Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Betz Family WineryLong Shadows:Nota Bene CellarsBuried Cane WinesColumbia Winery, and Auclair Winery.

Betz Family Winery

The new Bordeaux-blend releases from Betz Family Winery are nothing short of extraordinary, as good as anything the winery has done to date. There is a level of freshness as well as precision and separation of the different varieties in the glass that is nothing short of dazzling.

These wines are truly meant for the long haul and should be cellared. But have no doubt, these wines will be timeless. If I were starting a cellar today and needed to pick just two wines to start with, I would start with the 2010 Pere de Famille and Clos de Betz. They are that good and will last a lifetime.

The 2010 Rhone variety releases also do not disappoint with the coolness of the vintage allowing the distinctiveness of each site to truly shine. Winemaker Bob Betz says of his three Syrahs, “Same cellar, same protocol, same barrels. What you get out of these is the uniqueness of the site and the uniqueness of the vintage.”

As much as all of the 2010 wines are pleasing to the palate, they are also pleasing to the eye with dark, gleaming hues. Written in my notes was ‘Color, color, color!’  “I do love color,” Betz says. “Color to me is an invitation to pleasure.”

All wines sampled at 62 degrees. Read previous posts about Betz Family Winery here.

Betz Family Winery Père de Famille Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $68
 (Exceptional) The Petit Verdot really pops on this wine right now with freshly tilled soil and violets along with mineral, chocolate, herbal notes, pencil shavings, and a medley of red and black fruit on this aromatically complex wine. There is incredible delineation between the varieties here. The palate is arresting with fresh, layered fruit flavors with a mouthfeel with volume, weight and intensity. A wow wine. Nothing short of an accomplishment and as fine as I have had from the winery to date. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot. 73% Red Mountain (Ciel du Cheval, Kiona, Klipsun), 21% Horse Heaven Hills (Alder Ridge), and 6% Yakima Valley (Red Willow). Aged in French oak (65% new). 14.1% alcohol.

Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $55
 (Exceptional) An aromatically arresting wine with cassis, herbs, graphite, mineral, soil, floral notes, and blackberry. The palate has great intensity and weight and a firm grip of tannins leading to a hyperextended finish. A flat out gorgeous wine that has the stuffing to lay down in the cellar for many years to come. 58% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. 51% Red Mountain (Ciel, Kiona, Klipsun), 19% Horse Heaven Hills (Alder Ridge), and 30% Yakima Valley (Red Willow). Aged in French oak (65% new).

Betz Family Winery Bésoleil Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $45
(Excellent/Exceptional) Dark in color. An aromatically compelling wine perfumed with Herbes de Provence, strawberry, sweet plums, and a kiss of vanilla. The palate has fresh, pure, restrained red fruit flavors with depth and intensity and a sensuous mouthfeel. 65% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre, 11% Cinsault, and 6% Syrah.  Olsen, Ciel du Cheval, Upland and Boushey vineyards. 14.6% alcohol.

Betz Family Winery La Serenne Syrah Yakima Valley 2010 $55
 (Excellent) Dark and glass staining. A moderately aromatic, brooding wine with light peppery notes, herbs, and plum. The palate is rich but restrained with a palate-coating texture. 100% Syrah. Boushey Vineyard. 14.4% alcohol.

Betz Family Winery La Côte Rousse Syrah Red Mountain 2010 $55
(Excellent/Exceptional) Mineral laden, full of crushed rock, dark fruit, chocolate, lavender, olive, and plum. The mouthfeel is captivating with its dark fruit flavors. Will be even better in five years than it is today. 100% Syrah. Ciel du Cheval and Ranch At The End of the Road vineyards. 14.4% alcohol.

Betz Family Winery La Côte Patriarche Syrah Yakima Valley 2010 $55
 (Exceptional) A brooding wine with complex aromas of crushed flowers, gravel, chocolate, lavender, and olive. The palate is perfumed with char and dark fruit flavors, exquisitely balancing richness and restraint. One for the cellar, this wine should last about as long as you care to hold it. 100% Syrah. Red Willow Vineyard. 14.4% alcohol.

Long Shadows

The latest releases from Long Shadows continue the winery’s tradition of excellence. Perhaps the most captivating of these wines is the 2009 Pirouette. Made by Phillipe Melka and Agustin Hunees, Sr., this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec is concentrated and rich with a shimmering intensity and an extended finish.

Read previous posts about Long Shadows here.

Long Shadows Chester-Kidder Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $50
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with toast, dried blackberries, spice, and chocolate. As the wine opens, Syrah’s smoky notes come to the fore along with mineral notes. Coats the palate from end to end with rich bittersweet chocolate and cherry flavors with a lingering finish. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 6% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. 14.7% alcohol. Candy Mountain, StoneTree, Weinbau, and other vineyards. 14.7% alcohol.

Long Shadows Feather Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $55
 (Good/Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with high toned aromas of mocha, dried cranberry, cherry, and pencil box. The palate is smooth, supple and drawn out with dark fruit flavors and wound up, slightly dry tannins. Drops off a bit on the second half. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.2% alcohol.

