Today’s Fresh Sheet – reviews of new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from Olsen Estates, Gilbert Cellars, Silvara Vineyards, Gramercy Cellars, and Waterbrook.

Olsen Estates

Though it had long been rumored, it was still with great sadness that I read recently about the closing of Prosser’s Olsen Estates (see an article by Wine Press Northwest here and Paul Gregutt here). I first tasted two of the Olsen Estates wines at a Seattle Uncorked Debuts & Discoveries event back in 2009. And what a discovery they were. The two wines that I had – the 2007 Chardonnay and Petit Verdot – were among the best I have had of these particular varietals from Washington. Long-time readers of the blog will also remember that the winery’s 2007 Heritage Syrah came in 2nd in the 2009 Reader Survey Wine of the Year.

I noted back in my original post on the winery that the wines were somewhat difficult to find. Alas, distribution problems and the Great Recession led to the winery’s demise. This is beyond a shame. The Olsens are a multi-generational farming family and the wines, crafted by Kyle Johnson, were top notch. Thankfully, the Olsens will continue to grow fruit in the Yakima Valley from their large vineyard holdings. Fruit from these vineyards are going into an increasing number of high profile wines, including Betz Family Winery where Olsen fruit makes up part of the Besoleil.

The hallmark of the Olsen Estates wines is rich, intense fruit flavors. While these wines will be the last, they are still wines to seek out. Those listed below are at the discounted price after the announcement of the winery’s closure except where noted.

We wish them well.

Olsen Estates Merlot Yakima Valley 2008 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color. Aromas of coffee bean, currant, red fruit, and herbal notes rise up from the glass. The palate has rich, voluptuous fruit and a bit lighter structure than seen in many Washington Merlots. 100% Merlot. Aged in French oak (100% new) for 16 months. 14.4% alcohol. 337 cases produced.

Olsen Estates Golden Berry Select Riesling Yakima Valley 2007 $55
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Beautifully rich aromatics of sugared pineapple and apricots. The palate is rich and thick, layered with sugar and sweet fruit flavors. You can literally feel this wine slide down your throat it is so thick. 46.6% Residual Sugar. 7.1% alcohol. 120 cases produced.

Olsen Estates Grenache Vineyard Select Yakima Valley 2008 $38
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromas of fresh raspberry compote and red currant mix with spice. The palate has a textured feel with rich, ripe red fruit flavors. 100% Grenache. Aged in French oak for 16 months. 15.4% alcohol. Note: Price is prior to closure announcement.

Olsen Estates Petit Verdot Yakima Valley 2008 $38
Rating: * (Excellent) Somewhat closed up aromatically at present with earth, blackberry, stem notes, and licorice. The palate is rich and luscious with layers of intense fruit flavors. 100% Petit Verdot. Aged in French oak (78% new) for 16 months. 14.4% alcohol. 221 cases produced. Note: Price is prior to closure announcement.

Olsen Estates Malbec Yakima Valley 2008 $38
Rating: * (Excellent) A very pretty, varietally correct aroma profile with spicy plum and pepper. On the palate, intensely rich and focused fruit flavors. Note: Price is prior to closure announcement.

Gilbert Cellars

Gilbert Cellars is one of a handful of wineries located in downtown Yakima. The Gilbert family’s roots in the Yakima Valley date back to 1897. With a long agrarian history, the family planted their first wine grapes in 2003. The Gilberts now use fruit from vineyards in the Wahluke Slope, Yakima Valley, and Horse Heaven Hills. Of note, the winery’s tasting room features live music and seasonal food specials.

Gilbert Cellars Rose of Mourvedre Wahluke Slope 2009 $15
Rating: . (Decent) Appealing aromas of strawberry, spice, and mineral. The palate is dry and tart with a slightly bitter note toward the finish. 100% Mourvedre. 24k vineyard. 13.5% alcohol. 270 cases produced.

Gilbert Cellars Unoaked Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $20
Rating: . (Decent) Clear in color. Restrained aromatics marked by hay, citrus notes, and spice. The palate has abundant Granny Smith apple flavors. 100% Chardonnay. Four Feathers Vineyard. 13.5% alcohol. 268 cases produced.

