Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – contains wines from Sparkman Cellars, Mark Ryan Winery, Ross Andrew Winery, SuLei Cellars, and Whitestone Winery.

Sparkman Cellars

I sung the praises of Sparkman Cellars recently. I am here to sing them again on two new releases from the winery.

The first is the 2008 Kindred Red Wine. A quick look at the fruit sources tells you most of what you need to know about this wine – DuBrul, Hedges, Klipsun, Kiona, Sheridan, and Two Blondes. The price point tells you the rest – $20.

The 2008 Ruckus is mostly Syrah with a healthy dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit all comes from Klipsun – one of Red Mountain’s finest. The result is an incredibly compelling expression of Red Mountain fruit. At $32, this is a run-don’t-walk wine. Check that. Get in the car and drive.

Sparkman Cellars Kindred Red Blend Columbia Valley 2008 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) A complex aroma profile of red and black fruit along with earth and mineral notes. The palate has a tight core of cherry fruit wrapped in chocolate along with firm tannins. An outrageous value at this price. 57% Merlot (DuBrul, Hedges, Klipsun), 22% Cabernet Sauvignon (Sheridan, Two Blondes), 13% Cabernet Franc (Two Blondes, Kiona), 8% Malbec (Klipsun). Sampled at 60 degrees.

Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain 2008 $32
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Locked up tight at present with blackberries, blueberries, game, floral notes, and penetrating mineral aromas. On the palate, a big, rich, chewy wine with expansive fruit flavors, a dense core of tannins, and a seemingly endless finish. 87% Klipsun Syrah, 13% Klipsun Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 15 months in French oak (45% new). 14.9% alcohol. 223 cases produced. Sampled at 60 degrees (suggested 62).

Mark Ryan Winery

Mark McNeilly of Mark Ryan Winery continues his tradition of big, bold, in-your-face wines with the 2008 vintage releases. Of note, McNeilly has a new second label wine – ‘The Vincent’, which is a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Also, The Dissident is now under the Mark Ryan label.

Mark Ryan Winery ‘The Dissident’ Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $32
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) This is the best Dissident offering from Mark Ryan yet. The wine is deliciously rich with raspberries, chocolate, and cherries accented by herbal flavors. 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 20% Merlot.

Board Track Racer ‘The Vincent’ Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $20
Rating: + (Good) Pretty floral aromatics mix with game and black fruit. The palate is loaded with blackberry, cherry flavors, and mint along with tacky tannins. A lot of wine for the money. 60% Syrah, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Recommended.

Mark Ryan Winery ‘Wild Eyed’ Syrah Red Mountain 2008 $48
Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatic wine with blackberry compote, mineral, and light game. The palate is rich with black fruit flavors and chewy tannins.

Mark Ryan Winery Long Haul Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) An expressive wine with mineral, carob, rose hips, and high toned red fruit. The palate is rich and dense with sinewy red fruit flavors and a firm scaffolding of tannins. 63% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec.

Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromatics of high toned red fruit along with rose hips and raspberries. Big and bold on the palate with chalky tannins. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot, and 2% Malbec.

Mark Ryan Winery Water Witch Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2008 $45
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Aromas of anise, spice, and black cherry rise up from the glass. A big wine full of grip with persistent red fruit flavors. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 4% Malbec.

Ross Andrew Winery

Yesterday I wrote about the Glaze Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery. Today, we look at a few current releases from Mickel’s winery.

While each wine below shows a great deal of finesse, the most compelling of the group is the 2008 Boushey Syrah. Syrah has made a name for itself of late in Washington, and Boushey Vineyard is unquestionably one of the state’s best sites. Here Mickel provides a beautiful reflection of the vineyard that comes in at a price point a good bit lower than many you will find on the shelves. This wine also displays excellent long-term cellaring potential.

Ross Andrew Winery Pinot Gris Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2009 $18
Rating: * (Excellent) Loads of Granny Smith apples and nectarines on this plush, forward wine that shows mouthwatering acidity and beautiful mineral accents. 100% Pinot Gris (1975 block). Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 12.5% alcohol. 551 cases produced. Sampled at 60 degrees.

Ross Andrew Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2006 $35
Rating: * (Excellent) Appealing aromatics of toast, roasted nuts, char, and red and black fruit. Winding fruit flavors are accented by herbal notes accompanied by a stiff tannin profile. The finish lingers on this beautifully balanced wine. 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot. Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval and Alder Ridge vineyards. Aged in French oak for 19 months. 13.9% alcohol.

Ross Andrew Winery Syrah Boushey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008 $34
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Compelling, Boushey-only aromatics of funk, char, roasted meat, blueberries, and hints of violets. Dense and rich fruit flavors on a wine with vibrant acidity. Drinks above its price point and has a very long life ahead of it. Aged 14 months in French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 551 cases produced.

SuLei Cellars

SuLei Cellars (pronounced soo-lay) was founded by winemaker Tanya Woodley and Elaine Jomwe. The word SuLei is both intended to express the partnership of the proprietors and also to serve as a synonym for Sulis Minerva, a Celtic Mother Goddess.

Woodley is a graduate of the Walla Walla Community College’s Enology & Viticulture program and spent four years under Steve Lessard at Whitman Cellars (recently closed) before starting the winery.

SuLei Cellars Roussanne Walla Walla Valley 2009 $18
Rating: + (Good) Lightly aromatic with hay, floral, and mineral notes. Tart, rounded, and acidic on the palate. Cockburn Hills Vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel. Aged in neutral French oak. 13.2% alcohol. 115 cases produced.

SuLei Cellars Roller Girl Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2008 $17
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Aromatics show a fair amount of oak influence along with cherry and abundant herbal notes, which occasionally come off as green. The palate is nicely balanced with refreshingly low alcohol. 48% Cabernet Franc, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot. Aged in French and American oak (50% new). Lodmell and Les Collines vineyards. 13.7% alcohol. 115 cases produced. Sampled at 70 degrees.

SuLei Cellars Beet Red Red Wine Walla Walla Valley 2007 $19
Rating: + (Good) Dark in color. Shows abundant cherry aromas, light green notes, and pencil shavings. The palate has rich, pure cherry fruit flavors and a very pretty balance. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Syrah. Frol, Les Collines, and Valley Grove vineyards. 500 cases produced.


Whitestone Cabernet Sauvignon Haig Family Estate Wine Lake Roosevelt Shores Vineyard Columbia Valley 2007 $28
Rating: . (Decent) Abundant smoke, toast, spice, and herbal notes with an underlayer of cherry fruit and black licorice. Palate brings a lot of cherry fruit flavors along with licorice. Loses some of its rhythm about half way through. 14.1% alcohol.