Today, the Wine Bloggers Conference was more focused on the terroir of Walla Walla: the geology, the producers, the varieties, the soils, the climate, the combination of things that are giving shape to this wine region. The well-organized winery visits, with three distinct stops for each group of bloggers, were very successful and allowed a good, quick overview of what Walla Walla is all about. Between discussion of the particulars of deficit irrigation to the alluvial soils of Buty’s Rockgarden vineyard, and the humorous talks with the winemaker at Dunham Cellars, along with a fair bit of wine tasting, it was a well-filled half-day.
There is much interesting stuff to write about this – and I will write about it very soon – but for now, we’re back to our speed dating session, with five minutes per wine to taste, ask questions, spit and write.
Jordan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
This is not a pyrazine-forward (read: vegetal) cabernet. Jordan has been making cabernet since the 1970s. Lots of changes at Jordan, since 2006. Move to select provenance, improve quality. We learn that this is actually a bordeaux blend with 70% cabernet sauvignon, the rest being other varieties. It’s well done, ripe but still with enough freshness, a little black currant, a touch of tobacco leaf, perhaps, and good length. I could see that aging, but I could also have it with some bbqed meats. Still, I keep feeling like there’s a little something missing. Not sure why.
Maryhill Winery 2007 Zinfandel, Columbia Valley
A zinfandel fromWashington? Very interesting. I thought we’d be drinking all bordeaux varieties, and here we are tasting zin, tempranillo, grenache, syrah… Lots of things going on in the region. Pretty fresh nose, for a zin. Nice mouthful, it’s varietally correct, good length and a pleasant, though a little hot finish. For 15$, very drinkable. It actually reminds me of the more restrained California zinfandels I like so much, and that have become sadly much more scarce. I wouldn’t say no to a glass.
Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley
My favorite appellation for zinfandel, in the house. Again, a more restrained style. “I don’t believe zinfandel should be like prune juice”. 65 year-old vines on average. Ripe, full and focused, with a fair bit of graphite/mineral notes. Ripe fruit, not cooked fruit, and also those tar, rocky notes I like. The vines are a bit of a field blend, apparently. Good length, enough acid to keep it together. That’s the way (an han, an han) I like it. Wish I had more time to savor it.
Hogue 2007 Genesis Meritage, Columbia Valley
Mostly merlot and cabernet sauvignon, with a little malbec and cab franc. It’s the top-tier bottling from this large Washington winery. Very smooth, goes in easy, tannins kick in at the end. Modern style, with a decent grip, not jumping to the jammy side of things. That seems to be one great quality of Washington. Even in more modern, fruit-forward incarnations, there’s always something keeping the wine together, structured… Well, almost always.
Buty 2006 Columbia, Horse Heaven Hills
Nice to see Caleb Foster and Nina Buty Foster again, after we visited their very nice new vineyard on alluvial soil with big, big basalt stones all over the place. This 55% cabernet and 45% syrah blend is very solid. This morning, we tasted a different blend, dominated by syrah, now the reverse. They’re sister wines. Nice blend, good focus. Wish I’d had more time to taste it. Hope to do it again. Great couple with great ideas. They do natural fermentations, organic viticulture. They rock.
Dusted Valley Vintners, 2007 Boomtown Cabernet Sauvignon
Soft, fruit forward style of cabernet sauvignon. Nice 15$ wine, but it lacks a bit of the structure I’ve enjoyed so far. Actually less structured than the zinfandel from Washington we had, at the sam price. Two wines will be introduced to Quebec.
Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards, 2007 Merlot, Columbia Valley
Estate-grown merlot from this winery with over 100 acres of vines. 93% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, 2% syrah. Vineyard out west near the Snake River. Organic growers. Spicy, dark fruit. French and american oak, 20% new. Less than a year in barrel. Well-rounded and ripe, pleasant enough, but a bit hot at the end and perhaps a bit soft. Satisfying, overall.
Nicholas Cole Cellars 2005 Camille, Columbia Valley
Winery founded in 2001 by Michael Neuffer, a man with a construction background. Bordeaux blend with merlot, cab franc and cab sauvignon, touch of petit verdot. Very smoky nose, with the same in the mouth. To me, that masks just about everything else. A little red pepper, firm tannins. Not my cup of (chinese smoked) tea.
JLC 2004 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley
JLC (James Leigh Cellars) is a particular boutique winery established in 2001. Soil is alluvial, with lots of gravel. Slightly confusing presentation – or maybe it’s me getting to overload level. Strange herbal, slightly stewy nose. Unbalanced in the mouth. I’m not having much fun, here, I’m sorry to say.
Banfi 2007 Belnero, Toscana IGT
Sangiovese with international varieties from Banfi. Same spirit as the white we had yesterday, of adding international touches to Tuscany wines. At least, it’s not pretending to be Brunello… There’s a fair bit of the rustic, typical character of sangiovese, rounded out with modern fruitiness. Spicy finish that is rather good. It is a young wine, yes, but I’m not sure it really has the acid and structure for very long aging. It’s good, though not cheap, bu I rather prefer it when Tuscany is just being Tuscany.
Monthaven Winery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast
A Octavin (sort of bag-in-box) wine, aimed to be a higher end wine in this normally “budget” container, we are told. Great 3-liter packaging. Equivalent of 6$ per bottle. Now, let’s see the contents… Fruit with that acidulated-candy character on the nose. A little cardboard character on the mouth, spicy, a little hot. At 6$ a bottle, I guess…
Doolhof Wine Estate, 2009 Dark Lady of the Labyrinth, Wellington, South Africa
A young pinotage, aged in toasted oak. Yes, you can tell that right off the bat. Rich mocha on the mouthful, again with toasty notes. Very rich feeling, without a real structure to hold it. Very weird and manufactured. Not for me, thank you.
A rather disappointing end to this particular session. Luck of the draw, as there were other wines rolling around the room. I think I’ll go find the lady from Dry Creek, get me some of that excellent zinfandel…