how not to write a successful blog – tasting notes!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

According to a story posted on Palate Press yesterday, no blogger with any hope of success should post tasting notes. So here we go – tasting notes! New releases!! Feel free to ignore this!!! But just in case anyone actually wants to hunt down some spectacular new wines (BTW, for anyone who is humor-impaired, these are NOT boring, the illustration is supposed to be funny), we are approaching Taste Washington and wineries all across the state are putting out new releases. Since I probably have more access than most I’m going to point out some highlights, to give you an idea of where you might wish to aim your palate in the coming weeks.

Andrew Will – Chris Camarda’s 2007 reds are thrilling across the board. Some new winemaking ideas, a fine year for grapes, and superb (as always) vineyard sources make it hard to pick a favorite. But if I had to, it would be a tie between the 2007 Sorella (72% Champoux fruit cabernet sauvignon) and the Ciel du Cheval (a cab franc/merlot Right Bank blend).

Dunham Cellars – Eric Dunham’s 2006 Lewis Vineyard cabernet sauvignon and 2006 Lewis Vineyard syrah – both pure varietal, are just now entering the market. And both need more time. But the Lewis vineyard signature is upon them, tight, compact, classic, firm, dense and still quite closed. These are at the moment less opulent than previous vintages, but Dunham believes it’s just a phase they have entered, and given the excellent track record for aging that all his wines are showing, I would tuck them away for a few years.

Gramercy Cellars – Greg Harrington’s star has risen quickly, and deservedly so. His elegant, herbal, high acid, aromatic and deceptively concentrated wines already show a mature, confident, individual style that is particularly in tune with the preferences of Millennial wine drinkers. I’m no Millennial, but I love these wines. New from Gramercy is a marvelous 2007 Columbia Valley (Phinney Hill vineyard) cabernet sauvignon, with a bit of Pepper Bridge merlot in the blend, and some old block Portteus. Earth, rock, dry tannins, sleek fruit, hints of stem and herb, all rally together to create a lovely wine made for mealtime. Also in the works (not yet bottled) is a Priorat-style blend of grenache, syrah, mourvèdre, tempranillo and cabernet.

Kerloo Cellars – Ryan Crane is the assistant winemaker at Va Piano, and this is his own project. The first releases, two syrahs from 2007, are sold out, but this is a winery you should have on your radar. Coming next will be more syrahs, along with tempranillo, grenache, and malbec. A fascinating lineup and a talent to be watched closely.

Leonetti Cellar – I hear tales of some pushback in the marketplace on Leonetti that I don’t entirely understand. For me, the transition to the new generation has occurred successfully and the latest wines, devoted exclusively to estate-grown fruit, are likely to be the most ageworthy Leonetti’s ever made. My favorite right now is the 2007 cabernet sauvignon, a stunningly dense, polished, tight wine that is light years away from the Leonetti’s of the 1980s – compact and loaded with black fruits, pepper, fresh herbs, rock, earth, toast and smoke. It’s so tight that it’s almost impossible to dissect. It needs time – a lot of time.

Saviah – Rich Funk has locked into a very accessible and palate-friendly style with his wines, especially the merlot-dominated Big Sky Cuvée, the polished and peppery Une Vallée, and the ubiquitous house wine called The Jack. But he’s got some hidden gems also, such as a 2006 petit verdot (not many of those in Washington) and an exceptional 2007 malbec, 100% varietal, fragrant and dark, with a spicy cinnamon/orange tea flavor under the black cherry fruit.

Sleight of Hand – I rarely have the opportunity to re-taste and re-evaluate wines, but while tasting through new releases from Trey Busch I also revisited his 2007 Spellbinder and 2007 Levitation – both dramatically improved with the additional year of bottle age. Among the new releases – clearly the best yet from Sleight of Hand – I’d say don’t miss The Illusionist, a five-grape Bordeaux blend with a bit of syrah as well. Firm, dark, and concentrated, the wine enters with alluring, complex scents of Asian spice, sweet hay, chamomile and coffee. Raspberry and cherry fruit is set against balancing acidity and ripe tannins. The finish adds coffee liqueur, smoke and tar.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

So these are the wineries you favorably bias? There are over 650 wineries in the State and over 200 will be represented at Taste Washington, yet you appear to "honk" for only your favorites without disclosing what these wineries have given you?
Please don't call yourself a journalist anymore.

Art said...

There are tasting notes, and then there are tasting notes . . .

PaulG said...

