Friday, July 31, 2009

The Balboa winery operates out of its own tasting room at the Beresan winery, adjacent to Pepper Bridge, and recently opened a second outlet in downtown Walla Walla. Thomas Glase makes wines for both Beresan and Balboa, and the two brands nicely complement each other.

The Balboa wines, Glase explains, are meant to be affordable, not full of alcohol, and representative of the varietals and the vineyards where they were grown. Simple, yes? And yet how few wineries succeed in reaching those worthy goals. “I’m not in it to get rich,” says Glase. “My job is to make wine so you can drink it, not put it in your cellar and wait ten years. I don’t have any wine in my cellar, why should anyone else?” he laughs.

On a visit to the winery a few days ago, I chatted with assistant winemaker Matt Erlandson, and learned that the original, colorful Balboa labels, drawn by Amy Glase with childlike charm, have been replaced, as have the sensible screw cap closures. In their places are composite corks – recycled, far less prone to TCA, and apparently more eco-friendly than screwcaps – and labels that have a recycled brown paper look, while still retaining an artsy design sense, with Balboa embossed in orange and dark brown over a plain, wrapping paper background.

Balboa’s single vineyard varietals are being sourced from the Mirage vineyard, and they are among the very best reds under $20 being made in Washington. Glase’s winemaking skills are topflight, and, given his connection to vineyard manager Tom Waliser, he has no trouble obtaining excellent fruit. Among the brand new Balboa releases are three single vineyard offerings from the Mirage vineyard, all priced at $18.

The Balboa 2008 Mirage Vineyard Merlot is a juicy blend of cherry, berry and hints of prune. Forward and open, this is a lovely bottle for drinking right now.

Even better is the Balboa 2008 Mirage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It shows real concentration, density and grip – the cabernet fruit is sappy and solid, with plenty of cassis and black cherry fruit, substantial tannins, and a lick of licorice.

Also very fine is the Balboa 2008 Mirage Vineyard Syrah, which captures the complexity and earthiness of pricier Washington syrah, without becoming too heavy. Raspberry fruit is backed by earthy flavors and peppery herb. This is not the sweet and jammy style of syrah you find in California, but it has a lot to offer if you give it a good look.

Balboa also has released a reserve red, and a very impressive cabernet/syrah blend named Sayulita, after a favorite surf spot on the Mexican coast. Sayulita, says Erlandson, will always be a single vineyard blend, though the vineyard may change from year to year. The 2006 Sayulita ($40), from Walla Walla’s LeFore vineyard, is a gorgeous wine, smooth and tightly woven with veins of earth, pepper, black olive, black coffee, black fruits and licorice.


Andy Plymale said...

I liked the raspberries in the merlot and the candied apple in the syrah (county fair time).

Kim W said...

one of my favorite stops in WW, Tom is a great guy and love his wine. I can never get enough.

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