Matthews Estate, owned by Cliff and Diane Otis and Jim Rubstello, had its first commercial vintage in 1994. The winery is located just north of the Schoolhouse District in Woodinville.
Aryn Morell serves as winemaker. Morell grew up in Bremerton before going on to study chemistry at UNLV. While he originally planned to become a chemical engineer, his brother – a chef in Napa Valley – soon lured him to the world of wine.
Morell started out doing laboratory analysis, ultimately working at Golden State Vintners, Edgewood Estates, and Silver Oak. From there he went on to work for a consulting company that focused on, “solving the world’s wine problems.”
Looking for a change from the constant travel and wanting to return to the Pacific Northwest, Morell was hired on at Matthews in 2007 and assumed the role of winemaker in 2008. Morell also spends a great deal of his time focusing on viticulture at the numerous vineyard blocks the winery works with.
Morell says his focus has been on making wines that are “less forward, more elegant.” Part of this has involved making adjustments in the vineyard to improve tannin management.
Matthews currently makes approximately 4,000 cases annually. The winery recently announced that it was moving its production from Woodinville to eastern Washington with Morell moving into the role of consulting winemaker. Morell’s goal is to be both closer to the vineyards and start a consulting company in the Walla Walla Valley.
Of note, this is the winery’s first vintage of Chardonnay and the second vintage of the Blackboard Red.
Matthews Estate Sauvignon Blanc Columbia Valley 2009 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) Very pretty varietal aromatics of citrus, gooseberry, and touches of tropical fruit. Tart and refreshing on the palate crisp acidity and abundant citrus flavors. 93% Sauvignon Blanc, 7% Semillon. Sagemoor, Stillwater Creek, Frenchman Hills, and Rosebud vineyards. Aged 7 months in 70% stainless, 25% concrete, and 5% barrel. 874 cases produced. Sampled at 58 degrees.
Matthews Estate Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $30
Rating: + (Good) Pale lemon yellow. Delicate aromas of toast, spice, and hay. A nicely etched palate with a textured feel accented by tropical fruit on the finish. 100% Chardonnay. Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Concrete fermented and then 14 months in new French oak. 80% through malolactic fermentation. 61 cases produced. Sampled at 58 degrees.
Matthews Estate Blackboard Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $22
Rating: + (Good) Abundant pepper notes along with high-toned herbal notes, black fruit, licorice, black tea, and spice. Tart with a healthy amount of tannic grip. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Malbec, and 1.5% Petit Verdot. 52% Horse Heaven Hills, 48% Columbia Valley. Aged 20 months in neutral French oak. 851 cases produced. Recommended
Matthews Estate Claret Columbia Valley 2007 $35
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Dark in color with tinges of red at the rim. Aromas of black fruit, barrel spice, light herbal notes, and licorice. Palate is big and opulent with a firm grip of tannins. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, and 2% Malbec. Hedges, Klipsun, Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak (40% new). 14.6% alcohol. 1,330 cases produced.
Matthews Estate Syrah Columbia Valley 2008 $39
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color with a purple tinge at the rim. Aromatically elusive and brooding with mineral notes, blackberries, currant, and touches of char. A silky, textured feel to the palate with soft tannins and abundant black fruit flavors. 100% Syrah. Stilllwater Creek, Lawrence, and Va Piano vineyards. Aged 16 months in once used French oak. 14.9% alcohol. 160 cases produced.
Matthews Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $70
Rating: * (Excellent) Abundant licorice notes along with black fruit, pencil shavings, and light butterscotch. On the palate, a big, bold grippy example of Cabernet Sauvignon. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Hedges and Stillwater Creek vineyards. Aged 22 months in new French 500L barrel. 49 cases produced.
Long Shadows is among the more ambitious projects in Washington. The winery, founded by former Stimson Lane CEO Allen Shoup, pairs eight of the world’s top winemakers with Washington State fruit. Each winemaker makes one wine with resident winemaker Gilles Nicault serving as the guiding hand.
In addition to using top vineyard sources Boushey, Alder Ridge, Sagemoor, Stone Tree, and Taptiel, the winery recently purchased Wallula Vineyard. This breathtaking vineyard was subsequently renamed ‘The Benches’ for the twenty-seven benches ranging from 1,400 feet to the base of the Columbia River.