Dear Anonymous, I usually don't bother to reply to ignorant comments such as yours that hide behind anonymity, but I'll make an exception this time. Even a casual glance through the past six months worth of this blog would confirm that I cover a very broad spectrum of wines and wineries. As for disclosing what they have given me, if you are implying that I am being bribed, you are a flat out liar. I do most of this work on my own dime, with no staff support and often no pay.

D. Haugen said...

Well said, Paul. And, giving an objective high mark to a winery isn't the same thing as a "bias." Pointing readers in the direction of wines and wineries that you enjoyed may be helpful, and is certainly enjoyable reading. Keep up the good work.

nAncY said...

You don't takes bribes, because i haven't tried to bribe you with my apple pie yet.

I checked out the taste of washington's web site and it looks like a there will be some good events to take part in, and wineries...more than you can shake a stick at.

John Lilley said...

I couldn't agree with you more about Sleight of Hand's new releases... I've been going back and forth between the Illusionist and the Archimage. I keep missing Ryan when I'm in Walla but I can't wait to taste Kerloo's line-up.
As far as a vote of confidence... I believe in your methods and appreciate the knowledge of Washington wines and wineries that you bring to the table! Keep it up.

rebecca said...

Dear Paul G, Keep posting, man!

Anonymous, Paul G "honked" for Robert Karl & I can assure you, we gave him nothing. We will be at Taste WA (as will many of the previously "honked" wines) so it will be a good opportunity for you to evaluate the wines personally. For tickets go to: www.tastewashington.org

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Paul...I know how much effort you put into evaluating the many wines that you taste.

Rob S.

WineBoy said...

Anonymous, If you look at his history, Paul rarely praises Camarda's wines (it's the Walla Walla bias, eh?). To say that he is on the take is specious. I have been reading his opinions on wine since the late '80's, and while I don't always agree with Paul, he seems to be as honest and objective as the day is long. What have you contributed? Given his contributions to Northwest wine, you should think before you post.

PaulG said...

I appreciate the words of support. This one blog was never intended to be the end-all, be-all recommendation for Taste Washington. I simply wanted to plug the event, in the context of some wineries recently visited. It's no secret that there are long-running resentments in this state, and the fact that I happen to live near Walla Walla and have a large readership seems to bring them out of some folks. In all my work I go out of my way to cover the entire state competently. But yes, I live in Waitsburg, and that does give me easier access to wineries from Prosser to Walla Walla. I do my best to ensure that the mere fact of living where I do does not equate to favoritism. In any event, let me be clear - any winery profiled and praised in this blog (or in the newspaper, or the Wine Enthusiast, or my book) deserves your attention and interest, whether at Taste Washington or elsewhere.

Thad W. said...

No one writing about Washington or Pacific Northwest wine has the frame of reference or broad context that Paul brings to this subject. No one else has the decades of experience drinking our region's wines, meeting those who make them, and visiting the places from which the fruit originates that Paul offers.

While I may not always agree with his subjective assessment of some wines, I am better off for having read his coverage, be it in tasting notes, winery profiles, or recommendation lists.

Finally, it's worth calling out that few writing about wine, whether as a beginning blogger or established critic, go to the lengths Paul does in disclosing his "Creds & Methods". Anyone questioning Paul's integrity should start there and then engage him directly via email versus tossing out accusations behind a cloak of anonymity.

PaulG said...

Re: posting links in your comments on this blog. It's perfectly OK with me to link to your own blog. Not OK to link to an ad for a penis extender, etc....

Anonymous said...

Well, being a csw, and trying not to be bias, but open-minded and objective for my customers, Damnit! (smiling) we all have our favorites, now dont we? Merlotman

Anonymous said...

P.S. here are some of mine Chinook, 5-star, Nicholas Cole, Pepperbridge and Scotty Pontin ! lol Merlotman

David Honig said...

Well, you blew it, you posted a review. Now you're destined to the dustbin of wine-blogging history.

Actually, the Palate Press story was criticizing the writing of JUST wine review, primarily short "I tasted cherries and oak" wine reviews, rather than a more in-depth story about a winery and the people involved, one that includes a wine review. But you included a link, so I, for one, am satisfied.

Luana Dunham said...

Dear Anonymous,

As the wife of a Walla Walla winemaker, I can assure you and other readers that Paul DOES NOT nor HAS NOT accepted bribes of any sort - ever. Please, have some backing to your accusations before you attempt to slander someone publicly.

Paul, keep up the good work.

-Luana

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Nowadays, the possibilities seem endless. One reason, I submit, is that with little access to the classically great wines, yet with a public thirst for greatness that far exceeds that of 30 years ago, importers, distributors, sommeliers and consumers themselves have been compelled to seek out wines that nobody paid attention to 25 years ago, if they even existed.

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