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Robin Garr

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Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Tue May 01, 2018 8:12 am

After several months focusing on broad regions with worldwide availability, we're going to take one month narrowing in on a tighter field: The Northwest of North America. This includes, obviously, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, plus Oregon and, who knows, maybe some less-familiar bottles from other nearby states and provinces. What varieties are common, and which best reflect the region. Is there an overall regional style, or are local variations more important?

I know some of us are going to have a hard time finding a broad selection from this region, but we know that at least the larger producers get across the US, and hope at least a few good ones make it into international circulation. Let's see what we discover!
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Wed May 02, 2018 6:00 am

Washington wines are very hard to find here in AB. I hope all here find some gems, I am away for 3 weeks doing my bird counts in S AB.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Tim York » Wed May 02, 2018 1:19 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:Washington wines are very hard to find here in AB. I hope all here find some gems, I am away for 3 weeks doing my bird counts in S AB.


Same here. Washington and Oregon wines are rarities. From the USA, Lavinia only lists Californians. Voyageurs du Vin has some but at frightening prices; German web sites likewise. Strange that Domaine Drouhin is not more available with its obvious French connection.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Wed May 02, 2018 1:56 pm

Tim York wrote:Strange that Domaine Drouhin is not more available with its obvious French connection.

I'm sorry this topic is tough for our Euro-friends, Tim. It would be okay to finesse by going with something by Drouhin, say, or Dr. Loosen, with similar varieties to those that they grow in the US Northwest. :)
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by kasey.dubler » Thu May 03, 2018 11:07 am

Thought I would take part in the discussion and decided to open up a Washington State wine last night. I went with 2008 Rulo Syrah Columbia Valley. This is a bottle I purchased for $17.99 at Trader Joes in Bellingham back in 2012. I was happy to see it was still kicking!

Wine is dark in color, almost purple. On the noise you get dark fruit, black going to blue fruit. Rosemary, olive and a underbrush note. I get no signs of Black pepper or any "funk" you often get from WA Syrah. This has a stony mineral edge that I love. As this sits the fruit brightens up. I popped and poured this, if I could do again I would give an hour decant or so, it comes alive with air, and drops a lot of sediment. This is bottled under screwcap. This is delicious, and an amazing QPR... It is a step behind the great WA/OR Syrah, but is also half the price, or even less...
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Thu May 03, 2018 11:33 am

Great report, Kasey. Isn't it nice when a forgotten bargain pays off as well as that!?
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 04, 2018 3:48 pm

Thought I would have a contribution from last night’s tasting, but it was corked. :(
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Fri May 04, 2018 4:46 pm

Union Wine Co. 2016 Kings Ridge Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir ($18.99)

Clear dark ruby, with reddish-violet glints against the light. Fresh cherry-berry aromas are joined by an attractive scent of roses after a little time in the glass. Mouth-filling and ripe, cherry-berry fruit flavors follow the nose, well structured with bright acidity and just a whiff of soft tannins. Evolves in the glass into good Pinot Noir varietal character, a good value example of the Oregon style. Full but not overly alcoholic at 13.9 percent. (May 3, 2018)

FOOD MATCH: The obvious pick is rare red meat or grilled poultry; it would be particularly winning with roast duck. Cheese is another option. It was excellent after dinner with slices of Wisconsin Sartori Sarvecchio, a surprisingly persuasive American homage to Parmigiano Reggiano.

WHEN TO DRINK: Pinot Noir is unpredictable in the bottle, but with this one's good balance and airtight metal screw cap, I wouldn't worry about finishing it up over the next two or three years.

VALUE:
Wine-Searcher.com's $18 average retail matches the winery price and beats my local toll by a buck.

WEB LINK
Here's a brief winery fact sheet on the Kings Ridge Pinot Noir.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Union Wine Co. Kings Ridge Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher.com.

You can also buy direct from the winery, where the law permits, by using this shopping cart link.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 04, 2018 5:39 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Pinot Noir is unpredictable in the bottle


Hmm...

Hmm...
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Fri May 04, 2018 6:53 pm

Are you agreeing or disagreeing that Pinot varies unpredictably over time, David? That's surely been my experience with Pinot, not that I buy at the upper end.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by David M. Bueker » Fri May 04, 2018 10:46 pm

Disagreeing.

Though I don’t do much Pinot at the lower end.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Mon May 07, 2018 3:34 pm

Kasey, drank a few of those back in the day myself! You may know the story, but the couple who owned Rulo have quit the biz, and possibly sold the name. But for awhile there they were making these amazingly competent wines at affordable prices, and they hand-sold/delivered them up and down the I-5 corridor. Cutting out the distributor/middle man made it possible for them to do it this way--Doug Charles at Compass wines in Anacortes was their first big fan.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by David M. Bueker » Tue May 08, 2018 1:18 am

So they were serving Columbia Winery Merlot on the plane. I did not try it because they were also serving Drouhin Côte de Beaune Villages.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Robin Garr » Tue May 08, 2018 10:07 am

David M. Bueker wrote:So they were serving Columbia Winery Merlot on the plane. I did not try it because they were also serving Drouhin Côte de Beaune Villages.

