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2011 Efeste Emmy – Bottle Notes

Efeste, pronounced like the letters “F-S-T” strung together, was named after the last names of founders Helen & Dan Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin & Angela Taylor. Efeste is located in the Warehouse District of Woodinville, Washington. Peter Devison took over full-time winemaking duties when Brennon Leighton left to work with Charles Smith in 2012.

Emmy is a Southern Rhone Blend of 71% Mourvèdre, 16% Grenache and 13% Syrah sourced from the Stone Tree Vineyard on the Wahluke Slope.

Purple in color. 15% ABV. The wine slowly opened up to reveal a Rhone like nose of black fruits, blood, flowers and lavender. Full bodied and still somewhat primary on the palate. Flavors of raspberry, kirsch, plum, stones and Herbes de Provence. The finish is exceptionally long. This wine needs at least 3-5 years in the cellar and will age gloriously for at least a decade. I need a few more bottles!

My rating: 91 points.

Efeste has one of the best white wine programs in the state of Washington and the red wines are also exceptional. The wines are readily available at retail, via the wine club and at the winery. The 2011 Emmy will set you back $45.

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Cayuse 2014 Release Party

Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla, he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes and decided to purchase the land.

Cayuse Release Weekend is traditionally the first Friday and Saturday of April. I find it worth the 4 hour trek from Seattle because it is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to taste through almost all of the wines that will be released the following year. The doors open on each day at 10am and the line starts forming even earlier. Christophe greeted us at 10am with glass in hand!

Usually when I write up release party notes I try to give impressions and scores on each wine. However, Cayuse was packed, the wines came fast and furious and I was busy catching up with fellow Cayuse devotees. If you really need scores, I’d say all the wines would have scored at least 93 to 94 points. The following wines were being sampled this year:

2011 God Only Know Grenache
2012 Camaspelo (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot)
2012 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah
2012 En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
2012 En Cerise Vineyard Syrah
2012 Bionic Frog Syrah
2011 Armada Vineyard Syrah
2012 Impulsivo Tempranillo

The standout in the Cayuse lineup was the 2012 En Chamberlin. The wine had great floral qualities, amazing purity of fruit and was at the same time supple and savory. I’d ballpark this at 96 points but definitely need to do further research. For that matter the entire Syrah lineup including the Armada, Cailloux, En Cerise and Bionic Frog was exceptional. Note to self: wish list even more wines next year.

The 2012 Syrahs continued the trend of moving away from that Cayuse funk of years past. These are rich, acid driven wines with great purity of fruit and minerality. They will all benefit from many years in the cellar.

It is also worth noting that the 2012 Camaspelo was exceptional. Clearly the best Camaspelo to date and no longer the weak link in the Cayuse lineup.

Although they were not part of the tasting I also had the opportunity to taste the debut Grenache and Syrah from Horsepower Vineyards. This is a new project from Christophe Baron and the mailing list will be opened to existing Cayuse members sometime in the month of May. The Grenache had mind blowing floral characteristics. Both wines had structure and a tannin profile that sets them apart from Cayuse and No Girls. I sincerely hope I am in front of my computer when the release email arrives in my inbox.

If you are on the Cayuse mailing list, I urge you to consider making the pilgrimage to Walla Walla for the 2015 event. Unfortunately, if you’re not on the mailing list, the wait is very long, and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail.

This tasting only confirmed my opinion that Cayuse is one of the best wineries on the planet and current vintages are worth the hunt!

I’ve blogged about Cayuse previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5.

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2006 Dehlinger Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard – 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. Goldridge is a reference to a soil type within the Dehlinger Estate Vineyard.

Light garnet in color. 14.8% ABV. Red fruits, cloves, earth and minerals on the nose. Delicate and feminine with medium acidity. Bing cherries, forest floor, cola, flowers and spice on the palate. Atypical Dehlinger. It lacks the great texture I so adore in Dehlinger Pinot’s. Charming and somewhat Burgundian. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 91 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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2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Koplen Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to pool their tips and venture into winemaking. Fifteen years later, Kosta Browne is one of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of California. At present time they produce three appellation Pinot Noirs, eight single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.

