After a brief introduction to the the state of Washington this past Monday I reported on my visits to wineries in Walla Walla on Tuesday. Today I am reporting on visits both in Prosser, which lies roughly between Walla Walla and Seattle in the Yakima Valley as well as to wineries located basically within Seattle’s metropolitan footprint. As I’ve already discussed, Washington’s wine industry is fairly unusual in that so many of the wineries source fruit from one part of the state while they produce wine closer to where the money is. It’s a brilliant strategy and one that fosters a connection with their clients that is unusually close.
This departure from the estate winery mindset is evident throughout the state, with clusters of wineries being the norm, in Walla Walla as discussed, but also in Prosser and notably in Woodinville, which is a very short ride from downtown Seattle. Washington has made winery visiting an almost urban activity, and bringing the wineries to the people not only fosters that close connection but also gives unprecedented access to Seattle’s not inconsequential flow of tourists.
Coming from a retail background I know the power of the winery visit. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me for wines they tried while on vacation. Predisposed to enjoyment, it’s a magical time to sample myriad wines and the tight clustering of these wineries makes those visits simply too easy to avoid. It’s just another detail that makes up the structure of Washington’s impressively successful and rapidly expanding wine industry. The fact that the wines are varied, friendly, fascinating and in general well priced makes it easy to convert even sceptical consumers and jaded professionals!
Prosser actually has a sort of winery based industrial park known as Vintner’s Village. It’s another genius idea, fostering both the collaborative spirit that remains part of Washington’s wine scene as well as ease of access and promotion for the local wineries. My reviews that follow being in Prosser before moving back up to Woodinville.
Novelty Hill and Januik
While two distinct winemaking operations, Novelty Hill and Janiuk do share both a winemaker and a winery. The opportunity to taste the wines side by side is fascinating. Novelty Hill’s wines are predominantly estate fruit, even the Columbia valley bottlings which include some 60% or more of fruit from the winery’s 245 acre Stillwater Creek vineyard located in Columbia Valley’s Frenchman Hills. Januik on the hand prefers to source fruit from many of the state’s preeminent vineyards. Both sets of wines are produced by Mike januik, though the brands do retain distinct personalities, the Novelty Hills wines being more fruit driven and a bit softer than their Januik counterparts. Comparing them side by side affords fascinating insight into the different fruit sources, though the winemaking no doubt is also playing a role here.
79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Semillon
Soft on the nose and a bit creamy and spicy with lesy floral notes over a base of pineapple and grapefruit Mineral and fresh on entry, this is a touch simple though with lovely river stone minerality under slightly creamy gooseberry inflected pineapple fruit. Clean, zesty, and green fruited on the moderately long finish which shows a suggestion of sweetness. 88pts
83% Sauvignon Blanc; 17% Semillon
Earthy on the nose with perfumes of old wood and wax lurking under jasmine and white floral aromas. A little hint of smoke and honeycomb greets the palate with semillon obviously contributing both flavor and power in the mouth. Graced with rich baked apple, fig and quince flavors on the midpalate, this finishes with power and lingering complexity. A wine that is fabulous today but I bet this shows even better in 2 to 3 years time. 92pts
95% Viognier; 5% Roussanne
The classic nose is filled with lots of candied citrus, white flowers, honeycomb, and a hint of vanilla. Solid acids support nice fruit, fresh on the palate which is rich with quince fruit and a lovely hint of polleny polyphenolic bitterness. This is a pretty zesty style of Viognier featuring intriguing notes of green fruits and apricots in the mouth but not showing great drive on the finish. This turns a touch hot on the finish. 88pts
93% Roussanne; 7% Viognier
Tight, and nutty on the nose with a subtle yet complex array of heather, a bit of white pepper, almond and dry orange, dried citron, honey, orange pekoe tea, and mandarin fruit With nice focus and snap on the palate this reveals a fairly deep core of pithy, taut, grapefruit tinged fruit that shows good length on the long, polleny finish. 91pts
