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.
22 Jan 2010
You’ve got to love a winery who unashamedly names their Cabernet Penetration, Missionary and Hucking Good! Browsing their selection is not for the faint of heart and their back label will either make you blush or stir you up like a pre-teen school boy in a brisk breeze.
While some stuffy wine folk may turn their nose up at the provocative label, it’s the quality in the bottle that should be judged.
Naked Winery, and their sassy sister Orgasmic Wine Company, are dually based in WA (Wishram) and OR (Hood River) and operate tasting rooms in Hood River and Yakima. Grapes are procured from vineyards in the Willamette, Illinois, Apple Gate, and Columbia Valley regions of Oregon and Washington. Their 21 offering range from $18 – $80 (Tease Riesling to Oh Nebbiolo).
If you are in the mood to “Sip Into Something Naked” stop by either of their tasting rooms for a naked tasting, visit their web site at www.nakedwinery.com and follow them on Twitter @nakedwinery. Naked Wine make great gifts but be careful who you give them to, Gay Rose to a co-worker may be cause for sexual harassment and Foreplay Chardonnay on a date may get you slapped.
2005 Naked Merlot – $20
- The Stuff: Columbia Valley 90% Merlot 10% Cab Franc; 12 months in American and French Oak; 1500 cases
- The Swirl: Nice aged brownish plum color. Beautiful streaky legs from the 14.8% alcohol, mostly opaque
- The Sniff: Very aromatic with scents of raspberry, mild leather, and pepper. The arousal of the nose had me anticipating the explosion in the mouth
- The Sip: Mild initial flavor that opens up into a balanced attack of fruit and spice. The back end is firm with a medium tannic structure – “firm back-end” as the label says.
- The Score: At $20 I can score this a 3+ and is a solid purchase that will not disappoint if given as a gift. This is not your typical novelty wine with a sassy name and no substance.
2007 Naked Pinot Gris – $18
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Gris; aged 100% Stainless Steel for six months; cold fermentation
- The Swirl: Mild yellow gold straw color with a nice crispness and clarity
- The Sniff: Very erotic crispy pear / apple and a subtle butter toast, the bright citric alcohol rounded out the nose
- The Sip: This is a fruit salad in a glass. Beautifully fruit flavors but not overwhelming. The finish is incredibly long lasting as the buttery flavor and acidity wash across the back of the mouth.
- The Score: At $18, I score this wine a 4. This is one of the better Pinot Gris’ that I’ve enjoyed. Not one dimensional, not too acidic, not too steely. Too much of this and I could end up ‘naked.’
*Both wines were provided as industry samples with the intent to review.
14 Jan 2010
We’ve all had Chardonnay, but have you ever had 100% Petit Verdot? My recent trip to Spokane’s Latah Creek was a pleasant surprise. In my mind I thought Latah Creek was all about sweet wines (not my favorites) like their Huckleberry Wine or Maywine. I was blown away by the quality of their Merlot, Vinosity (Red Blend), and the Petit Verdot.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Connor Lee Vineyards with 100% Malolactic fermentation. Two months in French oak. 760 cases
- The Swirl: Thicker viscosity, more pale yellow than a traditional CA Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Mild nose with hints of pear and honey
- The Sip: Big and rich butter, vanilla and pear. No oak to speak of. Felt thick and meaty. Finished with a beautiful acidity that washed across the back of my mouth.
- The Score: At a retail price of $12, this is a very well made Chardonnay. I score it a 4+. So far this is one of the best “value” Chardonnay’s that I’ve had. Kudo’s, Mike!
I’m not really a Chardonnay fan but this was an incredible offering for the money. I would venture to guess that it could be found for under $10 in certain locations, depending on sales.
2006 Winemakers Reserve Petit Verdot
- The Stuff: 100% Petit Verdot from Alice Vineyards
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with beautiful legs after heavy swirl
- The Sniff: Slightly musty and earth smell. Pencil shavings and banana. Not overly fruity at first. Eventually opened up to express some flower (Violets I think).
- The Sip: A very diverse tasting wine. It seemed to have different characteristics each time I sipped it. Started to pick up on the blackberry and it tasted floral and slightly sour cherries. Not tart on the back end and surprisingly smooth drinking.
