Friday, August 28, 2009

While I was chatting with Marty Clubb of L’Ecole No 41 awhile back, he opined that “I worry that we’ve been around so long, we’re not the new kid on the block anymore. People like to write about the new kid.” He makes a good point. The fact that so many new wineries have debuted in recent years has inevitably turned the spotlight onto what’s new. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes the most interesting what’s new?-type wines are coming from wineries that have been in business a long time.

We think we know them; then they surprise the heck out of us. It happened to me at Woodward Canyon this week. Sitting in the winery’s gorgeous new “Reserve House”, a private tasting room (you can book it thru the winery website below), sipping through new releases with Rick Small, I was expecting the chardonnay, as usual, to impress. And it did; after all, it’s from the oldest vines in Walla Walla, planted in 1977 at the estate vineyard. But I was unprepared to be swept away by the 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($26).

Small planted four different clones, obtained from both Sancerre and Graves. He ferments in stainless steel, and does not put the wine through malolactic. The result is an inspiring, Sancerre-like Walla Walla sauvignon blanc; a rarity if ever I’ve seen one. The wine is perfectly ripe, textural, crisp, with refreshing minerality; bone dry and yet not so acidic it feels stripped. It brings sweet hints of grass without being grassy; excellent length and breadth. Mrs. G and I finished the bottle a full 30 hours after it was first opened, and the last glass was as delightfully refreshing as the first had been.

That wasn’t the only dazzler from this tasting. Woodward Canyon’s 2008 estate Dolcetto ($21), from vines planted in 2000, shows that this varietal is really coming into its own as those vines mature. This new 2008 is a robust, cranberry and pepper-flavored wine, with just the right phenolic wood flavors adding muscle and depth. A more appropriate wine for Thanksgiving turkey I cannot imagine. Now is the time to grab a few bottles (sold at the winery only I believe). Due to the freeze last winter and fall, Rick Small does not think there will be any Woodie Dolcetto made in 2009.

Another Washington wine industry veteran, Jeff Gordon of Gordon Brothers Family Winery, shared some of his new releases this week, and he too surprised me with something completely off the charts. As Gordon explains, the “big four” wines for Gordon Brothers are chardonnay, cabernet, merlot, and syrah, and the winery does well by them all. But he’s been dabbling in some newer varietals, and we finished the tasting with a look at a soon-to-be-released 2007 Tempranillo, the first-ever from Gordon Brothers. It’s a beauty, another wine that simply kept going right into the third day after being opened. From just the third crop off the young vines, this is exceptionally dark, earthy and deep, and it’s loaded with rich flavors of coffee grounds, funk, meat, and super-ripe black fruits. The color is almost black, and after you pass a little dip in the mid-palate, the wine powers into an exceptionally long, smoky, roasted coffee finish.

Jeff Gordon is justifiably proud of this wine, which will be in very limited release this fall – just 75 cases made. Head’s up on all three wines – some of the most unusual, well-crafted and flat out interesting bottles to cross my palate in months.


Wawineman said...

Funk? Funk!? I can't find "funk" on my wine wheel. I see "skunk". Uh, is "funk" what I think it is? A human pheromone?

I'm glad you posted on Woodward Canyon as I have a growing "Old Vines" collection cellaring ('03, '05, & '06). None of the newbie bloggers write on these old-school wineries, maybe because they are not "sexy" enough. And, I was just at the Gordon Brothers tasting room last weekend. I'm hot on your trail, brother!

Coco said...

After just finishing a Dolcetto from Woodward Canyon last evening, I can agree that it is an exceptional wine!

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