What’s Hot in WA?

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.

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Milbrandt Vineyards

 

Milbrandt is a family business born from a farming background. Now owners of some of the largest vineyard holdings in the state, totalling over 2,300 acres in 13 estate vineyard, Milbrandt entered the wine industry only in 2005, though the vineyards date from a decade earlier. The wines tasted were all solid if rarely hitting any high notes. They were however interesting if only because they afforded me my only tastes of Washington State Primitivo, Petite Sirah, and Mourvedre. 

 

 

A little jasmine, apricot, kiwi and intensely polleny floral aromas greet the nose.  A bit tart on entry, this is simple but bright and juicy with plenty of clean apricot and tart citrus fruit on the palate in a fun, refreshing style. 86pts

 

 

4 grams rs

 

Evergreen Vineyard

 

Honeycomb, dried herb and earth aromas emerge from the glass along with some preachy undertones and hints of mint and diesel. Opening with a nice mineral edge this turns lean and nervous on the palate with lovely lime and lemon and faint pineapple flavors. The sugar is almost imperceptible as the flavors here turn towards green apple on the backend and through the long, zesty finish.  A touch simple but showing nice purity of fruit in a clean,brilliant and refreshing style. 88pts

 

 

Smokey and chocolaty on the nose with oak spice, dried herb, and burnt sugar notes adding some detail though this does veer towards chocolate pudding with some air. Smooth and a touch low acid in style but with enough acid to keep the flavors of black currant well focused. The oak is well integrated on the palate and  tannins are nicely judged though they do turn a bit raw and woody on the backend. Lighter bodied than expected, a bit simple but pleasant and with good ripeness but not a lot of meat on the bones.  87pts

 

 

Fairly big on the nose showing assertive oak base notes, a little nutty and with a lot of nutella accents with some nice herbal framed and almost bell pepper inflected black currant fruits. Broad and a bit fleshy in the mouth but nicely balanced with an easy going personality. This shows some tea, thyme, and chocolate nuance early on the palate followed by black cherry and black currant fruit. the tannins are firm but well managed leading into a moderately long finish that shows a creamy edge. Nicely varietal and easy to drink. 88pts

 

 

25% Cabernet, 24% Syrah, 17% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 10% Grenache, 9% Tempranillo

 

Dark slightly herbal and oily on the nose with well integrated vanilla toned oak. Showing wild black berry fruit that is bright and fresh on entry, this is full of early raspberry black currant and blackberry fruit on the palate all nicely supported by nice acids. Made in a  clean and fresh style this picks up some mulling spice on the backend. Soft chewy tannins emerge with the spice notes gaining a nice edge of astringency on the moderately long finish which offers a refreshing counterpoint to the sweeter styled fruit of the midpalate. 87pts

 

 

Dark and earthy and a bit oily on the nose with some noticeable oak notes underpinning aromas of brewed tea, carob and spicy garrigue. Moderately big and plump in the mouth with lovely fresh wild strawberry and spicy herb inflected raspberry fruit. A bit more serious than I expected with lovely complexity on the palate, and nice cut on the backend with a long, earthy, spicy and floral finish. 89pts

 

 

Dark and similar in style with the Grenache more than varietally driven though this does show lots of brewed herbal tea, leather and slightly gamy meaty aromas. Lovely on entry, a touch soft perhaps but fresh and juicy enough with a fine blend of black cherry fruit, leather, and vaguely peppery and meat juicy flavors. Tannins are supple and the finish focused and bright, could be a bit richer through the palate but that perhaps is just the vintage, superbly drinkable. 88pts

 

 

Lots of earth, tobacco, and black raspberry fruit, with plenty of underlying oak but it works well here and this seems to be where the house winemaking style is working best. This is bright, firm and focused with plenty of richness and depth to the lovely black raspberry fruit and classic tobacco and herb stem scents. The tannins are well managed but with an appealing edge of austerity and the fruit is super bright showing off some strawberry nuance on the backend and wrapping up with a long, dusty tannic finish. This shows good potential for improvement in the cellar over the short to medium term. 89pts

 

 

Toasty wood spice, coconut and floral aromas show up on the nose along with some briary notes. In the mouth one finds very clear fruit on entry with fine ripe tannins and supporting acids that keep the wild strawberry and brambly blackberry flavors fresh and clear on the palate. There’s a nice bit of creamy and vanilla scented oak helping to frame the fruit in the mouth though the wood tannins do clip the finish. Fine if undistinguished. 86pts

 

 

Chocolate, plum, rose petal and white pepper come together on the nose. On entry this is clear, firm and young with a nice blend of richness, power and juicy transparency. There’s a little meaty edge to this in the mouth and again while it’s a touch simple it captures the fruit of the variety quite well  without over doing it. Candied red cherry and a bit of rhubarb fruit emerges on the backend, and this is actually in a very bright, red fruited style possibly due to the vintage. A little chunky in the mouth but the moderately long finish shows fine balance and precision. 88pts

