Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Pamplin Family Winery, JB Neufeld, Nefarious Cellars, Covington Cellars, and Lobo Hills.

Pamplin Family Winery

Pamplin Family Winery is located in Dundee, Oregon, although all of the winery’s fruit comes from Washington. Owner Robert Pamplin Jr. has one of the Pacific Northwest’s more unique stories (read a previous post on the winery here). Robert Henry serves as winemaker.

Pamplin’s 2008 JRG Red Wine was one of my big surprise wines from last year. This Bordeaux-style blend is an absolutely beautiful, understated wine that is worth seeking out. It is also, at $30, quite well priced considering the level of quality.

Pamplin, however, is truly dedicated to the production of a single wine, its Proprietary Red Wine, with the JRG made from declassified barrels. There is no doubt that the family is committed to quality. All of the wine from 2007 went into the JRG program when they felt it wasn’t quite at the quality level they wanted.

The 2008 Proprietary Red Wine is therefore Pamplin’s first release of its flagship wine. To call it a stunner would be somewhat misleading, although it is – quietly – stunning. This is a subdued, understated wine. The flavors are compellingly subtle. The oak is pleasantly dialed back. Impressively, it was quietly humming along, even after twenty-four hours of decanting.

Pamplin Family Winery Proprietary Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $50
(Exceptional) Dark ruby. Aromatically closed up initially, this wine opens to reveal blue and black fruit, spices, and light herbal notes. The palate is polished, soft and textured, refined and elegant. This is a very, very pretty wine in a style seldom seen in these parts. 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, and 2% Merlot. Klipsun, Wallula, Seven Hills, and Canoe Ridge vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (41% new). 14.7% alcohol. 161 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

JB Neufeld

JB Neufeld has its first commercial release last year (read review here). At the winery, winemaker Justin Neufeld devotes himself to producing two vineyard-designated, 100% Cabernet Sauvignons. One comes from Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain, a warm site; one comes from DuBrul Vineyard in Yakima Valley, a relatively cool site. “I wanted to make wines people could taste side by side to see the uniqueness of place,” Neufeld explains.

Neufeld follows up his impressive debut with another strong set of releases, though the tannins in the 2009 wines come off as a bit drier than the previous vintage. Pair these wines with food to bring out their best. Still, how often does one get the opportunity to taste a 100% single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington? And for $33 from DuBrul and Artz vineyards? Yes please.

JB Neufeld makes 400 cases of wine annually.

JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon DuBrul Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $33
(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic but appealing wine with dark cherries, earth, a light, distinctive herbal medley, and the slightest touch of poblano pepper. The palate is broad and generous with grainy, slightly dry tannins. Lingers on the finish. A fascinating mixture of warm site and cool site flavors. Aged 17 months in French oak (60% new). 15.0% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

JB Neufeld Cabernet Sauvignon Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $33
(Good/Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with mineral, floral notes, espresso, blackberries, and black cherries. The palate is soft and tart, full of cherry flavors with grainy tannins that finish a bit dry. Aged in 18 months French oak (80%) new. 15.2% alcohol. 250 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Nefarious Cellars
Nefarious Cellars has in a short time established itself as Lake Chelan’s flagship winery. At Nefarious, wife and husband team of Heather and Dean Neff split winemaking responsibilities, with Heather creating the whites and Dean the reds. The couple consistently produces high quality wines using a mixture of estate fruit and fruit sourced from outside of the region (read a previous writeup on the winery here).

Lake Chelan is an extremely young wine producing region, with its first modern day vinifera plantings in 1998. Variety experimentation continues and, at present, white wines lead the way.

This is what makes the Nefarious 2009 Defiance Vineyard Syrah from the Neff’s estate vineyard, which is located next to the outrageously scenic winery and tasting room, a ‘stop-the-presses’ type of bottle. Many red wines from this cool region have shown more promise than delivery. Nefarious 2009 Defiance Vineyard Syrah delivers and is nothing short of required reading for those interested in exploring this young growing region.

Nefarious Cellars Estate Syrah Defiance Vineyard Lake Chelan 2009 $28
(Excellent/Exceptional) Dark in color. An aromatically appealing wine with brambly boysenberry and blueberry aromas and a floral top note. The palate is perfumed, soft, and silky with plush, concentrated dark fruit flavors. Lingers on the finish. An extremely impressive estate wine from this nascent growing region. 95% Syrah with 5% viognier co-ferment. 14.6% alcohol.

Nefarious Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Riverbend Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $30
(Good/Excellent) Dark in color. An aromatically brooding wine with black, jammy fruit, caramel, and a touch of dark chocolate. The palate is considerably more restrained than the aromatics might suggest with soft fruit flavors and grainy tannins.

Covington Cellars

Covington Cellars is located in Woodinville’s Warehouse District. While the winery makes a diverse lineup of wines, Sangiovese is undoubtedly where its passion lies.

The current offerings include an extremely rare – I can’t think of another – single vineyard, Brunello-style Sangiovese. This wine comes all from a single Sangiovese clone from a single block (2A) of Walla Walla Valley’s Seven Hills Vineyard. The wine was aged for three years in French oak (once used) and spent another year in bottle prior to release. The result is a wine completely unique in style for Washington. Just a baby now, look for this wine to only improve with additional bottle age.

The latest releases also include perhaps the most compelling bottle of Petite Sirah I have come across from Washington, this one coming from Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope.

