Today’s Fresh Sheet – new and recent releases – includes wines from Mark Ryan Winery, Kerloo Cellars, EFESTE, Eight Bells Winery, Auclair Winery, Buty Winery, and Robert Ramsay Cellars.
Mark Ryan Winery
As they almost always are, big things are afoot at Mark Ryan Winery. Most notably, the winery recently moved to a new production facility in Kirkland. For a growing winery, the new spot provides an abundance of space – something it has never truly had. The facility was designed with energy efficiency in mind. “This is a commitment to do the right thing,” said proprietor Mark McNeilly. Meanwhile Mark Ryan navigated the cool, challenging 2011 vintage admirably. While I don’t expect the 2011 wines to be quite as long lived as their stellar 2010 cousins, they are every bit as delicious.
Mark Ryan Viognier Columbia Valley 2012 $30
(Excellent/Exceptional) A perfumed wine with honeysuckle, peach, mineral notes, and toasty barrel accents. The palate is medium-plus bodied with richness and weight without ever becoming oily or overly viscous. This wine walks the balance beam perfectly and Mark Ryan continues to make this variety as well as anyone in the state. 100% Viognier. Ciel du Cheval, Red Willow, and Olsen vineyards. Fermented and aged seven months in used French oak (74%), Stainless steel (16%), and concrete egg. 14.2% alcohol. 800 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Olivia Grace Columbia Valley 2011 $55
(Exceptional) An aromatically captivating wine with wild strawberry, pomegranate, chocolate, and garrigue. The palate is full bodied, creamy in feel with a fruit and chocolate filled finish. High on the delicious scale with as much of the enjoyment about feel as flavor. NB: Club wine. 67% Grenache, 17% Mourvèdre, and 16% Syrah. Olsen and Force Majeure vineyards. Aged 18 months in Burgundy barrels (33% new). 14.9% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Crazy Mary Mourvèdre Red Mountain 2011 $48
(Exceptional) An aromatic tour de force with abundant peppery spices, cherry meats, mineral, and a light meatiness. The palate is full bodied with layers of supple fruit flavors that come in waves, hanging around for a long, spice filled finish. About as good as this variety gets in the state. 92% Mourvèdre, 8% Syrah. Ciel du Cheval and Force Majeure vineyards. Aged 18 months in 500-L puncheons. 15.1% alcohol. 175 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Wild Eyed Syrah Red Mountain 2011 $48
(Excellent) An aromatically brooding wine with dark cherries, berries, crushed gravel, peppery spices, light floral notes, and dark chocolate. The palate is rich with focused fruit flavors and a supple feel with pinpoint precision. 100% Syrah. Force Majeure and Ciel du Cheval vineyards. Aged 18 months in French oak (43% new). 14.9% alcohol. 375 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan The Dissident Columbia Valley 2011 $32
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic, fruit filled wine with dark berries, barrel notes of vanilla, mocha, and spice, along with earth. The palate is soft and supple in feel, dipping a bit in the middle before coming back together for a peppery finish laced with chewy tannins. 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Obelisco, Kiona, and Red Willow vineyards. Aged 18 months in French oak (78% new). 14.6% alcohol. 925 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Long Haul Red Wine Red Mountain 2011 $48
(Excellent/Exceptional) Brooding with soil, coffee ice cream, dark raspberries and cherries, barrel spices, and a light herbal grace note rarely seen on Red Mountain. It’s a rich, multiple swallow wine with firm tannins and a spice filled finish. Give two plus years in the cellar. 76% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Petit Verdot. Klipsun, Ciel du Cheval, Red Willow, and Force Majeure vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak (73% new). 14.9% alcohol. 1,050 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Dead Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2011 $52
(Excellent) Distinct herbal grace notes along with cherry, chocolate, freshly tilled soil, cassis, and vanilla. The palate is full of chocolate and cherry flavors with firm, chewy tannins. Drinking well right now but will improve with additional time in the bottle. Give at least two years or a long decant. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. Ciel du Cheval, Klipsun, Obelisco, Red Willow, Kiona, and Force Majeure vineyards. Aged 22 months in French oak (71% new). 15.1% alcohol. 1,275 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Lonely Heart Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2011 $85
(Excellent/Exceptional) A brooding wine that’s locked up tightly at present with freshly tilled soil, mineral notes, vanilla, licorice, dark fruit and chocolate. The palate is rich and concentrated with abundant dark fruit and chocolate flavors with an extended finish. There’s a lot of wood on this bad boy but a lot of fruit to go with it. Give a long rest in the cellar for them both to fully marry. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Ciel du Cheval, Obelisco, Force Majeure, and Klipsun vineyards. Aged 21 months in French oak (74% new). 15.1% alcohol. 225 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Mark Ryan Lucia Rose Red Wine Red Mountain 2011 $55
(Excellent) Locked up tightly with barrel spices, high toned chocolate, herbs, mineral notes, cherry, and earth. The palate is restrained in style with supple dark fruit flavors and firm, slightly dry tannins. Give two plus years. NB: Club wine. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Merlot. Kiona, Ciel du Cheval, and Klipsun vineyard. Aged 21 months in French oak (76% new). 14.9% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
The 2011 vintage releases from Kerloo Cellars are across the board as good or better than any that the winery has produced to date, particularly impressive considering the challenges of the vintage. Winemaker Ryan Crane continues by and large to work with the same fruit sources with these wines, Les Collines Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley and StoneTree on the Wahluke Slope. However, the 2011 Walla Walla Valley Syrah includes some Blue Mountain fruit – a first – after a 2010 frost damaged the 2011 crop at Va Piano.
