highlights of new washington wine releases

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

We’re rolling into the fall new release season, and it’s especially exciting with my book just out and book signings coming up throughout the next few months. Here are some of the highlights of my most recent tastings with wineries that are featured in the book. I’m listing just one wine per winery, but I could just as easily list almost all of them. Each of these wines will be scored in the 90’s in my upcoming Wine Enthusiast reviews. Many are in very limited supply and may quickly sell out, so I wouldn’t wait.

Darby 2007 The Swagger Reserve Red; $50
Just 125 cases of this high-test (15.1%) Bordeaux blend (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malbec, 8% Merlot). Solidly in the Darby style, but with extra oomph (yes, that’s a technical term), showing lovely, plummy aromas that lead into mouth-filling blackberry, cassis and cherry fruit.

Dowsett Family 2008 Devotion Red Wine; $30
Chris Dowsett, the assistant winemaker at Buty, makes just two wines under his own label. There are 190 cases of this 2008 Devotion, a Bandol-inspired blend of 41% Syrah (Morrison Lane), 30% Mourvèdre (Heart of the Hill – Red Mt.), and 29% Grenache (Destiny Ridge). By upping the percentage of Mourvèdre in the blend he’s made a significant improvement, elevating this wine into a rarefied, tightly controlled, sculpted effort with tightly wound, wild berry and cherry fruit, iron filings, dark chocolate and licorice, all wrapped in firm, polished tannins.

Dusted Valley 2007 Reserve Syrah; $45
Syrah is a core strength, and this limited (175 cases only) offering is the best of the best at Dusted Valley. The lively acidity adds some zip to the blackberry and black cherry fruit. There’s a smoky edge to the polished tannins, but those lemony acids keep the wine bright and fresh, penetrating into a lingering finish with sweet cracker and pepper highlights.

Fielding Hills 2008 RiverBend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; $42
I’ve followed Fielding Hills since their first vintage, and remain convinced that they fully deserve their 5-star status in my new book. Total production is under 1000 cases – 192 cases of this estate-grown Cab. Though the blend includes small portions of other grapes – 9% Syrah, 3% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc – this really champions the essential character of great Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Its core fruit is supple and compact cassis and black cherry, with a spicy top that resonates well into the finish. Concentrated and beautifully proportioned.

Gorman 2009 The Cry Baby Late Harvest Chenin Blanc; $25/375
Though Gorman is recognized for making powerful, full-throttle reds, this 200 case dessert wine opens up a whole new side of this talented young winemaker. Barrel fermented in new French oak, this is old vine Chenin Blanc. A delicious toasty, brioche flavor, underscored with sweet lemony acids and plenty of peachy fruit, makes a delicious wine that never turns unctuous or heavy. The broad and toasty mid-palate seems to extend all the way to the flavor horizon.

Guardian Cellars 2007 Stillwater Creek Vineyard The Wanted Red; $37
Jerry Riener made just 180 cases of this strong, full-bodied, tannic and muscular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc. It seduces with sweet berry fruit, backed with stiff tannins and well-modulated streaks of iron and earth. For Cab freaks this is a gold mine of flavor, but it will definitely need decanting and/or cellaring – it should keep for a decade or more.

Northstar 2007 Walla Walla Valley Merlot; $50
Northstar really knocked it out of the park in 2007, but the WWV bottling – limited to just 400 cases – is well worth seeking out. Fruit sources include Leonetti’s Loess vineyard, along with Windrow and Anna Marie in the Seven Hills. Thick, lush and richly evocative, it shows Napa-like density. Chocolatey black fruits and baking spices add to the rich mid-palate, which a certain well-known critic might call “hedonistic.”

Olsen Estates 2008 Golden Berry Select Riesling; $55/375ml
Here is another exceptional “sticky” from the Yakima valley. Just 100 cases of this fully botrytised, 46% residual sugar blockbuster, sourched from 30 year old vines. Decadently rich, it soaks its peach and apricot fruit in a thick wash of honey and caramel, streaked with mocha and lightly scented with jasmine highlights. At 7% alcohol, this should age for decades.

Syncline 2008 Coyote Canyon Vineyard Mourvèdre; $30
A leader in crafting sleek, at times exotic Rhône varietal blends, Syncline’s brilliantly aromatic Mourvèdre beguiles with exotic scents of plum pudding, spice cake, cherry compote, pipe tobacco, red licorice and raspberry jam. The wine is a riot of fruits and baking spices, and makes a strong statement about the future of Washington Mourvèdre as a stand-alone varietal wine. Just 406 cases made.

Any one of these wines (and wineries) would warrant a stand-alone blog feature, but yours truly is swamped and things are backing up, so I offer these highlights and urge you to taste through the entire portfolio of any (or all) of these outstanding producers.

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