Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent Washington wine releases – includes wines from Robert Ramsay Cellars, Wind Rose Cellars, and Columbia Crest.

Robert Ramsay Cellars

Robert Ramsay Cellars was founded by winemaker Bob Harris and Lauren Vogut. The winery, located in the Woodinville Warehouse District, is named after Harris’ great uncle Mason Ramsay.

Harris had a bottle of Côte-Rôtie at an impressionable age. “I claim twenty-one when I talk about it in public,” Harris says with a chuckle. “That bottle of wine put wine on the map for me.”

Harris started out making beer in college, then moved on to hard cider. “Wine was just kind of naturally the next step,” he says.

In terms of starting a commercial winery Harris, who works in AT&T’s software group says, “You can’t make wine as a hobbyist. It just doesn’t work. You go to buy grapes and people ask how many tons you want.”

Harris started Robert Ramsay Cellars in 2005. Prior to this he was winemaker at Coeur d’Alene Cellars. Harris credits Nicolas Quille of Pacific Rim, Ron Coleman at Tamarack Cellars, Chuck Reininger of Reininger Winery, and Kristina Mielke-van Löben Sels at Arbor Crest for helping him get started. “I have no training other than those people who helped me,” Harris says. “Other than that it’s all hedonism.”

Harris sources fruit from Boushey, Phinney Hill, McKinley, and Upland. “I love the relationship part with the farmers. That’s part of the fun.” In terms of philosophy, he focuses on making hedonistic wines. Harris also tries to be non-interventionist. “I try to make every adjustment I’m going to make to a wine on the crushpad,” he says.

Robert Ramsay Cellars produces 1,500 cases annually.

Robert Ramsay Cellars Mourvedre McKinley Springs Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $42
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with abundant white pepper, savory notes, and an underlayer of plummy fruit. Palate has an outer layer of chocolate flavors with a tart inner core of cherry and plum flavors accented by floral notes. Among the more impressive varietal bottlings I have come across. 100% Mourvedre. Aged in French oak (40% new). 14.2% alcohol. 130 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Robert Ramsay Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Upland Vineyard Yakima Valley 2008 $38
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) An intriguing wine with abundant cherry aromas along with a spicy top note. The palate is soft and plush with a full feel and abundant cherry flavors. 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvedre. Aged in French oak (50% new). 189 cases produced.

Robert Ramsay Cellars Syrah Boushey Vineyards Yakima Valley 2007 $NA
Rating: * (Excellent) A brooding wine with light milk chocolate, mineral, pepper, game, savory notes, baking spice, and high toned floral notes. Palate is medium bodied with a sleek feel of chocolate flavors and savory notes. Capped off by an extended finish. Syrah co-fermented with Viognier. 95% Syrah co-fermented with 5% Viognier. Aged in French oak (50% new). 14.5 % alcohol. 77 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Robert Ramsay Cellars Syrah Horse Heaven Hills 2007 $20
Rating: * (Excellent) Dark in color with purple at the rim. Aromatic with abundant dark chocolate, spice, and floral notes. A thoroughly delicious wine with a rich, textured palate and a lingering finish. 92% Syrah, 5% Viognier, and 3% Mourvedre. Aged in French oak (38% new). 245 cases produced.

Robert Ramsay Cellars Mason’s Red Columbia Valley 2008 $18
Rating: + (Good) An aromatic wine with pepper, floral notes, cherries, purple fruit, and a biscuit aroma. The palate is full of tart fruit flavors with bright acidity. 92% Syrah, 5% Viognier, and 3% Mourvedre. McKinley Springs, Boushey Vineyards. Aged in French oak. 228 cases produced.

Wind Rose Cellars

The two wines below, the 2009 Bravo Rosso Red Wine and 2010 Barbera Rose, are the first releases from Wind Rose Cellars.

Winemaker David Volmut was exposed to wine at a young age.I am 50% Italian, so we were raised with wine at dinner all the time,” Volmut says. He made his first wine when he was in high school, although Volmut says that it was far from a quality product.