- The Score: At $30 retail, I score this wine a solid 4. I would buy it again because of the variety of flavor and how different it is compared to the majority of other Washington reds.
This wine is a perfect example of how tastes can vary between individuals. While I felt it was a very well made wine with lots of character and interest, my wife didn’t care for it too much. For me this further solidifies the need for a variety of reviews. Don’t just trust Wine & Spectator’s 100pt scoring. Read tasting notes and reviews. Over time, you’ll know whether you like sour cherries or barnyard. If a wine is described like that, chances are you may not enjoy it, so why drop the cash.
Washington is growing some fantastic fruit. Over the next few years you will start to see more Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, and possibly more Petit Verdot. There is more to WA than your standard Bordeaux fruit.
Continue to explore new tastes, expand your palate and try not to ALWAYS drink the same thing. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends, so DRINK.HAPPY!
25 Dec 2009
Merry Christmas from DrinkNectar.com! This year Kimberly and I enjoyed a quiet Christmas. My sister and parents were in Phoenix, Kimberly’s family lives in Portland and her son was spending Christmas with his dad in Florida.
Christmas Eve we enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Clinkerdaggers overlooking the Spokane river. For wine we enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon wine flight that included Chateau St Jean (CA), Kenwood Yulupa (CA) and Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells (WA). Each of these wine reviews has been uploaded to www.corkd.com. The hands down favorite was Chateau Ste Michelle which had the most active nose and actually gave up the berry flavor along with the oaky tannin you would expect from a well made Cab.
Spending Christmas without our extended family is slightly sad. We missed our families terribly but managed to enjoy the day. After opening gifts we prepped dinner and headed to the new movie, “Up in the Air.” I highly recommend the movie, but it doesn’t really leave you with a happy feel good ending (but then again that’s the way life can be too).
Our holiday dinner, when we are sans child and family, is lasagna. I love Italian and lasagna is my favorite. The wines for Christmas Eve and Day were two we set aside from our Woodinville, WA trip in September. Reviewed in the video and text below are Ross Andrew 2005 Red Table Wine and Mark Ryan 2006 Long Haul. These wines were worth the wait (especially the Long Haul) and we can’t wait to get back to the Woodinville area again.
In the video I mention a Spokane winery that needs our support! Arbor Crest Winery occupies an old historic mansion on a hillside overlooking the Spokane valley. The morning of December 23, a power strip sparked a fire that gutted the interior. This amazing mansion (and surrounding grounds) is a Spokane treasure where people enjoy wine, get married, and celebrate life. Please show your support and buy this wine when you see the label. The exterior is in tact and they will work to rebuild the historic interior.
Thanks again for your support over the last six weeks of the launch of DrinkNectar.com. We were recently recognized as one of the top new food and spirit blogs in 2009 on www.drinksareonme.net. I also want to give a special shout out to The Wine Whore and Seattle Wine Gal for their amazing partnership. I look forward to a fun and wine filled 2010.
Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends. I hope this Christmas season brings you love and joy with your family along with several great bottles of wine!
2005 Ross Andrew Red Table Wine
- The Stuff: Bordeaux Blend
- The Swirl: Dark opaque plum with strong legs
- The Sniff: Day one, this wine was very disappointing. The cork smell came through overwhelming on the nose and the flavor was strong on the alcohol and acid. Day two, the wine opened up nicely presenting oak and cherry. Was still tight on the nose.
- The Sip: Mild oak and dirt with sour dark cherry flavor. Experienced medium tannin and chalky finish. Enjoyed a glass with the lasagna which was a great pairing for the chalky finish and acid.
- The Score: At $25, and because of the challenge during the first day, I would score this wine a 3 (out of 5). I probably wouldn’t purchase it again but would certainly explore other Ross Andrew offerings.
2006 Mark Ryan Long Haul
- The Stuff: Right Bank style blend with 48% Merlot 46% Cab Franc and 6% Petit Verdot.
- The Swirl: Moderately opaque with translucent edges. Nice jewel tones
- The Sniff: Wow, this glass is alive with aroma ranging from spice to coffee to vanilla to dark cherries alive with juice.
