Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Betz Family Winery, EFESTĒ, Angel Vine, Auclair Winery, Wines of Substance, and Tamarack Cellars.

Betz Family Winery

What can I say about Betz Family Winery that I haven’t said before? Winemaker and Master of Wine Bob Betz continues to craft some of the state’s best and most compelling wines. The wines from the 2009 vintage sampled below are no exception.

The latest releases from Betz include the Chapitre 3 Syrah. Betz has been making Syrah for thirteen vintages, but this wine has been made only once before – in 2005. This wine is a barrel selection, with two barrels from Red Mountain’s Ciel du Cheval and Ranch at the End of the Road and two barrels from Boushey Vineyard. It is nothing short of breathtaking.

Read previous posts about Betz Family Winery here.

Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz Bordeaux-style Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $60
(Exceptional) Leaps up from the glass with incense, red and dark fruit, toasty spice, potpourri, and chocolate. The palate explodes with red and dark fruit flavors with a firm but well integrated backbone of tannins. Immediately accessible now, this wine has the stuffing to lay down in the cellar and age like a fine Bordeaux. 65% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot. 51% Red Mountain, 30% Yakima Valley, and 19% Horse Heaven Hills.

Betz Family Winery Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $65
(Exceptional) An incredibly aromatically fresh wine with spice, dark cherries, and red fruit. The palate is tightly coiled, packed full of tart, dry fruit flavors and firm tannins. Has an understated grace. This is one to lay down in the cellar. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, and 8% Merlot. 66% Red Mountain, 18% Horse Heaven Hills, and 16% Yakima Valley.

Betz Family Winery Chapitre 3 Syrah Columbia Valley $85
(Exceptional) Dark in color. A perfumed, smoky, inky wine loaded with bacon fat, mineral notes, spice, and black and blue fruit. The palate is rich and dense, full of mineral and huckleberry flavors with a long, lingering finish. 100% Syrah. Ciel du Cheval, Ranch at the End of the Road, and Boushey vineyards.


The new releases from Woodinville’s EFESTĒ are all jaw droppers.

The Feral Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling both hail from Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes region and are some of the first of the 2011 whites to hit the market.

For the Sauvignon Blanc, winemaker Brennon Leighton says that he was inspired not back off on the acid on this wine by some of the Rieslings he tasted at Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Riesling Rendezvous in 2010. Indeed, acid hounds will find much to enjoy on this wine. Meanwhile the Riesling continues to showcase Evergreen’s distinctive mineral streak.

The 2009 Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon, however, is a special wine and may just be the best wine that Leighton has made to date. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon prototype, a big, burly wine with incredible purity of fruit. It is among the best wines I have sampled this year.

Read previous posts about EFESTĒ here.

EFESTĒ Feral Sauvignon Blanc Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $18
(Excellent) An aromatically intriguing wine chock full of mineral aromas and lime. The palate pops with white grapefruit flavors, a briny feel, and bright acidity. An intensely flavorful wine with a long, drawn out finish.

EFESTĒ Riesling Evergreen Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $16
(Excellent) A beautifully clean, pure aroma profile of lemon, spice, melon, and mineral notes. The palate is just off dry with mouthwatering acidity and a minerally spine. Hangs on the finish. 12.10% alcohol. 1.1% Residual Sugar. 9.2g/L TA.

EFESTĒ Big Papa Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $49
(Exceptional) This wine will stop you in your tracks. Dark as night, the aromatics are arresting with floral notes, tarragon, black currant, licorice, and abundant mineral notes. A mouthful of a wine that lowers the boom with incredible purity, rich but still restrained fruit flavors and chalky tannins. A Cabernet Sauvignon prototype, this is a big (big) wine that could not be more appropriately named. Give it plenty of time to open up to see its best. Sampled at 60 degrees. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 34% Klipsun, 29% Sagemoor, 20% Bacchus, and 17% Kiona vineyards.

Angel Vine

Angel Vine, located in Carlton, Oregon, is unique among Northwest producers for its strong emphasis on Zinfandel.

The current releases from the winery are all extremely impressive. These are big, bold wines created in a rich, hedonistic style with judicious use of new oak. All of the wines are of high quality, with the two Zinfandels among the best being produced in the state. Better yet, they are all extremely well priced. Who could ask for anything more?

Read a previous post on Angel Vine here.