Not a difficult choice. :twisted:
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Tue May 08, 2018 11:31 am

Poor Columbia Winery. Such a great winery begun by such a great man with a great palate--one the first MWs. And now it's just another Gallo.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by kasey.dubler » Tue May 08, 2018 12:32 pm

Thank you Jenise I actually knew nothing about Rulo. I picked up a few bottles many years ago and remember drinking them and liking them so I put one away to see how it aged, and let me say I was pleasantly surprised! I love Washington Syrah and at under $20 it was a steal, honestly drank nicer than many I've purchased at double the price...
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Tue May 08, 2018 1:22 pm

kasey.dubler wrote:Thank you Jenise I actually knew nothing about Rulo. I picked up a few bottles many years ago and remember drinking them and liking them so I put one away to see how it aged, and let me say I was pleasantly surprised! I love Washington Syrah and at under $20 it was a steal, honestly drank nicer than many I've purchased at double the price...


Not surprised at all. I first picked up their syrah for one of the neighborhood tastings I do. It was a huge hit, of course. But what really stands out is that in preparation of the hand-out, I looked at the winery's website and then called them with a question. Talked to the wife, and asked a question about something I'd seen on the website. Not wine-related at all: but this couple were besotted cat people and had recently lost The Best Cat Ever, as had I, and we spent an hour crying together and telling each other cat stories. Always felt very close to them after that.

Speaking of Washington syrahs, ever have a Reynvaan? I have quite a few--wish you were still here, I'd pop one (or two) for you. Not good value at all, just astonishing wines. I'd say 2nd in the state next to Cayuse now.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by kasey.dubler » Tue May 08, 2018 1:28 pm

I love Reynvaan! Gabriel introduced me to them and I met them at a tasting in Seattle, nicest people! I bought a case before I left WA and still have about 6 of their bottles left. Next time I get up there we will have to drink some good wine!
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Tue May 08, 2018 1:45 pm

So I've been travelling and not opening much wine at home yet this month, but as I was posting away into Cellar Tracker I realized that a lot of the BC and Idaho wines I'd run into over the past week actually qualify as Pacific Northwest, even if not from my home state, and can contribute to the conversation.


Here's one I purchased in British Columbia years back. A wine seller assured me that it was a sophisticated version and would show beautifully in my neighborhood tasting of PNW Merlots. Boy was she wrong. It was all tannins, a loser at the tasting. This leftover from that tasting has been in my cellar all this time. I thought it would be good by now, so opened it to pair with burgers on Sunday.

2011 Intersection Merlot
Barnyardy. And though the huge early tannins have resolved pretty much, they took the fruit with them. Works okay with food, but not enough soul here for sipping alone. Not a happy experience, but I'm glad it's no longer taking space in the cellar.


Also in the interest of cellar management, I decided to pop these one-offs from Cinder winery in Idaho. Cinder is the maker of the best domestic tempranillo I've ever had and these were an exercise in sampling the rest of the line-up.

2015 Krause & Schnerr Family Cellars Laissez Faire Snake River Valley Red Blend
Ripe and uncomplicated with jammy notes of cooked strawberry and Bazooka bubble gum. Yuck.

2014 Cinder Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec Snake River Valley Red Bordeaux Blend
A rich, cab-dominant red that shows off winemaker Krause's talents. Nothing flashy, but solid in an old-school style. Rewards decanting.

2015 Cinder Chardonnay Snake River Valley
Drinks like a Macon chard--great minerality with sunny climate fruit absent any tropicality. Really like.


Then on Saturday night we had dinner with friends in BC, and they opened these wines:

2014 Township 7 Chardonnay Reserve Okanagan Valley
Township 7's wines have always, no exception, presented as overripe, extracted, and low-acid (many friends around here buy them, the winery's about ten minutes from the border nearest my home), all things I hate. So cringed when I saw this come out and then felt much surprised relief when this turned out to be a pale colored, balanced wine with good varietal character. Effortlessly enjoyable.

2016 Township 7 Chardonnay Unoaked Okanagan Valley VQA
Decent, and neither overripe nor extracted, but a plain Jane quaffer nonetheless, especially after the '14. Put the oak back!

2011 Tinhorn Creek Kerner Icewine Oldfield Series Okanagan Valley VQA
Something you don't see much of further south, but B.C. gets the weather needed to do icewines, and they're always eye-openers.
But this is the best I've ever had. Not one to give points, but I threw 97 points at this on CT to show appropriate esteem for this wine and there's really no reason I couldn't have gone all the way to 100. Pale pale yellow color, amazing ethereal nose, and complex flavors that dance on the tongue like a tiny ballerina. The fruit is everything yellow: pineapple, lemon, quince and lillikoi turned into a chiffon pie with a nose of orange blossoms and jasmine. I've never had anything like it. Kerner can do THIS??? Days later, it still haunts me.