Looking for a career change to take him towards retirement, Volmut moved to Washington in 2007. He started out taking wine classes at Yakima Valley Community College. That fall he worked in the Barnard Griffin tasting room, peppering winemaker Rob Griffin with questions. “He was very open and forthright with his knowledge for a young neophyte like myself,” Volmut says. Volmut subsequently interned during the 2008 harvest at Olsen Estates, assisting winemaker Kyle Johnson. The following year Volmut made his first commercial wine for Wind Rose Cellars.

In terms of naming the winery, Volmut says he and his wife wanted something that spoke to her background in wind energy. “I was looking at a wind rose that had all the different wind directions trying to find a new name,” Volmut says of the tool used by meteorologists to detect wind speed and direction. “Then it dawned on me how beautiful the wind rose itself is.”

From the start, Volmut wanted to focus strictly on Italian varieties with an emphasis on wines that go with food. “I am a huge foodie, almost became a chef,” Volmut says. ”I believe wine is the ultimate food and is often perceived that way.”

Wind Rose Cellars, located in Sequim, Washington, is currently producing Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Primitivo, and sparkling Muscato. For vineyard sources Volmut uses Coyote Canyon, Red Haven, Gilbert, Gunkel, and Lonesome Springs Ranch.

Wind Rose Cellars makes 600 cases annually with the intention of growing to 1,200.

Wind Rose Cellars Barbera Rose Wine Wahluke Slope 2010 $12
Rating: . (Decent) Strawberry colored. Toasty oak spices dominate aromatically along with red fruit. Palate is tart with red fruit flavors and crisp acidity, finishing a bit sour. 95% Barbera, 5% Tempranillo. 24k, Gunkel, and Red Haven vineyards. Aged in oak (50%) and stainless steel. 13.2% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Wind Rose Cellars Bravo Rosso Red Table Wine Washington State 2009 $18
Rating: + (Good) Brightly aromatic with raspberries, cranberries, high-toned red fruit, and spice. Palate is light bodied, soft, and puckering with abundant red fruit. A perfect pizza/pasta wine. 46% Primitivo, 44% Barbera, 4.5% Dolcetto, 4% Nebbiolo, 1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 24k (Wahluke Slope) and Coyote Canyon (Horse Heaven Hills). Aged 18 months in neutral French oak. 13.9% alcohol. 312 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Columbia Crest

Columbia Crest is not only Washington’s top producer of high quality-to-price ratio wines, it is also an ideal wine country tourism destination.

The winery is located in Paterson, Washington in the Horse Heavens Hills. Columbia Crest has a grand estate building and sweeping grounds. It also has a gargantuan underground production facility that must be seen to be believed. Suffice to say, if the surface world were to come to an end, there would be enough space and fine wine to keep the population of a small city content here for decades.

Columbia Crest’s facility boasts innumerable barrel rooms, production areas, and case storage locations. The winery’s bottling machine, which runs 24 hours a day, four days a week, bottles a staggering 400 wines a minute. A 79,000-gallon blending tank boggles the mind.

Of course, Columbia Crest is not only Washington largest producer, it also – impressively – produces wines of consistently high quality. The new releases are no exception.

Columbia Crest Primitivo Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2008 $30
Rating: * (Excellent) Bright red fruit aromas rise up along with dusty chocolate and sweet spices. Rich, ripe, and full on the palate with lush raspberry flavors. 100% Primitivo. Aged 18 months in French and American oak (30% new). 14.8% alcohol. 200 cases produced.

Columbia Crest Reserve Syrah Coyote Canyon Horse Heaven Hills 2008 $20
Rating: +/* (Good/Excellent) Abundant mocha, sweet spices, blueberries, and high toned floral notes. Tart and medium bodied with a meaty understreak. 97% Syrah 3% Viognier. Aged 16 months in French and American oak. 14.5% alcohol. 400 cases produced.

Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $35
Rating: * (Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with coffee bean, licorice, sweet, toasty spices, and a mix of red and black fruit. Rich fruit flavors are balanced by an elegant, silky smooth structure. 57% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec. Coyote Canyon, Beverly, Wautoma Springs, Stone Tree, and Four Feathers vineyards. Aged for 30 months in 100% new French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 1,800 cases produced.