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

This Fall Release marked almost one year since Corliss Estates first opened its doors to the public. Michael Corliss and Lauri Darneille founded the winery, located in a hundred year-old brick building off Highway 12 in Walla Walla. Winemaker Kendall Mix joined the team in 2004.

Unlike many wineries that lack either the space or money (or both) to cellar their wines for extended periods prior to release, Corliss holds their wines for as many as five years. Corliss and Darneille, who prefer to drink aged wines, like to hold the Corliss Estates wines until they are ready to be consumed. This is not to say the wines are anywhere near their peak upon release. Far from it. While Corliss currently lacks the track record to see how these wines will taste in, say, twenty years, these are age-worthy wines that will only benefit from additional time in the cellar. However, unlike many new releases, one can enjoy the Corliss wines when they are first released without extended decanting. While the winery’s deep pockets make this decision easier, it no doubt is appreciated by consumers. Many a wine lover has opened a high-end bottle of wine upon release only to be disappointed, as the wine is not ready for consumption. Experiences like this can create a lasting impression.

Corliss Estates’ initial releases, a 2003 Cabernet, Red Wine, and Syrah, were all sensational. This event weekend the winery released its 2004 Red Wine and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (see previous review here), both of which stand tall with the finest wines the state. Corliss also poured samples of two other wines, both new for the winery – a 2003 Cabernet Franc and a 2004 Malbec. These wines, both of which are noteworthy, are only available at the winery and select restaurants. Rounding out the evening, the winery poured a 2007 Red Blend barrel sample. This wine is something to look forward to.

Since opening their doors in 2008, Corliss, Darneille, and Mix have gone on to launch another winery, Tranche Cellars. This winery, located in the former Nicolas Cole building east of downtown Walla Walla, focuses predominantly on white wines and Rhone varieties. A third winery, Red Mountain Vineyards, will be launched later this year.

All wines sampled at 70 degrees.

Corliss Estates Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2003 $55
Rating: * (Excellent)
A peppery, earthy nose that shows some aged fruit. An intensely flavorful, rich wine with syrupy fruit. Throwing a lot of sediment. Almost overwhelms the plate with powerful fruit flavors. 83% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 5% Syrah. Stillwater, Bacchus, Sagemoor, and Northridge vineyards. Aged in 100% French Oak (50% new) for 32 months. 15.5% alcohol 105 cases produced.

Corliss Estates Malbec Columbia Valley 2004 $55
Rating: * (Excellent)
Fairly quiet on the nose with spicy red fruit. Rich and opulent on the taste. Coats the palate with cranberry and red fruit flavors. An extended finish. 76% Malbec, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Northridge, Stonetree, and Weinbau vineyards. Aged in 100% French Oak (neutral) for 32 months. 14.4% alcohol. 133 cases produced.

Corliss Estates Red Blend Columbia Valley 2007 Barrel Sample $NA
Rating: ** (Exceptional)
Light coffee bean and herbal aromas surround rich black cherries on the nose. Simultaneously bold and lithe on the palate. A rich, multiple swallow wine with chewy tannins. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 19% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Dionysus, Weinbau, Swiftwater, Stonetree, and Northridge vineyards. Aged in 100% French Oak (95% new). 14.9% alcohol. Approximately 750 cases produced. To be released in 2012.