 

 

67% Grenache, 27% Syrah, 6% Mourvedre. Cofermented

 

Smells like the Grenache dark with deep aromas of Bon Mamon raspberry preserves and spicy herbs layered under chocolate oak. Very bright on entry, zesty and with good energy in the mouth, which is transparent and juicy showing nice spicy herb inflected red berry fruit and  edgy little tannins. Wild cherry, plum and black spice flavors emerge on the backend with a hint of leather on the moderately long finish. A very nicely done Rhone styled blend, perhaps a bit chunky but well balanced and attractive. 88pts

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Apex Cellars

 

Another brand in the Precept stable, Apex cellars was originally founded in 1988 with the goal of producing wines that represented the the pinnacle of quality, fulfilling the potential of Washington state. Precept acquired the brand in 2008 and has maintained the philosophy. Wines are made at two locations, the red wines at a facility adjacent to the Alder Ridge vineyard that supplies much of the fruit used here as well as at the tasting room in Proser where white wines are vinified. The lineup at Apex was one of the most consistent I encountered during my visit to Washington both qualitatively and stylistically.  

 

 

Tobacco, spice, earth, dried flowers, camphor come together on the hard and chiseled nose under ripe blackberry fruit and some fresh leather nuance with a hint of tar. Fairly large scaled in the mouth, this is full of plum and mulberry fruit with tannins are very well managed and  bright yet integrated acidity. There’s a  lovely mouthfeel here with some briar wood, olive wood nuance on the the palate. Bright flavors of fresh cut fruit are zesty and vaguely astringent on the backend, turning  a little drying on the long finish with hints of pomegranate and toasty spice and a little licorice on the finale. This is quite youthful and brimming with freshly crushed berry fruit. 91pts

 

 

A little olive and herb layered under big black currant, black cherry fruit and fine cigar box oak greets the nose. This is a big wine, smooth, rich and supple with ripe tannins showing some polish under  juicy black plum and really ripe blackcurrant jam flavors flecked with a little tobacco. Long and full in the mouth this is polished, fleshy and showy with lovely lovely tannins driving the long finish which shows palate staining intensity of fruit. This is basically ready to rock today. 91pts

 

 

Nice herbal, savory, classic varietally driven aromas on the nose with cool, focused aromas of black currant fruit that are tight and vanilla edged. Opening with great clarity on the palate, the fruit here leads of with savory herb stem and  tobacco notes that lend fine complexity and real detail on the palate, rich with black cherry and black currant fruit. The tannins are nicely firm but not imposing with acids that are a touch soft but supportive through the long black fruited finish that shows off a hint of black olive and plenty of wood spice. 92pts

 

 

Tight mulberry, dried herb, dusty stone and dried herbs de Provence come together nicely on the  nose over a base of  blackberry jam. Very bright, clear and tense on entry, this is gorgeous early on the palate with totally refined tannins and bright acids supporting a lovely wild blackberry and malomar jammy edged fruit profile. There’s a hint of animale here along with rich dried floral nuance and superbly judged oak. The clean finish is a touch compressed and this might be a bit lighter bodied due to the vintage but it shows excellent purity and varietal character. 92pts

 

 

Rich mineral dried herb stem dried plum and cured black olives emerge on the nose along with a little loganberry lurking in the background. Smooth and medium large scaled in the mouth with good acids lending this lovely clarity on the palate. It’s  a touch simple and to the fruity side for Mourvedre but juicy and plump. Clean finish, super easy drinking style with a nice hint of savory, slightly beef juicy character emerging on the backend. The nose pickup intensity with just a bit of air while the palate gains balsamic herbal nuance. 89pts

 

 

Tight and smoky and rather Syrah driven on the nose with dried thyme and olive notes along with mineral earth, smoke,  black currant fruit and pipe tobacco. Bright juicy blackcurrant fruit dominates the  plump and smooth palate with just enough fruity to buffer against the slightly austere tannins. A little meatiness and dried fruit graces the midpalate before this wraps up in a short, taut finish with a bit of drying wood tannin clipping it. Air brings out more Cabernet on the nose. lacks a bit of harmony today 87pts

 

 

Dark with some autumnal aromas of old wood, a bit of broth and some dried herb on the nose along with a minty character. Fairly smooth but with nice acids keeping this fresh in the mouth.  The fruit is rather faceted with hints of blackberries and plums laid over some briary wood, tobacco and dried black fruit while the tannins remain firm if not imposing and help drive the finish which retains a very pretty faceted quality. This does show lovey nuance on the tobacco filled finish. 89pts

 

 

