28 Nov 2011
God only knows I’ve wanted to. God only knows I’ve tried. Once given the opportunity all I can say is God Only Knows lives up to the hype. In short, the Cayuse Vineyards 2008 God Only Knows Grenache is possibly the best wine I’ve had in 2011.
Sitting on 55 acres of stony riverbed soil on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla AVA is the legacy of French winemaker Christophe Baron. Planted in 1997, Cayuse Vineyards was Washington’s first biodynamic farmed vineyard and creator of some of the most sought after wines in the U.S. According to the story, Christophe Baron fell in love with the stony vineyard site at first glance. Wine grapes love to be stressed and the rocky soil creates some amazing wine.
The “God Only Knows” wine is 90% estate Grenache and 10% ‘god only knows’ according to the web site. The wine is available only to mailing list members. As luck would have it I have a friend who after four years finally made the allocation list. After paying for her three pack of wines 9 months ago, she finally received her first shipment. With a little coaxing I persuaded her to bring a bottle down to Nectar to share. According to web sites the wine is available for $170 on various auction sites. My friend paid about $60 per bottle.
With previous vintage scores settling in at 96 and 97 points from The Wine Advocate’s Jay Miller, the wine has some high expectations to live up to. The color is a light ruby rust color that is about 60% transparent. The sniff reveals aromas of violets and other floral fragrance. When the wine was first opened, there was a hotness to the nose along with an odd steely aroma. After about 30-40 minutes that fragrance was gone and additional aromas of cranberry and raspberry jumped out of the glass. Hints of clove were also present.
The first sip left me pretty disappointed. The flavor structure was disjointed and the finish left something to be desired. We poured the wine into a decanter and let it sit for about 30 minutes while we chatted about the upcoming holiday. A second effort started to reveal the true magic of this wine. An elegant layer of fruit lays across your tongue like a blanket of velvet that gives way to a rustic earthiness and lingering finish that includes raw meat (trust me it’s good), and silky cherries. About 1/2 way through the second glass I knew that I was fortunate to have a friend on the allocation list and was contemplating putting my name on the list as well.
In short, God Only Knows is a phenomenal wine…now, I know. This wine is deserving of a very rare 5/5 score.
- CAYUSE WEB SITE http://www.cayusevineyards.com/static/index.html
- Sean Sullivan’s WA Wine Report New Release Review
- Cellar Tracker score 91pts (six reviews)
22 Sep 2010
I first met Cheryl Hodgins at Taste Washington in Spokane. This fireball of energy nearly tackled me when I saw her from across the room. We chatted about Skylite Cellars and even did a brief interview for the Washington Wine Commission (which either I dreamed up or got lost in cyberspace because I can’t find it anywhere). One thing I learned from chatting with Cheryl, she is passionate about wine and Walla Walla.
Skylite Cellars brings together a big city radio entrepreneur and a small town farm girl. Tom Hodgins was busy in the radio industry and Cheryl was content driving a tractor around the farm. Wine and travel brought these two love birds together. That love eventually led to diving into the wine business. In 2000 the Hodgins’ invested in Ash Hollow Vineyards with several other winemakers and the following year, Cheryl’s father planted a few acres of wine grapes in what would eventually be known as Skylite Vineyards. In 2003 the journey to full fledged winery was complete with the addition of wine maker Robert Smasne.
With only a few vintages under their belt, Skylite Cellars is making quite a name for themselves. Their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received 90 points from Paul Gregutt, Gold in the Seattle Wine Awards, and Double Gold at the Finger Lakes Wine Competition. During the #Cabernet day review, the wine performed very strong against two Caymus Vineyards Napa, CA wines with a strong 4/5.
Skylite Cellars has two locations in Walla Walla. Their production and main tasting room is located off the old Highway 12 close to L’Ecole, Woodward Canyon and Waterbrook Winery. You can also visit them in downtown Walla Walla in the historic Quinn building on 2nd and Rose Ave (just steps from the Marcus Whitman Hotel).