The Koplen Vineyard lies in the Middle Reach of the Russian River appellation, just off Olivet Road. Slightly sloped, this young vineyard is showing bold fruit with complex flavors. Dennis Koplen farms the vineyard and Kosta Browne is the only producer to take fruit from this vineyard.

Crimson in color. 14.8% ABV. Complex nose of red fruits, violets and baking spice. Medium bodied with ample acidity. The palate is alive with strawberries, bing cherries, plums, brown sugar, earth and cloves. Subtle, silky tannins grace a long, sweet finish. Unmistakably a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Kosta Browne. Drink over the next year or so.

My rating: 93 points.

The 2012 version will be released this Fall. As I mentioned in the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists, Kosta Browne is one of hardest lists to crack. Maybe so, but you’ve got nothing to lose by putting your name on the waiting list. Good luck!

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Barrel tasting with Chris Figgins

Chris Figgins, son of Leonetti Cellar founder Gary Figgins, assumed full responsibility for winemaking at Leonetti in 2001. For years Leonetti purchased their grapes but over time have moved to using Estate grapes from their own vineyards. The genesis for FIGGINS was the idea of making one wine from a single estate vineyard.

For the second year in a row my wife and I had a tasting appointment at FIGGINS Wine Studio on the Friday of Cayuse Release Weekend. Located just outside of downtown Walla Walla the Studio is the winemaking facility for FIGGINS, Doubleback and Toil Oregon.

We were greeted upon arrival with a glass each of the recently released 2012 Toil Oregon and 2010 FIGGINS.

Toil is a new Pinot Noir project from Chris Figgins using fruit sourced from the Ribbon Ridge AVA in the Willamette Valley. The wine itself was young, fresh and earthy with strong acidity. There were great flavors of tea, blood orange and mandarin on the palate. Our timing was perfect as the first release of Toil to mailing list members happened a little over a week ago. This is a strong first effort and I look forward to following Toil over the coming years.

The 2010 FIGGINS is big and brawny with an explosive nose of chocolate, leather and graphite. The palate was alive with flavors of menthol, red fruits and black currants. This is an exceptional wine that needs upwards of a decade in the cellar.

As we were finishing our pour of the ’10 FIGGINS, Chris Figgins himself arrived to taste some barrel samples with us. Although Chris and I have corresponded in the past year this was my first opportunity to meet him in person. I’ve been on the Leonetti mailing list for 20+ years and vividly recall the first time I met Gary Figgins at a release party in the mid nineties. As with his dad, winemakers don’t come nicer than Chris, who shared stories and gave us some insight into his vision for Leonetti, FIGGINS and Toil.

We tasted through the following barrel samples from FIGGINS and Doubleback:

  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Sunrise Block
  • ’13 FIGGINS Merlot
  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 4
  • ’13 FIGGINS Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 7/8
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon McQueen Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Lefore Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon Bob Healey Vineyard
  • ’13 Doubleback Malbec Bob Healey Vineyard
  • ’12 Doubleback Cabernet Sauvignon McQueen Vineyard

The samples were all exceptional but the FIGGINS Merlot and the two McQueen Vineyard Cabs really stood out.

As far as what’s to come? Chris mentioned a new project featuring Washington Aglianico. The vineyard called Serra Pedace is located high up in the SeVein project in the southern section of the valley. More to come on this. It also sounds like there will be new facilities for both FIGGINS and Doubleback in the next few years.

Prior to tasting the FIGGINS and Doubleback wines I figured I had myself covered by buying the Leonetti wines. What I learned is that each winery is distinct, with their own approach to making world class wines. I now find myself on the FIGGINS and Doubleback mailing lists, too.

These are truly some of the most exciting wines being made in the state of Washington (and Oregon if you include Toil). Plan your buying decisions accordingly!

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2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Sonoma County – Bottle Notes

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer. Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Syrah from exceptional, historic vineyards.

The 2011 version of the Sonoma County Zinfandel is sourced from Fanucchi Wood Road, Carlisle, Rowe, Rossi Ranch, Lingenfelder and Bedrock Vineyards.

Garnet in color. 14.9% ABV. Red fruits, vanilla and a touch of pepper on the nose. Rich and creamy. Strawberry, raspberry, white pepper and minerals on the palate. Light acidity and soft tannins. Ready to drink. As always a complete bargain for around $22 but a step down from both the ’10 and ’12 versions of this wine.

