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Pick My Next Bottle – Washington Legends

March is Taste Washington Wine Month. Taste Washington Wine Month is an annual celebration of Washington State’s award winning industry. The culmination of Taste Washington Wine Month is Taste Washington, a massive tasting of food and wine held at the CenturyLink Field Event Center. 

 With that in mind the March Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on great bottles from the very best producers in Washington. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this Sunday and a Bottle Note will be published later that week. 

The Contenders

  • 1998 Leonetti Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – I could not help breaking into a smile when I tasted the medium to dark ruby-colored 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Its extraordinarily spicy, cherry syrup-scented nose leads to a flavor profile that explodes on the palate with substantial quantities of cherry syrup, raspberry coulis, and Asian spices. Gary Figgins’ Cabernets can be as boisterous as Olivier Humbrecht’s Gewurztraminers. The purity and power of the sweet, spicy fruit flavors found in this wine are truly extraordinary. Additionally, it possesses an extremely long, candied, sweet tannin-filled finish. 96 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2002 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvigon – Unlike some minuscule production “cult” wines or luxury cuvees culled from a winery’s primary product that have earned perfect scores over the years, Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon is the winery’s raison d’etre and is produced in significant quantities (3,400 cases in 2002, 3,425 in 2003). For accomplishing this feat the Golitzens should be doubly proud. Dark ruby-colored and sporting a nose of violets, sweet blueberries, dark cherries, and slight undertones of asphalt, the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon blossoms on the palate to expose a wine of ethereal delicacy yet immense power. Medium to full-bodied, it expands to reveal concentrated layers of cassis, blackberries, red cherries, raspberries, violets, spices, and touches of candied plums. This rich, exquisitely balanced, sweet, and broad wine is harmonious, graceful, and awesomely long. 100 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2008 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard – The 2008 Armada Vineyard Syrah takes the longest to come around according to Christophe Baron. It was aged in puncheon for 22 months. Smoked meat, game, Asian spices, lavender, and blueberry are just some of the scents composing the wine’s aromatic array. In the glass it opens to reveal a pure, rich, elegant but powerful wine with a 60-second finish. It, too, will drink nicely for 10-12 years. I’m a bit cautious on my aging potential estimates because of the lack of a track record. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which Washington Legend should I open?

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the April Installment of Pick My Next Bottle. 

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The Week in Zinfandel (3/16/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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Quilceda Creek Spring 2015 Release Party

Quilceda Creek Vintners was founded in 1978 by Alex and Jeanette Golitzin. Alex is the nephew of André Tchelistcheff, the legendary winemaker who put Beaulieu Vineyard at the forefront of Napa Valley Cabernet in the 1960s and 70s. He credits summer trips to visit his uncle in St. Helena, California with developing his early interest in wine. Alex’s son, Paul Golitzin is now chief winemaker at the winery.

Quilceda Creek Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon has earned some of the highest scores of any wine produced in the United States. The 2002, ’03, ’05 and ’07 vintages all scored 100-point ratings from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. The 2003 vintage of Quilceda Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon was named the No. 2 Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator. Quilceda Creek produces several single vineyard Cabernets, and they also bottled a Merlot through the ’06 vintage.

The winery is located in a residential area just Northeast of Everett, WA. The location limits them to opening their doors just once a year for a Spring Release Party, where only the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon and Columbia Valley Red Wine are poured. This years release party featured the 2012 version of each. To their credit, the pours are substantial allowing you to fairly evaluate the wines. The wines had been open for 1-2 hours prior to pouring.

Although I did not write a note on the ’12 Columbia Valley Red it was the best version of this bottling in recent memory. On top of that the wine was available for purchase the day of the event as well.

