Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases in Washington wine – includes wines from Stevens Winery, Cana’s Feast Winery, Airfield Estates, Gård Vintners, and Columbia Crest.
Stevens Winery is the work of Tim and Paige Stevens. Tim Stevens started out as a commercial artist (his love of art is apparent on the winery’s labels) before he returned to school to study English Literature. Things took a turn however in 1998 when he met winemaker Matthew Loso (then of Matthews Cellars). Loso subsequently hired Stevens as assistant winemaker. Four years later Stevens and his wife founded Stevens Winery and the rest, as they say, is history.
While some wineries have shown reluctance over the years to put Yakima Valley on their label, Stevens has firmly planted his flag in Washington’s first viticultural area with each of the wines designated as such.
All of the Stevens wines are stylistic and aromatically compelling with dense, luscious fruit flavors that are both rich and ripe but not over the top. The Stevens merlot is as good as any being produced in the state. At the entry level, the 2008 ‘Yes Oui Si’ comes from fruit declassified from the winery’s 424 program. Paige Stevens says, “I call this my eight days a week wine.” Yes!
Stevens Winery Yes Oui Si Yakima Valley 2008 $20
Rating: + (Good) Pleasing aromatics of herbal notes, black tea, and red fruit. Tart and filled with cherry flavors and chewy tannins. Capped off by a lingering finish. A lot of bang for the buck. Recommended.
Stevens Winery Merlot Yakima Valley 2008 $30
Rating: * (Excellent) Aromatically open with abundant amounts of raspberries and red vines. The fruit flavors are rich, chewy, and bright, etched by acidity. A thoroughly delicious, fruit-filled wine with enough structure that many will mistake it for a cabernet. As good a merlot as is coming out of Washington. 100% Merlot. 50% Meek, 50% DuBrul vineyards.
Stevens Winery 424 Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $35
Rating: * (Excellent) Very pretty, bright aromatics of cherry, earth, herbal notes, and red vines. On the palate, winding herbal notes with dense, chewy fruit flavors accented by minerality. A rich, flavorful, thoroughly delicious wine. 39% Cabernet Franc, 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot.
Stevens Winery Black Tongue Syrah Yakima Valley 2008 $30
Rating: * (Excellent) Leaps from the glass with blueberries, bacon fat, earth, smoke, a whiff of orange peel, and a floral top note on an aromatically compelling wine. The palate has abundant tea and savory notes.
Stevens Winery XY Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley 2007 $42
Rating: ** (Exceptional) Brooding aromatics of licorice, earth, raspberries, high-toned cherries, and tea. On the palate, plush tannins accent orange peel notes and chewy fruit flavors. An acidic kick at the end and a finish that goes on seemingly endlessly.
Cana’s Feast Winery is located in Carlton, Oregon. The winery is one of a number of Oregon wineries to cross borders into Washington for much of its fruit. Cana’s Feast makes an eclectic mix of wines that include Italian varieties (Barbera, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, and Sangiovese), Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot), as well as Syrah, Counoise, and Pinot Noir. Fruit for the many of these wines comes from Ciel du Cheval, Taptiel, and Coyote Canyon vineyards.
After starting out as a chef, winemaker Patrick Taylor moved on to study history and brewing before earning a Master of Science in Horticulture at Oregon State University. Taylor started working at Cana’s Feast in 2004 under former owner Gino Cuneo (now of Tre Nova). Taylor assumed winemaker responsibilities in 2007.
All of the Cana’s Feast wines sampled here are notable for their fresh fruit flavors and low oak profile.
Cana’s Feast Counoise Coyote Canyon Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $25
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Light in color. A lightly aromatic wine with dust, wild blueberries, raspberries, and spice. A pleasingly fresh, tart, light bodied wine full of fruit flavors and abundant sour cherry notes. Elegantly structured with an acidic kick. Alcohol shows through at times. 100% Counoise. Aged 8-10 months in French oak (15% new). 14.9% alcohol. 116 cases produced.
Cana’s Feast Barbera Columbia Valley 2007 $22
Rating: . (Decent) An aromatic wine with plum, spice, raspberries, mint, and light herbal notes. Lightly structured with a whole lot of acid. A good accent to pizza or pasta. Aged 16-18 months in French oak (25% new). 13.3% alcohol.
Cana’s Feast Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc 2008 $29
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with abundant bright cherries, mint, herbal notes, and milk chocolate on a fruit forward aroma profile. Dry and puckering on the palate with grippy and somewhat dry tannins. More about structure than fruit flavors. Ciel du Cheval (75%) and Coyote Canyon vineyards. Aged 20-22 months in French oak (57% new). 14.8% alcohol. 135 cases produced.
Cana’s Feast Primitivo Columbia Valley 2007 $25
Rating: + (Good) A brightly aromatic wine with raspberries, red vines, red currant, and light herbal notes. The palate is tart, broad, and richly flavorful. One of the more intriguing examples of this varietal I have seen out of Washington. Aged 16-18 months in French oak (14% new). 15.5% alcohol. 138 cases produced.
Airfield Estates is located in Prosser and also has a tasting room in the Schoolhouse District in Woodinville. The winery is owned by the Miller family, which has been farming in the Yakima Valley for four generations. Mike Miller is the grape grower and Marcus Miller, a graduate of the Walla Walla Community College Enology and Viticulture program, is winemaker.
Airfield is named after an airbase that was constructed on the Miller’s property during World War II to train pilots. After the war, the airbase buildings were used for the family’s farming operations. A replica of tower at the airbase located is at the Prosser tasting room.
