Saturday, December 17, 2011

PDX Urban Wineries Tasting

There are a number of wineries located in the Portland Metro Area...actually within the city limits. They are somewhat known by the collective name PDX Urban Wineries, and featured a tasting from members a couple weekends ago. The tasting was located at the winery facility for Seven Bridges Winery, down in the eastside industrial area under the Fremont Bridge. A great tasting, it showcased some of the areas best new winemaking talent, as well as grapes from all over the Northwest. Featured wineries and their wines with release prices were:
    Vincent Wine Company
  • 2010 Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir ($24)
  • 2010 Zenith Vineyard Pinot Noir ($36)
  • 2010 Armstrong Vineyard Pinot Noir ($36)

    Ribbon Ridge Vineyards
  • 2007 Dewey Kelly Pinot Noir ($22)
  • 2007 Ribbon Ridge Estate Pinot Noir ($32)
  • Non-Vintage "Muse" Early Muscat dessert wine ($18)

    Helioterra Wines
  • 2010 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($24)
  • 2010 Vintner's Select Pinot Noir ($36)
  • 2010 Walla Walla Valley Mourvédre barrel sample ($n/a)

    Grochau Cellars
  • 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($24)
  • 2009 Bjornson Vineyard Pinot Noir ($32)
  • 2009 Rogue Valley Syrah ($22)
  • 2009 Rogue Valley "Matador" Temranillo/Grenache/Syrah ($30)

    Jan-Marc Wine Cellars
  • 2009 Columbia Gorge Chardonnay ($22)
  • 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($28)
  • 2009 Columbia Gorge Syrah ($22)
  • 2009 "Bastard Red" Bordeaux-style blend ($22)

    ENSO Winery
  • Non-vintage "Resonate White #3" ($14)
  • 2010 Horse Heaven Hills Malbec ($24)
  • 2010 Columbia Valley Zinfandel ($26)
  • 2010 Shenandoah Valley Mourvédre ($28)

    Hip Chicks Do Wine
  • 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($15)
  • 2008 Sangiovese ($19)
  • 2007 Reserve Malbec ($26)
  • Non-vintage "Wine Bunny Rouge" ($16)
  • Non-vintage "Vin Nombril" ($14)
  • Non-vintage "Wine Bunny Blush" ($14)

    Seven Bridges Winery
  • 2008 Walla Walla Valley Syrah ($24)
  • 2008 Kolibri Vineyard (Yakima Valley) Reserve Malbec ($34)
  • 2008 Columbia Valley "Prima Nata" Cab/Merlot/Malbec ($34)

A great tasting, in a very cool winery space. Standout wines for me were the Helioterra Mourvédre, Seven Bridges Prima Nata & Syrah, and the Vincent Pinots. Can't wait to see what these wineries do in the future!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cooper Comes to Portland

Cooper Wine Company

Red Mountain in Washington State is one of my top wine regions in the world. The wines from this small AVA on a "mountain" at the Southeast end of the Yakima Valley are second to none. One of the area's newest wineries, Cooper Wine Company, paid Portland a visit a couple weeks ago, and offered those "in the know" an epic tasting of their current releases. Owner/winemaker Neil Cooper brought his entire staff along for the ride, and poured 8 different wines, also offering some tasty small bites from the hosting venue, The Original Dinerat. Wines we tasted were:
  • 2010 Estate Marsanne ($30)
  • 2010 Estate Chardonnay ($40)
  • 2008 L'inizio Bordeaux-style blend ($50)
  • 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
  • 2009 L'inizio Bordeaux-style blend ($50)
  • 2009 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
  • 2009 Estate Merlot ($n/a - wine club only)
  • 2009 Carmenere ($n/a - wine club only)
All of the wines were outstanding, with the two whites being my least favorite (as usual, I love the big reds!), and the stand outs being the Walla Walla Cabernet and the L'Inizio blend. Wine of the Tasting for me was the 2008 Walla Walla Cab. Huge fruit and structure, but very lush and delicious. Thanks Neil and team for a great tasting event! My friend Dave and I had a great time chatting with everyone while tasting through the line-up. I hope to see everyone again at the winery next time I'm in the area!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

#WASyrah Twitter Tasting

I love these Twitter tastings, except it is a bit difficult to tweet on my iPhone and taste at the same time! Nice lineup of Washington Syrah from a variety of producers, and hosted by E & R Wine Shop, located in the John's Landing neighborhood of Portland. And, lucky for me, only 4 blocks from my office!

