Today’s fresh sheet – reviews of recent and current Washington wine releases – includes wines from Cuneo Cellars, Crayelle Cellars, Northwest Totem Cellars, and Guardian Cellars.

Cuneo Cellars – Tre Nova

Gino Cuneo founded Cuneo Cellars in 1993, initially focusing on Nebbiolo and later adding Sangiovese to the mix. In 2002, Cuneo partnered with Jim Holmes at Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval to plant the first commercially certified Brunello clone of Sangiovese in Washington.

Several years ago the winery launched the Tre Nova brand. Tre Nova’s motto is “Bringing Grown in America, Italian style wines to the table of America.” Tre Nova focuses on Italian varietals made in a classic style. For example, the winery uses the ‘appassimento’ method – laying grape clusters out onto drying racks for several months to promote weight loss and concentrate the grapes – to produce its Amarone-style wine called ‘Seccopassa.’ To my knowledge, this is the only Washington wine produced in this style.

Cuneo Cellars is a border crosser with the winery located in Carlton, Oregon and the winery using grapes sourced from various areas of Washington State.

Tre Nova Rosato Dry Sangiovese Rose Columbia Valley 2009 $12
Rating: + (Good) Light cherry red in color. A bit reductive when initially opened, the wine opens up nicely with red fruit, watermelon, and dust. A big wine for a rose with mouthful of fruit, particularly cherry and watermelon, along with mouthwatering acidity. 100% Sangiovese. 14.0% alcohol. 121 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Tre Nova Bonatello Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2008 $15

Rating: . (Decent) Nose initially shows a lot of earth and leather along with dried cranberries, and light herbal notes. The taste has a pleasing, crisp, acid blast and a slightly bitter note on the mid-palate. 100% Sangiovese. Doebler Vineyards, Wahluke Slope and Coyote Canyon, Horse Heaven Hills. Blend of Brunello and Romagnolo clones. 14.5% alcohol. 1,400 cases produced.

Tre Nova Bonatello Riserva Sangiovese 2007 $35
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) The nose initially seems almost feral with game, blueberries, rosehips, cranberries, and smoke. A sinewy, fruit laden wine loaded with cranberries followed by a tart finish. Holds the alcohol unusually well. 100% Sangiovese. Doebler Vineyards, Wahluke Slope. Aged in one to four year-old French oak for 23 months. Cross-flow filtered prior to bottling. 15.9% alcohol. 141 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Tre Nova Secopassa Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006 $45

Rating: + (Good) Lots of fresh red fruit on the nose, including raspberries, along with licorice, herbal notes, dried orange peel, and other dried fruit. The palate is tart with a large dose of fruit and balsamic notes on the finish. Remarkably well integrated given the alcohol level. 50% Sangiovese, 50% Barbera. Ciel du Cheval Vineyard. 16.8% alcohol. 143 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Crayelle Cellars

Craig Mitrakul of Crayelle Cellars first became interested in wine as a graduate student at Cornell University studying under Thomas Henick-Kling, now the Director of Enology and Viticulture at Washington State University.

Upon graduation Mitrakul interned for a harvest at Columbia Crest. He says, “I relocated directly from the east coast and was naïve about eastern Washington. I thought all of Washington was like the west side. So the climate was not quite what I expected,” Mitrakul says. “I decided to leave and said I’d never come back.”

After brief stints in Australia, the Finger Lakes region, and Oregon, Mitrakul did indeed return to Washington to serve as assistant winemaker at Three Rivers Winery. In 2004, he moved to the Wenatchee area to assume winemaker positions for Ryan Patrick Vineyards and Saint Laurent, positions he continues to hold.

Mitrakul sought to make wine under his own label for some time, but it was not until 2007 that he had the proper confluence of factors. Reflective of his time in Australia and New York, Crayelle Cellars (a combination of the names Craig and Danielle, Mitrakul’s wife) makes two wines – a Syrah and a Riesling.

Each bottle states the winery’s goal – ‘Balance, Character, Longevity.’ Mitrakul says, “With all the distractions in the world today, everything is getting bigger, louder and flashier to get our attention. The same can be said for some wines. This is not what we are striving to do. We want wines that have elegance and pair with food.”

These are the inaugural releases from Crayelle Cellars. At a recent tasting, the subsequent vintage of both wines displayed improved focus and precision.