Angel Vine Zinfandel StoneTree Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $20
(Excellent) Dark in color. A moderately aromatic wine that displays fresh, pure raspberries, chocolate, and stewed, brambly fruit. The palate has full, pure fruit flavors, expansive without going over the top. A tart, cranberry filled finish. One of the better expressions of Zinfandel to be found in the state and a steal at this price. 100% Zinfandel. Aged in French and Hungarian oak (25% new). 15.5% alcohol. 100 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Angel Vine Zinfandel Columbia Valley 2009 $20
(Excellent) An aromatically restrained wine that initially shows white pepper then raspberries, dried maraschino cherry, chocolate, and cooked blueberries. Coats the palate from end to end with rich dark fruit and dry chocolate flavors. A very enjoyable, hedonistic wine. 87% Zinfandel, 13% Primitivo. Les Collines, Alder Ridge, Coyote Canyon, and StoneTree vineyards. Aged in French and Hungarian oak (10% new). 14.8% alcohol. 400 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Angel Vine The Hellion Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $22

(Good) Dark in color. Locked up tightly at present, this wine opens to reveal dark (dark) fruit, cranberries, and dusty spice. The palate is big and brawny with bold, somewhat dry tannins and full fruit flavors. Loses a bit of its rhythm about half way through and alcohol pokes through at times but overall an enjoyable, intriguing wine. 44% Primitivo, 31% Petite Sirah, and 25% Zinfandel. StoneTree Vineyard. Aged 14 months in French and Hungarian oak. 15.5% alcohol. 200 cases produced. Sample provided by winery. Recommended

Angel Vine Petite Sirah StoneTree Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $20
(Good/Excellent) Dark in color. Lightly aromatic with bittersweet chocolate, stewed plum, and a light herbal note. The palate is enormous in volume, tart with a firm, grainy scaffolding of tannins that takes on all comers and leaves no man standing. Not for the faint of heart but a fascinating, enjoyable example of this seldom seen variety from one of the state’s top vineyards. Alcohol shows through at times. 100% Petite Sirah. Aged in French and Hungarian oak. 15% alcohol. 50 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Winery

Auclair Winery is located in Woodinville. The winery had its first commercial vintage in 2008 with a Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

Winemaker Charlie Auclair apprenticed with Javier Alfonso of Pomum Cellars for several years to help get his start. “I traded labor for learning,” Auclair says.

Auclair’s approach is simple. “Start with good growers in good locations, get their best grapes, and then try hard not to screw them up,” he says.

The 2009 reds and 2010 white sampled below are unique in that they are all single vineyard wines from Artz on Red Mountain. This site has been increasingly popular of late with several wineries, such as JB Neufeld and Fall Line creating vineyard designated bottles.

Auclair Winery produces approximately 400 cases annually.

Auclair Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2010 $17
(Decent) Aromas of herbal notes, tropical fruit, lime, and abundant lees notes. The palate is thick and weighty with a tart finish. 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon. Artz Vineyard. Fermented in stainless steel and aged 5 months on lees. 13% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Left Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $45

(Good) An aromatically appealing wine chock full of fresh dark cherries, red fruit, and black licorice. The palate is broad and expansive, loaded with fruit flavors. Finishes a bit sour. 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 13% Cabernet Franc. 100% Artz Vineyard. 14.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Right Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $45

(Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with dusty chocolate, dark cherries, medicinal notes, and dark raspberries. The palate is broad and expansive with well integrated tannins and rich, dry fruit flavors. An impressive release from this young winery. 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. Artz Vineyard. 14.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Wines of Substance

Wines of Substance is a joint project between winemakers Jamie Brown of Waters Winery and Greg Harrington of Gramercy Cellars. The winery focuses on varietally labeled wines at affordable prices. Substance’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a thoroughly delicious – and deliciously priced – example of the grape, high on what some might call the “yum factor.”

CORRECTION: Jamie Brown of Waters Winery has taken over all winemaking and day to day responsibilities at Substance. Greg Harrington is now a small minority owner.

Substance Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2009 $20
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with bright cherry, floral notes, mineral notes, herbal notes, and dusty chocolate. Expands across the palate end to end with ripe cherry flavors and soft tannins. A tart, lingering, fruit filled finish. There’s a few holes but this wine wins out on the yum factor big time. Pepper Bridge, Forgotten Hills, Old Stones, and St. Clair. Aged in French oak (25% new). 13.9% alcohol. 2,350 cases produced.

Substance Chardonnay Washington State 2009 $20
(Decent) Very lightly aromatic but appealing with spice and a touch of tropical fruit. The palate is broad and fleshy with a toasty finish. 13.9% alcohol.


Tamarack Cellars’ Firehouse Red is the winery’s value priced offering. The 2010 wine boasts all of the toasty oak and dark fruit aromas that the wine is well known for but with a considerably leaner fruit profile than recent vintages. It still, however, provides a whole lot of wine for the price.

Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $16
(Good) An aromatic wine with abundant toasty oak notes along with chocolate, espresso, game, and dark cherries. The palate is silky with the fruit leaner in style that the aromatics might suggest – and previous vintages due to the coolness of 2010 – ending with a tart finish. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Syrah, 12% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Sangiovese, 2% Zinfandel, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Carmenère. 13.92% alcohol. 12,000 cases produced. Recommended

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