  • 2008 Dusted Valley Vintners Syrah Boomtown - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Wine #1. Good cherry fruit, bright acidity, medium body. A bit sharp on the finish, but excellent QPR. (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Magnificent Wine Company Syrah Columbia Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Wine #2. Another great $20-ish range QPR wine. Cherry fruit on the entry, medium body, midpalate is a bit flabby, but showing some nice plum fruit. Finish is all cherries. Would definitely grab this off a restaurant list. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Milbrandt Vineyards Syrah The Estates - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Wahluke Slope
    Wine #3. Loved the nose on this one! Big funky, pepper and blackberry, following to the palate. Good structure and acidity, supple tannins, medium/full bodied and drinking nicely. Sorry I missed this winery on our last Prosser visit! Tied for my WOTT. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Wine #4. I caught a hint of TCA on this one. Not very apparent to others at the tasting, from what I overheard, but I am particularly sensitive to TCA taint. Flavors were a bit muted as well, if comparing this to the 2007 means anything. Lacking the big peppery fruit of the '07, and is actually a bit harsh. Would love to revisit this from a different bottle, as I loved the '07 and it is a killer QPR wine at $24. (85 pts.)
  • 2009 Dusted Valley Vintners Syrah Stained Tooth - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Wine #5. Very forward nose, showing big fruit. On the entry, you can tell this is a young wine. A bit disjointed at the moment, and harshly tannic for my palate. Some vigorous swirling calmed this badboy down a tad, and that fruit really stood out. Lots of cherry and plum, but the tannins and acidity are both quite apparent. Give this one a year or two and it'll shine! (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Mercer Estates Syrah McKinley Springs Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
    Wine #6. Right off the bat I can tell this is a Horse Heaven Hills wine. Huge peppery nose dominates. Lots of sweet fruit hitting the palate, some vanilla and mocha on the back. Nice tannins and acidity, quite well-integrated. First Mercer wine I've had, and I'm impressed! (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Reininger Syrah - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Wine #7. Very nice blackberry and pepper nose on this one. Hits the palate with sweet/funky blackberry fruit, and ends with a big dollop if black pepper. I think the extra age on this one gives it an edge, and it was drinking very nicely. Smooth, integrated, and delicious. I think this was tied for my WOTT. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Otis Kenyon Syrah - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Wine #8. Good fruit with a nice bit of funk. Strikingly strong blueberry flavors, which I usually don't get off Syrah. Finish is a bit sour cherry, which detracts from this wines appeal somewhat. (89 pts.)
  • 2008 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah Estate Seven Hills - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Wine #9. Another great Walla Walla wine, blackberries and pepper abound. Medium to full bodied, with lots of thick fruit, and a great black pepper finish. So tasty, and just a tad below my top picks in this tasting. Evolving quite well since the last time I tasted this (Dec 2010). (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Amavi Cellars Syrah - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Wine #10. This is another young'un. Nose is quite reticent, taking some fairly vigorous swirling to coax any aromas out. Just a hint of fruit. Palate-wise, this is highly acidic at the moment. Bright, with ample tannins that need to calm down a bit for pleasurable drinking (or several hours of decanting). The fruit emerges with more swirling, and is very nice black cherry. Hints of pepper and dark chocolate appear on the finish, but are overshadowed by the tannins. This should be a blockbuster, given some time to bring everything together. (90 pts.)
A great tasting with some stellar Syrahs. E & R Wine Shop is fairly new to me, but it is a great little shop! Lots of older vintage bottles here and there, and some rare stuff you never see anywhere (2006 Gramercy John Lewis Syrah, anyone?). My only complaint is also one of the shops benefits: There are bottles stashed horizontally on the racks behind bottles standing upright, so it is hard to really see all their inventory. However, this probably explains how they still have all those older vintages and rare bottles!
Tasting notes posted from CellarTracker.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Corked Wines: A Reflection on Disappointment

Corked! Nothing worse than popping a much-anticipated bottle of wine and discovering it is spoiled! We've all heard the word 'corked', but how many people actually know what it means, really? Most people I've asked think it has to do with a wine's cork closure actually failing in some way. While this is partially true (the cork failed to remain neutral towards the wine), the term 'corked' refers to the presence of TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) in the wine, most commonly from a tainted cork closure, or 'cork taint'. TCA has a very distinctive odor, most commonly described as wet newspaper/cardboard, damp shoe leather, wet dog, or musty basement. In other words, it is not pleasant, especially in a wine!

