Tag Archives: Washington state wine

Expensive wine 94: Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Cadaretta Cabernet SauvignonThe Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon is a classic Washington state red wine

Washington state wine, and especially its reds, remains less known and less appreciated than the bottles the Winestream Media and its scores push for. Case in point is the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon, a classic Washington state effort.

The scores for the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon ($50, sample, 14.8%) aren’t bad, but shouldn’t a $50 wine get more than 90 points? In this case, the wine isn’t exactly what the Winestream Media looks for. Yes, there is powerful dark fruit (blackberries?), but also tannins lurking in the background, a wonderful and unexpected earthiness, and even some black pepper. But the wine isn’t a fruit bomb and the oak, while obvious, doesn’t get in the way. It’s about as balanced as a wine of this style is going to get.

Highly recommended, with the caveat that there isn’t much of it. But if you can find it, it’s a prime rib and holiday dinner wine, and should get better over the next couple of years. The fruit and oak should tone down, and the wine will get more complex.

Wine of the week: Charles & Charles Rose 2015

Charles & Charles roseThe Charles & Charles rose from Washington state has played a key role in the rose revolution and embarrassed the Wine Curmudgeon. Both are reasons to recommend it.

First, its role in the revolution, in honor of July 4 this week. The first vintage of the Charles & Charles rose ($11, purchased, 12.2%) in 2008 more or less coincided with the idea that rose was worth drinking, something the U.S. wine industry hadn’t really embraced before then. The Charles & Charles was dry, crisp, and just fruity enough to give wine drinkers a quality pink that was in national distribution just as demand started to increase.

This year’s Charles & Charles rose is another top-flight wine, and should return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. The 2014 was a touch softer and not as enjoyable, and I was worried that trend would continue. But the 2015 is crisp, fresh, and alive, bursting with tart watermelon fruit and even a hint of herbs (perhaps the Washington version of garrigue). It’s one of the world’s great roses, and just the wine to drink over the long – and forecast to be 100 degrees here – holiday weekend.

And how did it embarrass me? In November 2013, I gave a sold-out seminar at the American Wine Society conference, focusing on unappreciated grapes, wines, and regions. So we tasted all my favorites – a nero d’avola from Sicily, a Gascon white, cava, a Texas red, and the Charles & Charles rose. My point? That in the chardonnay-, cabernet sauvigon-, merlot-dominated wine business, we overlooked a lot of cheap, terrific wine.

The Charles & Charles rose was the biggest hit, and even people who didn’t drink pink loved it. One woman was so excited she asked where she could buy it, and I had to tell her that it was sold out. It was November and the end of rose season, and the producer didn’t make enough given rose’s new popularity. I literally got the last six bottles in the U.S. for the tasting.

I will always remember the dirty look the woman gave me as she asked: “Why did we taste a wine that we can’t buy?” It doesn’t get much more worse for the WC.

Wine of the week: Columbia Winery Composition NV

Columbia Winery CompositionColumbia Winery’s Sean Hails is refreshingly honest, given that many winemakers aren’t always happy to answer the questions I like to ask: Why this oak level, why this alcohol level, and what was the thought behind putting this wine together?

Hails, though, had no qualms about any of that. He said he makes this non-vintage red blend from Washington state for one of E&J Gallo’s recent acquisitions within the framework that Gallo sets, but also with an eye to what he thinks the wine should be.

And the two are not contradictory. The Columbia Winery Composition ($14, sample, 13.8%) includes the softness that is a Gallo hallmark, but it also tastes like it came from Washington state. The blend is mostly merlot and syrah, with sweet cherry and blackberry fruit, a little pepper and spice, and surprising structural acidity. The softness is mostly in the tannins, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Pair the Composition with grilled meat and chicken — a Sunday spring afternoon on the back porch, perhaps?

Expensive wine 79: Northstar Merlot 2010

northstar merlotSte. Michelle Wine Estates does something no other Big Wine company does as well — produce top-notch expensive wine that speaks to terroir. Not even E&J Gallo has been able to figure that out. How else to explain that the Wine Spectator picked the 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as its wine of the year in 2009?

That’s why I was so eager to try the Northstar Merlot ($42, sample, 14.7%) during the Pacific Northwest tasting at my El Centro class a couple of weeks ago. The Northstar, owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and made with grapes from Washington state’s Columbia Valley, has a fine reputation and it has been several years since I tasted it. It didn’t disappoint.

Look for dark, rich fruit (very intense but not overly sweet black cherry?), with an undercurrent of baking spices, zesty tannins, and just enough oak to round out the flavors. It is a powerful wine, but in that specific Washington state sort of way. In this, it’s not bloated or flabby, and will age for much longer than you’d think — at least 10 more years.

