Walla Walla Wines to Get to Know

Every year, the Walla Walla Wine event comes to Seattle. Think of it as a wine road show, where 50 wineries from the acclaimed region show up and pour their latest vintages. In fact, it’s kind of a big deal considering it’s about a 5 hour drive from Walla Walla to Seattle. Not to mention, there are a lot of exciting wines coming out of the region. Here are just a few highlights of this year’s tasting at McCaw Hall, as time is limited at these events.

Wine Tasting

Participating wineries include esteemed pioneers Woodward Canyon and L’Ecole Winery. Wines from these producers are consistently top quality. For this reason, I always want to taste their current releases. Then, there’s my obsession with ALL the wines from The Walls. However, with so many options on hand, I make it a point at this event to explore uncharted territory.

Red Wine Bottle

Consequently, wines such as the Figgins Estate Red are a priority. With limited production, this Washington wine is available first and foremost to those on their mailing list. So, do you blame me for wanting a taste? The 2015 bottling is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot built to go the distance. Plus, the 2015 vintage was a warm year. Take all that into account, and it’s no surprise that this wine currently has some grip. Beyond the tannic structure, cherry flavors linger on a velvety, long finish. Think of this as the Dwayne Johnson of wine with a range starting as big and muscular going to polished and smooth. Just give it some time to see how it evolves. Like Dwayne, it’s likely to make you weak in the knees!

New(ish) and Exciting

New-to-me Elephant Seven has been creating some buzz on social media, compelling me to have a sip. I sample the 2017 Cosmic Reflection, a dynamic blend of 61% XL Vineyard Mourvèdre, 39% Yellow Bird Vineyard Syrah aged in neutral oak. I pick up some spicy pepper notes and lively acidity. A visit to their newly opened tasting room in downtown Walla Walla is now on my list for our next visit to the region.

Chardonnay Wine Bottles

Of course, no Walla Walla tasting is complete without a sip (or two) of Lagana Cellars. I can always count on them to offer a refreshing palate cleanser such as their Breezy Slope Pinot Noir Rosé. The Eritage Vineyard Chardonnay, is not to be missed either. Modeled after Chablis, this sleek wine only sees stainless steel. I also have to give a shout out for the fact that these guys are rocking it on social media, so give them a follow!

Carménère

Curious about Washington Carménère, I taste all I can find. My discovery of the day is that the Walla Walla grown Carménère crafted by Balboa Winery and Watermill Winery expresses spicy white pepper notes of rotundone. These wines conjure up images of warm, exotic destinations with bold, flavorful cuisines. By contrast, the bottling by Tertulia Cellars crafted with Carménère sourced from Phinny Hill in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA expresses the classic bell pepper pyrazine notes that the grape is known for. What a difference the source makes. So, pick your bottle based on your personal preference to spice things up or veg out!

The wines of Walla Walla are not to be missed. If you didn’t taste them in Seattle, there are plenty of other opportunities coming up. Make a point to get to know them!

Walla Walla Wine Events

March 11, 2019: Walla Walla Wines @ Portland
April 14-15, 2019: Reveal Walla Walla Valley
May 3-5, 2019: Spring Release Weekend
May 7, 2019: Annual Membership Meeting
June 13-15, 2019: Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine – The World of Cabernet Sauvignon
Nov. 1-3, 2019: Fall Release Weekend
Dec. 6-8, 2019: Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend

Ammunition Wine Offers Bang for the Buck

For months I’d seen images of Ammunition Wine come across my Twitter feed. I have to admit, when I see a bunch of wine loving peeps on social media creating a buzz over a particular wine or wine brand, it piques my interest. So, I was excited when a shipment of sample bottles from the California winery arrived at my door!

The box included bottles of the Ammunition Wine Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and “The Equalizer” red blend. While each bottle contains different varieties, it could be said that all of these wines are pleasant, easy drinkers.

From the bottle: 

The Taste of Freedom

Raised in families of outdoorsmen, we created these wines as a tribute to our fathers and as an expression of the freedom that resides within the American Spirit

For some background on the founders, Briscoe Bites offers an enlightening story.

Sonoma County Pinot Noir

Food Pairings for Ammunition Wine

2017 Pinot Noir SRP $28

The Pinot Noir composed of fruit from Sonoma County comes across as bright and fruit forward with classic cherry and red fruit characteristics. We enjoyed it with my hearty Lentil Salad.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon SRP $23

Sure to be delightful with classic Cabernet Sauvignon pairings, we savored this substantial Paso Robles Cab with a substantial tomato based pasta dish.

2015 Equalizer Red Blend SRP $23

The dark and brooding Equailizer red blend is full of dried plum, red fruit leather, and tobacco notes. Those qualities make this easy weeknight drinker perfect for hearty winter braises.

If you’re making a New Year’s resolution to explore more wines, incorporate some Ammunition Wine into your experience. These quaffable wines are priced from $23-28 and offer a lot of bang for the buck. Hunt some down for yourself!

A Tale of Two Carménères

Is there a big difference between Carménère grown in Chile versus Carménère grown in Washington State? I put them to a taste test and was surprised by what I discovered.