Ever wonder why there are so many alternative wine closures showing up on store shelves these days? Examples are Stelvin, or screwcaps, Vino-Lok/Vino-Seal, or glass corks, Zork, which is a bulbous plastic cork from Australia, and a myriad of synthetic/plastic corks. The stats don't lie: The number of corked wines from alternative closures is next to nothing, and if they are corked, typically the source of TCA in wine sealed with an alternative closure is NOT from the actual closure, but from a tainted barrel or something else within the winery itself. What percentage of wines are corked? I've read 1-3% as the normal range. A fellow wine blogger, Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report, has a running Corked Counter for 2011, where he documents his experiences with corked wines (he tastes a LOT of wine). As of July 2011, he had tasted 835 wines, with 26 being corked, for a corked rate of around 3%. But what about my personal experience?

After opening a corked wine this evening, I decided to take a look at my wine consumption history, using Eric Levine's wonderful tool, CellarTracker, which I've been using religiously since late 2007 to track my wine purchases and consumption. Here's the breakdown of my personal wine consumption and corked rate, by year.

  • 2007 (Oct-Dec): 71 bottles consumed, 0 corked.
  • 2008: 283 bottles consumed, 5 corked = 1.8% corked rate.
  • 2009: 297 bottles consumed, 6 corked = 2.0% corked rate.
  • 2010: 262 bottles consumed, 4 corked = 1.5% corked rate.
  • 2011 (Jan-Aug): 125 bottles consumed, 3 corked = 2.4% corked rate.
Out of 1,038 wines personally consumed over roughly 3 years, 18 were corked, for a corked rate of 1.73%. Cost of these 18 corked wines came to $430.50, and I was able to get refunds on 2 of them that totaled $56. So my overall financial loss due to corked wines is $374.50. That's certainly no small number, even over 3 years.

I'm curious to hear from readers if anyone has experienced a corked wine, and what your thoughts are on traditional cork vs alternative closures. Comments are appreciated!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Walla Walla Invades The Willamette Valley

On Saturday, February 19, friends and I ventured south to McMinnville for an epic tasting event at Noah's Wine Bar (Google Places page; they have no website) in downtown McMinnville. But prior to there, we stopped at Cana's Feast Winery for their wine club pick-up party. They released their 2008 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Taptiel Vineyard Merlot and 2008 Montagna Rossa, a SuperTuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot, and provided barrel samples of the 2009 Taptiel Vineyard Merlot. All were very, very good wines, and pair with freshly-prepared fare from the bistro kitchen at the winery.

A total of twelve wineries and some 40+ wines were available for tasting at Noah's event, all for the minuscule sum of $10. There was no way I could taste all of the wines, so some abbreviated notes follow.

Amavi Cellars, sister to Pepper Bridge Winery, brought their 2008 Walla Walla Syrah and 2008 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon. Both showed quite well for being so young, with the Syrah edging out the Cab for me. Both were nicely structured, but the Syrah showed serious black pepper and some additional complexity that may eventually appear in the Cab, once it has additional bottle age.

Pepper Bridge Winery provided two of their five wines: the 2007 Merlot and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, both from estate (Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills Vineyards) fruit. The third wine is a Reserve bottling, typically a Bordeaux blend of the previous two offerings. The fourth and fifth wines are wine-club only single-vineyard blends, Seven Hills Vineyard and Pepper Bridge Vineyard. Both the Merlot and Cab showed well in this tasting, with the Merlot being a bit more approachable currently.

Basel Cellars makes a number of wines from both estate grapes, as well as grapes from vineyards throughout the Columbia Valley. For this event, they provided their 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah, 2007 Claret, 2006 Estate Merlot, 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2006 Inspired Bordeaux-styled blend. The Syrah was again my favorite, but having tasted at the winery several times, I already knew I loved their Syrah. The Inspired was also a very tasty offering.

Five Star Cellars provided their 2008 Sangiovese, 2007 Merlot, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2008 Quinque Astrum, another SuperTuscan blend of Sangiovese, Cab and Merlot. All fruit is 100% Walla Walla Valley. I really enjoyed the Cabernet with this winery. Full-bodied and really drinking well with lots of fruit. The SuperTuscan was also very tasty.

Leonetti Cellar brought their full line-up, but we were only allowed one taste (with a provided ticket). Available to taste while we were there was the 2007 Sangiovese and 2008 Merlot, with the 2007 Cabernet being available if you asked nicely. I chose the Cab and was rewarded with an explosive, extremely rich, full-bodied wine that will easily cellar for another 5-10 years. A delicious wine, although I question if it is the wine or the Leonetti brand that you are really paying so much for. With release prices being $80+, and the same wines being offered on wine auction sites for $30 or more below release price a year later, one has to wonder.

