new from figgins family wineries

Monday, April 11, 2011

I had a chance to catch up with Chris Figgins last week, at his new winery on Melrose. The facility, a converted print shop, was renovated just in time for the 2010 crush (which, Figgins told me, was just late enough to allow construction to wrap in time for the grapes to arrive). The new winery is for making and aging the DoubleBack wines (the Drew Bledsoe project) and the new Figgins Estate Red wine, a single vineyard bottling due for its first release this fall.

More on that wine in a few weeks, when the pre-orders are being taken.

The main event this time was the tasting of the new Leonetti releases, which are being made as always at the original winery.

As Leonetti made a lengthy transition to all estate-grown grapes over the past decade, the wine styles changed. As I have written before, the “new” Leonetti style is terroir-driven, with more fruit and less oak influence in the young wines.

The estate vineyards have been very carefully assembled to cover virtually all the significant (and frost-safe) parts of the Walla Walla valley. They include the old vines at Seven Hills, the Loess estate at the winery, the Mill Creek Upland vineyard in the same compound as aMaurice, Walla Walla Vintners, and Chan; the Figgins Estate (farther east toward the Blue Mountains) and now a new addition in The Rocks.

Eight acres (an old cherry orchard) were recently purchased there and will be planted later this year. That part of the valley, Figgins explains, is higher the closer you are to town (Milton-Freewater). This new vineyard, inside the M-F city limits, will be planted to cabernet, and maybe a little sangiovese. Though many Walla Walla vineyards suffered damage over this past winter, and some will produce no grapes at all this year, the Figgins vineyards came through almost unscathed, as they are carefully located at higher elevations.

The new releases from Leonetti were tasted over a 48 hour drinking window, and all of them were still quite fresh and flavorful on that third day. Here are my abbreviated notes. Full notes and scores will be published in the Wine Enthusiast.

Leonetti Cellar 2008 Sangiovese; $60
Young, tangy and tart, with racy raspberries, strawberries and pomegranate – this is a vividly fruity and penetrating wine. Crisply defined, immaculately fresh, and structured for both immediate enjoyment and cellaring. How long? The winemaker notes that the first vintage (1995) is still drinking well.

Leonetti Cellar 2009 Merlot; $70
Massive, generous fruit cloaked in toasty, chewy, mocha and caramel flavors. Sure to be a consumer favorite among all the current releases from Leonetti. Though it was immediately open and rich, it held up as well as the others, suggesting that it will cellar well for another 8 to 10 years.

Leonetti Cellar 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; $85
For those who love Washington Cabernet, as I most certainly do, this is a superb bottle. Dense, aromatic, layered and rich, it explodes from the glass with scents and flavors of concentrated berries, cassis, black cherry, and more. The vines have reached a mature stage that amplifies the fruit and keeps the generous barrel flavors in perfect balance. My favorite of them all.

Leonetti Cellar 2008 Reserve Red Wine; $135
A very fine reserve, this is the first wine of the vintage to be blended. In comparison with the cabernet, it is a bit bigger, though less sleek, and more chewy. As it opens in the glass, the aromas turn to exotic scents of incense and Asian spices. The fruit is assertive, blocky, and chewy; the tannins are bigger, blockier, more substantial than the cabernet.

Leonetti, one of the slam dunk five star wineries in my book, has held pricing steady and remains, in comparison with other top tier domestic red wines, an excellent value.

Leonetti Cellar

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Paul,

While I enjoy a good bottle of Leonetti as much as anyone I really disagree with your comment calling them a "value". By comparison I would agree that you can get as good of wine for much less $$$ by going with either Andrew Will's lineup or the Betz bordeaux blends. As a matter of fact I really feel that Leonetti is living on past stellar reviews from yourself and others and that several WA wineries are offering as good or better red blends at lower prices but without the cult following and accompanying run up in prices.

Anonymous said...

I just wish Leonetti would spend less on their extravagant vintage mailers and give us the $3 break on each bottle. I also agree the last few vintages have been average at best. But the mailers...... wow!

PaulG said...

Any successful business has more than earned the right to spend whatever they like on their marketing materials. It is not their job to make their wine fit your budget. Leonetti's mailers are among the best in the business, as is their website. I say – good for them. They elevate the playing field for everyone. As for the debate over "value" – I was making the point that compared with California cult wines or classified growth Bordeaux or SuperTuscans etc. etc. these are very fairly priced and deliver exceptional value.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

While your point may be valid regarding the "cult" california cabs which are stratospheric in price I still take exception with the value comment. I would rather have Joseph Phelps Insignia which has recently been available at costco for less than the price of the leonetti reserve, and is no way a "value". I would venture to guess that most of your readers follow you specifically for your expertise in the WA and Oregon market (I know I do) because you are really the only "expert" out there. If your readers are dialed in specifically for those markets saying Leonetti, or heaven help us - Quilceda Creek, is a value is a gross overstatement esp when compared to the wineries that I mentioned above as well as others such as Grand Reve which are cranking out comparable or better wines at significantly lower prices. As always I value your opinion and perspective.

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