Read previous reviews of Kerloohere.
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2011 $40
(Excellent/Exceptional) A captivating, complex wine with pure notes of huckleberry, herbs, violets, raw meat, and black pepper. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied, tart, fresh and fruit filled with vibrant plum and berry flavors interwoven with herb accents and citrus flavors backed with fine grained tannins. An elegant, gorgeous expression of Walla Walla Valley Syrah that is drinking well but will only improve with additional time in the bottle. Les Collines Blocks 30 & 50 (62%) and Blue Mountain Vineyard Block 8. 13.2% alcohol. 184 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kerloo Cellars Syrah Les Collines Walla Walla Valley 2011 $70
(Exceptional) An aromatically arresting wine with pure, vivid notes of huckleberry, plum, white pepper, and high toned herbs. The palate is a panoply of fruit and herb flavors with a silken feel, displaying exquisite balance and length. It’s tart and all about elegance and fruit expression. Best the winery has made to date by a good stretch. NB: Club wine. 100% Syrah. Les Collines Block 30. 13.6% alcohol. 69 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kerloo Cellars Tempranillo Columbia Valley 2011 $36
(Exceptional) An aromatically appealing wine with complex notes of pipe tobacco, cherry, grapefruit, espresso, pencil lead, vanilla, and plum. The supple feel ramps up in intensity, building to a crescendo of fruit and spice flavors with barrel accents backed by firm but beautifully integrated tannins. Best the winery has made to date. 54% Les Collines Block 6, 46% Stone Tree Block 17. 13.6% alcohol. 253 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kerloo Cellars Malbec Stone Tree Wahluke Slope 2011 $40
A dark, glass staining wine with notes of plum, tar, coffee and light spices. The palate is silky soft, focused with concentrated coffee flavors and little excess alcoholic weight. 100% Malbec. 14.1% alcohol. 161 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)
Kerloo Cellars Grenache Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $40
An aromatically intriguing wine with mortared herbs, licorice, cherry, and mineral. The palate is fruit filled while retaining a sense of depth, grace and balance. 100% Grenache. Alder Ridge (86%) Block 34 and Upland. 13.2% alcohol. 81 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)
Kerloo Cellars Grenache Upland Vineyard Snipes Mountain 2011 $46
A direct and appealing wine with a cornucopia of fruit including raspberry, strawberry, cherry, pomegranate, and orange peel accented by floral notes. The palate is pure silk with a light elegant styling and an extended finish. 100% Grenache. 13.7% alcohol. 34 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue)
These red releases from EFESTE – which include the 2011 Rhone-style wines and 2010 Bordeaux-style wines – include some interesting additions. The 2010 Upright Merlot is an attempt to stand the variety back up straight after it was turned Sideways ten years ago. What better way to do it than with Klipsun Vineyard fruit?
Read previous reviews of EFESTE here.
EFESTE Emmy Red Wine StoneTree Vineyard Wahluke Slope 2011 $45
92 points. Made from 71% Mourvèdre, 16% Grenache and 13% Syrah all aged in neutral French oak, this pops aromatically, with abundant black pepper, rare meat and garrigue. It’s full bodied and richly flavored, with a supple feel. — S.S. Wine Enthusiast (3/1/2014)
EFESTE Jolie Bouche Syrah Yakima Valley 2011 $39
(Excellent) A smoky, earth-driven wine with notes of iron and crushed flowers. It’s elegantly styled with pure, supple fruit flavors. 100% Syrah. Boushey Vineyard. 14.9% alcohol.
EFESTE Ceidleigh Syrah Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2011 $39
(Excellent/Exceptional) Draws you into the glass with dark cherry, freshly tilled soil, exotic spices, herbs, sourdough bread, and a light smokiness. The palate is subtle but still weighty in feel with an extended finish. 100% Syrah. Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, and Kiona vineyards. Aged 15 months in oak (22% new), sur lie for 10 months. 14.49% alcohol.
EFESTE Upright Merlot Red Mountain 2010 $39
(Excellent/Exceptional) With the name a play on the movie ‘Sideways’ this 100% Klipsun Vineyard wine looks to stand the variety up straight. It rises up out of the glass with cranberry, exotic spice, fresh, briary raspberry and kisses of oak spice. It’s wound up very tightly right now with dense, chewy tannins with a drawn out feel. Give three to four years. 100% Merlot. Aged 20 months in French oak (50% new). Klipsun Vineyard. 14.80% alcohol. 571 cases produced.
EFESTE Big Papa Columbia Valley 2010 $54
(Excellent) Brings a panoply of tight grained oak aromas, savory notes, toasted herbs, slate, licorice, and cherry meats with a real sense of purity in the aromas. The palate is dense with chewy, occasionally somewhat dry tannins. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Klipsun, Bacchus, Sagemoor, and Kiona vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (80% new). 14.49% alcohol. 1,073 cases produced.
EFESTE Nana Red Wine Columbia Valley 2010 $44
(Excellent) Brightly aromatic with red and black currant, pain grille, mineral notes, high toned herbs, and cherry cough syrup. The palate has fresh, penetrating fruit flavors with chewy tannins. Give additional time in the bottle to see it at its best. 46% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon. Red Willow, Angela’s Estate, StoneTree (Cabernet Franc), and Klipsun vineyards. Aged 20 months in French oak (30% new). 14.45% alcohol. 556 cases produced.
EFESTE Tough Guy Red Blend Klipsun Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $55
(Excellent) Locked up tightly at present with barrel notes of vanillin and tight grained oak along with cherry meats. The palate is perfumed and rich with minimal excess alcoholic weight, chewy tannins, and a lingering, fruit filled finish. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 20 months in French oak (60% new). 14.55% alcohol.
Eight Bells Winery
Eight Bells Winery is excelling at making high quality wines at value prices compared to their peers. Two wines in particular that stand out in this regard are the 2011 Sangiovese ($20) and 2011 Red Willow Syrah ($28).
Sangiovese is a bit of a struggler in Washington without the trail of successes that many varieties have had in the state. From the 2011 vintage, the Eight Bells offering drinks almost more like a cool climate Grenache in many respects with pepper, raspberries, and herbs. There’s a real sense of freshness to this wine, which truly demands a place at the dinner table. In terms of the Syrah, a high quality Red Willow offering at under $30? Yes please.
Read previous reviews of Eight Bells here.
Eight Bells Winery Sangiovese Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $20
(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with complex notes of fresh plum, raspberries, white pepper, and herbs. The palate is medium bodied with a fresh, supple feel with minimal apparent oak influence and tart acidity. A gorgeous example of the variety – reminiscent of Grenache in many ways – and an absolute steal at this price. Make sure to give it some time to open up. 100% Sangiovese. 13.1% alcohol. 212 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Eight Bells Winery Merlot Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $25
(Excellent) Lightly aromatic with cherry, chocolate, earth, and fresh herbs with the Tempranillo showing its presence in a way that doesn’t make it seem entirely like Merlot. The palate is layered, rich, and seamless in feel with tart acidity. As much about feel as flavor, though doesn’t entirely pass the typicity scale. 75% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Tempranillo, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. 13.9% alcohol. 152 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Eight Bells Winery Cabernet Sauvignon David’s Block Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2010 $35
(Excellent/Exceptional) Vibrant and fruit filled with raspberry, red cherry, plum, high toned herbal notes with a touch of green, and anise. The palate is full of cherry flavors with a supple, soft fresh feel and polished tannins leading to a lingering finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. 14.5% alcohol. 174 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Eight Bells Winery 8 Clones Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $32
(Excellent) Aromatically vibrant with penetrating huckleberry notes along with plum, raspberry, and herbal accents. The palate is soft, elegant in its styling with supple, tart fruit flavors with chocolate nuances and a long, lingering fruit and smoke filled finish. Dee-licious and only gets better with time. 95% Syrah, 5% Grenache. 13.6% alcohol. 150 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Eight Bells Winery Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2011 $28
(Excellent/Exceptional) An alluring wine with smoke, chocolate, bacon fat, herbs, and blueberry. The palate is medium bodied, exquisitely balanced with a layered, supple feel. A beautiful wine that shows a lot of deftness, elegance, and restraint with an exquisitely fruit filled finish. A find at this price. 98% Syrah co-fermented with 2% Viognier. 13.6% alcohol. 168 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Auclair Winery is a winery on the way up with each vintage seeming to improve on the last. The 2011 vintage wines continue that track record with two single vineyard wines from Artz Vineyard, one modeled on a Left Bank Bordeaux-style and one modeled on a Right Bank style.
