franc
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Cabernet Franc; 14.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Light plum with a browning aged color. A bright bluish hue can be detected. The wine is about 60% opaque.
- The Sniff: A mild presentation of under-ripe raspberry and blueberry tickles the nose and contains subtle hints of black tea and a dash of pepper
- The Sip: The mouth feel is similar to the merlot with a thin front palate with fruit that shows up toward the mid and back. A little more multi-dimensional with medium bodied old world earthiness, spice and subtle under-ripe blueberry flavors. There is a good amount of tannin strength that leaves the finish slightly chalky.
- The Score: At $20, I score this wine 3 out of 5. There is nothing off-putting about the wine, it leaves me longing for a little more flavor but would be a nice pairing with beef, and pasta dishes.
NV Whitestone Lake Roosevelt Red
- The Stuff: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc from the estate vineyard; 14.9% ABV
- The Swirl: A tawny plum that is about 70% opaque. Color is good out to the edges
- The Sniff: Once you get past the hot perfume smell of the alcohol, there are very nice aromas of red raspberry, cranberry and dark dark chocolate. The smell is bright and fragrant.
- The Sip: This shows why I like blends. Cabernet Sauvignon shows up and joins in the Franc and Merlot party providing a great sweet cherry flavor and a bold middle palate flavor of spice, wood, and tobacco. There is a good tannin structure but doesn’t feel chalky. The only off piece of the wine is the strong alcohol heat when you swallow.
- The Score: At $17 retail this is a very good value red blend and I score it a 3+ out of 5. It shows good drinkability now with an additional 3-5 years in the cellar.
Whitestone Winery is open from Noon – 6pm Thursday – Saturday at 111 S. Cedar in downtown Spokane. They have live music most weekends and are participants of the First Friday festivities. Their wine club gives members 10% off of single bottle purchases, 15% off of case pricing and merchandise and complimentary tastings for up to four people.
*Wine was provided as industry sample with the intention to review
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).
31 Mar 2010
For a night, Merlot was king. The grape that got turned upside down in the movie Sideways was back on top for two hours in March. This event, and others similar to it, proves to me once and for all that Twitter and other Social Media has changed the way we can do business and effect change.
Before I get into the analysis of the Twitter metrics for the night I must give thanks to the group that pulled it together. I may have been the face behind a lot of posts, videos and tweets, but without these amazing ambassadors of Washington Wine, this event would have fallen far short of its potential. The following twitter personalities were on board from the beginning – @SeattleWineGal – @WAWineReport – @Catie – @WineBeerWA – @WineeYak – @YakimaValley – @Shonoa425 – @wbcorbust – @nwwineandre – and @lunabeanmedia. These are the people who are deserving of the praise.
The Promotion and Media
#WAMerlot gained a massive groundswell about 2 weeks prior to the event. More than 100 wineries, restaurants, wine bars, wine stores, and even hotels from New Jersey to Wisconsin to Phoenix to Seattle got on board! The event was featured in the Spokesman Review, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, and even National Public Radio. Promotion continued through other wine writers like SuppleWine, WineFoot, Oregon Wine Blog, Wine Harlots, Wino Magazine, Sip With Me, Wine-Ophelia, Vinotology, Weekly Wine Journal, Cork’d and so many more (so sorry if I forgot to mention you). One highlight for me was the Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Library TV #WAMerlot episode. In fact, leading up to and after the event there were over 75 blog posts that referenced the event from wine reviews to social media reporting.
The Results and Analysis
I don’t have fancy Twitter analytics. I know they exist. I know there are programs that can determine the overall reach, brand impressions, etc – I don’t have those (if I get them, I’ll update this post). Here is what I do know. The event rocked the wine world!
- Twitter rock stars like @ChrisPirillo (Social Media persona) and @nansen (Seattle politics) joined in during the evening. Between them they have nearly 300,000 followers.
- Wineries and businesses having events had anywhere from zero to more than 30 people in attendance. From preliminary returns average attendance ran about 10. If my 6th grade math serves me right, 100 locations x 10 people average is approximately 1000 people.
