Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Goodbye to Summer

Wines not Reviewed now Reviewed

Say goodbye to summer friends, it’s gone and now it’s time to welcome fall and cooler weather. Fall in the Columbia Valley is one of my favorite seasons. Crisp mornings, clear skies, warm comfortable clothing and the essential fruit hanging from the vines. While a cool season has delayed harvest by a couple of weeks, I'm told the fruit of the year is of excellent quality. Growers and wineries will be very busy for the next several months. Although I look forward to enjoying the 2010 vintage next year and in the years to come, today I’d like to reminisce about some of the wines I enjoyed this summer.

I have not figured out a practical method for documenting all the wines I enjoy. In some instances, I am able to photograph the wine, but lack the time to properly review them. Facebook and twitter assist to partially “document” some of these wines. But, I’m often left with just the memory of the wine. Friends and special occasions can help to reinforce the memory of the wine and if the wine is most excellent that helps more.

Following are some of the wines I enjoyed this summer but did not review here.

2006 Upsidedown Red Table Wine

Often, I’m the guy people ask, “What wine should I buy?” Last Sunday, while shopping at the local grocery, a friendly shopper noticed me browsing for wine and suggested I try the 2006 Upsidedown Red Table wine. Priced at $10 I thought it was worth a try. This wine is made by Kitzke Cellars in Prosser, Washington it’s a blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 24% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Okay, I would not have chosen this wine without the friendly recommendation. I was not familiar with the winery and the *casual label did not appeal to me. However, this wine is instantly likable and was enjoyable over three days. It’s not super complex, but there’s plenty of flavor for friends and family to enjoy. If the label is not suitable to the occasion, decant and hide the bottle – your friends will like this wine. Recommended

*note: The upsidedown label is named for the Kitzke family’s son, a competitive snowboarder. The label depicts him flipping his board, with the underside saying "upsidedown". My first thoughts about this wine were, “all I need is a fireplace and a little snow outside”. I’m putting Kitzke Cellars on my list of wineries to visit.

http://www.kitzkecellars.com/ - Prosser, WA at the Winemaker's Loft

2008 L'ecole No. 41 Semillon

Semillon is my favorite white wine. It's a Bordeaux varietal from France (White Bordeaux). After France, Washington State is the largest cultivator of Semillon in the world. Semillon is one of the most difficult varietals to cultivate well. The vines have to be grown within very specific soil and climate conditions. The grapes must be harvested at the “exact” time and the window is small. After harvest, it requires great skill by the winemaker to coax out all of the deliciousness from this Bordeaux varietal. Semillon has been described as a very “technical” wine. Earlier this summer, I had the good fortune to sit in on a Semillon Panel which included Marty Club, winemaker of L'ecole No. 41.

Here's a youtube video from the Semillon Panel which features, among others, Marty Club winemaker of L'ecole No. 41 discussing the key to growing Semillon properly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMv3cLPHG94 ). For a Semillon lover and Washington wine fan, it's a great video.

There are several methods I use to evaluate wineries and restaurants. For Japanese restaurants, I first try the miso soup - if it is delicious, then I figure they know what they are doing and I’m in for a treat. For wineries, if they make a Semillon, I try it first - if it is delicious, then I figure they know what they are doing and I’m in for a great time.

The L’ecole No. 41 Semillon is a lovely dry white wine, with pear skin, melon and honey on the nose, this is a big white wine and feels good in the mouth, the honey shines for me, and this Semillon is completed by a lovely crisp finish. I enjoyed this wine over 3 days - delicious. The 2008 Semillon is a blend of 89% Semillon and 11% Sauvignon Blanc, and surprisingly has 14.2% alcohol. Recommended

Lucky me, I found the L’ecole No. 41 Semillon on sale for $12.28, a real bargain. If you are unfamiliar with Washington Semillon, this is one varietal you must track down and try, over and over again.

http://www.lecole.com/ - Their tasting room is located on Highway 12, just outside of Walla Walla.