And now two Washingtonians:

2017 Lauren Ashton Cellars Rosé Columbia Valley Rosé Blend
50% grenache, 30% mourvedre, 20% counoise. Pale coral pink, admirably so in a state where roses are often more pigmented. Beautiful nose of flowers, light red fruits and seashells. Good palate flavor with a dry finish. Outstanding--there will be other roses this season as good, but it's hard for me to imagine one better.

And this from our state's largest winery:

2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Austral Limited Release Wahluke Slope Red Rhone Blend
From a passively stored bottle, this Australian GSM copy hasn't aged well. The original intent is still obvious, but it's tired and turning into soy sauce instead of going into interesting secondary development. Which is or can be anyway a problem with CSM wines. Their wines all lean toward higher-than-usual RS and creamy vanilla oak. And those features don't age well. (We generally go to one of the outdoor concerts at the winery every summer, and always drink Sauv Blanc. Even if we'd prefer a red wine under other circumstances, the RS-and-oak combination is always cloying to our Europeanized palates. We're not their target customer.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Tue May 08, 2018 1:50 pm

kasey.dubler wrote:I love Reynvaan! Gabriel introduced me to them and I met them at a tasting in Seattle, nicest people! I bought a case before I left WA and still have about 6 of their bottles left. Next time I get up there we will have to drink some good wine!


I have around 40 bottles, including a case of their cabernet. Would love to open some with you!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by JC (NC) » Sat May 12, 2018 3:35 pm

I will be opening a Washington State Syrah next week after I consume an Alsace Riesling with a planned pork dinner.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Tue May 22, 2018 7:11 pm

Several more we had last weekend:

2008 Bunnell Family Cellars Syrah Clifton Hill Vineyard Wahluke Slope
Opened an hour before dinner. Bunnell's Euro-style approach to winemaking is evident in this bottling with Rhonish savory, herbal notes to match the dark fruits. But at ten years old there isn't much else about it that's Rhonish, no bacon/ham/roasted meat, no tar, no funk. Enjoyable, but I'd hoped for more. Interestingly, I'd chosen this to pour for a friend not knowing that Bunnell had sued her wine blog for use of the term "Wine O'Clock". She started using it in 2003, and Bunnell opened a bar or tasting room by the same name in 2007. Then Bunnell sued HER! Anyway, she didn't spit it out, but she made it clear that the only Bunnell wines she'll ever drink are somebody else's. :)

And she brought this gem:

2017 Chateau Beck Le Bec Fin Yakima Valley Rosé Blend
Very pale coral color. Subtle fruit, crisp acidity--the most Provencal rose I've had from the PNW, maybe the only one ever that could pass for Provence and surely no accident as the winemaker himself is French. Excellent, but at $21 will be hard to compete with imports that come into our markets for much less.

A far cry from this overtly simple competitor:

2017 Isenhower Cellars Cabernet Franc Rosé Columbia Valley
Red apple skin nose and very simple/bland on the palate. Not much going on.
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by kasey.dubler » Wed May 23, 2018 12:04 pm

Jenise, while I have not tried the Chateau Beck Le Bec part of what you said stood out to me.

"Excellent, but at $21 will be hard to compete with imports that come into our markets for much less."

For American Rose wines I feel this way very often. You can get really good rose out of France for about half the price of what it would cost for the same wine made in America. I'm hoping one day an American winery makes a good rose for $10-$12, but I haven't found one yet. I've found many good rose out of America, but they are often $20-$30... Sparkling Loire Valley Rose are my go to summer wines, often $12-$15 for killer juice!

Sorry just my rant for the day.... Thank you for sharing your tasting notes!!
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Re: Wine Focus for May 2018: Northwest of North America

by Jenise » Wed May 23, 2018 1:24 pm

You're preaching to the choir on this board! We all feel that way, and collectively our palates are more tuned to the European style anyway.

However, I sympathize with American growers as I'm sure you do--it just costs more to make wine here. The only WA rose I've had that's in the same league with the Le Bec Fin is the Tranche. If you're not familiar, it's Corliss Winery's Rhone line. It's about $20/bottle but it drinks like Tempier (especially a year later), so worth it. I buy six and sock them away for the following year. However, I have a recco for you--you won't believe it. For $9.99 (Haggen price): the 2017 Chateau Ste Michelle. I kid you not. The base grape is 98% syrah, not overly fruity, dry and spicy. A really perfect deck wine at a perfect deck wine price: we've been through a case of it already.

In fact, my not-so-little neighborhood wine group had CSM's winemaker in for the evening last Friday night--Bob Bertheau. What a kick he is: funny, irreverent, just so totally unexpected from such a 'square' winery as CSM. I have new respect for their wines--need to write that up for this thread!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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