The Chester Kidder is Nicault’s own wine. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, the wine sees a remarkable 40 days of skin contact during fermentation and is aged for 30 months in oak. The result is a thick, lush, hedonistic wine that – while already five years old – has a long life ahead of it.
The Pedestal is the work of flying winemaker Michel Rolland. The wine is whole berry fermented in massive 1,500-gallon upright wood tanks that were brought over from Bordeaux. The grapes receive extended maceration before being aged for 20 months in mostly new French oak. The result is a wine that displays Rolland’s full throttle style.
Long Shadows Chester-Kidder Red Wine Columbia Valley 2006 $50
Rating: * (Excellent) An intriguing, somewhat subdued aroma profile with brambly berries, black cherry, tobacco and a dusting of chocolate. In contrast, the palate is rich, thick, and lush with tart, tangy fruit flavors and a lingering finish. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Syrah, 10% Petit Verdot, and 9% Cabernet Franc. Red Mountain, Candy Mountain, Stillwater Creek, 27 Benches, and Weinbau vineyards. Aged 30 months in tight-grained French oak and a limited amount of Hungarian. 14.9% alcohol. 1,689 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot Columbia Valley 2007 $55
Rating: */** (Excellent/Exceptional) Very dark in color. Abundant stewed raspberries, dark chocolate, and cigar box along with whiffs of anise. Rich and lush with silky fruit flavors, a creamy texture, and a firm grip on tannins. A lingering, fruit filled finish with a lick of cranberry. This is far from a shy wine and leans to the right side of hedonism. Needs some additional time to show its best. 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Taptiel, Conner Lee, Dionysus, The Benches, and Weinbau vineyards. 14.7% alcohol. 2,005 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Covington Cellars was founded in 2002 by David and Cindy Lawson as the 19th winery in Woodinville (the area now has over 80 wineries and tasting rooms). The winery was named after the couple’s hometown of Covington, Washington.
Morgan Lee serves as winemaker. Lee grew up in Michigan and studied hospitality management at Purdue. At Purdue he found himself spending increasing amounts of time at the enology lab. Lee ultimately took a semester off to work at Michigan’s Tabor Hill Winery.
He subsequently interviewed at Columbia Crest for an internship position, bonding with now head winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca about the Argentinean soccer team. Lee packed up and moved to an apartment in Kennewick, Washington site unseen in August of that year.
Lee stayed on at Columbia Crest through the 2006 harvest when he took a position at Covington in 2007. He assumed winemaking responsibilities in 2009.
Reflective of the Lawson’s personal tastes, Covington has always had a strong focus on Sangiovese and Sangiovese blends. However, the standout from the current releases is the 2007 Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – as good a wine as Covington has made.
Covington Cellars Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2008 $25
Rating: + (Good) An intriguing aroma profile with burnt embers, dust, leather, sweet spices, and cranberry. Quite tart, juicy, acidic, and light bodied on the palate. Lingers on the finish. An intriguing bottle of a seldom seen varietal and a perfect wine to pair with pizza or pasta. Seven Hills Vineyard. 14% alcohol. 350 cases produced.
Covington Cellars Prima Miscela Red Wine Columbia Valley 2007 $35
Rating: + (Good) A moderately aromatic wine with earth, cherry, licorice, herbal notes, and spice. Tart and acidic on the palate with a big lick of cranberry flavors on the finish. 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. Seven Hills, Kiona, and Klipsun vineyards. 13.9%. 215 cases produced.
Covington Cellars Roughhouse Red Red Wine 2007 $20
Rating: + (Good) Aromas of cherry, raspberry, licorice and spice with an underlayer of chocolate. Bright, tart, and acidic on the palate with chewy tannins. Flattens out a bit toward the finish. 75% Merlot, 10% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. 300 cases produced. Recommended
Covington Cellars Starr Red Wine Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007 $29
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color. Smoky aromatics on a wine full of blueberry pie, chocolate, and cooking spices. A rich wine that remains light on its feet with sinewy fruit flavors. 78% Syrah, 22% Sangiovese. 182 cases produced. 14.5% alcohol.
Covington Cellars Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2008 $35
Rating: * (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine marked by milk chocolate, herbal notes, and cherry. Medium-bodied and silky on the palate with plush tannins and spritely acidity. A lingering finish. 100% Cabernet Franc. 75% Olsen, 25% Kiona. 334 cases produced.
