rising stars and pick(s) of the week

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jason and Erin Morin are the owner/winemakers at Ancestry Cellars, a Woodinville start-up that shares production space with Lauren Ashton Cellars, Savage Grace Wines and William Grassie. All four new Ancestry releases are excellent, but the Chardonnays deserve special praise. The 2011 Reunion was so good that I kept it open overnight and re-tasted it on the second day, only to find it had gotten even better. It was one of those rare bottles that was actually drunk down to the dregs rather than consigned to the dump bucket after being formally reviewed. My full reviews and scores on the Ancestry and Lauren Ashton wines will appear in an upcoming issue of Wine Enthusiast.

Ancestry Cellars 2011 Reunion Chardonnay; $25
Creamy, leesy, and instantly appealing, this brings a rich array of scents and flavors into play. Crisp tropical fruits, notably papaya and banana, are set amidst highlights of toasted walnuts and lightly buttered brioche. The overall balance, length and precision are outstanding.

Ancestry Cellars 2012 Reunion Chardonnay; $25
Much riper than the 2011, hence fatter, fuller and rounder across the palate. It brings comparable roasted walnut highlights, along with lightly cooked apple and pear fruit, and hints of grilled peach and apricot.

And what is it suddenly with Washington Chardonnays? Here’s another outstanding bottle, from Ancestry’s stable mate, Lauren Ashton.

Lauren Ashton 2012 Reserve Chardonnay; $38
This is a textural, bracing study in how to layer a Chardonnay. Green berries, apples, Asian pears, jicama, cucumber, wet stone, and creamy lees flavors all combine seamlessly, placing the small percentage of wine aged in new oak in an appropriately light support role. Excellent length and perfect balance.

The winery’s Roussanne is just as good:

Lauren Ashton 2012 Roussanne; $25
This elegant, precise wine intrigues from the first sniffs of camomile, lemon zest and honeysuckle, right on through a full-bodied middle with a range of stone fruits. There’s a refreshing baseline of wet stone, and some very pretty toast from a mix of new and neutral oak.

The Applegate Valley of southern Oregon is home to one of the Northwest’s best producers of biodynamic wines, and the latest vintages of their estate-grown white wines are superb. Happily, as the vineyards mature, more wine is being made, though distribution remains spotty. Check out the website for ordering informaton.

Cowhorn 2012 Spiral 36 White; $28
Half Viognier, 30% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne, co-fermented. Spicy with scents and flavors of ginger beer. Very fresh, startling depth and character. Great length.

Cowhorn 2012 Viognier; $30
Native yeast, four months in ¼ new French oak. Wonderful gin-like botanicals, great depth with citrus rind, pineapple and ginger. A bit riper than the 2011.


Pick(s) of the Week

No matter how fond I am of Washington and Oregon wines – and I love them dearly – reviewing dozens upon dozens in a busy week does leave me hankering for something else. That’s when I retreat to my cellar, and more often than not, pull out something from Italy. Here are two currently available, affordable Italian reds that will work with your pizza, your pasta, the night you plan to pop the question, or, for that matter, your 20th wedding anniversary. Yes, they are that good!

La Quercia 2011 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($12)

Small Vineyards imports this soft, smooth and appealing Italian red. Not to be confused with Tuscany’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines, this is from a neighboring region and uses a different grape. It’s 100% organic, 100% Montepulciano, fermented in stainless and bottled with no barrel aging.

Cantele 2009 Salice Salentino Riserva ($13)

Imported by Vias, this perennial winner from Puglia is 100% Negroamaro. Cherry fruit leather, soft tannins, a super smooth mouthfeel, and the drink-now accessibility of a four-year-old wine make this a sure-fire choice for any meal. Apparently is was also given a prestigious Tre Bicchieri award, usually reserved for much pricier bottles.

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