Almondy and a little toasty on the nose with some creme brûlée framing the core of apple and peach fruit. This is frankly fruity and gently sweetened by the wood. A little creamy on the midpalate, though with nice snap from acid that keeps the juicy fruit driven style nice and sapid in the mouth. This finishes with a nice smoky oak cast on the moderately long finish. 88pts
Low and Burgundian on the nose with a soft, creamy layer of vanilla draped over a base of lightly smoky, honeycomb rich cooked pineapple and pressed floral aromas. Showing juicy acids on entry this is fairly restrained with lovely fruit that is very clear on the palate. This is focused is somewhat small scaled with pineapple and green gage plum fruit that extends across the finish where this has just a suggestion of sweetness from the wood that is very engaging. 90pts
Sweet on the nose with hints of mocha, herbs and peppery spice layered over plummy fruit. Bright on entry with brambly, tart raspberry fruit that is very fresh and clean on the palate picking up toasty oak and and freshly roasted coffee notes on the backend. A bit tart, lean and short, this is pleasant but doesn’t excite me. 87pts
Lots of toasty spice joins complex aromas of chocolate, black berry, brownie, bitter cocoa, a little plum and stemmy herb on the nose. Bright and fresh on entry with a nice hint of fleshiness along with a hint of truffle and very pure chocolate that helps to frame the fruit which is all boysenberry and wild plum toned. A little tannic bite on the finish adds length to this admirably pure example of Merlot. 90pts
A little raw oak shows up on the nose, along with toasty spice, vanilla, a hint of coconut and green herbal and candied fennel nuance. Round, bright and clear in the mouth, this delivers a rich mouthful of raspberry and fresh plummy fruit, underpinned by fine tannins, though there is just a little too much wood tannins today. Still this is long and focused with lovely persistence and freshness to the fruit on the backend, and through the power, elegant and intense finish. 90pts
Coffee beans and a bit of steeped herb and earth frame the deeply plummy and almost slightly gamy fruit on the nose. This is a relatively big wine, that remains light on its feet. the rich fruit is supple on entry but nicely underpinned by fine acids and ripe tannins, revealing intense fresh plummy fruit with a hint of black currant on the midpalate before picking up a bit of toasty spice and mineral nuance and plum skin on the long finish. Just a gorgeous Merlot, powerful and long yet so well balanced and already showing some finesse on the finish. 92pts
A bit jammy, almost roasted and beefy on the nose with vanilla accents to the blackberry fruit, as well as some toasty wood spice as well. Bright and plump with a lovely ripe mouthfeel and rich black cherry blackberry fruit supported by dusty tannins and solids acids. A subtle hint of wood spice and just a suggestion of herb shows up on the backend, which gains a hint of sweetness that helps the fruit linger on the palate. A lovely, fun style of Cabernet that remains clean and focused. 89pts
Earthy on the nose and just a little candied with hints of licorice, creamy cocoa, and lovely nuanced nutty, hickory add detail to the cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Rich yet bright with acid, the tight, fleshy yet firm palate is rich with dark fruit cherry and currant fruit wrapped up in notes of espresso creme. Long and fairly firm, this opens up a touch on the nose, and shows flashes of red currant on the palate and the moderately long finish. It’s wonderfully well balanced if a light tight today. There is a lot going on here. 90pts
Vanillas and herbs greet the nose along with with faceted purple fruit, and an exotic hint of pomegranate then turning rather soil driven on the nose. Powerful and slightly inky in the mouth, this has gorgeously ripe and crystal clear black fruit on the palate. Decidedly structured, but not tough, it’s packed with fine grained tannins and lively acids that keep this lively in the mouth. Firming up on the backend, this lacks a little complexity but offers up gorgeous black currant fruit, that turns slightly astringent and lean on the long finish. A really classic style of cabernet, this should gains a bit of flesh with age and the tannins should soften and integrate well but today it’s fascinating for it’s stern elegance. 92pts