Tighten and fairly oaky with plenty of spice and black fruit, black plums on the nose. Smooth and seductive on entry with supple ripe tannins and gorgeous fruit the palate. While not very powerful this is deep with flavors of wild plum, tart black raspberry and cocoa. Gaining some richness and chocolaty detail on the long finish, there’s also a little ivy detailing the nose that emerges on the finish as well. A bit small scaled and lacking some intensity, this makes uo for it with its fine balance and harmony in the mouth. 90pts

 

 

Tight and focused on the nose with gentle wood tones and spice accents. Nice fruit, bright favors and good ripeness emerges on the palate but this remains restrained and slightly understated in the mouth with lovely plum and spice flavors. The oak is a bit prominent and the tannins stick out a touch but this is showing good length and freshness on the finish with fruit that has a fairly perfumy edge. 89pts

 

 

100% Chardonnay

 

Perfumy, leesy, and floral with apricot fruit and a touch of honeycomb on the nose. Bright, dry and tart with citrusy flavors and a lean, crisp mouthfeel. The backend picks up a little nuance of floral tones, spice and a hint of lanolin before fading on the simple,tart yet refreshing finish. 85pts

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Chinook Wines

 

The fourth winery founded in Prosser, Chinook marked their 30th vintage in 2013 but you probably wouldn’t guess it. Still a very small operation producing but a few thousand cases a year, Chinook remains a hands on winery with a predominantly local audience. These are not wines of ambition but of purity, balance and elegance. Reminiscent of fine regional wines from Europe, they are built as much on their acids as their tannin and certainly do not suffer from overt winemaking, excessive extraction, or any of the other influences that have changes wines since 1983. If you are looking for purity and elegance in your wines, not to mention great value, Chinook should be on your short list of wines to try. 

 

 

started in ss, 60% in new wood for two months,

 

Fruity and fresh on the nose with almond and grape skin character. On entry here is a whisper of tannin here followed by fresh and lively flavors of  candied citrus, mineral, green apple and candied lime character. Good length, not elegant but full and exuberant with a really firm and dusty character. This speaks of soil fairly clearly and is not your typical full bodied fruity Chardonnay. It would be fascinating to see how this ages. 89pts

 

 

Tobacco, smoke, and herb stem aromas wrap around very fresh crushed raspberry fruit on the nose. This so clean, fresh and lusty on entry, it’s a small scaled wine in many ways, revealing the delicate side of Cabernet Franc with great clarity. Hints of minerality emerge on the palate along with subtle licorice framing notes that help to focus the slightly spicy strawberry fruit, which all leads to a refreshing, long, and pure fruit driven finish. There is nothing here that shouldn’t be here. Unfettered and eminently drinkable, this would be fabulous with a slight chill all summer long. 89pts

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Chateau Ste Michelle

 

I don’t think Chateau Ste Michelle needs much of an introduction. Washington state’s largest winery, CSM is one of the old guard that helped revitalize the industry here. Founded in 1972 with production starting in 1976, the early years here benefitted from the guidance of the famous Andre Tchelistcheff, who consulted on all elements of the early winery from vineyard plantings to techniques in the cellar. The results were quickly successful, which combined with a certain degree of business acumen to yield the rapid growth, most notably in the 1990s, that has created the behemoth we see today.   It is worth noting that while we all love to bash the big boys, CSM continues to produce world class wines. They source fruit from long time partners throughout the state but also have their own Canoe Ridge and Cold Creek vineyards from which they produce estate wines. The style of wine at CSM has changed perceptibly over the years, moving towards a less powerful and extracted style for the red wines over the past several vintages.  

 

The Canoe Ridge site is cooler with sandy soils though it’s also earlier to bloom and ripen than the Cold Creek vineyard, producing a more elegant style of wine. Cold Creek on the other hand has a richer soil with a thick layer of clay over the basaltic bedrock and more warmth that accumulates over the growing season lending wines from these blocks greater power and richness. In an effort to make the best possible expression of each vintage, most reserve wines from CSM feature a blend of fruit from these two vineyards. 

 

 

16.66 grams per liter residual sugar

 

Big lime and lemon aromas greet the nose layered over a nice mineral base note with a hint of steel and some heathery floral highlights. Bright juicy acids lend an almost firm feel to this on the palate which shows that hint of sweet roundness balance with the steely mineral acids. Clear and fresh on the palate with lots of mineral character balanced by slightly under-ripe peach fruit and a hint of mango that emerges on the moderately long finish.  89pts

 

 

100% barrel fermented, 50% natural yeats, one third new wood, sends 10 months in oak 

 