Reininger Winery is no stranger to my blog. The winery brought 2 wines from their Walla Walla Valley-sourced label, Reininger, the 2007 Syrah and 2007 Carmenere, and 2 wines from Helix, their lower-priced Columbia Valley label, the 2005 Sangiovese and 2006 Pomatia red blend. I liked the Pomatia a lot. It was easy to drink and very fruit-forward. But it was the two Reininger wines that really impressed. The Carmenere gets my vote as the most unique wine at the tasting. Not only unique, it was also delicious. The 2007 Syrah was also delicious, with a ton of black pepper and some funk, although not as much as their Ash Hollow vineyard bottling, which was regrettably absent from this tasting.

Seven Hills Winery brought their 2009 Reisling (not tasted), 2007 Malbec (slightly corked, although I am particularly sensitive to TCA), 2007 Petit Verdot (for the wine geeks), 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, and 2007 Pentad red blend. All but the Cabernet are from Walla Walla fruit. The Cab was far and away my favorite, but I'm partial to Red Mountain wines. It had serious structure and over-the-top flavor. The Pentad was also very tasty, but overshadowed by the Klipsun Cab, in my opinion.

Sinclair Estate Vineyards provided only 3 wines, their 2009 Chardonnay (not tasted), 2008 Sangiovese and 2008 PentaTonic, a Bordeaux-style blend. The blend was definitely my favored Sinclair wine, full of fruit and earth flavors. We will definitely pay them a visit the next time we're in Walla Walla.

Tamarack Cellars brought the most wines to this tasting. Present were the 2009 Chardonnay (not tasted), 2009 Firehouse Red (a 'kitchen sink blend' of many grape varietals), 2007 Merlot, 2009 Cabernet Franc, 2008 Syrah, and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. I was really surprised how much I like ALL of the wines offered by Tamarack, but I really liked the 2008 Syrah and 2007 Cab Sauv. Both were very tasty and structured for decent cellaring.

Waters Winery only brought two wines, their 2007 Pepper Bridge Vineyard Syrah and 2008 Interlude Bordeaux-style blend made from 55% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. Readers of this blog (all two of you) already know of my love for Waters 2007 Forgotten Hills Syrah. I haven't been the biggest fan of the Pepper Bridge Syrah in the past, as I feel it lacks the earthy funk and pepper flavors I love about Walla Walla Syrah. While not a bad wine by any means, the Pepper Bridge is overshadowed by the Forgotten Hills and Loess Syrahs, when compared side-by-side. At this tasting, the Syrah tasted good, with very pure Syrah flavors, minus the pepper and earth. The Interlude had the earthiness in spades however, and was my favorite Waters wine at this tasting.

A sister winery of Waters (and joint venture with Gramercy Cellars), Wines of Substance (fun website, by the way) brought their 2009 "Ch" Chardonnay (not tasted), 2009 "Sy" Syrah and 2009 "Cs" Cabernet Sauvignon. The Syrah again took top honors for me, barely edging out the Cabernet with it's nice blackberry flavors.

Woodward Canyon Winery brought their 2008 Chardonnay (not tasted), 2008 Nelms Road Merlot, 2008 Nelms Road Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2008 Woodward Canyon Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. I was surprised how well the Nelms Road wines were tasting. For just $20 these two may just get some rotation into my daily drinkers lineup. Nice wines! But the Artist Series Can stole the show, with huge cassis and earth, also with some vanilla oak flavors evident. I really liked the amount of oak on this wine!

Va Piano Vineyards brought three wines, the non-vintage Bruno's Blend VII, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2007 Syrah. I only tasted the Syrah and it was quite good, but seemed a bit flat compared to some of the others. It may have just been my tired palate at that point however.

There was one other wine being offered by the gentleman pouring Leonetti's wines, and it was not from Walla Walla. DeLille Cellars is based in Woodinville, just northeast of Seattle, and sources their grapes primarily from Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills AVAs, with a little bit of Yakima Valley too. The wine being poured was the 2008 D2, a rich, Merlot-based Bordeaux-style blend. To my palate, the D2 was one of the tastier wines being poured. Very rich and mouth-coating, with solid tannins bringing up the finish. Interesting that at a wine tasting for Walla Walla wines, I liked a non-Walla Walla wine the most. Wine of the Tasting for me: DeLille Cellars D2, followed closely by the Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon.