Today’s Fresh Sheet – reviews of new and recent releases – includes wines from sommes des parties, Silverback Vineyards, Columbia Winery, Erath, Anam Cara Cellars, Kramer Vineyards, and La Crema.
Note: These are reviews for wines received and sampled prior to October 1st when my responsibilities changed for Wine Enthusiast to cover all of Washington. This will be the last set of such wines to be posted from Washington.
Somme des parties
Somme des parties – the sum of the parts – is a new winery from winemaker David Rudnick. “It’s that old Aristotle quote: ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,’” Rudnick said of the name. “A grape is the product of its soil, topography, weather, terroir, cultivation, etc. A wine is the product of that grape, but also the cellar, the yeast, the barrel, and the winemaker. And the winemaker is a product of the wines they’ve consumed, the harvests they’ve endured, the lessons they’ve learned (in and out of the classroom), and the artistry that they bring to the table. Everything is a sum of its parts.”
Rudnick took classes at the Center for Enology and Viticulture at Walla Walla Community College in 2004 before spending time in Napa, Australia, New Zealand, and Paso Robles.
For fruit, Rudnick sources grapes from Patina Vineyard (Walla Walla Valley), Elephant Mountain (Yakima Valley), and Red Heaven (Red Mountain). Rudnick said of his approach at the winery, “One of the great things I learned from Scott Hawley in Paso Robles was that there is a somewhat inherent outcome to any ferment. We as winemakers have a few tricks up our sleeves, but the old adage about wine being made in the vineyard is pretty spot on. I believe our job is to put together the best wines we can, trying to show the consumer what we see in the vineyard and the cellar and to translate that out of the bottle.”
Somme de parties is located in Walla Walla with the wines being made at the El Corazon facility. The winery makes 200 cases annually.
somme des parties Down in the Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 90% Syrah 10% Columbia Valley 2012 $38
(Excellent) This is a moderately aromatic wine with notes of assorted dried herbs along with black and red fruit. The palate shows a pleasing mix of fruit and savory flavors showing good depth without getting overburdened with the oak in the background and bright acids drawing out the flavors. An impressive offering. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah. Elephant Mountain Vineyard. Aged 20 months in French oak (50% new). 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
somme des parties The Philosopher’s Companion Red Wine Columbia Valley 2012 $32
(Good) This is a moderately aromatic wine with fresh herbs, savory notes, cherry, vanillin, woodspice, and licorice. It’s medium bodied with firm but well integrated tannins along with mouthwatering acids. Leans a touch green but still provides plenty of interest. 80% Tinta Cao, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Syrah. Red Heaven Vineyard. 14.1% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
somme des parties A Stream Diverted Syrah Walla Walla Valley 2012 $34
(Decent/Good) This wine is aromatically reticent with notes of dark fruit, mineral, fig, and licorice. It’s medium bodied with a silky, restrained feel to the fruit flavors and a slightly sharp uptick on the finish. 98% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. Patina Vineyard. Aged in French oak (33% new). 14.1% alcohol.
Silverback Vineyards is a new winery from winemaker Charles Herrold. Herrold came to the wine business after years of playing in rock bands. “Music kind of got me in to alcohol,” Herrold said with a laugh.
After starting out making wines in California, Herrold moved to White Rock, Canada in 2001. That year he leased five acres of land in the Okanagan Valley and in 2003 and 2004 made 22 barrels of wine in his house. “I tore the carpets out of the back two bedrooms,” he said.
Herrold’s Blackwood Lane had its first commercial release from the 2004 vintage, a Bordeaux-style blend. After selling Blackwood Lane at the end of the decade, Herrold decided to turn his interest to making wine in Washington. “I’m American born. I wanted to do something here,” he said.
Having met grower Andy Den Hoed back in 2006, he decided to focus his winery on fruit from Wallula Vineyard. “From Wallula I smell the earth, I taste the dirt,” Herrold said. “I’m excited about being even a small part of it.”
Silverback’s first releases clock in at high prices for a Washington winery, with the 2011 Reserve Syrah the most expensive bottle produced in the state to date. “You put a target on your back if you have an expensive bottle of wine for sure,” Herrold said. “I felt that the wines were comparable to wines I’ve tasted in Napa that are in this price range, and I can afford to sit on them a little longer than I normally would.”
Herrold says he plans to slowly grow the winery to 2,000 cases annually.