- The Stuff: 100% Walla Walla Cabernet that was aged 22 months in new American oak; 14%ABV
- The Swirl: A nice dark crimson purple color with about 90% opacity. Rich in color.
- The Sniff: Big a$$ cherry fruit. One you get around the bright cherries you pick up some campfire smoke. Dark red fruit dominates the aroma.
- The Sip: Amazed at the integration of the American oak in this wine. The mouth feel is dominated by big red cherry fruit that is smooth and lush. The tannins are medium and very well balanced. A quick finish ends up with a touch of alcohol head.
- The Score: At $28 the Skylite Cabernet is a very well made wine with a slick polish. If you like cherries, you’re going to love this wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: 51% Malbec, 33% Cab, and 16% Carmenere make up this blend. Each barrel was chosen for their unique character and quality to be considered for the Reserve. Various combinations of French and American oak; 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Glassy purple center with bright purple pearl colors around the edges of the glass
- The Sniff: Strong aroma of blueberry and vanilla. A subtle hint of cinnamon rounds out this opulent nose. There may not be a lot of dynamic scents but what is there is full bodied.
- The Sip: A wine you want to just let sit in your mouth. Lush layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit envelop your tongue. After a few seconds a perfectly balanced spice of cracked black pepper and cinnamon create an additional layer in the wine flavor. The finish is bright and the acidity prepares your mouth for the next stip.
- The Score: At $47 this is a wine that is out of reach for quite a few people. If you have a chance to buy this by the glass or find it on sale (especially if you love Malbec), don’t hesitate. This wine would be a treat for any special occasion and the massive blueberry and vanilla flavors would win over almost any non red wine drinker! 4/5
28 Jan 2010
Climate. Soil. Fruit. Walla Walla is home to this trifecta of wine perfection. Trio Vintners is a trio of wine makers coming together with a common purpose of pursuing their passion, pursuing continued education(in Enology and Viticulture) and emphasizing the region of Wallula Gap. The result is wine with structure, character, and flavor (a trio of perfection).
I received a trio of wines from Trio Vintners, but I chose to save the third (a red blend) for another review with other quality Washington Rhone style blends. Wine makers Steve Michener, Denise Slattery, and Tim Boushey each has their hand in the process from sourcing to marketing. The trio works their magic with only 1200 cases per year of Riesling, Rhone Blend, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carménère, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The prices range from $16 – $30 respectively.
Before I get into the NectarView, I want to provide a little background on these two grapes for those who have yet to experience their joys.
History buffs vary on Carménère’s past but most point to the Bordeaux region of France as its main original stomping grounds. One of the original six Bordeaux blend grapes, Carménère is now rarely found in France. Benefiting from the long growing season for optimal ripening, Carménère’s prominence is in Chile. American Carménère is grown in Walla Walla and regions of California. Mostly used as a blending grape to soften a wine and add an earthy fruit. The pure varietal will showcase a nice smoky cherry that is crimson in color and very smooth in flavor.
Spain’s noble grape, Tempranillo is often bottled with Granache or Syrah. Tempranillo is very susceptible to weather changes and imparts qualities of the soil. Blending with Granache or Syrah tends to add balance and acidity. Tempranillo benefits from hot days and cool nights and tends to have plum, leather, vanilla and herb flavors.
2007 Carménère Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 95% Single vineyard Carménère; 5% Single vineyard Sangiovese, from Walla Walla and Yakima Valley respectively. Only 46 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Beautiful dark Garnet jewel tones
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of cherry, vanilla and my wife said, “Powell’s Book Store in Portland” – I think she was referring to a slight earthiness
- The Sip: Very nice pairing with our Spanish chili. The wine is mild on the front end, but opens up well to a nice fruit. The balance is rounded off with some mild acidity and a little tartness.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I score this wine a 3+. This is better than the majority of Carménère that I’ve had. The flavor was balanced but the fruit was mild and the finish was moderate. I really enjoyed the unique varietal. If you like medium bodied wines like Merlot, then you’ll enjoy this.
