rulo rocks chardonnay

Friday, April 01, 2011

There are many types of wine tastings, and I’ve probably done them all, but without a doubt my favorite is a vertical tasting from an excellent winery. This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Kurt and Vicki Schlicker at Rulo Winery and taste through two flights of chardonnays, dating back to their second vintage, 2001.

There are always unexpected discoveries to be made at a well-organized vertical, and this one was no exception. The wines fell easily into two camps. The first group included seven Sundance Vineyard Chardonnays, as well as one outlier, a chardonnay/sauv blanc blend called Ceres. There were several things of interest going on here. First, the flavor stamp of this Wahluke Slope vineyard, expressed through multiple vintages. Then, the vintage variation, amplified by the fact that these wines were all “tree free” as we decided to call them (meaning unwooded, naked, all stainless fermented, etc.). The two oldest were bottled with particularly expensive cork closures, the next with a synthetic (Neocork) closure, and the more recent vintages with screwcap. So there was a chance to see how each different closure impacted the aging curve of the wine.

The second flight consisted of eight vintages of Vanessa/Birch Creek vineyard designates. The name change reflected new ownership, not a change in the fruit source. This is a Walla Walla vineyard, so no wine was made in the last freeze year, 2004. These grapes, noted Kurt, were usually harvested at higher brix than the Sundance fruit, and were fermented and aged in new French oak. As a result, they had higher alcohol levels and traded the Sundance minerality for a rich, buttery, roundly full-bodied set of flavors.

Not one of the 16 wines was over the hill, though the Neocork wines (2004 Sundance and 2005 Ceres) were definitely oxidized. Still, in my opinion, drinking enjoyably. In both flights, I ranked the 2001s as favorites. The screwcapped vintages retained astonishing freshness. As with all Rulo wines, they showed immaculate winemaking and a fine sense of balance.

“I hate marketing” Kurt emphatically states, and the Schlickers back up that statement with one of the more aggressive un-marketing campaigns in the state. But Rulo belongs in the top ranks of Washington wineries, not only for the white wines, but also for the reds. Hopefully, a syrah vertical will happen later this summer. Meanwhile, here are my impressions of the first flight of chardonnays (I’ll continue the discussion on Monday’s blog). Just for fun, I put scores down, reflecting my assessment of their current drinkability.

Rulo 2001 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay
Immaculate, still hinting at a light green (fresh) tint. This is perhaps the perfect balance of age and freshness, still lively with herb and rind and minerality, but muting the rough edges into a lushness not there in the beginning. Good penetration and length. My favorite of the flight. 94

Rulo 2002 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay
A rich, toasty, Meursault style. This retains more acidity and freshness than the ’04, but has similarly lovely, soft streaks of butter, toasted nuts, and coffee. Both Kurt and Vicki named this their favorite of the flight. 91

Rulo 2004 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay
Used a Neocork seal. Definitely much darker than the others, but not undrinkable. It has a sherry note, but it drinks well, if you like well-aged Chardonnay. Thinking lobster with a brown butter sauce! 92

Rulo 2005 Ceres White Wine
55% Chardonnay/45% Sauvignon Blanc
Smells mostly like a ripe Chardonnay, a luscious mix of stone fruits, still scented with pretty citrus fruits. Dominated by the new wood; you can’t smell the Sauv Blanc. It’s soft and beginning to fade, leaving an impression of barrel and light oxidation. 90

Rulo 2006 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay (first screwcap year)
Bright gold, a bit reduced, some hint of vitamin pill in the nose. This has a more oily, slightly nutty aroma than any of the younger wines. Developing beautifully, drinking perfectly. My second favorite of the flight. 93

Rulo 2007 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay (screwcap)
Really fresh, youthful, spicy, and some minerality is showing up in the nose. It is beginning to flatten out in the mouth, showing lemon/lime snap and a bit of pineapple also. Drinking very well right now. 91

Rulo 2008 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay (screwcap)
Still as young as the day it was released. Shows the most acidity and tightness, with a mix of lime, celery, melon and green apple, all clean and nicely intermingled. 92

Rulo 2009 Sundance Vineyard Chardonnay (screwcap – due for an April release)
The freshest, saltiest, most intense of all. It bursts forth with sea breeze scents and rich minerality. The fruit is a synopsis of citrus, apple and fresh herb, and the balance is perfect.

Rulo Winery


vinpdx said...

Great write-up!
I appreciate Kurt and Vicki's non-marketing philosophy. They are truly focused on the wines, not hype or "rock-star status" promotion. Kurt is very modest about his craft, but I think he is far more talented and practices the utmost quality assurance than many of his peers. He uses 100% French oak and screw caps. I love that! Kurt has done his research on enclosures and although, I personally know people who won't buy (any) wines with screw cap enclosures are missing out on some of the best wines coming out of Walla Walla because of their own pretention and ignorance.

I personally pick up a case or two every time I am in Walla Walla and this is always one of my favorite spots. I would love to keep them a secret, but can't help boasting about and sharing their wines every chance I get.

I look forward to part 2 of your vertical tasting.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? 92 points for oxidation? Hell I can get you oxidized wine if it will attract 90+ scores...

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