Silverback Vineyards Chardonnay Wallula Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $55
90 points. Coming from 15-year-old vines at Wallula Vineyard, this is a well-constructed wine with barely a hair out of place. True to the vintage, it’s light and elegant in style with notes of toast, straw and melon that linger effortlessly on the finish. Needs some time to open up and drinks best slightly chilled. Wine Enthusiast, 12/31/13
Silverback Vineyards Référence Wallula Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills 2010 $105
91 points. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (43%), Merlot (31%), Petit Verdot (12%), Cabernet Franc (9%) and Malbec was assembled after just a little more than a year in barrel and then aged for an additional year in 500-liter French oak puncheons. It’s 85% free-run juice and locked up with notes of graphite, dark chocolate, cassis and wood. The flavors are elegant, tart and tightly coiled, surrounded by chewy tannins that still need some time in the bottle to be tamed. Wine Enthusiast, 12/31/13
Silverback Vineyards Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2010 $55
(Good/Excellent) Closed up aromatically at present, it leads with barrel spices of coffee and spice followed by berry and sour cherry. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied, elegant in style with good acidity. The wood flavors are quite prominent but there is a pleasing seamlessness to the palate. 87% Sangiovese, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 4% Syrah. Aged 24 months in American oak puncheons. 14.2% alcohol. 185 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Silverback Vineyards Syrah Columbia Valley 2010 $80
(Excellent) Locked up tight as a drum at present with woodspice, stewed boysenberry, freshly ground currant, and a light smokiness. It’s precise and detailed with a soft, supple elegance and texture. Lingers long on the finish. Aged 25 months in second fill French oak. 14.8% alcohol. 149 cases produced.
Silverback Vineyards Reserve Syrah Columbia Valley 2011 $240
(Excellent/Exceptional) Made all from free run juice and almost impenetrable when first cracked, it opens to reveal smoke, mulberry, raspberry, cream, graphite, and spice. The elegant fruit flavors flesh out after a day of being open. 100% Syrah. Aged 15 months in 500L puncheon. 15% alcohol. 55 cases produced.
Columbia Winery is in the midst of a rebirth after the winery was purchased by E.&J. Gallo Winery in 2012. The winery subsequently hit the reset button, moving production to eastern Washington (though it maintains its facility in Woodinville), rebranding its logo, and accelerating its offerings to the 2012 vintage, which new winemaker Sean Hails was responsible for. Hails grew up in Canada and has had winemaking stints in Australia, Okanagan Valley, and the Niagara Peninsula. He joined Gallo in 2005.
Columbia Winery Small Lot Viognier Columbia Valley 2013 $26
(Good) An aromatic wine with abundant notes of honeysuckle, ripe peach, and nectarine. The palate drinks a hair off dry with full bodied fruit flavors and a finish with lingering floral notes. 98% Viognier and 2% other varieties. 13.9% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Winery Small Lot Riesling Columbia Valley 2013 $26
(Good) An aromatically expressive wine with notes of jasmine, flowers, apricot, and tropical fruit. The palate drinks just off dry with a rich feel to the fruit flavors that carries through the finish. 13.1% alcohol. 568 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Winery Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012 $15
(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic, fresh, and appealing wine with melon, apple, and spice. The palate is full bodied with a textured, rich feel and a lingering finish. 13.8% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Winery Merlot Columbia Valley 2012 $17
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with red fruit, herbs, plum, and wet stone. The palate drinks young, needing a full day to settle into its chewy tannins and mouthwatering fruit flavors. 85% Merlot, 10% Syrah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% other varieties. 13.9% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012 $17
(Good) A moderately aromatic wine with black cherry, wood spice, herbs, and pencil lead. The palate is packed tightly with chewy, rustic, black tea tannins along with herb, cherry, and plum flavors. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, 10% Malbec, and 3% Merlot. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Columbia Composition Red Blend Columbia Valley 2012 $17
(Good) A vibrantly fruit filled wine with cherry and raspberry, licorice, and fresh herbs. The flavors are supple and soft in feel backed by firm, chalky tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. 13.3% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Recommended
Erath Pinot Noir Oregon 2012 $19
(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with notes of dried strawberries, fresh cranberries, pomegranate, and plum along with a kiss of vanilla. The palate is medium bodied, fresh and fruit filled with a pleasing sense of purity. 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Erath Leland Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2011 $50
(Excellent) Pale in color. A lightly aromatic wine with notes of vanilla, woodspice, sarsaparilla, cranberry, and cherry. The palate is juicy with a light, airy feel with abundant fruit and barrel flavors along with exquisite acid balance that stretches out the flavors. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged 12 months in French oak (40% new). 12.5% alcohol. 527 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Erath Prince Hill Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2011 $50