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – Deep Crimson in color. 15.2% ABV. Fruit from Champux, Klipsun, Palengat, and Wallula Vineyards. Subdued nose of blue fruits, violets, minerals and cocoa. Elegant but suprisingly powerful. On the palate the wine shows blueberries, currants, crème de cassis, graphite and licorice. Incredibly silky tannins on an exceptionally long finish. So approachable and delicious right now but at the same time this wine has the potential to show well for at least the next decade.

My rating: 97 points.

Quilceda Creek is on a roll and the ’12 Cabernet Sauvignon is every bit as good as the highly acclaimed ’10 and ’11. $145 off the mailing list.

If you are not on the mailing list the wine can be found at retail for the next few weeks. Happy hunting!

I blogged about Quilceda Creek previously in The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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2005 Dehlinger Estate Syrah – Bottle Notes

Dehlinger Winery is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and was founded in 1975 by Tom and Carole Dehlinger. Eva Dehlinger took over winemaking duties in 2007. Known for their Pinot Noir, Dehlinger also makes Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.

The grapes for Dehlinger Wines are largely grown on the Estate Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The initial vines were planted in 1975 and followed by subsequent plantings through 1989.

Pop and pour. Purple in color. 14.9% ABV. Blue fruits, pepper and game on the nose. Lush and extracted with great texture. Flavors of blueberry, blackberry, soy and black pepper. The finish lingers and leaves you wanting another sip. The structure is here such that this will age well for another several years.

My rating: 92 points.

Dehlinger Winery has a great reputation among wine connoisseurs. Wine writers have consistently given strong reviews while praising the winery for its uniqueness, quality, consistency and value. About 75% of their wine is sold via the mailing list. Amazing wines that are well worth the search.

I wrote about Dehlinger previously in the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2011 Ridge Lytton Springs

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The March Zinfandel of the Month is the 2011 Ridge Lytton Springs.

Ridge Vineyards was founded in 1959 when three Stanford Research Institute engineers bought an abandoned winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyards had been planted in the late 19th century by a San Francisco physician who produced his first vintage in the original winery, called Monte Bello, in 1892. The first Ridge vintage was in 1962. Since 1969 Ridge’s winemaker, and now also its CEO, has been Paul Draper. Ridge makes Cabernet, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Rhone style wines.

When I first became interested in Zinfandel the buzz was always around the Three R’s of Zinfandel: Ravenswood, Rosenblum and Ridge. 25 years later Ridge is still at the top of its game, turning out single vineyard Zinfandel from some of California’s most precious vineyards.

Lytton Springs Vineyard dates back to the early 1900’s and is located in the Dry Creek Valley. The ’11 Lytton Springs in a blend of 81% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah and 2% Carignane.

Served without decanting. Shimmering red in color. 14.4% ABV. Brambly red fruits, flowers and minerals on the nose. Medium body with strong acidity. Raspberries, boysenberries, pepper and licorice on the palate. Supremely elegant Zinfandel. Subtle tannins show on a polished finish. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating:  91 points.

Current vintages of the Ridge Lytton Springs including the 2011 and 2012 can be found at retail and will cost right around $35. This is a wine that I buy year in and year out.

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1990 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Chateau Montelena dates back to 1882 when Albert Tubbs bought 254 acres of property just north of Calistoga. Tubbs planted vines and by 1896 Montelena was the 7th largest winery in California. Winemaking came to an end with the onset of Prohibition.

The current iteration of Montelena can be traced to 1968, when Jim Barrett was brought on as a partner in the winery. Wine production began again in 1972, with Mike Grgich employed as winemaker. Four years later, the Chateau Montelena 1973 Alexander Valley Chardonnay won first place among the Chardonnays and White Burgundies entered in the “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. This was later chronicled in the popular wine movie Bottle Shock.

Decanted for 30 minutes. Dark rust in color with some fading at the edge of the glass. 13.5% ABV. Strong nose of cedar, eucalyptus, graphite and dried red fruits. Elegant on the palate with just the right balance of acid, tannin and fruit. Flavors of cherries, currants and tobacco. The finish is endless with drying tannins. Assuming good storage this wine will show well for at least five more years.

