Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from Grand Rêve Vintners, Maison Bleue, Waters Winery, Rulo Winery, and Kaella Winery.

Grand Rêve Vintners

In a short time Grand Rêve Vintners has made a very large impression on the Washington wine scene. The winery, founded by Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson, pairs some of Washington’s best winemakers with fruit from one of the state’s best vineyards – Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval (read a Focus Report on the winery here). A hillside vineyard above Ciel also bore its first fruit in 2010. More plantings are in the works.

Grand Rêve recently released three new wines – the 2007 Collaboration Series I made by winemaker Ben Smith of Cadence Winery; 2008 Collaboration Series II made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew Winery; and 2007 Collaboration Series IV made by Carolyn Lakewold of Donedei. All are stunning, hedonistic wines, perhaps the most impressive from each winemaker yet.

The Grand Rêve wines are sold via a mailing list with a limited amount held back for select retailers. These are wines worth seeking out – and cellaring. This is also a Washington winery whose mailing list is worth getting on as Grand Rêve is going nowhere but up.

Grand Rêve Vintners Collaboration Series I Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2007 $55
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Arresting aromatics of floral notes, earth, chocolate, penetrating licorice notes, herbal notes, and a jumble of red and black fruit on a wine to linger over. The palate is dense, dark, and seamless with a firm texture of polished tannins. A hedonist’s delight. Give three plus years or decant extensively. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, and 11% Merlot. Aged 23 months in French oak (70% new). 14.8% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Ben Smith winemaker.

Grand Rêve Vintners Collaboration Series II Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2008 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A purple tinge at the rim. Leaps from the glass with game, earth, raspberries, red currant, and orange peel, along with floral and mineral notes. Aromatics so compelling its hard to take the first sip. A huge amount of inner mouth perfume. The wine is velvety with a firm grip of tannins and a long, lingering finish. Give 2 to 3 years or decant extensively. 48% Grenache, 38% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier, 1% Roussanne. 14.8% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Ross Mickel winemaker.

Grand Rêve Vintners Collaboration Series IV Red Wine Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2007 $50
Rating: ** (Exceptional) A classic Carolyn Lakewold aroma profile of cherry cola, pencil lead, a giant dollop of licorice, and a cornucopia of red and black fruit. Dense and rich with a textured feel, abundant prune flavors, and an incredibly persistent finish. 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. Aged in French (50%) and American oak. 13.7% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Carolyn Lakewold winemaker.

Maison Bleue Winery

Maison Bleue winemaker Jon Martinez started out making waves in Washington with a compelling lineup of white wines (read reviews of the 2009 releases here). However, as the winery’s new releases indicate, Martinez is equally skilled with the reds.

The 2009 Jaja Red Wine is a new addition to Maison’s lineup – a companion wine to the Jaja White. As I mentioned on Facebook, this wine is a steal at $20. The Gravière, from Upland Vineyard on Snipes Mountain, is also a new offering. This wine is fifty percent Syrah with the rest equal parts Grenache and Mourvedre. The 2009 La Montagnette Grenache is also from Upland (the previous vintage was from Alder Ridge). These two wines show that this tiny viticultural area is one to keep an eye on as an increasing number of winemakers focus on its fruit.

All of the 2009 Maison wines are youthful and exuberant with incredibly pure, rich fruit flavors. Impressively, La Montagnette and Gravière tasted as good or better after being open for five days, a sign that patience with these wines will be handsomely rewarded.

Maison Bleue Jaja Red Wine Yakima Valley 2009 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) Bright aromatics of plum, raspberries, mineral, and a bit of earthy funk. The palate is richly flavorful – fresh, tart, and delicious with abundant raspberry and pomegranate flavors and a tart, acidic finish. 50% Grenache, 50% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Maison Bleue La Montagnette Grenache Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2009 $35
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Brilliantly colored. Aromas of plum, blueberries, and raspberries along with herbal and mineral notes on a lightly aromatic wine that opens up with each swirl of the glass. Tart and richly flavorful with a persistent intensity on the mid-palate and a steely, acidic spine. Capped off by a lingering, fruit filled finish. This wine is still in its youth and will only get better with additional time in the bottle. 95% Grenache, 5% Syrah. 14.8% alcohol. 104 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Maison Bleue Gravière Red Wine Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2009 $40
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with high toned herbal notes, white pepper, wild blueberries, raspberries, chocolate, and plum on a subtle but complex aroma profile. Palate is rich and flavorful with tart, puckering, textured fruit along with licorice and spices. The fruit is incredibly clean and pure. Give time to fully blossom. 50% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 25% Mourvedre. 14.6% alcohol. 195 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Waters Winery

