The latest releases from Avennia include the winery’s first two Bordeaux-style blends, the Gravura and Sestina. These are both incredibly compelling wines that set the quality bar high.
The Gravura is named in tribute to the gravelly soils of Bordeaux region of Graves. The wine uses fruit from a “who’s who” of Washington vineyards, including 1985 Red Willow and 1972 Bacchus Cabernet, 1985 Red Willow and 2000 Klipsun Merlot, and 1998 Bacchus Cabernet Franc.
“This will hopefully be our brand ambassador,” owner Marty Taucher says of the wine. If so, this winery looks to travel far and be received well. This is a gorgeous wine that only increases in intensity as it opens in the glass and is even better on the second day than on the first. With winemaker Chris Peterson’s prior experience at DeLille Cellars, many will be reminded of that winery’s D2 in terms of quality for the price, though the vineyard sources, obviously, differ as does the expression.
The Sestina, meanwhile, is named after a poetic form from Medieval France. “I really wanted to highlight the old vines from Bacchus,” Peterson says of this wine, the winery’s flagship offering. The Sestina uses more new French oak than its littermate, the Gravura, but is also more finesse driven. Both of these wines belong in the cellar and should last as long as you care to keep them. Together with the Rhone and white releases from last year, these wines announce Avennia’s arrival on the world stage.
Avennia Gravura Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $35
(Exceptional) Very pretty, enticing aromas of sweet herbal notes, pink peppercorn, tarragon, spice, and a medley of red and black fruit on a wine that hasn’t fully come out of its shell. The palate is power packed, sultry, and smooth with chocolate and cherry flavors, firm but refined tannins, and a gorgeous mouthfeel. Ramps up in power and intensity the longer it is open. A very high quality wine for the price with a long life ahead of it. 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. Red Willow, Bacchus, and Klipsun vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. 350 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Avennia Sestina Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $50
(Exceptional) Locked up tightly right now with brooding aromas of pencil shavings, a medley of herbs and spices, mineral, and dark fruit. The palate is textured and rich but with restraint, finesse, and refinement. Holds on the finish for about as long as you care to count. A gorgeous wine with an extremely long life in front of it. 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc. Bacchus and Red Willow vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (70% new). 14.5% alcohol. 250 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kerloo Cellars continues its exploration of vineyard-designated, block specific wines with its 2010 vintage red releases. As before, on each bottle, the winery lists not only the vineyards that the grapes come from but also the specific blocks. In some years, these blocks have remained static from year to year. In other years, they have changed. Every year, it provides an interesting perspective.
As usual, winemaker Ryan Crane works with whole cluster fermentation and stems. The alcohol levels don’t crack 14% in these wines. The 24% new French oak on the Va Piano Vineyard Syrah is the most of any of the wines sampled below, and this wine was aged in puncheon. The result in the 2010 Kerloo releases are light, airy, finesse-driven wines that reflect the vintage, vineyard, and winemaker.
Read previous posts about Kerloo Cellars here.
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Les Collines Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2010 $38
(Excellent) A lightly aromatic wine with smoked meat, cherry, raspberry, black pepper, chocolate, mineral, and violets. The palate is light bodied with fresh, pure fruit flavors, chalky tannins, and mouthwatering acid. All about elegance, this wine still needs some time to fully come into its own. 100% Syrah (35% whole cluster). Aged 17 months in French oak (12% new). 13.8% alcohol. 92 cases produced.
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Va Piano Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2010 $38
(Good) A perfumed wine with floral notes and orange twist along with cherry, raspberry, and smoked meat. The palate is smoky, perfumed, and textured with abundant herbs and floral flavors and mouthwatering acid backed by chalky, slightly gritty tannins that still need some time to resolve. The style here is more about elegance, purity, and subtlety as with the other 2010s. Those looking for big fruit, look elsewhere. 96% Syrah (Block 6) and 4% Viognier (Les Collines Block 48). 50% whole cluster. Aged 17 months in French oak (24% new puncheon). 13.9% alcohol. 104 cases produced.
Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo Columbia Valley 2010 $34
(Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with pure aromas of cherry, pencil lead, dark flowers, and vanilla. The palate has pure cherry flavors, citrusy acidity, and refined tannins that retain a sense of firmness and freshness. A very pretty, nuanced wine that is made in a lighter style with excellent balance. 86% Tempranillo (57% Les Collines Block 9 and 29, 29% Stone Tree Block 17) and 14% Garnacha (Alder Ridge Block 34). Aged in 17 months in French and American oak (14% new). 13.9% alcohol. 161 cases produced.
Dave Butner of Woodinville’s Kaella Winery is now on his third vintage, and the Kaella wines continue to impress. Sangiovese seems like somewhat of a forgotten grape in Washington, lost amidst the focus on Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. Here Butner sources high quality grapes from Ciel du Cheval – grapes that were previous used by the likes of Andrew Will – to craft one of the more compelling Sangioveses I’ve had recently from the state. To make the wine, Butner took skins from his rosé pressing and added them back to the fermenting red wine Sangiovese, giving this bottle some extra heft.