Long Shadows Pirouette Columbia Valley 2009 $50
 (Exceptional) An aromatically intriguing wine with dark cherries, licorice, herbs, and nut oil. The palate is supremely concentrated, coiled, layered, and rich with tremoring intensity. A hyperextended finish only adds to the enjoyment of this delicious, sculpted blend. Still tightly wound, give two plus years or an extended decant before opening but your patience will be rewarded. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Malbec. 14.9% alcohol.

Long Shadows Sequel Columbia Valley 2009 $50
 (Exceptional) A glass staining offering of Syrah with blackberry, mocha, iron, and spice along with intermittent smoke. The palate is rich and layered with concentrated, dark fruit and chocolate flavors and fine-grained tannins that lead to a 30+ second finish. The alcohol shows occasionally here but this wine delivers. 99% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. Boushey (45%) and Bacchus (22%) along with Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. 14.8% alcohol.

:Nota Bene Cellars

South Park’s :Nota Bene Cellars is the work of Tim Narby and his wife Carol Bryant, with the initials of their last name’s giving rise to the winery’s name. At :Nota Bene,  Narby makes a diverse lineup of Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines, with a particular emphasis on Stillwater Creek and Ciel du Cheval vineyards.

Read previous posts about the winery here.

:Nota Bene Abbinare Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $25
 (Excellent) An aromatic wine with black and blue fruit, somewhat prominent herbal notes, spice, licorice, and cherry. The palate is medium bodied and dry with soft tannins and sweet, light fruit flavors. 61% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Malbec. Arianses, Conner Lee, Stone Tree, and Verhey vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak. 14.75% alcohol. 213 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Miscela Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $25
(Good) An aromatic wine with rich, liquorous stewed blackberries, mint, graphite, dill, and spice. The palate is medium bodied with sweet fruit flavors and chalky tannins. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon (Dineen, Champoux, Conner Lee), 12% Merlot (Conner Lee), 12% Cabernet Franc (stet), and 3% Malbec. Aged 22 months in French and American oak with 33% new French oak staves. 15.13% alcohol. 150 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Conner Lee Vineyard Red Blend Columbia Valley 2009 $35
 (Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with fresh dark cherries, raspberries, dill, cranberries, licorice, cedar, and mint. The palate is rich and full bodied with bold fruit flavors and well integrated tannins. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot. Aged 22 months in French (20% new) and American oak. 15.4% alcohol. 75 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Blend Red Mountain 2009 $35
 (Good/Excellent) Locked up aromatically at present with kirsch, barrel spices, pencil lead, and floral notes. The palate is tightly coiled with dark fruit and firm, dry tannins. Give some time in the cellar or decant. 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Merlot. Aged 22 months in French oak (57% new). 15.04% alcohol. 182 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Cabernet Sauvignon Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $35
 (Decent/Good) An aromatic, oak-driven wine with notes of char, spice, cherry, and prominent herbal notes. The palate is soft and medium bodied with plush tannins and ripe, sweet fruit flavors. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 22 months in French oak (100% new). 14.7% alcohol. 67 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2009 $20
 (Good) Lightly aromatic with cherry, jalapeno, and herbal tones. The palate is full of ripe cherry flavors with juicy, plump tannins. Drops off in the second half. 81% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Malbec. Chandler Reach, Dineen, Conner Lee, and Verhey vineyards. 14.74% alcohol. 88 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Malbec Verhey Vineyard Yakima Valley 2009 $25
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with exotic spices, cinnamon, cherry, and ripe dark plum. The palate is ripe with sweet cherry flavors and soft tannins. 100% Malbec. Aged 22 months in French oak. 15.12% alcohol. 32 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Syrah Columbia Valley 2009 $25
 (Good) Almost completely closed up initially with brooding cherry aromas and spice which open to reveal jammy notes of raspberries and other red fruit. The palate is rich, full, and ripe with sweet cherry flavors and a mouthful of silky tannins. Finishes with a fair amount of heat. 87% Syrah (Stillwater Creek, Les Vignes de Marcoux, StoneTree), 10% Mourvèdre (Stillwater Creek), and 3% Merlot (Ciel du Cheval). Aged 22 months in French and American oak (25% new). 16.22% alcohol. 125 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Syrah Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2009 $35
 (Good) A dark, glass staining wine with a purple rim. Sweet barrel spices are at the fore along with blueberries, blackberries, and mineral notes. The palate is voluminous and rich with sweet, ripe fruit flavors on this take-no-prisoners style Syrah. 100% Syrah. Aged 22 months in French (50% new) and Hungarian oak. 15.55% alcohol. 50 cases produced.

:Nota Bene Mourvèdre Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley 2009 $30
 (Decent/Good) An aromatic wine with fresh cranberries, raw meat, pickling spices, and vanilla. The palate is liquorous and full, finishing with oak notes and peppery spice. 100% Mourvèdre. Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Aged 22 months in seasoned French and American oak. 15.14 % alcohol. 25 cases produced.