Waters Winery
has made its mark over the years in part by offering a series of vineyard-designated Syrahs from three Walla Walla vineyards – Forgotten Hills, Pepper Bridge, and Loess. In a recent post on the winery, I noted that making single vineyard Syrah puts one at the mercy of the whims of each vintage. This has never been more apparent than in the last several years for Waters.

Frost significantly affected Forgotten Hills Vineyard in 2008, 2009, and 2011 – not allowing winemaker Jamie Brown to make vineyard-designated wines (the juice was instead moved into the Wines of Substance Syrah). The jury is still out on whether a 2010 Forgotten Hills Syrah will make the grade. Things at Pepper Bridge Vineyard have been similarly challenging.

This makes the winery’s current releases from the 2008 vintage all the more special. The 2008 Loess Syrah, from Leonetti Cellar’s vineyard, and its Pepper Bridge counterpart are a study in contrast. The Loess is considerably more earthy with thirty percent dry stems added back, contributing to the wine’s tannins and mouthfeel. Ten percent Viognier was also added. The Pepper Bridge wine is considerably more fruit-driven, while still demonstrating earth notes. Both exhibit Waters’ house style of high acid, low oak wines.

Waters Winery Loess Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) An appealing, brambly nose with abundant floral notes, orange peel, black olive, sea air, and savory aromas. Over time meat and mineral notes come to the fore. The palate is perfumed and full of fruit – more so than some of the recent vintages – along with earth flavors crisply etched by acidity. Give some additional bottle age and consume with food bring out its best. Syrah with 10% co-fermented Viognier. Aged 16 months in neutral French oak. 14.1% alcohol. 190 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Waters Winery Pepper Bridge Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2008 $45
Rating: * (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with an under layer of dark fruit along with earth, olive, iron, and floral notes. The palate is lush with fruit with a textured mouthfeel accented by bright acidity. Capped off by a lingering finish. 100% Syrah. Aged in French oak (12% new). 14.1% alcohol. 210 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Rulo Syrah Columbia Valley 2007 $20

Walking the aisles at Trader Joe’s recently I came upon a pleasant surprise – a bottle of Rulo Winery’s 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah. Wine Enthusiast writer Paul Gregutt awarded this wine 96 points in the magazine’s August 1st issue – quite an accomplishment for a $20 wine. “Could it possibly be that good?” a reader inquired when I noted on Facebook that I had picked up the bottle.

Yes. The 2007 Rulo Syrah is that perfect nexus of an outrageously good wine at an even more outrageous price. Better yet, it will only improve with additional time in the bottle. This wine is a shot across the bow of the state’s many $30+ offerings.

Rating: ** (Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with pure aromas of blackberry, raspberries, Dimetapp, dark chocolate, mineral notes, and herbs. The palate is incredibly, incredibly dense with rich fruit flavors, almost to the point of being impenetrable. Coats the palate while still remaining light on its feet. Only gets better with more time to breath. Give 1-2 years or decant extensively. 14.5% alcohol.

Kaella Winery Rosé of Sangiovese Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain 2010 $17

Nothing says spring like the rosés hitting the shelves. Here Woodinville’s Kaella Winery harkens in the warm weather with a 100% Sangiovese from Ciel du Cheval. This wine was recently featured by Gary Vaynerchuck at Wine Library TV on its 999th show.

Rating: + (Good) A very pretty light cherry red color. Spice, strawberry, sour cherry, and bubble gum aromas rise up from the glass. The palate is off-dry and has a full feel with crisp acidity and a spice note on the finish. 13.2% alcohol. 1.65% Residual Sugar. 50 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.