rulo rules

Friday, March 12, 2010

The ‘R’ was AWOL when I visited Kurt and Vicki Schlicker at their Rulo winery last spring. It had blown off in a windstorm, but upon my return to the winery this week, I found the Rulo sign fully restored (though not as photogenic) and the wines as fresh and vivid and stylish as ever.

Bloggers coming to Walla Walla take note: you won’t find Rulo on the itinerary. They are not included in the official 2010 Walla Walla winery brochure available free at many tasting rooms. Unless you know they exist, you won’t have much help finding them.

“Our doors are always open” says Kurt. Rulo should be at the top of anyone’s list of must-see wineries. Because what Rulo does is make great wine. They self-distribute (thereby cutting about $5 off the cost of every bottle) and they do not belong to any of the wine marketing organizations. Their wines are not submitted to Miller or Tanzer or Steiman, though the Schlickers would be happy to host any or all of the above.

Better yet, they’ll be happy to host you. The winery is a stone’s throw from Isenhower, on Pranger Road just off the Old Milton Highway. Call them (509/525-7856) or write them ( and plan to visit. You’ll be treated to a selection of wines, both white and red, that are riveting for their crystal clarity, vivid acidity and immaculate fruit.

Tasting through the new and upcoming white wine releases this past week, I found them consistent in style and quality with all that have come before. The 2008 vintage was noteworthy for the high acidity of the white wines. Rulo’s 2008 Viognier ($16), due out later in the spring, is from the River Rock vineyard. It tastes like rocks, along with lime, citrus, lemon zest and more. Production has been slashed to just 128 cases. “That’s all we’re gonna make,” says Kurt. “No one wants to buy white wine.”

Rulo’s twin chardonnays both shine brightly in this new vintage. The Rulo 2008 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay (also known as the “Stainless Cuvée” ($20) is exceptionally fragrant, lush with floral/citrus aromas, loaded with brilliant, bright fruit. It’s tense and dense and vividly thrilling. The acids are natural and flavors seamlessly run from lemon/lime to pineapple to orange, and keep on keeping on.

The Rulo 2008 Birch Creek Vineyard Chardonnay ($20) is Walla Walla fruit, barrel fermented and put through full malolactic. It’s soft, fleshy, and buttery, with good ripe light tropical fruit, lots of barrel flavor, and enough acid to support it all.

We chatted awhile about how these wines might age and after a suitable break Kurt went to the back of the house and poured a “mystery” glass of wine. It was a rich, deep straw, too cold to offer much in the way of a scent, but I immediately pegged it as an older chardonnay and pretty soon made the obvious guess – “one of yours?” Indeed it was, from Rulo’s second vintage. At more than eight years of age, this Rulo 2001 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay is drinking beautifully. Good as it was the first day, it was even better on the second day, when I poured a glass from a half-empty bottle that had warmed to room temperature and stood overnight. It tasted like Meursault! Lovely, oily, nutty, well-aged Meursault. Tour de force winemaking.

We also tasted a preview of the 2009 Combine – Rulo’s popular white blend. This was about to be bottled, and was essentially Evergreen Vineyard sauvignon blanc with a splash of Muscat Ottonel. “The pH is like 3.0,” Kurt noted; “I will not chalk out the acid, I want every bit of it. I love wines that are edgy and nervous, and this wine has a lot of nerve.” The alcohol is under 12%, the wine is bone dry – you can drink it all night. It struck me as a domestic Touraine, loaded with grassy, herbal, varietal flavor, juicy acidity, brightness and penetration.

Rulo’s reds are just as good. We’ll chat about them another time. I repeat – if you come to Walla Walla, don’t miss these guys.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I've found Kurt and Vicki to be genuine and delightful and their philosophy resonates with me. Plus their wines are always top notch.

Rulo wine kicks butt!

MagnumGourmet said...

I picked up a Rulo retrospective auction lot (mixed 3 cases) last summer. I have now had the '01 and '02 Sundance and I feel that the '02 was the best white wine I have ever tasted. I am curious to know when Kurt switched over to all stainless on the Sundance and how you think it will affect the ageability in the long run. Glad to see you doing a story on the Schlicker's, well deserved!!!

Anonymous said...


I have been very impressed with the Rulo's white wines for several years now. Have not experienced their reds yet though. I was so impressed with their whites alone that I wanted them to come to Olympia Wine League (OWL) to showcase their wines. I long haul from WW. My missions with OWL was to pour high quality wines and they sure fit that doctrine.


Wines for the People said...

Kurt and Vicki are terrific, and their wines are great, too. I just wish Vicki would bring some down to us in California!

Andrew Plymale said...

Rulo rocks. Thanks for the update. Best food spread of any tasting room I've visited, as well. And hard to find friendlier hosts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind words and for purchasing this auction lot.
We switched Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay to stainless barrel fermentation in 2006, but still keeping it on the lees for 10 months. In regards to ageability, we know oak phenolics can be helpful as antioxidants in oak barrel fermented wines, despite a small assault from oxygen during its barrel ageing period. Stainless barrel ferments on the other hand see no assault from oxygen so it may start out with a small advantage for ageability. Sundance Vineyard can be relatively high acid/low pH wine which will help with ageability as well. Our best guess is an 8-10 year drinking window.

Thanks for continuing to enjoy our wines! Kurt

PaulG said...

I have to add that the 2001 Sundance I referenced above was still quite enjoyable more than 48 hours after being opened. It could easily pass for a Burgundy in a blind tasting.

Anonymous said...

Rulo has always been on my list of Walla Walla wineries to visit, they make wonderful wines. For what it is worth, the winery is represented by the Washington Wine Commission and are listed in the Commissions touring guide brochure and on the Commissions website.

Brandon Kubrock said...

I love to see you write about Rulo. It is one of my absolute favorite wineries of all time!!

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