Opening with huge carob and mocha aromas this shows a bit of a heavy nose, a bit heavy on the oak Soft on entry, then a bit low and quite earthy on the palate with purple fruit that lacks the energy of the Champoux in the mouth. This is a bit richer with huge soft tannins in the mouth along with some burnt chocolate and dried fruit flavors. Showing good length, this is fairly seductively textured but shows a less interesting flavor profile than the Champoux, though this is much easier to understand. 90pts
High toned and a bit floral on the nose with a little herb adding detail to the black raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. This is a bit oily and really quite floral and perfumed on the nose. Youthful purple and plummy fruit in the mouth shows an interesting blend of freshly crushed fruit and clean oaky flavor with a hint of richness. Wood tannins add their heft on the backend where the power and elegance sort of slide out from under the blanket of youthful fruit that is the mid-palate. An exclamation point of a wine. This is long and a bit edgy in need of some time in the cellar. 92pts
Earthy, savory, rich and complex on the nose with leather and peppery nuances framing a core of pure black currant fruit. Cool and seamless one entry, then this both fleshes out a bit and firms up nicely revealing lots of polished tannins are lurking under the juicy red currant and baked black berry fruit. Picking up a bit of cafe au lait and a little nutty oak on the backend before segueing to a long and sculpted finish. This wine makes a statement with it refined yet powerful texture and pure, deep fruit. 93pts
Nutty and showing the oak treatment that is fairly consistent across the Novelty Hill line-up. Slow to emerge black pepper and beefy hints help add a dash of complexity to the tart blackberry fruit on the nose all topped with a hint of vanilla. This is supple rich in the mouth if slightly angular with blue fruit, violets and a hint of beefiness on the palate. Rich with soft tannins and integrated acids this shows its best on the backend and through the modest finish with bright blueberry fruit and streaks of vanilla. 88pts
Smoky, and a little funky on the nose with some dusty soil tones and lots of macerated floral aromas and a hint of juniper. Nicely open on entry with clear flavors of wild black raspberry, blackberry and slightly medicinal floral tones which gain prominence on the backend. The tannin here are very well managed and this gains an attractive papery spice on the midpalate, with a hint of cocoa that runs through the long, zesty, sapid blueberry finish. Nervous and clear in the mouth, this is beautiful. 92pts
Dark raisins and raspberries come together on the nose along with streaks of vanilla and cocoa, and just a hint of a floral top note. Bright on the palate but with neither the depth nor the detail of the Ciel du cheval. This really has a lovely texture, open and clear in the mouth with good acids and slightly austere tannins supporting fine blue plum and violet fruit but there’s not a lot of persistence or depth on the palate. 89pts
Raspberries and spice greet the nose in a high toned and zesty fashion. This smells of Sangiovese, a little nervous and tart with mossy accents and some BBQ spice coming from the oak. Rather supple on entry then showing the classic mid-weight Sangiovese structure, a touch soft perhaps but with tons of raspberry and strawberry flavors and a hint of orange rind adding some detail on the backend. The tannins are modest with an attractive astringent bent to them, gaining a little sweetness on the finish from the wood. A bit simple but very attractive and fun in fresh new world style. 87pts
While a relatively young winery, founded only in 1997, Betz quickly joined the upper echelon of producers in Washington State. Propelled by the enthusiasm and experience of Bob Betz, who had spent nearly three decades with Chateau Ste. Michelle prior to founding Betz, the winery emerged as a leader particularly with their Bordeaux styled blends. The wines stand out as Washington styled if for no other reason than their Appellation. Columbia Valley is on the label because Bob draws from the top vineyards throughout the state blending varietals from the finest vineyard to create wines that truly are greater than the sum of their parts.
In 2011 Bob and Cathy Betz sold the Betz Family Winery to Steve and Bridgit Griessel with Bob agreeing to remain on as winemaker for a five year period. Seeing as they are now releasing the first set of wines that were made in the post-Betz ownership period I thought it would be a fine time to pay a visit and see what has changed. It seems very little has in fact changed and these remain among the very finest wines in both Washington State and the world. Hard to find, but worth tracking down if you can these continue to be stunningly fine, powerful, and refined wines.
54% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 12% Counoise, 12% Mourvedre, 7% Syrah
Very pretty on the nose with a hint of road tar, some spicy herbs, wild strawberry fruit and then a huge garrigue, black fruit, leather and peppery scent emerges as the wine warms in the glass. Big and firm in the mouth, this manages to retain fine transparency on the palate with fine hard black berry and wild strawberry fruit framed with hints of juniper and licorice. Small firm tannins keep this tense and clear across the palate and through the long finish which reveals intense inner mouth perfumes of black cherry, blueberry, blue flowers and spice. Powerful yet not terribly weight in the mouth. 93pts
Inky on the nose and rich with aromas of dried herbs, roasted coffee, and almost gamy meat topped with spicy black pepper notes. Another big wine that’s underpinned with good acids and fine ripe, polished tannins that lend this a voluptuous texture. There’s lots of tobacco, meat juices, and a bit of brown spice on the powerful palate which reveals deep lightly roasted coffee bean, crushed stone, and herb crusted lamb notes on the palate along with wonderfully pure blackberry and black plum flavors. A bit reminiscent of some of the more modern wines of Corans, this is pretty awesome. 94pts
67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot
Black fruit, herbs, mint, and spice all add nuance to the black plummy fruit of the nose that picks up hints of graphite with air. Deep and intense on the nose. Round, opulent and intense in the mouth, his shows of bright and juicy acids and soft tannins before turning voluptuously soft and supple in the mouth. the midpalate is totally refined and elegant dotted with blue floral notes, blue plums and blueberry fruit before gaining firmness and minerality on the back end, and absolutely powering through the long finish with uncommon elegance and finesse. 95pts
88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot
Woodsy tree bark, mineral, and beef aroms top the big black currant fruit on the nose here which is a bit unevolved and almost jammy yet retains lots of fresh wild berry fruit. This is a bit angular but slender on entry with nicely judged, polished tannins. It’s a big wine with nice power and depth, rich with ,dusty fruit, briary and blue plummy on the palate. Built more on richness and power, this turns a little chewy on the firm finish which is long but shows more oak sweetness than the Clos de betz and is a touch hot as well. It’s still a remarkable wine, that might just need more time but for me it lacks some of the purity and seamlessness the Clos de betz displays. 93pts
If any winery embodies the spirit and essence of Washington State it has to be Long Shadows. Founded in 2003 by Chateau Ste. Michelle’s former CEO and President Allen Shoup, Long Shadows unites the finest fruit in the state and some of the finest winemakers from around the globe. It’s all about collaboration, interpretation, and capturing the essence of the region’s finest vineyards. Partnerships include:
Armin Diel of Germany’s Schlossgut Diel producing Riesling.
Randy Dunn of Napa’s Dunn Vineyards producing Feather.
John Duval formerly of Penfolds and famous as the winemaker of grange Hermitage producing Sequel.
Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari producing Saggi.
Philippe Melka and Agustin Huneeus Sr. producing Pirouette.
Michel Rolland producing Pedestal.
Gilles Nicault, formerly of Woodward Canyon producing Chester – Kidder the most distinct and arguably most representative of all the Long Shadows wines.
This is a really impressive set of wines, each unique yet offering a glimpse of what Washington is all about. With a tasting room in Woodinville and a winery in Walla Walla it is easy to include tasting these wines in any trip that might bring you to Washington state, and I strongly suggest that you do.