Columbia Winery

Columbia Winery – which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year – is a winery in transition after its purchase by E. & J. Gallo last year. Gallo installed a new winemaking team headed up by Sean Hails. Born in Ontario, Canada, Hails earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of Guelph. He subsequently made wine in the Okanagan Valley and Niagara Peninsula before joining Gallo in 2005. Prior to taking the position at Columbia, Hails was responsible for overseeing winemaking in the Central Coast. 2012 was his first vintage at Columbia with the first white wines expected later this year.

Columbia Winery Small Lot Series Viognier Columbia Valley 2011 $26
(Good) Lightly aromatic with white grapefruit, light floral notes, nectarine, and lime. The palate is medium bodied and fresh with citrus flavors. A pleasing, easy drinking wine. Sample provided by winery.

Columbia Winery Small Lot Series Milestone Red Wine Columbia Valley 2008 $32
 (Decent) Lightly aromatic with cherry and light green notes. The palate is medium bodied with rustic tannins and abundant herbal flavors. Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. Aged 16 months in French and American oak. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Columbia Winery Red Willow Vineyard Cabernet Franc Yakima Valley 2009 $NA
(Good) Lightly aromatic with floral notes, herbal notes, and green pepper. The palate is medium bodied with cherry flavors and firm, chalky tannins. 14.6% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Columbia Winery 50 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $50
(Good) Lightly aromatic with crushed herbs and cherries. The palate is restrained in style with cherry flavors and fine grained, somewhat dry tannins. 95.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 4.5% Syrah. Aged 25 months in French and American oak (25% new). 14.3% alcohol. 522 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Buried Cane

Buried Cane is part of Middleton Family Wines, which also includes Cadaretta and Clayhouse (California). The winery focuses largely on wines in the value tier with production levels that make them suitable for restaurant glass pours.

Read previous posts on Buried Cane here.

Buried Cane Whiteline No-Oak Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2010 $15
(Good) Pale lemon yellow. An aromatically appealing wine with straw, spice, guava, and pear. The palate is medium bodied, tart, fresh and clean with pear and melon flavors. 100% Chardonnay. Dionysus, Oasis Farms, and Desert Hill vineyards. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation. 13.3% alcohol. 1,953 cases produced.  Sample provided by winery.

Buried Cane Roughout Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $15
 (Decent) A moderately aromatic wine with dusty cherry, mint, licorice and somewhat prominent herbal notes with nut notes lingering in the background. The palate is medium bodied with sweet cherry flavors and grainy, slightly dry tannins. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Alice, Spring Creek, Dead Canyon, Preston, and Gamache vineyards. Aged in French and American oak (40% new). 14.1% alcohol. 2,756 cases produced. Sample provided by tannins.

Auclair Winery

Auclair Winery is located in Woodinville’s Warehouse District. The winery focuses largely on creating wines from Artz Vineyard on Red Mountain. The latest releases are a strong set of wines, most notably perhaps the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc.

Winemaker Charlie Auclair writes, “I went to the vineyard to pick up my Sauvignon Blanc and while there I walked over to check on the Semillon. I discovered it was ripe and tasted great so we picked that as well. On the way back I decided to try co-fermentation for better integration of flavors and I think it turned out very well.”

It did. While this wine was remarkably slow to open up, once it did it was absolutely thrilling with a medley of herb and citrus aromas and flavors and a creamy, rich palate. It is among the more compelling Washington whites I’ve come across of late. Taken with other Sauvignon Blancs and blends sourced from Klipsun Vineyard and others on Red Mountain, it’s clear that Sauvignon Blanc has a home on this tiny AVA.

Read previous posts about Auclair here.

Auclair Winery Sauvignon Blanc Red Mountain 2011 $17
 (Excellent/Exceptional) Takes a while to get going, but once it does this wine is a powerhouse full of aromas of lime zest and herbs. The palate is broad and creamy with drawn out citrus flavors. An absolutely beautiful example of Red Mountain fruit. 75% Sauvignon Blanc co-fermented with 25% Semillon. Artz Vineyard. 13.0% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Winery 96 Cedars Columbia Valley 2009 $25
 (Good) An aromatic wine with cinnamon, nutmeg, cherry, sweet spices, and gamey notes. The palate has moderate fruit flavors and very firm, chalky tannins. Needs some food to off-set the tannic grip. 53% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Cabernet Franc. 100% Red Mountain. 14.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Left Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $45
(Good/Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with toasty oak spices, cranberries, raspberries, golden raisins, spice, and herbal notes. The first sip comes off as considerably tart. After adjusting, the palate is full with plush cherry and cranberry flavors, mint, medium-plus tannins, and a spice filled finish. The tannins are just slightly dry on this otherwise very enjoyable wine. Give it some extended time open and pair it with food to see it at its best. Might be too tart for some. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc. 14.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Auclair Winery Right Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $45
(Excellent) Medium ruby. Moderately aromatic with raspberries, cranberries, and oak spice. The palate has tart fruit flavors, fresh acid and quite firm tannins. A sophisticated, structure-driven wine. Give one to two years or decant. 77% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.