2008 Badger Mountain Chardonnay

Labor Day weekend I was in Seattle visiting friends. One of the wines I brought with me was the Badger Mountain Chardonnay. This is a wonderful offering of Chardonnay by one of my favorite local wineries. Some people seem to dismiss this winery, but I’m always in their defense. I think the problem is one of marketing and awareness. Badger Mountain Winery is part of Powers Winery (the same winery and facility) so I think that’s part of the confusion. Bill Powers and his family have been crafting fantastic wines for many years (recently Bill Powers was inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame at the Walter Clore Center).

The 2008 Badger Mountain Chardonnay was a huge hit with my friends (they have good taste). This Chardonnay was fresh juicy pear on the nose, in the mouth and through the finish, there’s also a touch of spice and minerality on the finish. This is one of my favorite Washington Chardonnays. Priced around $10 it’s a terrific value as well. When you visit the Columbia Valley and the Tri-Cities region, don’t miss a visit to their friendly tasting room. Recommended

http://www.badgermtnvineyard.com/ - Tasting room is located in a residential neighborhood.

2005 Terra Blanca Merlot Estate Vineyard

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve never been a huge Terra Blanca fan. But I liked this wine. To my surprise, I really liked the 2005 Terra Blanca Merlot. Of course, 2005 is one of my favorite vintages. Odd year vintages in Washington just seem to taste better; this includes 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005 – I have not had enough 2007 vintages to comment yet. Of course, I’m referring to Washington red wines.

The 2005 Terra Blanca Merlot is full of Washington Merlot goodness - and instantly drinkable at opening. This is a big wine, great structure, with a lot of fruit and a dry, long finish which I prefer. If you are unfamiliar with Washington Merlot, or are a big fan of Washington Merlot – then this wine my friends is one you must try. Recommended

http://www.terrablanca.com/ - What a beautiful tasting room they have and great views.

2009 Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Rosé fan. If you review my older posts, you’ll find I’ve been a huge fan of Barnard Griffin and past vintages of the Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese. Washington Rosés are true treats for summer and my recommended pairing for Turkey dinner.

When you go looking for the 2009 Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese, you need to know that it now features the Barnard Griffin Reserve Label (diamond with Griffin) instead of the “Tulips” label used on past vintages.

This wine is a proper pleasure – the bright color gratifies the eyes with its festivity – in the glass you are greeted by a dry, crisp, tart wine with great fruit, strawberry with a hint of watermelon and such a lovely finish. You don’t have to go to France to enjoy a great Rosé; you can buy the Barnard Griffin Rosé of Sangiovese instead. Recommended

http://www.barnardgriffin.com/ - Tasting room located off of highway 182, Queensgate exit in Richland.

And now for something different, wines not from Washington State

2007 Schoenheitz Riesling

Labor Day weekend in Seattle, I visited a Bell Town wine shop. One of the perks of visiting Seattle is trying something different. I was a bit lost in that wine shop – too many wines to choose from. Fortunately, the kind owner of the wine store helped me out and suggested I try an Alsatian Riesling.

Wines from Alsace, northern France, are typified as being dry and crisp. This lovely Alsatian Riesling did not disappoint and I recall tart apples and a quickly emptied bottle. I paid $16 for this wine and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommended

http://www.vins-schoenheitz.fr/index.php?mod=shop&cat=1&pID=3 - Winery notes.


Alfonso Oloroso Seco Sherry
 
While I'm no expert on Sherry, this summer I became a fan. This Sherry is quite dry (seco) and I'm new to dry sherry. It has a wonderful golden color, distinct sherry aroma and the dry quality goes well with cured meats like ham and prosciutto and sharp cheese. I also learned this summer to serve Sherry chilled and to use a standard wine glass as in the picture above. Recommended
 
Jalliance Cremant De Bordeaux
 
I'm not sure where this bottle came from. And I'm not sure when we purchased it or were gifted it. But enjoy it we did. Creamy, charming and very enjoyable. Jalliance is a major producer of sparkling wine and a pioneer of organic viticulture, their annual production is 7 million bottles. Recommended
 
http://www.jaillance.com/ - Their site is in French, I did not find an English language version.
 
While this list is not complete, it helps me better sum up a summer of wine. With our weather rapidly chilling, I'm more likely to lean to heavy reds this fall and possibly more Sherry. I'll try to keep you updated on the Washington wine scene in the Columbia Valley and elsewhere.
 
Until then, Cheers!