Read previous reviews of Auclair here.
Auclair Winery Right Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2011 $45
(Excellent/Exceptional) A moderately aromatic wine with wet stone, dark raspberries, licorice, cassis, dark cherry, floral notes, pencil lead, and wood spice. There’s a sensuous, soft, textured, palate coating feel to the fruit flavors that glide along to a lingering, cinnamon filled finish. A gorgeous wine that will only improve with some additional time in the bottle and should have a very long life ahead of it. Give at least one to two years. 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak (50% new). 14.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Auclair Winery Left Blend Red Wine Artz Vineyard Red Mountain 2011 $45
(Exceptional) Locked up tightly with juicy black cherries, sweet herbal notes, briary ground berries, licorice, mineral notes, and wood spice. It’s densely flavored with abundant cherry notes that coat the palate from end to end, buffeted by firm but not unyielding tannins, before hanging around for a long, fruit filled finish with a touch of cinnamon. Though drinking well now, give it some time in the cellar to see it truly shine. 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 17% Cabernet Franc. Aged in French oak (66% new). Sample provided by winery.
The Buty Winery 2011 Merlot-Cabernet Franc is a thrilling wine. Aged in just a third new oak and coming in just under 14% alcohol, the emphasis is all on the elegant fruit flavors that still retain great depth and a supple, almost creamy feel. Among the more impressive wines to come out of this challenging vintage – though some may find it too light in style or perhaps too herbal for their tastes. But for those who enjoy lower alcohol wines and are not afraid to explore the savory, this is nirvana.
Buty 67% Merlot 33% Cabernet Franc Conner Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley 2011 $45
(Exceptional) A moderately aromatic, intriguing wine with a medley of herbal notes that span the register – tomato leaf, tarragon, and bay leaf – while staying clear of the greener side of the spectrum with cherry and graphite providing complement and contrast. The palate is elegant in style, almost creamy in feel while still showing exquisite richness. Lingers on the finish. Some might find this wine a bit too light for their tastes as it pounds the hammer softly. Others will fall in love. 67% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Franc. Aged 15 months in French oak (33% new). 13.9% alcohol. 282 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Buty Rediviva of the Stones 65% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Mourvèdre Walla Walla Valley 2010 $60
(Exceptional) Surprisingly quiet when first popped, it slowly opens to reveal moist earth, peat, herbs, peppery spices, pencil lead, cherry, and a light earthy funk that grows each moment in the glass. Much more savory than sweet, it’s soft, textured and pillowy in feel with an elegant styling that stands in contrast to the shimmering depth of the flavors, peppered with spice notes. Those looking for big bold fruit, look elsewhere. 65% Syrah, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Mourvèdre. Aged 14 months in predominantly neutral puncheons and barrels. 13.7% alcohol. 242 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Robert Ramsay Cellars is fully in the midst of exploring Rhone varieties in Washington. The latest releases include a rarely seen varietal Counoise from Red Heaven Vineyard (Red Mountain) and a southern Rhone-style blend, Le Mien.
Robert Ramsay Cellars Counoise Red Mountain 2011 $35
(Good) Lightly aromatic with red fruit and plum. The palate is full bodied with rich, sweet dried cherry and plum flavors, soft tannins, and a warm finish. 100% Counoise. Red Heaven Vineyard. 16.1% alcohol. 133 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Robert Ramsay Cellars Le Mien Red Wine Yakima Valley 2011 $35
(Excellent) A very aromatically pretty wine with pure notes of plum, raspberry, boysenberry, peppery spice, herbs, and perfumed floral notes. The palate is lighter, elegant in style, supple in feel with no apparent oak influence to distract from the pure fruit flavors. 61% Grenache, 21% Mourvèdre, 11% Counoise, and 7% Cinsault. Red Heaven, Upland, and McKinley Springs vineyards. 13.9% alcohol. 90 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.