My rating: 90 points.

Current vintages of the various Carlisle wines are available via the mailing list, which is exceptionally long. Several retail outlets in California stock Carlisle, but you need to check with them at the time the winery releases their wines in the Spring and Fall.

I’ve wrote about Carlisle previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5.

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2005 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills – Bottle Notes

One of the most collectible Pinot Noirs made in all of Oregon is from a winery you’ve probably never heard of: Thomas Winery. Located in Carlton, Oregon, winemaker John Thomas has been releasing small amounts of wine from the Thomas Vineyard since 1988. I don’t recall ever seeing ratings from the Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator, and I don’t think Thomas has ever hosted a public event. It truly is an undiscovered gem.

The ’05 is a light ruby red in color. Almost translucent. 13.4% ABV. Red fruits, Christmas spice and forest floor on the nose. Light in body with great acidity. Complex and structured. The palate has tart red cherries, blood orange, fruitcake and a great spicy component. The finish literally lasts for a minute or more. Super wine right now but it will clearly age for another 2-3 years. One of the best Oregon Pinot Noirs I have ever had.

My rating: 95 points.

Thomas Pinot Noir makes a brief appearance at Portland-area shops soon after release, and is priced right around $45 per bottle. I’ve had the opportunity to taste bottlings going back to the late 90′s, and think the wine shows best 7-10 years past the vintage date. You may still be able to secure a few bottles of the recently released 2011.

I’ve blogged about Thomas previously in Thomas Winery: The Best Pinot Noir You Have Never Heard Of

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1999 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT – Bottle Notes

Paolo di Marchi has run Isole e Olena since the age of 20. Paolo avoids the Cabernet Sauvignon many of his neighbors have begun to incorporate into their Chiantis, believing it overshadows the Sangiovese. The flagship wine at Isole e Olena is Cepparello, a barrique-aged Sangiovese classified as an IGT – because at the time of its creation in the 1980s, a wine comprising 100% Sangiovese could not legally be labelled as Chianti.

A bright garnet in color. 14% ABV. Pop and pour but the wine opened up in the decanter. Black fruits, tar, asphalt, licorice, flowers and a hint of barnyard on the nose. Rich and full bodied with strong acidity. Black cherry, anise, leather, menthol and prunes on the palate. The finish is long and mouth coating. Coarse, drying tannins. Super, food friendly wine that paired brilliantly with chicken parmesan. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 94 points.

The winery is firing on all cylinders and current vintages can be had for about $70. Look for the 2009 and 2010.

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2006 Betz Family Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille – Bottle Notes

The 2006 Betz Family Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille was the winning bottle in the March installment  of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was decanted for three hours.

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 (with Bob Betz remaining on as the winemaker), and I fully expect quality will remain high for years to come.

Opaque purple in color. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec. 14.5% ABV. Exotic nose of black fruits, leather and pipe tobacco. A wine of power and structure. Black currants, cassis, menthol, graphite and cherries on the palate. Silky tannins and a long, rich finish. This wine will drink well for at least another 5-7 years.

My rating: 93 points.

I’ve followed Betz from the start and still have bottles dating back to the ’02 vintage. I am confident these wines will age as gracefully as the likes of Woodward Canyon and Quilceda Creek.

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. The 2011 was just released and runs about $68.

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2011 Ca’ de’ Rocchi (Tinazzi) Valpolicella Monterè Ripasso – Bottle Notes

Cantine Tinazzi began with the commitment and passion of Eugenio Tinazzi who founded the company in the late 1960’s in Cavaion Veronese near Lake Garda. Initially, it was a very small business, making and selling local Verona wines within the province. Over the years, sales rose and expanded to Lombardy and later throughout Northern Italy.

Violet in color. 14% ABV. 80% Corvina, 15% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. Black fruits, leather and chocolate on the nose. Big, rich and very extracted. Full bodied with great acidity. The palate has gobs of blackberry, black licorice, macerated cherries and a touch of pepper. Exceptional finish. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 93 points.

This wines is beautifully packaged and an exceptional value for $20-$25.

Sample provided by the Wine Chateau.

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