Live white wine blogging from Walla Walla, Washington

The American Wine Bloggers Conference has just begun on a strong note: good tacos from the Walla Walla taco trucks, good tastings, meeting with fellow bloggers (many who I only knew online), an interesting keynote speech from Steve Heimoff, the Wine Blog Awards, and good breakout sessions on blogging, in various fashions. Twitter is on fire with the “#WBC10″ hashtag, and the crowd is in good spirits.

As the breakout sessions on blogging are ending, we’re getting ready to proceed to the first of two live wine blogging sessions, something I really loved doing back at the first Wine Bloggers Conference. The first session is white wine only, and it’s starting in a moment. So watch this space for updates as the wines are tasted and spit.

And off we go…

Duck Pond Cellars 2008 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley

Pinot gris from three estate vineyards: St Jory (mostly), A&E Farms and Hylo from a cool year, in the Willamette Valley, a year that fortunately ended with a long, warm back season. Nicely aromatic version, with yellow delicious apple aromas and pastry notes hitting right off the bat. Decent mouthfeel, though it has something a little creamy for my taste – a small part of the wine is fermented on lees in barrels. Nice mineral and fruity notes on the finish. It’s growing on me as I retaste it. At 15$ a bottle, I wouldn’t say no.

Banfi Centine 2008, Toscana

Blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot grigio from one of the main producers in Tuscany. 10-12$ wine. Fresh, clean, well-assembled. It’s refreshing and simple, with nice fruity notes on the finish. A good summer quaffer, with fish, shellfish or just by the pool.

Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl 2009 Riesling, Washington State

Rich aromas on this popular brand from Charles Smith. Nice citrus, good amplitude and freshness in the mouth. Ripe riesling with good balance between sweetness and acidity. Gotta love the cool packaging. Great stuff at this great price (12$). The winery person is very daring, actually throwing in a second wine, a naturally fermented viognier that is also very nice, with tropical notes but great freshness. Like it a lot.

Jordan 2008 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

So happy to see this wine here. It was one of my favorites from the 2008 Wine Bloggers Conference. Full-bodied, malolactic character – oh, and lees, too, from some batonnage. Considerable richness on the mouthfeel, but balanced out by good, citrusy acidity. 1000% French oak, half-new, but for only five months. Good length, very pleasant. I’d have it with poultry. Maybe in a few years, actually.

ÀMaurice 2008 Columbia Valley Viognier

Richer style of viognier than the Charles Smith we just had. Feels more like a Condrieu, with pineapple, papaya and spicy aromas. Good length and solid overall feel. This is not a light wine or a summer quaffer, but I could see that with a salmon dish or even a pork dish, with a cream sauce. It has the aromatic power to stand that, and the acidity to cut through the fat. Very good.

Cadaretta 2008 SBS, Columbia Valley

Blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon. Interesting to see a bordeaux blend in whites, as Washington does a lot of Bordeaux blends in red. Ripe, aromatic nose, a little pastry-like. Mouth is OK, but seems a little tight, compared to the nose. Citrusy on the finish. May need some time. Would like to taste it again in a more relaxed context. This is going really fast. Fun, but fast.

Le Château 2008 chardonnay, Columbia Valley

Barrel-fermented chardonnay, all in French oak. 10 months on lees with bâtonnage. Good, full, toasty, buttery chardonnay, well-made for that style. Good acidity overall. Could be a little fresher. This is from a big winery, aiming at 50,000 cases, over time.

Don Sebastiani and Sons The Crusher 2009 Pinot Noir Rosé, Clarksburg AVA

The area, says the winemaker, is cooled by the river delta, near Sacramento, helpful with pinot noir. 13% viognier juice is cofermented with the pinot noir juice. A little 4% of malbec is added after fermentation. A fruity style, peony-colored, with the pinot noir character coming through, but with much rich viognier aromas and flavors coming up too. I still like my rosés drier.

Cornerstone Cellars 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Non-irrigated, 25 year-old vineyard in St Helena. Cold fermentation, over two months, in tank. Then in old barrels for lees contact, for six months. Fully ripe, nice mineral touches, great acidity. It’s a well-structured white that could do well with lobster and shrimp. Really nice balance, well-mastered, but with a distinct personality. Very good work from Craig Camp.

Concannon 2008 Conservancy Chardonnay, Livermore Valley

The vineyard for this wine has been turned into a land trust to keep it agricultural and protect it from development. Heritage initiative from a 127-year-old winery. Creamy, stonefruit, but good freshness. Remarkably good for the price (15$). Classic californian style, well-made. Simple but well-centered.

Neetlingshof 2009 Unwooded Estate Chardonnay, Stellenbosch

Moving to South Africa, with an unwooded chardonnay – a change from previous chardonnays in this tasting. Mostly on decomposed granite or Tukulu soils. Ripe nose, with citrus and a bit of stonefruit (apricot, I’d say). Thankfully unoaked, as it si fairly rich, despite the good acidity. Not bad. Mineral finish that is interesting.

Mollydooker 2009 The Violinist Verdelho, McLaren Vale

Honeysuckle and apricot, says Brian Pasch, from Mollydooker. Easy to agree. I tasted a solid Mollydooker shiraz, earlier today, and I have to say that in the full, ripe, rich style, their stuff is very good and full of character, not flabby or jammy. The same can be said of this white, which is highly aromatic, round and tasty, explosive even, but balanced. And I wrote that before looking at the 16% – yes, 16% – alcohol level. I don’t know how they do this. Defies my expectations.

And we’re done. This was even crazier than I remembered, but so much fun. No time for dilly-dallying, your first impressions count. And first impressions are often the best.

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