Airfield’s first commercial plantings went into the ground in 1971. Large-scale planting began in the late 1970s after US Tobacco acquired Chateau Ste. Michelle – the destination for much of the Miller’s fruit. The Miller family now has 860 acres planted to 26 different varieties (see the vineyard map here). In addition to their own wines, these grapes go to Hogue, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Waterbrook, and Pacific Rim.
With such large acreage, Airfield uses 100% estate fruit. The wines sampled here, a small selection of their large portfolio, are all affordable, well-made wines. Of note, Airfield is one of several Washington wineries using screw caps on 100% of their wines.
Note: White wines sampled at 58 degrees.
Airfield Estates Thunderbolt Sauvignon Blanc Yakima Valley 2009 $12
Rating: . (Decent) A pleasingly aromatic wine with mineral, lime, and grass notes. The palate has a full, fleshy feel. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Runway Vineyard. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 13.7% alcohol. 903 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Fly Girl White Wine Yakima Valley 2009 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Brightly aromatic with peaches, white flowers, and mineral notes. Clean and full on the palate. 60% Viognier, 18% Chardonnay, 14% Gewurztraminer, 8% Roussanne. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. 0.6% Residual Sugar. 14.8% alcohol. 865 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Semillon Yakima Valley 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) Pale lemon yellow with just a tinge of green. Abundant hay, spice, and toasty oak notes. The palate has a full feel and creamy texture with abundant citrus and oak flavors. 100% Semillon. Runway Vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel and oak. Barrel aged in once and twice used French oak. 14.2% alcohol. 150 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Riesling Yakima Valley 2009 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Bright and fruit filled with peaches, white flowers, mango, and other tropical fruit. The palate is fruit forward with a citric finish. 100% Riesling. Black Rock Vineyard. 14.1% alcohol. 1.7% Residual Sugar. 385 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Bombshell Red Wine Yakima Valley 2009 $16
Rating: . (Decent) Abundant red fruit aromas – particularly cranberries and red currant – along with roasted nuts and spice. The palate is elegantly structured with tart, red fruit flavors. 45% Merlot, 42% Syrah, 8% Malbec. 4% Sangiovese, 2% Petit Verdot. Runway and Black Rock vineyards. Aged 11 months in French, American, and Eastern European oak (25-30% new). 15.1% alcohol. 2,443 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Mustang Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $25
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Brightly aromatic with raspberries, red currant, cranberries, and light spices. The palate is fleshy and tart. 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 8% Cinsault, 2% Counoise, 2% Mourvedre. 14.5% alcohol.
Airfield Estates Merlot Yakima Valley 2008 $22
Rating: + (Good) Bright cherry fruit, spice, red currant, and licorice notes. Very fruit forward and plush on a lightly structured wine with a tannic lick at the finish. 100% Merlot. Miller Vineyard. Aged 19 months in French, American, and Eastern European oak (25-35% new). 15.8% alcohol. 852 cases produced.
Airfield Estates Aviator Red Wine Yakima Valley 2008 $30
Rating: + (Good) Abundant fresh fruit aromas and herbal notes accented by light oak spices. On the palate, a reasonably full feel with a good amount of grip and fresh fruit flavors. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec. Runway and Black Rock vineyards. Aged 19 months in French, American, and Eastern European oak (25-35% new). 15.1% alcohol. 467 cases produced.
Gård Vintners – meaning ‘farm’ in Scandinavian – was founded by Hervey, John, Josh, and Lisa Lawrence in 2006. The Lawrences have been farming in the Royal City area for more than forty years.
Josh Lawrence serves as CFO of Lawrence Enterprises, which oversees the family’s grape, apple, cherry, wheat, and bean growing operations. This includes the winery’s two estate vineyards, Lawrence Vineyard on Royal Slope and Corfu Crossing Vineyard in the Frenchman Hills. Robert Smasne serves as winemaker.
Gård Freyja White Wine Lawrence Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $11
Rating: . (Decent) Abundant white peaches, white flowers, and honey on an aromatic wine. The palate is full with a weighted feel. Finishes slightly bitter. 49% Roussanne, 42% Riesling, 9% Pinot Gris. 13.5% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Gård Vintners Dry Riesling Lawrence Vineyards Columbia Valley 2008 $18
Rating: . (Decent) Pale lemon yellow. Aromatically the wine is marked by lees, oak, and lemon notes. Palate has abundant lemon flavors with a tingly, almost frizzante feel. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak. Aged 8 months sur lees. 252 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Gård Syrah Lawrence Vineyards Columbia Valley 2007
Rating: ./+ (Decent/Good) Abundant stem and herbal notes along with black and blue fruit, pepper, and black licorice. Palate is marked by blackberry flavors. Comes off as a bit green. 13.9% alcohol. 123 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Crest H3 Merlot Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $15
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Aromatics of dust, vanilla, oak spice, cassis, berries, and cherries. American oak aromas of coconut occasionally come to the fore. On the palate, pretty tightly wound up at present. Ramps up slowly before opening up and smoothing out with silky oak flavors. A lot of wine for the money but not for those who don’t like a fair amount of wood on their wine. Has a long life ahead of it. 92% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, and a “kiss” of Syrah. Aged 14-18 months in French and American oak (33% new). 14.5% alcohol. 40,000 cases produced.
"While some wineries have shown reluctance over the years to put Yakima Valley on their label, Stevens has firmly planted his flag in Washington’s first viticultural area with each of the wines designated as such."
Tim Stevens is a SMART man who makes fantastic wine. Bleck Tongue is Da Bomb.