Reminder that this month’s Virtual Tasting is Thursday 2/25 from 7-9pm Pacific Time. Read about it here.

This is part of a report on 2009 Walla Walla Fall Release Weekend. Download a complete .pdf copy of the report here.

Woodward Canyon was established in 1981 by Rick Small and Darcey Fugman-Small. As one of the earliest wineries in the Walla Walla Valley (the winery itself is located in Lowden), Woodward Canyon has a track record of quality that few Washington wineries can boast.

Although Woodward Canyon crafts excellent white wines, it is the reds the winery is best known for. These wines possess tremendous cellaring potential. In terms of red wines, Woodward Canyon produces wines across the range of price points. At the low end is the Nelms Road label which accounts for about forty percent of the winery’s total production. Woodward Canyon also produces an estate Dolcetto ($20, not sampled here), an Italian variety rarely seen in Washington. For those visiting the winery, Woodward Canyon also makes a Red Wine ($20) from declassified barrels. This wine is among the best values in the state.

At the higher end, Woodward Canyon also has an impressive lineup. The Artist Series – now in its fifteenth release – features a new label each year with work from a Pacific Northwest artist. The Estate Red is a Bordeaux blend that features a large percentage of Cabernet Franc, Woodward Canyon’s tribute to Cheval Blanc. The winery also makes a vineyard-designated bottling from Charbonneau Vineyard in years that warrant it. Woodward Canyon has been using fruit from this vineyard, located in the northwestern section of Walla Walla County, since 1984. The 2007 vintage Charbonneau, released Fall Release Weekend, is another exceptional wine from this vineyard.

If there is one criticism of Woodward Canyon, it is that many of their reds take several years to become approachable. However, for those with the patience, the wines are more than worth the wait. More recent vintages seem to show a bit better in their youth without losing their long-term potential.

Woodward Canyon also produces high quality white wines. Unfortunately, those sampled on this visit were too warm (73 degrees) to be properly evaluated and are therefore not listed here.

Woodward Canyon produces approximately 17,000 cases annually. Approximately 7,000 cases of this are under the Nelms Road label. All wines sampled at 73 degrees.

Woodward Canyon Red Wine NV $19
Rating: +
(Good) A whole lot of barrel aromas on the nose along with jammy fruit. Tart on the palate with red licorice and red, brambly fruit. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 3% Barbera, 2% Grenache, 2% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol.

Nelms Road Merlot Washington State 2007 $20
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Not a particularly aromatic nose that is marked by mint, dust, and spice. Sharp and biting on the palate, but perhaps due to the high temperature. 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah, 3% Barbera, and 3% Dolcetto. Spring Creek, Lodmell, Champoux, DuBrul, Sagemoor, and Woodward Canyon vineyards. 14.1% alcohol. 2,679 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Artist Series #15 Cabernet Sauvignon WA State 2006 $49
* (Excellent) Nose marked by mint, tobacco leaf, pencil shavings, and red, jammy fruit. Plush and full on the palate. A very enjoyable wine. Shows a bit of alcohol at this temperature. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, and 1% Merlot. Champoux, DuBrul, Sagemoor, Woodward Canyon Estate, and Charbonneau Vineyards. 14.5% alcohol. 2,472 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Estate Red Walla Walla Valley 2006 $59
*/** (Excellent/Exceptional) Lots of cherry, Red Vines, and jammy red fruit on the nose. Packed full of fruit and tannins on the taste. Palate is a bit compact at the moment but will spread out. Give 3-5 years. 42% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Petit Verdot. 100% Estate vineyard. 14.8% alcohol. 294 cases produced.

Woodward Canyon Charbonneau Red Wine Walla Walla County 2007 $69
Rating: **
(Exceptional) A bit muted on the nose at present with graphite, raspberries, and other red fruit. The taste delivers with abundant red fruit and an endless finish. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot. 100% Charbonneau Vineyard. 13.8% alcohol. 150 cases produced.