Walla Walla Weekend!

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2012 at 11:22 pm

This weekend was yet another reminder for me that, if you love wine, and you live within reasonable driving distance of a quality wine region, you should go there. Seriously. Sooner than later. It’s awesome. Our first stop on Friday afternoon was at a winery which is new to me: Tero Estates. They’re on the south side of the AVA, west of Milton-Freewater. I was impressed with the wines in general, and hands-down my favorite of the lineup was the 2007 Windrun Vineyard Cabernet. Windrun is their estate vineyard, and is the oldest commercial Cabernet vineyard in the valley. The wine showed fantastic structure and varietal character, and I loved the fact that 2007 was their current release. I see a maddening number of wines, especially Bordeaux varieties, released and subsequently consumed far too young.

Friday night we attended a winery party. All guests were asked to bring a bottle, we bought these two:

Get it? Cailloux vs Cailloux! Joking aside, they were both showing beautifully. There was some discussion over whether there was a winner between the two, but honestly it was apples and oranges. Or Grenache and Syrah, if you prefer.

Saturday morning started at Cayuse. We tasted through 8 wines from 2009 and 2010. Again the Grenache was one of my favorites, as was the 2009 Armada Vineyard Syrah. A few of the 2010’s were showing a little rough and young, though clearly have the stuffing to resolve with time, I hope I have the chance to taste them again in a year or two. My favorite of the 2010 wines was the Cailloux Vineyard Syrah.

From there we headed north to Basel Cellars, which is just across the state line, in Washington. I’ve been a supporter of this winery for some time now. I still think their Claret is one of the best values for Bordeaux-style red in this region, retailing about $20. I was also excited to try their Tempranillo, which was a new one for me, it showed definite varietal character and great acid, as well as a pretty dense masculine style that spoke clearly of it’s region of origin.

Across the highway we visited Dusted Valley. We tasted through their current lineup of reds, all of which were lovely, and I still love the fact that all of their wines are bottled under screw-cap. But hands-down the star of the tasting at Dusted Valley was their 2011 rosé. It was delicate and bright, with great acidity and a beautiful nose. Drinking it while sitting on their patio and eating fish tacos from Andre’s Kitchen was definitely one of the better moments of the weekend. Here’s a picture of a 3-liter bottle of the rosé. Unfortunately these were not available for sale.

From there we stopped downtown at the tasting room for Kerloo winery. This is a pretty new outfit, and very small production, but already getting a lot of good press, and I can see why. We tasted the 2009 Tempranillo and 2009 Grenache. I liked them both very much, though the Grenache just a little more. Very pretty aromatics, and great acidity.

Then it was on to L’Ecole 41. I sometimes feel like not enough people appreciate these wines for how good they are. But then other times I think if more people did, the wines would just cost more. It was our first taste of the 2011 Chenin Blanc, which we were all anxiously awaiting. The 2010 Chenin was one of my favorite wines of our trip last year, and we subsequently sold piles and piles of it. The 2011 did not disappoint by any means, though it’s small amount of residual sugar seemed somewhat more overt. That could be attributable to age, however, and I look forward to seeing how this develops over the next 6 months. We also tried a 1995 Windrun Vineyard Cabernet, which was another experience in how well these wines age. On the nose it was definitely developing some oxidative character, but in the mouth it was still remarkably bright, with plenty of structure, fruit, and acidity left. I also loved the estate Cab, the Apogee, and the Perigee, but there’s nothing new there. Also, Brandon Kubrock makes outstanding Syrah. He’s not the winemaker, and his Syrah isn’t available for sale, but just for the record, it’s outstanding.

At this point in the day, my diligence for tasting notes began to wane. I have sparse notes from our visit to Walla Walla Vintners, though I did especially like their ‘super-tuscan’ Sangiovese/Cab blend, the 2009 Bello Rosso.

And last but not least, we visited El Corazon winery in their funky downtown tasting room. With the amount of money starting to flow into the valley, and the amount of pomp and circumstance many wineries are putting into their tasting rooms and presentation, it is really a breath of fresh air to see people who are clearly making wine because it’s just what they love to do. Their tasting room is as empty of pretense as it is possible to be, and so are their wines. Their mission is simple: find great fruit that’s indicative of both terroir and varietal, and vinify it as simply as possible, to let the grapes do the talking.

We wrapped up our tour this morning with a visit to Buty winery. No surprises here. Caleb Foster is an outstanding winemaker.

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