Covington Cellars Blanc White Wine Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $25
(Good) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatic, grassy, spicy, minty wine with very distinctive notes. The palate is light and tart, at times verging on sour, with racy acidity. This one needs some food to bring the acid in check. 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 45% Semillon. Semillon aged in once used French oak for 7 months, Sauvignon Blanc aged in stainless steel. 13.2% alcohol. 135 cases produced.

Covington Cellars Bruno Sangiovese Seven Hills Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2007 $60
(Excellent) Dark in color. A brooding wine full of chocolate, whiskey barrel, leather, and floral notes. The palate is big, broad, full and rich, redolent with cranberry and chocolate flavors with tannins that gently squeeze the palate. Lingers on the finish. A compelling wine that is completely unique in style for Washington. Aged 3 years in once used French oak. 14.5% alcohol. 98 cases produced. Note: The name of this wine will be changing in subsequent vintages due to a trademark conflict.

Covington Cellars Rough House Red Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $20
(Excellent) Dark in color. This wine leaps up from the glass with spice, mint, chocolate, and herbal notes. The palate is rich, broad, and full of cherry and chocolate flavors. A whole lot of wine for the money. 70% Merlot, 16% Cabernet, 9% Cabernet Franc, 5% Mourvedre. Kiona, Klipsun, Seven Hills, and Mirage vineyards.

Covington Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2008 $35
(Good) Medium ruby. An enjoyable aroma profile with light herbal notes, cherries, chocolate, and floral notes. The palate is soft and silky on a very elegant expression of what is, in essence, a Bordeaux-style blend. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, and 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot.

Covington Cellars Petite Sirah Stone Tree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $NA
(Excellent) Not a ray of light gets through on this dark, glass staining wine. Lightly aromatic with floral notes, dry chocolate, and earth. The palate is gigantic, tannic, and intense. Among the more compelling bottles I have had from Washington of this seldom seen varietal. 100% Petite Sirah. 14.4% alcohol. 98 cases produced.

Lobo Hills

Lobo Hills is a new winery with its first releases. The winery was founded by Tony Dollar.

“I’ve always been in the wine industry in some way,” Dollar says. In college, he gave tours of nearby Alamaden Vineyards. Dollar subsequently worked as a tasting room manager and hospitality director at J. Lorh Vineyards.

“I liked the community aspect of wine,” Dollar says of what first drove him toward the industry. “I liked the idea of wine, food, and people. They were always some of the best experiences I had.” His travels have included a stint at Canlis, time as a wine writer, and classes at Northwest Wine Academy.

In 2007, however, Dollar’s life took a turn. He was riding his motorcycle around Lake Washington when he was struck by an elderly woman. He woke up in Harborview with a fractured spine and facing the possibility of paralysis. Dollar said that it made him think about what was important.

“I decided I’d rather fish than cut bait for the rest of my life,” he says. Dollar subsequently used money from the settlement to start a winery. “This is blood money!” he says with a chuckle, pointing to the wines.

Dollar made his first whites in 2009, making the wines out of his garage in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle. The red wines were made in collaboration with several eastern Washington wineries.

Stylistically, Dollar says, “I’m trying to bring wine back to food. I want to see wine reclaim its rightful place at the table.” He also tries to keep the prices as low as possible, saying, “I want to show that we can deliver really, really good wine for the price.”

Lobo Hills, named after Dollar’s childhood dog and the hills of eastern Washington, is a small operation. The winery has no tasting room at present, although Dollar says he occasionally opens up his home for people to try the wines. The wines are self-distributed.

“I hand deliver every case of wine I sell,” Dollar says. In many cases, he does this on his motorcycle (BMW R1200C), on which he says he can take up to three cases of wine.

Lobo Hills produced 500 cases of wine in 2011.

Lobo Hills Dry Riesling Yakima Valley 2009 $13
(Good/Excellent) Almost completely clear in color. An aromatically appealing, very clean wine with bright peach, pear, and citrus aromas. The palate is tart, crisp and refreshing with green apple flavors and drawn out acidity. A very impressive first release that is also extremely well priced. Airport Ranch Vineyard. 12.5% alcohol. 0.7% Residual Sugar. 75 cases produced.

Lobo Hills Dry Riesling Trente Cartons Yakima Valley 2010 $14
(Good) Almost clear in color. A moderately aromatic wine of with peach, rose water, and Nestea Ice Tea. The palate is dry and tart with drawn out citrus flavors. A very enjoyable, very dry wine. Airport Ranch Vineyard. 0.9% Residual Sugar. 12.5% alcohol. 30 cases produced. Recommended
Lobo Hills Right Bank Blend Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $18

(Good) Medium ruby. Tightly wound up initially with red fruit, floral notes, and herbal notes. The palate has soft, plush fruit flavors wound around a tight core of tannins. Considerably more structure than frequently found at this price point. Shows the alcohol at times. 69% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Preston, Elephant Mountain, and Lonesome Springs vineyards. 15.5% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Recommended
Lobo Hills Le Bleu Gris Cabernet Sauvignon Fries Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2009 $20

(Good/Excellent) Medium ruby. Immediately recognizable as Cabernet, this wine is lightly aromatic with herbal notes and tart cherries. The palate is tart and tightly coiled with a nice acid blast that carries across the palate. This definitely falls into the food wine category but is a very nice bottle, especially considering the price. 95% Cabernet Sauvignon (Fries Vineyard) and 5% Syrah. 14.5% alcohol.

Rating System
Please note, my rating system was revised at the beginning of 2012 as follows. Read additional details here.
(Not recommended/Flawed)