update on waitsburg cellars and other highlights of the weekend

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I will be heading to Portland this week, for Feast Portland and some visits to vineyards and wineries, just in time for crush. Crush is beginning for Waitsburg Cellars also, bringing in grapes for the two Chenins and some new offerings that will be part of our Spring 2014 release.

The Wine Spectator reviews for all five Waitsburg Cellars wines were released a few days ago, and Harvey Steiman clearly took a good, thoughtful look at all five. I say that not only because I was delighted with the scores, which I was, but also because the notes that he wrote showed a more than casual understanding of what these wines can deliver. Full disclosure – Mr. Steiman and I were briefly writing for the Wine Spectator at the same time in the mid-1980s. We have had no professional relationship since that time.

Here are the notes and scores:

Waitsburg Cellars 2012 Cheninières Chenin Blanc – 91 Points
This tight, crisp, lip-smacking style offers focused quince and citrus flavors on a deftly distributed frame, lingering enticingly on the finish. A stylish version, with the ability to age. Drink now through 2016. 148 cases made. –HS

Waitsburg Cellars 2012 Chevray Chenin Blanc – 90 Points
Fresh and vibrant, with juicy pear and honeydew melon fruit on a crisply balanced, slightly off-dry frame, persisting impressively on the generous finish. Drink now through 2016. 209 cases made. –HS

Waitsburg Cellars 2012 Riesling – 90 Points
Sleek and silky, with honey-inflected pear and grapefruit flavors that linger on the off-dry finish. Drink now through 2016. 165 cases made. –HS

Waitsburg Cellars 2011 Three red blend – 90 Points
Fresh and vibrant, with tension among the black cherry, mint and spice flavors, mingling effortlessly on the long and deftly balanced finish. Merlot, Malbec and Mourvèdre. Drink now through 2016. 297 cases made. –HS

Waitsburg Cellars 2012 Pinot Gris – 88 Points
Soft and appealing, featuring almond and apricot flavors, finishing dry, with a hint of melon. Drink now. 210 cases made. –HS

In other news, there will be a second Waitsburg Cellars red wine released this fall (the wine pictured above). The 2009 Showcase Series #1 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. This new line will provide a showcase for exceptional blends and single vineyard/single variety cuvées. Wine #1 is drinking beautifully and a perfect wine to make the transition to autumn. Check with our Seattle distributor (Unique) for further details.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in a very fine tasting of sparkling wines from Franciacorta, in the Lombardy region of Italy. This was done live via Twitter, with the six wines shipped out in advance. I invited several friends to join me, and between the live audience, the barrage of tweets, and my own scribbles, it made for a really entertaining couple of hours.

There were some real gems among the wines, which were all made in the Champagne method, using traditional grapes. I don’t know that I’ve had many wines from this region before, and they are more expensive than most Italian sparklers, but in terms of QPR, they stack up well against true Champagnes. In particular I would recommend Gussalli Beretta’s Lo Sparvière Satèn, 100% Chardonnay, 20% barrel-fermented, and bespeckled with the most lovely, delicate bubbles. Apparently the word satèn in the local dialect refers to a lower pressure (frizzante) style. This wine, with a suggested list price of $25, goes right to the top of my personal list of great budget bubbly.

Another highlight of the tasting was the Fratelli Berlucchi 2008 Brut Rosé, another steal at $27. Again, beautiful, tiny bubbles and a wine the color of a late summer sunset make your mouth water before the first sip, and the wine does not disappoint. Excellent length and balance, with complex details that suggest a lobster bisque accompaniment.

The weekend brought other highlights, most notably a 1999 Columbia Winery Signature Series Red Willow Vineyard David Lake Milestone Merlot, pulled from my cellar when we decided to jump into something red after all the bubbly. Apart from having the longest name in the history of the world (ok, I’m just kidding) this wine was from a special vintage, and made by one of the people most important to me throughout my wine writing career, the late David Lake. I’m happy to say that the wine was spectacular, and my friends, who were poured the first glasses blind, went into paroxysms of praise trying to identify it. At 14 years of age, this drank like a third growth Bordeaux – not a bad comp.

David Lake and Mike Sauer, the owner of Red Willow, collaborated for decades and were responsible for many of the first plantings of both Bordeaux and Rhône varieties here in Washington. This wine included 19% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec in the blend, perhaps the first in the state to explore such a mix. We sipped slowly and gratefully, and raised our glasses skyward repeatedly in a long series of toasts to David Lake.
Waitsburg Cellars


Unknown said...

Hi Paul,

Bravo!! Your wines are excellent. I was excited as hell when I opened my Wine Spectator issue last week and read the reviews. Cheers!!

From a big fan,


PaulG said...

Thank you Bill. It's been quite interesting finding myself on the other side of the reviewing fence, and certainly very satisfying to see so many positive scores and notes from other critics.

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