- The Sip: An explosion of fruit with the right amount of structure balance and tannin to enjoy alone or with a big steak or red pasta dish. This is like sex in a glass. The orgasm of flavor blew me away!
- The Score: At $48 I would definitely buy this again and again as long as my credit card allowed. Taking into consideration the economy and value, this wine scores a 4+. Get it at $35 and it is a steal and a 5.
20 Dec 2009
An accidental discovery or a destiny finally fulfilled?
Hailed as one of the best growing regions in the state in 1970 remained virtually unplanted until the accidental discovery in 1992. Walter and Judy Haig were flipping through a scrapbook from the original homesteader that listed an old US Agriculture map identifying what crops were planted in 1900. Wine grapes were on the list.The journey to fulfill the lands destiny began.
The lower Lake Roosevelt area formed by the Grand Coulee Dam creates the perfect microclimate for growing Bordeaux varietal grapes. The long summers, cool nights and extended growing season allow for maximum hang time producing fruit forward low sugar wines.
The Haig family wine story began with providing world-class grapes to wineries across the state through 2004. With the 2005 vintage, son Michael Haig, took over vintner and winemaking responsibilities. It’s obvious in talking with Mike that he loves his fruit and he loves the process. “My job is to stay out of the way and produce wine that tells the story of the vintage.” “Too often,” he says, “wineries try to make a wine that doesn’t fit the style of the grapes they have.” We talked about fads in the wine industry and Michael is a believer in staying true to what his vineyard produces (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.) “We are 100% estate grown. We don’t buy grapes from anyone.” A fact he is very proud of.
Whitestone has a tasting room, storage facility, and production facility in Wilbur, WA (about 16 miles from the vineyard). In April 2009, they opened a tasting room at 111 S. Cedar in West Downtown’s Carnegie Square. “Business has been great, but everyday we still hear from people who had no idea we’re here.” Part of the successful launch can be attributed to Whitestone’s commitment to Social Media like Twitter and Facebook. Whitestone is one of the few Spokane wineries taking advantage of this medium to connect with their consumers to drive brand loyalty. Mike, a self-professed techie says, “With Facebook we can post an event notice and see immediately who has responded.” Their first holiday release, Pieces on Earth V.1 went on sale just before Thanksgiving and all 135 cases are sold out (or will soon be after this prints). Promotion was done mostly through e-mail list, wine club members and social media.
Mike and I also spoke about the near term future for Whitestone. Currently producing 2500 cases per year, they are pursuing a new production facility – preferably right on the vineyard. He says, “too often people are pre-occupied with being the ‘next’ Chateau St. Michelle or whatever, I want to be the ‘first’ Michael Haig. From what I can tell the Whitestone line up is big, fruity with big tannins for grilling, steak, pot roast, and ham. The wines are held in oak for up to 30 months and will cellar well for another 5-7 years.
Whitestone is finally seeing the destiny of the land fulfilled 40 years after it was proclaimed.
The Stats: 111 S Cedar – Spokane Tasting Room is open Thursday – Sunday from Noon – 6pm. Friend them up on Facebook Whitestone Winery and follow them on Twitter @PIECESOFRED. WEB: www.whitestonewinery.com
Pieces on Earth V1 (2009 limited release – 135 cases)
- The Stuff: 34% Merlot 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc
- The Swirl: Very dark plum, nearly opaque. Strong legs indicating high alcohol (14.1%) and acidity
- The Sniff: Dark cherry, plums, nutmeg, smoke, with a subtle hint of cocoa at the end
- The Sip: Wow, it’s like I dove into a pool of cherry nutmeg pool, drowning in that Chocolate Chucker Cherry sauce (not as sweet). Very berry front end with strong acidity on the upper mouth and medium tannins. The finish goes on for a good 10 seconds going tart then finishing smooth.
- The Score: At $17.95 (if you can still find it) I rate this wine a 5 out of 5. Mike and Whitestone have created a fantastic holiday season wine that will sip well around the fire and hold up to cranberry, prime rib and ham dinners.
In the video Mike mentions that Social Media is great but the goal is to get people to enjoy life over a glass of wine! I couldn’t say it better myself. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends and there is no better way than over a glass of wine or cup of coffee.