Notably, each of these wines – like many wines from the 2010 vintage – needed some time to get going, drinking better on the second day than the first and better on the third day than the second. Give them some time or a long decant.
Read previous posts about Kaella here.
Kaella Sangiovese Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $25
(Good/Excellent) Sangiovese is surprisingly rare in Washington and the wines rarely brings all that the grape has to bear. This wine comes close. It’s lightly aromatic with fresh cranberries and raspberries along with mineral notes. The palate brings all of Sangiovese’s tart, vibrant acidity along with Red Mountain’s firm tannins and minerality. As a Sangiovese should, this wine will fit in best at the dinner table. Occasionally shows some alcohol. 100% Sangiovese. 14.3% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kaella Meritage Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2010 $30
(Good) This Conner Lee designated red blend brings an aromatic medley of dried herbs – leaning a bit green – along with pepper, and cherry. The palate is soft and leafy with abundant cherry flavors. The green notes level out considerably after a day or two of being open. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, and 11% Cabernet Franc. Conner Lee Vineyard. Aged 22 months in French oak (0% new). 14.2% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kaella Syrah Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $35
(Excellent) Lightly aromatic with cherry, carob, whiffs of cracked pepper, iron, spice, and mineral notes. The palate is medium bodied, full of cherry flavors, fine grained tannins, and a citrusy finish. A delicious wine that needs to good day to fully get going. 97% Syrah, 3% Viognier. Aged 20 months in French oak (0% new). 14.2% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
The latest releases from Cadaretta include the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon and GSM-style Windthrow Red Wine. The former uses fruit sources drawn from across the state and is one of the more raspberry driven Cabs I’ve come across of late. The latter – named after a forestry term that refers to trees uprooted or broken by wind – uses impeccable sources that include Pepper Bridge, StoneTree, and Alder Ridge.
Read previous posts about Cadaretta here.
Cadaretta Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $40
(Good/Excellent) An aromatic wine with dried cranberries, sharply defined raspberries, and high toned herbal notes. The palate has subdued fruit flavors and firm, slightly dry tannins. A very intriguing wine. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. Heather Hill, Alder Ridge, Lafore, Gamache, and StoneTree vineyards. Aged 19 months in French oak (55% new). 14.1% alcohol. 696 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Cadaretta Windthrow Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $50
(Excellent) Medium ruby. A moderately aromatic wine with dark cherries, stewed raspberries, light meaty notes, smoke, and herbal tones. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied with soft fruit flavors and fine grained tannins. 65% Syrah, 23% Mourvèdre, and 12% Grenache. Pepper Bridge, StoneTree, and Alder Ridge vineyards. Aged in French (50%), American, and Hungarian oak (100% new). 14.2% alcohol. 279 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Sweet Valley Wines
The latest releases from winemaker Josh McDaniels at Sweet Valley include two impressive Walla Walla Valley offerings. The first is a delightful and distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2009 vintage. This wine explores the grape’s leafier side, without ever veering into the green, paired with a citrusy acidity that calls out for a place at the dinner table. The second is a well-priced, high quality varietal Petit Verdot from Les Collines and Golden Ridge vineyards. This wine, again, shows fine acids and structure. On both wines, it’s hard to think of another quite like them.
Sweet Valley produces 2,000 cases annually. Read previous posts about the winery here.
Sweet Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2009 $35
(Excellent) Lightly aromatic with high toned, leafy herbal notes, green tea, pencil lead and cherry. Concentrated, lively cherry flavors draw out and surround the palate along with firm tannins and citrusy acidity ending with a cinnamon filled finish. A distinctive wine that is a great fit at the dinner table. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. Golden Ridge, JK McDaniels, and Les Collines Vineyards. Aged 24 months in French oak (65% new). 14.8% alcohol. 145 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Righteous Wines Petit Verdot Walla Walla Valley 2009 $24
(Good/Excellent) Lightly aromatic with peat, sweet herbs, dried flowers, orange zest, wood spice, and cherry. The palate is dense and dark with sweet cherry flavors, firm tannins, and bright acidity. Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Les Collines and Golden Ridge vineyards. Aged 24 months in French oak (33% new). 14.5% alcohol. 67 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Named in tribute to owner Bob Pamplin’s three grandsons, Justin, Robert and Grant, the 2010 Pamplin Family Winery JRG uses top quality fruit sources, including Wallula, Klipsun, Champoux, and Seven Hills. The results are sublime and provide terrific quality for the price. Read previous posts about Pamplin Family Winery here.
Pamplin Family Winery JRG Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $33
(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with black cherry, blackberry, cedar, cocoa, and bittersweet chocolate. The palate is concentrated and expansive with a voluptuous mouthfeel, full of dry chocolate and cherry flavors with well integrated tannins and a real sense of freshness that makes the wine linger effortlessly. The best yet of what has been an incredibly impressive string of JRG wines from Pamplin. 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. Wallula, Alder Ridge, Klipsun, Canoe Ridge Estate, Champoux, and Seven Hills vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak (35% new). 14.7% alcohol. 839 cases produced.