Although Washington State is home to roughly 70 varieties, there are not a lot of Carménère vines planted. So when I received a sample bottle of a new release of the variety from Davenport Cellars I couldn’t wait to experience it! I also wanted a point of reference. So I picked up a bottle of Carménère from Chile to see how the two compare.

Washington State vs. Chile

With the first whiff of the ruby red Davenport Cellars wine, one word came to mind. Granted, it’s not something I say in everyday conversation. It is, however, a word emphasized by a sommelier when I participated in an advanced wine sensory class last winter. That word is rotundone. Simply put, it’s a peppery characteristic. In this case, it was present as a pronounced aroma of white pepper. Each delectable sip of this wine confirmed the presence of that spicy compound.

Here’s where things get interesting. When tasting the Chilean Carménère, the first thing I noticed were strong notes of bell pepper. This trait is known as pyrazine, a fancy word for an aroma compound identified by its noticeable vegetal attributes. In fact, Carménère is known for its high level of pyrazines. Sipping this wine was like tasting a bite of veggie pizza with green bell pepper, black olives, tomato sauce, and sprinkled with oregano.

What caught me by surprise was that one wine roused my senses with its vibrant spicy character while the other taunted with an intense green and herbaceous nature. If all Washington State Carménère is this distinctive and lively, I must have more!

It’s not often that I share my tasting notes and opinions of wines. What I taste and experience is just that – my experience. Nevertheless, I hope by sharing this particular tasting it will inspire others to explore Carménère for themselves.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Davenport Cellars in Woodinville Wine Country. I have long been a fan of this husband and wife owned winery.

The Wines

Davenport Cellars 2015 Carménère
Available direct from the winery for $30.
This Woodinville based boutique winery produced just 77 cases of this wine crafted with fruit from acclaimed Seven Hills Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley.

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Carménère 2017
Available online via U.S. retailers for around $8.

If this does encourage you to try Carménère, please share your findings on social either via Twitter or Instagram and #LetsTalkAboutWine!

Want to learn more? A great resource on wine is the latest Wine Folly book.

Top 10 Wines of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference

There was a lot of wine poured during last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla (understatement of the year, I’m sure!). Much of it was tasted at a rapid pace. Therefore, when I find myself still thinking of certain wines days after such an experience, I know they’re something special. These are the wines I will seek out again.

Many thanks to the sponsors of the conference, without whom we would not have been able to experience these wines.

Avennia 2016 Arnaut Syrah

Ever since this world class winery opened its doors in Woodinville, I’ve had some of its wine in my cellar. The stunning Arnaut Syrah crafted with fruit from the legendary Boushey Vineyards in the Yakima Valley speaks to the source by offering savory notes of Mediterranean herbs.

Ca’ Lojera Annata Storica 1999 Lugana DOC

The Trebbiano based wines poured by Italy’s Lugana DOC were lovely. However, this golden hued aged white wine was a showstopper.

Force Majeure 2016 SJR Vineyard Syrah

Truly, all of the Force Majeure wines I was fortunate to taste were stellar. This Syrah, however, stood out because of its distinctive flinty and smoky notes.

g. Cuneo Cellars Ripasso

This is a labor intensive wine crafted in the traditional Italian method of drying out grapes to concentrate flavors. Gino Cuneo says it’s the only wine in Washington made in this style.

LAN Rioja Gran Reserva

I sidestepped into the room where LAN Rioja was being poured on my way to the Cheeses of Europe seminar. It turns out that the LAN Rioja Gran Reserva pairs incredibly well with Mimolette cheese.

Laxas Sensum Brut 2016

Sparkling Albarino is extremely limited in production. As such, this wine from Rias Baixas is rarely experienced. Lucky for me the seat next to me was vacant, so I was able to taste twice as much of this refreshing quaffer.

Mullan Road Cellars 2015 Red Blend

This wine crafted with fruit from Washington State’s Columbia Valley oozes chocolate notes. Need I say more?

Robert Weil 2016 Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese

I’ve always adored German Riesling and wines like this make me love it even more. With sustainable farming, Asian pear notes, and a honeyed finish what’s not to love?

Otis Kenyon 2017 Rousanne

This Washington wine was poured during the speed tasting rounds, and my tweet says, “a more crisp version of Roussanne from @otiskenyonwine! I’m thinking scallops and vanilla risotto for a pairing.” To which Otis Kenyon replied, “Yes please! You cook, we’ll bring the wine!” I can’t wait.

For a deeper dive into this wine check out Getting Geeky with Otis Kenyon Roussanne on the Spitbucket blog.

The Walls 2016 Concrete Mama Syrah

When your friends see that you have a bottle of wine from The Walls in your hand, they get even more friendly! This Walla Walla Valley wine was the highlight of our evening during the closing dinner.

Want more? Check out Decanted Podcast’s Wines We Loved from the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Resources

Wine Bloggers Conference
Visit Walla Walla
Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance
Avennia
Consorzio Tutela Lugana
Force Majeure
g. Cuneo Cellars
Bodegas LAN
Rias Baixas
Mullan Road Cellars
Loosen Bros. USA
Otis Kenyon
The Walls