This is merlot as merlot, not as a cabernet sauvignon knockoff or as something sweet and fleshy to sell in the grocery store. Pair it with roast lamb and keep it in mind for a holiday dinner.

Expensive wine 71: Mercer Estates Ode to Brothers Reserve 2011

Mercer Estates Ode to Brothers ReserveWashington state’s red wines can be some of the best in the world, and usually offer value regardless of price. The Mercer Estates Ode to Brothers Reserve ($34, sample, 14.9%), from one of the state’s oldest producers, is no exception.

This is a sophisticated, balanced wine with lots and lots going on, a wonderful example of what Washington state can do with red blends, and especially when the blend doesn’t have cabernet sauvignon or merlot in it. This is a Rhone-style wine, with mostly grenache and syrah and some mouvedre for effect. The grenache offers lots of juicy red fruit, while the syrah’s contribution is classic — meaty aromas and dark flavors. Best yet, the fruit doesn’t overwhelm the wine, as might happen in California.

Highly recommended, even though the alcohol becomes noticeable after a couple of glasses. Which means the Mercer Estates Ode to Brothers Reserve needs food, and almost certainly red meat.

Fourth of July wine 2014

Fourth of July wine 2014Why does the Wine Curmudgeon do a Fourth of July wine post (for seven consecutive years, in fact)? Because the holiday is a birthday party, and what do we do at birthday parties? Drink wine and celebrate, of course.

Consider these bottles for your Fourth of July wine — and don’t forget the porch wine concept, where what you drink has as much to do with how hot it is as anything else:

?Villa des Anges Old Vines Ros 2013 ($9, purchased, 12%): This rose from the south of France, made with cinsault, features barely ripe strawberries and is so fresh that it almost doesn’t taste like wine. Highly recommended, and certain to be in the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame. Yet another example of what a great grape cinsault is for rose.

? Pacific Rim Riesling 2011 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Washington state white is medium dry, with a touch of lime fruit, honey in the middle, and wonderful oiliness. A sophisticated sweet wine, and especially for the price. Chill this, sit on the porch, and you won’t mind too much how hot it is.

? Handcraft Petite Sirah 2011 ($10, sample, 14.5%): Intriguing, inexpensive California red that benefits from the addition syrah and zinfandel — more structure, less over the top fruit. It has petite sirah’s plumminess and spice, but isn’t too heavy (despite the alcohol).

? Gloria Ferrer Private Cuvee NV ($15, purchased, 12.5%): This sparkling wine, without a UPC code, was on sale at Kroger at one-third of what it would have cost in the restaurant where it was supposed to be. How it ended up in a grocery store is a mystery, but if you see it at this price, buy it — firm bubbles, some caramel, and fresh green apple fruit. Failing that, the Ferrer Sonoma Brut, often on sale around this price, is an equally fine value.

More Fourth of July wine:
? Fourth of July wine 2013

? Fourth of July wine 2012
? Wine of the week: Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
? My lunch with Provence

Mini-reviews 62: Hot to Trot, Sauzet, Dr. Pauly, Chateau St. Jean

Mini-reviews 62: Hot to Trot, Sauzet, Dr. Pauly, Chateau St. JeanReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? 14 Hands Hot to Trot Red 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): The problem with this red blend is not that it’s very ordinary and slightly sweet (probably somewhere around E&J Gallo’s Apothic), but that it doesn’t say, on either front or back label, that it isn’t dry. As has been noted many times here and elsewhere, producers have an obligation to share that information. Otherwise, dry red drinkers will buy something they don’t want and sweet red drinkers will pass it by. The Wine Curmudgeon expects more from 14 Hands than this kind of winery sleight of hand.

? Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2012 ($43, purchased, 12.5%): Impeccable white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France) from one of my favorite producers. Layers and layers of complexity, just like much more expensive wines from specific appellations within Burgundy. Still young, and I could have held on to it for six months or more. Some oak when first opened, but the wine eventually evens out to become a traditional Sauzet with white pepper and green apple fruit. Very reasonably priced considering the quality. Highly recommended.

? Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Bernkasteler Badstube am Doctorberg Riesling Kabinett 2010 ($27, purchased, 7.5%): Gorgeous German riesling, rich and full, with honey, lemon, and minerality — exactly the way it should be, as anyone who appreciates this kind of wine can attest. Yes, it’s sweet, but it’s supposed to be; in fact, it’s surprisingly heavy and needs food (tuna steaks, perhaps?). Highly recommended.

? Chateau St. Jean Fum Blanc 2012 ($12, sample, 13.5%): California sauvignon blanc is flabby, heavy, and without any sort of style or grace, to say nothing of fruit. This used to be one of those wines that you could always count on; now it’s stuff sold at the grocery store.