Gilbert Cellars Riesling Columbia Valley 2008 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Light diesel aromas mix with floral notes and freshly cut ripe apples. The palate has a fair amount of sweetness and abundant apple flavors. 100% Riesling. Stone Ridge Vineyard. 12.5% alcohol. 328 cases produced.

Gilbert Cellars Allobroges Wahluke Slope 2007 $20
Rating: + (Good) Aromatics are marked by sweet oak spices, light game, pepper, toast, and red fruit. The palate is extremely dry with abundant fresh red fruit flavors. Tannins are a bit drying. 57% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache.

Gilbert Cellars Estate Syrah Wahluke Slope 2007 $24
Rating: . (Decent) Aromatics of smoke, embers, and blueberries along with a touch of raspberries. The tannins come off as quite aggressive and oak make it a bit difficult to get at the fruit at times. Doc Stewart Vineyard.

Gilbert Cellars Estate Malbec Wahluke Slope 2007 $24
Rating: . (Decent) Aromatics marked by dark fruit, plum, black licorice, and pepper. The palate shows a lot of oak influence. Tannins come off as quite aggressive.

Gilbert Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2007 $28
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) A clean aroma profile with blackberries, raspberries, and licorice. The palate has a rich, full feel with grippy tannins and a tart finish. Oak gets a bit intense at times.

Gilbert Cellars Petit Verdot Wahluke Slope 2007 $36
Rating: + (Good) An appealing aroma profile with floral notes and earth with a layer of cherry fruit underneath. Big, bold and tart on the palate with a firm scaffolding of tannins.

Silvara Vineyards

Silvara Vineyards, which opened in October of 2009, is one of the newer – and more promising – wineries to open up in the Leavenworth area of late. The winery was founded by Gary Seidler – a UC Davis graduate – and Cindy Rarick.

Silvara is located two miles east of town and is perched high on a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding area. The grounds are immaculately landscaped and the tasting room takes advantage of the area’s natural beauty. The winery has plans for a small vineyard at the site along with a wine cave.

Silvara produces 1,200 cases annually with the goal of increasing to 3,000 over time.

Silvara Vineyards Riesling Washington State 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) Aromatics are marked by yellow and red apples along with light tropical fruit. Clean, crisp, and almost completely dry on the palate.

Silvara Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Wahluke Slope 2007 $30
Rating: + (Good) Please oak spices pair with cherries, milk chocolate, red fruit, and vanilla. The palate shows a fair amount of oak but its well integrated and the fruit flavors are fresh and lively. Quite light bodied for a cabernet.


While Gramercy Cellars has made its name on the strength of its dazzling Syrahs (although the Cabernet, Grenache, and Tempranillo have devoted followings as well), the winery actually works with more Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals than anything else at present. Gramercy works with building blocks from throughout Washington’s numerous growing areas. The results have previously gone into the winery’s Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Whatever hasn’t fit into this program has gone off into the ethos. With the Lower East Cabernet, Gramercy has now taken the best of rest and put it out in a Cabernet of both high quality and a compelling price point.

Gramercy Cellars Lower East Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Columbia Valley $32
Rating: * (Excellent) The aromatics are restrained with dust, ripe cherries, anise, mint and a dusting of dry chocolate. The palate is dry with underlayers of herbal notes and cherry, accented by tart acidity and silky tannins and a slightly sour finish. Cabernet, Merlot. 13.9% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Sample provided by winery

The 2008 offering of the Waterbrook Melange Noir displays a radical label change for the winery, which has gone with a cleaner, more classic style.

Waterbrook Winery Melange Noir Columbia Valley 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) Lightly aromatic with raspberries, black cherries, light herbal notes, and a kiss of chocolate. On the taste, tart and forward on the oak but also shows pleasing fruit flavors. Opens up nicely. Finishes a little short. 33% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 11% Malbec, 7% Sangiovese, and 11% other varieties (Tempranillo, PV, Cab Franc, Counoise, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Petit Syrah, Carignan). Aged in American, French, and Hungarian oak (23% new). 13.4% alcohol. 25,500 cases produced.