do washington wines age?

Monday, June 25, 2012

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about the potential ageability of Washington wines. Beyond the occasional older bottle, what are the more general parameters for cellaring Washington wines? Do they last? Do they improve? Is it worth the time and risk, or like most domestic wines, are they best enjoyed while young and fresh?

The short answer is yes. They are most often best enjoyed sooner rather than later. That said, quite a few age well, for varying time periods of course. In my experience, how long and if a given wine will reward cellaring comes down ultimately to some combination of grape variety, vine age, vineyard sources, vintage conditions and winemaking choices.

For white wines, you need acid, or sugar and acid, to keep them for any length of time. Chardonnays, even the great ones, should probably be consumed with 4 – 6 years of release. I just had a 2006 Abeja chardonnay that was exceptional. Probably at or near its peak. That’s more the exception than the rule. Rieslings are most likely to last, and some dessert rieslings, such as the Ste. Michelle/Dr. Loosen Single Berry Select, don’t even begin to open up until a decade has passed.

southard bound

Thursday, June 21, 2012

OK blogophiles, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of Southard winery...

That’s what I thought. Please read on.

One of the great pleasures – perhaps the greatest pleasure – that I have found in being a wine writer is the occasional diamond that is uncovered in a garage sale full of costume jewelry. It is absolutely thrilling to be the first to write about a new venture that seems to hold immense promise. There’s a bit of risk involved also. If you sing the praises too loudly, too soon, and the winery turns out to be a one hit wonder, a one trick pony, then you begin to doubt yourself.

But I think my track record has been pretty good. Among the wineries I have covered early on are Leonetti Cellar, Quilceda Creek, Betz Family, DeLille, Cayuse, K Vintners, Fielding Hills, Beresan, Rulo...

Southard has the potential of being that good.

washington’s ruling triumvirate of world-class syrah

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A tasting of recent releases of wines from Master Sommelier Greg Harrington’s Gramercy Cellars has confirmed what many have long suspected. Harrington’s syrahs complete the Washington triumvirate of syrah-focused producers who have elevated the grape to new heights domestically. These syrahs are way beyond good. They are groundbreaking, distinctive, at times unfathomable (in the sense of being too deep to reach the bottom).

Along with Cayuse and K Vintners, Gramercy’s lineup of expressive, highly intellectual syrahs is sure to challenge even the pickiest of consumers. They will test your palate, intrigue your mind, and bring as yet unknown rewards if cellared.

the exquisite chardonnays of abeja

Friday, June 15, 2012

Last night Mrs. G and I were invited to an Abeja Vintage Dinner at T Maccarone’s in Walla Walla. Hosted by John and Molly Abbott, and orchestrated by owner Tom Maccarone and Chef Jake Crenshaw, the dinner matched a series of excellent small plates to a dazzling array of well-aged Abeja wines.

It is always a treat to taste older wines from a winery library. Wines that have never been subjected to the vagaries of shipping and uncertain storage conditions have a far better chance of mellowing smoothly into a complex maturity. Of course, the raw materials have to be there to begin with, but given John Abbott’s immaculate track record as a winemaker at Acacia and Canoe Ridge, and (for the past decade) as winemaker/partner in Abeja, the quality of the wines was never an issue.

The evening began with a trio of chardonnays, from 2011, 2006 and 2007.

whither (or wither!?!) blogging?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

When I saw, with a start, that no less a personage than my friend and mentor, the venerable Hosemaster, had dedicated a recent post to answering the self-imposed question “why bother to blog?” I realized that a sea change was in the wind. Not to bludgeon a metaphor to death (oh the hell with it, let’s do it) – when I set sail upon these uncharted waters many tides ago, it was with a certain sense of derring-do, albeit no particular landfall in the eyeglass, that launched my little bloggie boat.

“I’ll just set a course for the open seas!” I said to myself, and blather – I mean blogger – on.

Which I’ve done.

oregon's other pinot

Monday, June 11, 2012

I’m just back from delivering the keynote at the 2nd annual Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium. This one-day event, hosted by Greg Lint and Jeff Herinckx at Oak Knoll Winery, and organized by Jo and Jose Diaz, was even better the second time around.

About 50 winery owners and winemakers were present, representing producers from wineries both large and small. A focus on enology, highlighted by fast-paced, well-researched talks by Joe Dobbes, Jesse Lange and Jeff Kandarian, showcased not only the diversity of winemaking approaches, but also the camaraderie among producers, who willingly shared the nitty gritty of their winemaking techniques.

A tasting of more than four dozen Oregon Pinot Gris was certainly the largest assemblage of those wines that I’ve ever experienced. Jeff Kandarian brought a 2003 Pinot Gris from King Estate, the oldest bottle on the table, and yet still buoyant and fresh. There were a handful of 2009s, a couple of sweet wines, and one or two that seemed oxidized, but the vast majority, from vintages 2010 and 2011, were wonderfully fresh and refreshing.

gallo - smitten by the beauty that is washington wine

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

After more than five years of sniffing around Washington state for potential acquisitions, Gallo has purchased – presumably at fire sale prices – the Columbia and Covey Run brands from Ascentia. In an interview Monday morning with Roger Nabedian (Gallo Senior VP/General Manager of the premium wine division), I learned a few of the details. Read the full interview here.

There can be little doubt that the entry of Gallo into this state – the first time in their history that they have ventured out of California domestically – is a game-changer for Washington wines. But exactly how will it play out?

a vertical tasting of robert karl clarets

Monday, June 04, 2012

Recently, a reader of this blog wrote to inquire whether I would make reviews of older wines a regular feature. I have occasionally done an entry on a particularly interesting older bottle, but hesitated to do more because the odds of such wines being widely available are nil.

The reader’s question got me thinking that maybe I should in fact do better coverage of older bottles. Now that my own wine collection is safely organized under one roof for the first time in seven years, I have literally touched every bottle (about 1500 total) that I own, and have at least for the moment an excellent grasp of my cellar’s contents.

Not too surprisingly, I am particularly strong in back vintages of Washington and Oregon wines, which I have reviewed for Wine Enthusiast since 1999. From time to time I will pull out verticals of particular cuvées, which I did just yesterday with five vintages of Robert Karl’s Claret.

Few wineries make a Claret these days, though many make a Bordeaux blend, which is what the term, though unregulated, is supposed to mean. Robert Karl Cellars, founded in 1999 by physician Joseph Gunselman and his wife Rebecca, has gone from strength to strength with never a stumble. Vintage after vintage has been beautifully crafted, as Dr. Gunselman has proven himself to be a meticulous winemaker with a talent for blending that is particularly evident in his Clarets.

wine stories of the week

Friday, June 01, 2012

Tell you what... though I spend a considerable amount of time trolling the blogs and wine-related websites for the latest news stories, I never fail to dig up some that are truly bizarre and/or surprising. I could spend all my days just writing about this stuff – anyone wanna pay me for it? Didn’t think so...

So here’s a quick wrap of this week’s notables.