My rating: 94 points.

Chateau Montelena is truly a throwback to a bygone era. These are wines meant to be cellared, providing less pleasure on release than they will after 10 or more years of aging.

Current vintages are readily available at retail and can also be purchased at the winery. Expect to pay $100-$125 per bottle.

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The Week in Zinfandel (3/9/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2005 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Inky purple in color. 16.4% ABV. Chocolate, black fruits and melted licorice on the nose. Dense and full bodied with medium acidity. Blackberry liqueur, white pepper, black cherry and raisins on the palate. Chalky tannins on an exceptionally long finish. This is a very big wine so pick your spots wisely when opening. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 91 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The Petite Sirah is a buy for me every year at a mailing list price right around $55. On a short list of the very best domestic Petite Sirahs.

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2005 Williams Selyem Zinfandel Forchini Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Williams Selyem Winery began when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine as a hobby in 1979 in Forestville, California. Their first commercial release was in 1981, and in less than two decades they created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Setting a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking, they put Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley at the forefront of the best Pinot Noir regions in the world.

Today, John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, work with winemaker Jeff Mangahas to carry on the passion for Pinot Noir without compromise. Other varieties bottled at Williams Selyem include Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc.

Forchini Vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley and dates back to the early 1900’s.

Crimson in color. 14.9% ABV. Brambly black fruits, pepper and licorice on the nose. Rich and jammy with port like characteristics on the palate. Flavors of black cherries, blackberries, prunes and rhubarb. Medium length on the finish. Ready to drink. Somewhat disappointing given previous experience with Williams Selyem Zins from this era.

My rating: 89 points.

Williams Selyem is no longer making a Forchini Vineyard Zinfandel. Current offerings from Williams Selyem include Zins from Papera Vineyard and Bacigalupi Vineyard.

Williams Selyem can periodically be found at retail, but the mailing list is highly recommended.

I wrote about Williams Selyem recently in Reflections on Two Days in Russian River Valley and The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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Betz Family Winery Spring 2015 Release Party

Betz Family Winery was founded in 1997 by Bob & Cathy Betz. Critical acclaim from local and national wine publications has put Betz Family Winery at the forefront of Washington wines alongside Cayuse, Leonetti and Quilceda Creek. The winery was sold to Steve and Bridget Griessel four years ago. Bob Betz is still the Winemaker and from what I hear Louis Skinner is setting the bar high as the Assistant Winemaker. 

Betz is open twice a year for the release of their wines: Winter welcomes Bordeaux Blends, and Fall the Syrah-based wines. Located south of the Schoolhouse District in Woodinville, Betz release parties draw such large crowds that Woodinville Fire and King County Sheriff employees are hired to direct traffic.

We attended the winter release party this past Sunday. Per usual Steve made himself available all afternoon to mingle with visitors. 

Here are my initial impressions on the new releases:

  • 2012 Betz Family Clos de Betz - 67% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Verdot. Opaque purple in color. Not showing much on the nose today. Cherries, plums, tobacco and cassis on the palate. Substantial tannins on a long finish. This will drink well for at least a decade. My rating: 91 points.
  • 2012 Betz Family Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Pitch black in color. Cherry, anise, flowers, leather and pencil. Great structure and concentration. Dusty, gritty tannins. This wine has a long life ahead of it. My rating: 95 points.

For the second year in a row the Père de Famille stole the show. My wife and I had the opportunity to catch up with Steve for 10 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Betz might bottle a Syrah from the newly established Rocks District. Steve’s passion is contagious. Rest assured the winery is in good hands.

I’ve been buying the Betz wines for a decade now. I can’t emphasize enough that the entire lineup needs extended time in the cellar.

I understand the mailing list is full, although I suspect the wait isn’t too long. Fortunately, the wine is readily available all over Seattle almost year-round. Both of these new releases are worth searching for. 

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