2007 Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 82% Tempranillo, 9% Carménère, 8% Sangiovese from Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley. Only 75 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Slightly darker than the Tempranillo but still moderately translucent
- The Sniff: First aroma was bright bold red fruit (like a Mike and Ike). After sitting out for an hour or two, the fruit turned to a nice sour cherry, dark chocolate, and a spice I couldn’t quite identify (like an herbal garden or something)
- The Sip: A medium bodied wine that jumps out with a nice cherry and cocoa and vanilla. The sweet acidity and medium tannin make this a nice well rounded offering. The finish lingered for quite some time.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I can score this wine a solid 4. The combination of a beautiful bouquet, balanced fruit, spice, acid and alcohol, and a rounded finish make it a stellar purchase.
*Both wines were provided as industry samples with the intent to review.
15 Nov 2009
Tonight, I want to continue our experience from last nights visit to Left Bank Wine Bar in downtown Spokane (thanks again to Aaron, Katrina and Jennifer).
Of the four wines we tasted, the Amavi definitely had the most personality and structure. Left Bank wine buyer, Jennifer, mentioned that it is their best seller and the only red that has been on their menu for the entire seven months they’ve been open.
For the visual experience refer to Episode 2 of DrinkNectar.com
The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla, WA was big and bold, but not quite as big as most Washington Cabs. Amavi has a great reputation and I remember trying an earlier vintage of this wine when we visited Walla Walla in 2008. This wine is 81% Cab, 12% Merlot, and small %’s of Cab Franc and Syrah. I believe the Merlot and Syrah have helped to tame this beast. My overall impression of the wine was big, but the finish (after you’ve swallowed and the taste lingers), left me feeling like I was chewing on my tongue. This wine, in my opinion, would be best with food. I could imagine a big whiskey burger, or steak that is heavily marinated in a spicy tomato BBQ sauce. If I was at home, I would have put this away until I was ready to eat. The wine still feels really young, the 16 months in oak should tame down if left in a cellar for 2-3 years.
- Swirl – Very dark in color, opaque, and slightly cloudy
- Sniff - Big dark berry fruits, medium cedar, and dark chocolate. Imagine a raspberry smore using cedar chips instead of graham crackers
- Sip – Here is where the oak barrels can be found, heavy spice and herbs, letting it linger produces more subtle chocolate flavor. The finish is moderately acidic, high in tannins.
- Rating to Price Value – $$$, in a few years, easily a $$$$+ out of 5
The fourth wine of the night was called Night & Day. I swear the menu said Washington, but all I have been able to find online is this Oregon label to the right.
This wine is not your garden variety kitchen sink blend where wineries sell their excess juice wholesale to avoid dumping it or diluting their brand. To be honest, I had never had a blend with so many varietals – Cab Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Cab Sauv, Sangiovise, Grenache and Tempranillo.
At first taste, my wife was very impressed. After she had a few more sips, I had pretty high expectations from her ‘oohs’ and ‘aaaahs’. To be honest, I was a little less than blown away. The wine was alright. It would be a good drinking wine or served with a mild pasta dish, basic burger, or pizza, but there was nothing distinct about it. I would serve this to a friend who was on the fence about red wine. It would be a good starter wine thats not too big to offend.
2006(?) A-Z Night & Day; Oregon(?) – $17
- Swirl – cloudy, basic red wine, zero legs (meaning little acidity)
- Sniff – honestly just your basic juice smell, grape licorice rope, very soft spice
- Sip- Very basic, very little tannin, no structure
- Rating to Price Value – $$; I expect a wine like this to be under $10 but at $17 a bottle; $7 a glass, I’ll pass for a better experience.
DOTD? – Alexandria Nicole 2008 Viognier (reminded me of summer when we have snow on the ground) – Didn’t pair super well with what was served at our dinner party (jambalaya) – but that was my fault, I should’ve brought a big spicy red (like the Cabernet reviewed above) to compete with the sausage. What are you drinking?
Enjoy life with friends and DRINK.HAPPY