12.5 grams per liter residual sugar
Gorgeous aromatics, all lime zesty and spicy with herbal nuance greet the nose over creamy lemon pith with a hint almost cinnamon spice. A bit sweet early on the palate with nicely integrated acids. This is a little dusty on the palate showing early signs of strawberry fruit that turns more creamy and sweet with citrus and apricot notes on the backend before finishing with some dusty astringency. A nice juxtaposition of sweet and dry, this comes of as just a bit rustic but with lovely complexity. 89pts
53% Sangiovese, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Syrah
Fine white chocolate and herb inflected nose shows some lovely red cherry fruit, bit of cherry pit and a hint of black olive and lipstick. Opening with a nice blend of acid and richness in the mouth, this is bright and shows a lovely austere edge to the red currant and raspberry fruit with a hint of mushroom emerging on the midpalate. Theres some wood tannin here adding a bit of power and sweetness to the backend and through the finish. Ripe yet fairly elegant this delivers lots of tart cherry and red currant fruit but is a bit simple showing a touch of heat and assertive tannins on the finish. 90pts
67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot
Dark fruit rich with aromas of candied blueberry, roasted meats, and roasted herbs is intense and complex on the nose showing rather high toned details. While rather soft on entry, this is wide open and rich in the mouth with red and black cherry fruit and super fine tannins. Texturally this fills the mouth, gaining subtle black pepper and roast meat nuance and the backend with the tannins add a little cut on the finish. This sticks to your gums, rich but low key fruit, long, and savory, I’m loving this in all it’s chewy, rich glory. 92pts
53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec14.9% $55
Plummy and very low key on the nose, which shows some violet and green herb with pencil lead nuance over black berry fruit. Soft, rich and caressing in the mouth, this is packed with fruit, soft tannins, and integrated acids. It’s a plump wine but one that reveal complex, layered flavors of wild plum, wild berry fruit, rosemary, and a hint of bitter cocoa on the palate. The finish reveals a fair amount of heat and wood spice here along with tannins that are quite firm. This seems to be a bit disjointed today as the tannins and alcohol both become more pronounced in the mouth. This might just need more time but it doesn’t seem to have the innate balance of many of the other wines. 89pts
87% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot
Classic Merlot on the nose, decidedly plummy with streaks of chocolate, herb, and toasty, creme brûlée oak. Soft and large scaled on entry, there’s plenty of tannin and acid serving as structure here but the fruit somehow doesn’t manage to cover everything, the tannins in particular stick out on the dry, slightly austere finish though this does show lots of cocoa flavor on the backend, but the finish is short and dry and wood driven, showing a little black spice and a little black currant fruit, fairly oaky chunky and inelegant. Maybe this also just needs time but it’s underwhelming in the mouth today. 88pts
93% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon
Stemmy, gamy, and a little minty on the intense and savory nose that is fairly medicinal, and quite peppery. Rich and soft on entry with lots of acid lending brightness. The fruit here is bright and juicy, more so than the nose would suggest with crushed boysenberry and blackberry fruit, and a bit of a floral accent arriving late on the palate. This gains some camphor on the nose, and lots of lovely soft tannins, lovely detail and tension in the mouth. There’s nice touch of mineral firmness on the long finish which shows lovely, pure raspberry and boysenberry fruit. 93pts
Light on the nose, smoky and herbal, with candied herb, toasty oak, and lots of dill layered over small spiced red berry fruit. A bit gamy on entry, fairly open and certainly broad in the mouth with rich, chewy yet soft tannins and integrated acids. The fruit tends to the red end of the spectrum, earthy and slightly forest floor accented with a little creamy texture and creamy oak spice adding complexity. A bit of tobacco creeps in on the backend along with cinnamon spice as the tannins build on the palate. This is well balanced and round, though with plenty structure for aging, though it’s already quite delicious. 92pts
Made with a dash of Sangiovese
Lovely on the nose full of fleshy fruit, a bit of stemmy freshness, pears and white peach A bit of rs sweetness the palate really accents the fruit here which is round and juicy, filled with peaches and pears with a hint of red cherry/currant fruit. Big, juicy and bright this is a round, exuberant rose with just a whisper of tannins adding some textural interest on the palate. When chilled it will seem drier but this will prove very popular over the coming summer months. 87pts
Credit: Snooth – Articles