- Tweets were observed from Europe, Australia, Asia (China), and North America (Canada, Mexico, and USA) – 4 out of 7 continents.
- #WAMerlot was a trending topic in Seattle (#1 and #2 at times) and was in the top 15 of trending topics on Twitter during the evening.
- Web site www.wthashtag.com tracked almost 2000 tweets by nearly 500 tweeters.
- Total brand reach was well into the millions
- Potential bottle consumption of Washington Merlot for the night is between 2000-3000 bottles
- While attending Taste Washington, I was continually thanked by dozens of wineries that participated in the event. True test – we’ve been asked to do it again.
- People had fun. People drank some effin’ Merlot!
While I spent the evening traveling to four locations in Spokane, I felt it important to give a formal review to the wineries who sent me samples (bottle shots below)
2007 Hogue Cellars Merlot
- The Stuff: 99% Merlot and 1% Syrah, Columbia Valley, 31,606 cases produced, 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Moderatly cloudy and slightly translucent. Dark cherry tones leaning toward a plum color
- The Sniff: Fairly tight on the nose at first but opens up to cherry, dust, and cocoa
- The Sip: A little thin on the front and thick fruit flavors on the mid palate. The wine is singular in dimension (dark cherry fruit) and provides a good sipping experience.
- The Score: At $9-$10, you won’t blow anyone away with this selection, but it will suffice as a standby everyday drinker. Some wines in this Hogue family can be hit or miss, but this Merlot is a good trusty label. I score it a 3 minus (out of 5)
Cellar Tracker Scores: No scores on the 07 vintage, but the 05 and 06 scores range between 77 – 87 (median 85)
2006 Fielding Hills Merlot
- The Stuff: Single vineyard Wahluke Slope AVA, 80% Merlot 11% Cab 9% Syrah, aged 19 months in 77% new oak, 14.3%abv, 163 cases
- The Swirl: Dark plum with beautiful jewel tones toward the edges. Mostly opaque
- The Sniff: Overwhelming aromas of cherry, smoke, and hints of spicy bacon. Amazed at how aroma profile changes as it comes through the nose.
- The Sip: A mouthful of joy! The black cherry fruit skips across your tongue and then transforms into undertones of smooth violet perfume, that then release themselves to cocoa flavors. The acidic finish brings a nice wash across the back of the mouth as the finish lingers for eternity.
- The Score: At $36, I score this wine a 4+ (out of 5) and would easily buy it again and again. The balance between complexity, flavor, and drinkability are impeccable.
Cellar Tracker Score 93pts (1 score); Wine Spectator Score 93pts
2007 Longshadows Pedestal Merlot
- The Stuff: 75% Merlot, 15% Cab Sauv, 7% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, Aged 20 months in 80% new oak, 2005 cases, 14.7%abv
- The Swirl: Dark, dark, dark. Looks like the midnight sky with some hints of purple.
- The Sniff: Once you get past the tree hugging oak, some big blackberry fruit springs forth. A small shot of spice shoots out too.
- The Sip: Intense and immense are the words that come to mind. A concentration of fruit with enough acidity to not make you think fruit bomb. The oak flavors are more subdued on the palate and some nice tannins firm up the back end. Still a young wine but provides intense flavor with 60 second finish
- The Score: At $45-$55 I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) – lowered slightly because of the price. An incredibly well made wine for those that want an intense Merlot experience. I would think laying this down for 5 years would reveal a supurb wine for the future.
Cellar Tracker Score (1 review) 92 pts; Josh Green Score 96pts
Long Live the King!
23 Mar 2010
If you’re not drinking Merlot because of a silly little quote in a silly little movie, then you are missing out on a sexy, smooth wine that can be full of flavor and is an amazing value!
- A recent Nielson study shows that more American households purchase Merlot than any other wine variety (red or white).
- “I say it’s time for Merlot to raise its battered flag and reclaim its position as the broadly fruited, texturally satisfying, food-friendly red wine it can be.” Paul Gregutt
Check out the article on Cork’d featuring Merlot and the upcoming #WAMerlot event on March 25. What are you drinking for #WAMerlot?