Fairly oaky on the nose and  a bit creamy though nicely floral and fresh with tart apple aromas.  Starting off  a bit soft and round in the mouth this shows off fine clarity to the fruit, rather pear driven with spicy cider apple notes wrapped in a creamy barrel fermented texture. A bit soft in the mouth for my tastes, yet not really low acid in style, the softness continues on the finish, which is fairly long is also on the light and ethereal side for a wine of this style. 88pts

 

 

Smoky and a little meaty on the nose with dark aromas of roasted coffee, and a little spicy with hints of ink and stem. Smooth and moderately rich in the mouth with nice firm little pointy tannins wrapped in coffee and fresh plumy fruit. There’s lovely depth and nuance on the palate with black raspberry and red cherry fruit emerging on the backend before gaining spicy toasty oak spice and vanilla accents. The oak is fairly obvious through here but well integrated and in balance with the bright flavors of fresh fruit. 91pts

 

 

Gorgeous on the nose with rich aromas of blackcurrant layered over notes of black truffle, tobacco, a little herb and black olive A  really classy Bordeaux-esque nose. Cool and rich in the mouth, this is fabulous, all truffly and filled with blackcurrant and boysenberry fruit supported by superfine acids. It’s still a little tight on the finish with some brewed tea notes and steeped tannins, but its powerful and long, and so well balanced. Drinking at peak with some room left for improvement. 93pts

 

 

A bit buttery with  base notes of wood, peppery spice lurking under lightly herbal and violet tinged crushed blackcurrant fruit framed with a toasty coconut nuance.  Rich and velvety in the mouth, this is packed with purple berry fruit supported by supple but present tannins. The texture is a touch on the creamy side finishing with explosive fresh fruit wrapping in vanilla, mocha and light tobacco nuances. Long and fairly elegant. 91pts

 

 

Deep tobacco and spice aromas over toasty oak and matte black fruit that shows some little blue fruit greets the nose along with a touch of granite. Deep, powerful, and weighty on the palate this shows lots of richness and an  edge of sweetness from wood in the mouth. Really well managed tannins disappear on the palate as bitter chocolate and tobacco flood the mouth along with gorgeous black currant fruit. The finish turns spicy with oak and hints of dried fruit and a little BBQ spiced beef jerky thing. Young and powerful, this looks to have great potential over the short to medium term. 93pts

 

 

75 grams per liter residual sugar

 

35% botrytis infected, natural occurring,

 

Lime, peach and chalk appear on the nose followed by spicy botrytis aromas that make this almost gingery. Sweet/tart on entry, this has lots of acid hiding behind the obvious sweetness of the palate, which really brings out the peachy character here. The botrytis pops on the backend, which shows off a gingery creme brulee and peach pie character. This has great aromatics in lots of juicy acid refreshing the palate and driving the finish with its hint of honey and tart green apricot accents. This is fairly sweet, falling right between dessert level and table wine for me. Delicious but I’m not sure when I would serve this. 92pts

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.

2012 Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc $20

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

2012 Januik Sagemoor Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc $22

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

2012 Novelty Hill Viognier Stillwater Creek $23

 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

2012 Novelty Hill Roussanne Stillwater Creek $23

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

2012 Novelty Hill Chardonnay Stillwater Creek $23

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

2012 Januik Cold Creek Chardonnay $30

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

2011 Novelty Hill Columbia Valley Merlot $20

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

2011 Januik Columbia Valley Merlot $25

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

2010 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Merlot

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

2011 Januik Klipsun Vineyard Merlot $30

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

2010 Novelty Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $26

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

2011 Januik Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $30

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

2010 Januik Champoux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $40

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

2011 Januik Weinbau Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $40

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

2011 Januik Ciel du Cheval Cabernet Sauvignon $45

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

2011 Januik Reserve Red Columbia valley $65

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

2011 Novelty Hill Syrah Columbia Valley $23

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

2011 Januik Ciel du Cheval Syrah $35

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

2011 Januik Weinbau Syrah

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

2011 Novelty Hill Stillwater Creek Sangiovese $28

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

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Betz

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.

2011 Betz Besoleil Columbia Valley 14.2% $50

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

2011 Betz La Cote Rousse Syrah Red Mountain 13.8% $60

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

2011 Betz Clos de Betz Columbia Valley 14% $65

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

2011 Betz Pere de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia valley 14% $75

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

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Long Shadows

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.

2012 Long Shadows Poets Leap Riesling Columbia valley 12.9% $20

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

2010 Long Shadows Saggi Columbia Valley 14.9% $45

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

2010 Long Shadows Chester Kidder Columbia Valley 15.1% $50

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

2011 Long Shadows Pirouette Columbia Valley 14.9% $55

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

2011 Long Shadows Pedestal 14.9% $60

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

2010 Long Shadows Sequel 14.8% $50

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

2011 Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 14.2% $50

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  

2013 Long Shadows Julia’s  Dazzle Pinot Gris Rose $16

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

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