Covington Cellars Syrah Columbia Valley 2007 $45
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Dark in color. An aromatic wine with blueberry syrup, chocolate, and light game notes. Deft on its feet with a lingering, chocolate laden finish. 100% Syrah. Smasne, Kestrel, Kiona, Seven Hills, and Klipsun vineyards. 14.4% alcohol. 93 cases produced.
Covington Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2007 $60
Rating: */** (Exceptional) Dark and seductive with aromas of earth, dark fruit, and floral notes with a light herbal accent. Brooding on the palate with dark fruit, dry chocolate, chalky tannins and a lingering, mineral laden finish. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 30 months in French oak.
Pondera Winery, named after a Latin word meaning ‘balance,’ is located in Woodinville’s Warehouse District. The winery was founded by Shane Howard.
Howard attributes a Barolo he drank in Paris as his first inspiration, saying “it was the perfect wine at the perfect time with great food.” After reading through books and volunteering at area wineries, Howard started the winery in 2005 with the goal of focusing on Bordeaux varietals.
Pondera sources fruit from Dineen, Conner Lee, Stillwater Creek, and Wallula. Of note, the wines all have an intriguingly tactile label.
Pondera produces 1,200 cases annually.
Pondera Reserve Malbec Columbia Valley 2008 $34
Rating: + (Good) Dark in color with purple at the rim. At first comes off as reductive and then the march of the Malbec aromas come on with peppered plum, whiffs of orange peel, and, interestingly, sliced black olive. Palate has a full feel with a lot of plum flavors, chalky tannins, and a lingering finish. 88% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stillwater Creek Vineyard. 14.5% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Pondera Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2008 $28
Rating: + (Good) Starts off with black olive juice followed by herbal notes, green olive, black cherry, and wood spice. A thick, viscous feel to the palate. 80% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Dineen Family Vineyards. 14.6% alcohol. 120 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Pondera Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2007 $33
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with black cherry, licorice, sliced black olive, and cough syrup. Thick and weighted on the palate with abundant cherry flavors and a lingering finish full of medicine cabinet notes. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stillwater Creek and Wallula vineyards. 55 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Buried Cane is part of Middleton Family Wines. Middleton is owner of Washington’s Cadaretta as well as California’s Clayhouse and Adobe. The winery is named after the vineyard practice of burying canes to protect them from the cold.
The Middleton family’s roots in Washington date back to 1898 when they started a lumber business in Aberdeen, Washington. In a callout to the family history, the Buried Cane wines have woodcut art on the labels and the wines are named after terms in woodcut printing.
All of the Buried Cane wines are bottled under screw cap at prices both consumer friendly and aimed at restaurant glass pours.
Buried Cane Single Leaf Riesling Columbia Valley 2009 $12
Rating: + (Good) A moderately aromatic wine marked by white peaches, lime, and touches of tropical fruit. Palate is just a tad off dry with a full feel redolent with lime flavors. 100% Riesling. Aged in stainless steel. 12.7% alcohol. 0.70% Residual Sugar. 1,927 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Buried Cane White Line No Oak Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2009 $14
Rating: + (Good) Pale in color with a slight green tinge. A lightly aromatic wine marked by hay and lemon notes. Palate is crisp and clean with green apple flavors, a full mouthfeel, and touches of banana on the finish. An enjoyable, well priced wine. 100% Chardonnay. 95% Arete Vineyard, 5% Champoux vineyard. Aged in stainless steel. 13.3% alcohol. 3,460 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended
Buried Cane Heartwood Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $25
Rating: . (Decent) Toasty aromas of roasted nuts, vanilla, and light red fruit. Palate is tart and soft with an elegant structure and light red fruit flavors. 78% Syrah (Stone Tree, Pepper Bridge, and Wallula vineyards), 10% Grenache (Alder Ridge), 7% Mourvedre (Alder Ridge), 5% Counoise (Alice). 14.1% alcohol. 514 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Buried Cane Roughout Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $14
Rating: . (Decent) An aromatic wine marked by bell pepper, black pepper, tea leaves, and light black cherries. Palate is light bodied with chalky tannins and a slightly sweet feel. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (Alice, Arete), 23% Merlot (Florence and Virginia, Preston), 2% Syrah (Gamache). 13.4% alcohol. 5,628 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.