(Excellent/Exceptional) Moderately aromatic with an assortment of barrel spices, licorice, sarsaparilla, dark coffee, and cherry. The palate is juicy, light, and elegant in style with a long, tart finish. 100% Pinot Noir. 71% Pommard, 22% 115, 5% 113, and 2% 667 clones. Aged 12 months in French oak (40% new). 12.5% alcohol. 988 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Dundee Hills 2012 $30
(Excellent) Dark in color, it’s brightly aromatic with notes of dark raspberry, pomegranate, kirsch, and plum. It’s full bodied and fruit-filled, bringing some heft to the tannins that should smooth out with some additional time in the bottle. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged in French oak (30% new). 13.8% alcohol. 7,050 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Stoller Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010 $45
(Excellent) Brings notes of cola, raspberry, baking spices, and thistle. It’s medium bodied with a lot of richness to the fruit flavors while still displaying pleasing subtleties and elegance. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged 10 months in French oak (40% new). 13.5% alcohol. 3,290 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars
Anam Cara Cellars Dry Riesling Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains 2012 $22
(Good) An aromatic and appealing wine with lemon zest, white grapefruit, and abundant mineral notes. As labeled, the palate is dry with puckering acidity. The concentration isn’t all there for it to stand alone but it perks up dinner quite nicely. 100% Riesling. 1.2% Residual Sugar. 9.16 g/L TA. 11.8% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Riesling Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains 2012 $22
(Good/Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with citrus zest, white peach, jasmine, and mineral notes. It drinks off dry with good tension with the sugar and acids and a lingering finish. 100% Riesling. 2.2% Residual Sugar. 7.1 g/L TA. 10.8% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection Chehalem Mountains 2011 $24
(Excellent) Pale in color. Lightly aromatic with notes of dark strawberry, cherry, mint, forest floor, and baking spices. The palate is ethereally light with mouthwatering acidity and a pretty sense of balance that carries through the finish. 12% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noir Wädenswil Chehalem Mountains 2011 $55
(Excellent) An aromatically pleasing wine with notes of sarsaparilla, coffee, wet moss, and cherry. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied and glides along with seamless flavors and an lingering finish. Tannins still need a bit of time to stretch their legs. Best after 2015. 12.2% alcohol. 95 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Reserve Estate Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains 2011 $45
(Good) A brooding wine with cinnamon, baking spices, cola, pine needle, and sweet herbs. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied with unresolved, tightly wound tannins and cleansing acidity. 100% Pinot Noir. 26% Dijon 777, 22% Pommard, 23 % Dijon 115, 17% Dijon 114, and 12% Dijon 667 clones. Aged in French oak (37% new). 12.5% alcohol. 420 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noir Heather’s Vineyard Chehalem Mountains 2009 $65
(Excellent) A moderately aromatic wine with vanilla, cocoa, cola, bark, cherries, and mushroom. The palate is medium-plus bodied with seamless, textured fruit flavors. 100% Pinot Noir. Dijon Clone 114. Aged in French oak (22% one year old, 78% two year old). 14.0% alcohol. 55 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noir Mark IV Chehalem Mountains 2009 $65
(Excellent) Coming from the warm 2009 vintage, it’s somewhat riper in style but still retains its restraint and freshness with appealing aromas and flavors of mint, cherry, and cola speckled with barrel spices, with the charm here equal parts feel and flavor. In a sweet spot at present. Drink now. 100% Pinot Noir. 75% Dijon 777, 15% Dijon 114, 6% Pommard, and 4% Dijon 115 clones. Aged 11 months in French oak (22% new). 14.0% alcohol. 55 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Anam Cara Cellars Pinot Noir Nicholas Estate Chehalem Mountains 2011 $32
(Excellent) Quite light in color and aroma with notes of moss, cherry, and cola with touches of barrel spices running from cinnamon to smoke. The palate is elegant and almost completely transparent in style – perhaps too much so for some tastes – while still retaining some juiciness to the mouthwatering fruit flavors. 100% Pinot Noir. 33% Dijon 114, 27% Dijon 115, 15% Pommard, 14% Dijon 777, and 11% Dijon 667 clones. Aged in French oak (21% new). 12.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.
Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Pinot Gris Yamhill-Carlton 2013 $22
(Good) An aromatic wine with notes of Asian pear, citrus rind, and spice. It drinks off dry with melon flavors and a crisp, biscuity finish. 12.5% alcohol. 0.6% Residual Sugar. 99 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Müeller-Thurgau Yamhill-Carlton 2013 $22
(Decent) An aromatic wine with notes of ripe peach, pineapple, and high toned citrus. It drinks off dry with sweet fruit flavors, trailing off on the finish. 11% alcohol. 1.5% Residual Sugar. 325 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
Kramer Vineyards Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton 2013 $24
(Decent) Medium pink in color with notes of watermelon, raspberry, and spice. It’s dry and crisp with fruit and herb flavors. 10.3% alcohol. 0.5% Residual Sugar. 65 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.
La Crema Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2012 $30
(Good/Excellent) Sourced from ten different vineyards across the Willamette Valley, it’s a moderately aromatic wine with complex notes of orange zest, black tea, cola, cherry, and pencil lead. The palate is medium-plus bodied, full flavored with slightly dry wood tannins and a spice filled finish. 100% Pinot Noir. Aged nine months in French oak (25% new). 13.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.