Crayelle Cellars Dry Riesling Washington State 2008 $16
Rating: . (Decent) Quite aromatic with abundant white peach aromas along with a touch of lime and other citrus notes. Very dry and a bit austere on the palate with a slightly bitter note running down the middle of it. 100% Riesling from Ancient Lakes area. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13.5% alcohol. 0.05% Residual Sugar. 71 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Crayelle Cellars Syrah Washington State 2007 $26
Rating: . (Decent) Nose shows abundant blueberry aromas along with milk chocolate, smoke, and a fun bit of earthy funkiness. The taste is tart with chewy fruit flavors but comes off as a bit angular. A slightly bitter note toward the finish. 100% Syrah from Ancient Lakes area. Aged in French oak for 18 months. 14.3% alcohol. 72 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars

Mike Sharadin and his wife Kate of Northwest Totem Cellars began their wine journey in the most unlikely of locations – in the transfer of the local elementary school PTA presidency. Mike Sharadin was incoming president, and Cheryl Jones was outgoing.

Jones told Sharadin about her thirty-year background with Woodinville wineries and offered to find Mike a job in the wine industry. Kate Sharadin writes, “A bond was formed and we had discovered what was to be our 4th most important rule in developing the winery…surround yourself with great people and listen!” (NB: Rule #3 is ‘Clean, clean, clean;’ Rule #2 is ‘It’s about the grapes!;’ Rule #1 is “It’s about the people.”)

Listen and focus on people is exactly what the Sharadins have done with Northwest Totem Cellars. Mike Sharadin has used Social Media to converse with and create a legion of faithful fans and followers, amassing over 5,400 Twitter followers from across the nation and around the world. These individuals regularly advocate for the Northwest Totem Cellars brand on-line.

Sharadin uses alternative closures for his wines, having read about glass stoppers within a week of having a bottle of corked Penfolds RWT. In a program designed both to reuse and promote customer loyalty, Sharadin recycles all of the stoppers returned to the winery – currently 3,000 and counting.

The Northwest Totem Cellars wines are all solidly made with good fruit aromas and flavors, although wood tannins often become a bit dominant on the reds. The standout from the lineup – and consistent crowd pleaser – is the late harvest viognier.

Northwest Totem Cellars Salish White Wine Columbia Valley 2008
Rating: . (Decent) Bright floral aromatics along with peaches and light pink grapefruit. The palate has abundant residual sugar on an enjoyable wine that is your mom’s porch sipper. 60% Riesling, 40% Viognier. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Merlot Yakima Valley 2006 $33

Rating: . (Decent) Very pleasing cedar and dry chocolate notes along with abundant cranberries and red fruit. Palate is dry with a fair amount of wood tannins along with black cherry flavors. Chandler Reach Vineyards. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Low Man Red Columbia Valley 2007 $30

Rating: . (Decent) This wine is aromatically dominated by the Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend showing black cherries, herbal notes, and high-toned anise. A fruit-filled palate that has a firm backbone of tannins. A persistent finish. Wood tannins get a bit aggressive at time. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 14.1% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2007 $33

Rating: . (Decent) Varietal aromas jump from the glass including herbal notes, pepper, and black cherry. Soft cherry fruit flavors mark the palate accented by wood tannins. 14.2% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Qo-ne Columbia Valley 2006 $30

Rating: . (Decent) Shows a fair amount of oak aromas on the nose, especially some sweet spices, along with baker’s chocolate, and cherry. The palate shows light herbal notes and looks for a little uplift in the middle. 60% Cabernet Franc, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 1% Petit Verdot. 14.2% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Potlach Columbia Valley 2006 $30

Rating: . (Decent) Abundant floral notes on the nose, particularly Stargazer lilies. On the palate, the fruit is there but seems to want a bit more acidity to brighten it and bring it into focus. Tannins come off as quite wood driven. 52% Syrah, 47% Tempranillo, 1% Petit Verdot. Elerding Vineyard. Aged 18 months in French oak (15% new). 13.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Syrah Elerding Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2006 $30

Rating: . (Decent) Shows sweet chocolate notes along with Stargazer lilies. Wood tannins dominate the palate but there’s good fruit under there. 13.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Northwest Totem Cellars Late Harvest Viognier Elerding Vineyard 2007
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with honey, peaches, crème brule, and floral notes. Rich and appealing on the palate with a sugary sweetness. A very desert enjoyable wine. 32.6 Brix at harvest. 13.6% Residual Sugar. 11% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


A 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon was the first wine that Guardian Cellars winemaker Jerry Riener ever made. Four years later Riener made one of the best wines to come out of this consistently impressive winery.

The 2007 vintage was a banner one in Washington State, and no varietal seems to display this better than Cabernet Sauvignon. This 2007 Guardian Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon is just about everything you could want in a Cabernet and everything a Cabernet should be.

Guardian Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $39
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) An arresting aroma profile that is a prototype for Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon with earth, black cherries, and light herbal notes. The palate is dry and grippy with a firm tannic backbone. Horse Heaven Hills and Red Mountain. Aged 22 months in 100% New French oak. 140 cases produced.