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. 20 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 ’07 Lytton Springs in a blend of 71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah and 7% Carignane.
Purple in color. 14.4% ABV. Red fruits, plums and chocolate on the nose. Medium body and light acidity. Blackberry, vanilla cream, pepper, prunes and cinnamon on the palate. Supple tannins and a long finish. Drink over the next 2-3 years.
My rating: 91 points.
The 2011 Lytton Springs is widely available at retail for right around $32. I’ve already secured my bottles.
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.
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, Bob and Steve made themselves available all afternoon to mingle with visitors.
Tasting and evaluating wine at release parties can be a challenge, as pours are usually small and you have just a few minutes to formulate an opinion. That said, the Betz lineup is better than ever. Props to the staff at Betz for decanting both wines for 3 hours.
Here are my initial impressions on the new releases:
2011 Betz Family Clos de Betz - 67% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. Purple in color. Cherries, plums, vanilla, pencil, currants and cassis. Extremely supple with soft tannins. I suspect this wine will drink well at a young age. My rating: 92 points.
2011 Betz Family Cabernet Sauvignon Père de Famille – 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot and 3% Merlot. Black in color. Black cherry, anise, violets, minerals, leather and graphite. Great structure and concentration. Substantial tannins. This wine has a long life ahead of it. My rating: 94 points.
In contrast to last year the Père de Famille stole the show.
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.
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 Bob Cabral to carry on the passion for Pinot Noir without compromise.
The fruit for the ’06 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was sourced from the Drake Estate Vineyard, the Allen Vineyard, the Flax Vineyard, the Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard, the Bucher Vineyard, and the Litton Estate Vineyard.
Light red. Almost translucent in color. 14.3% ABV. Forest floor, spice, earth, pine needle and red fruits on the nose. Medium body and just perfect acidity. Orange rind, sassafras, cherries, nutmeg and minerals on the palate. The wine finishes strong and has enough tannins to warrant another year or so in the cellar. This bottle bodes well for the ’06 single vineyard wines.
My rating: 92 points.
Williams Selyem can periodically be found at retail, but the mailing list is highly recommended. Current vintages of the Russian River Valley bottling are approximately $50 off the mailing list and at retail. I sometimes find myself questioning the price point on this wine but in looking at the vineyard sources I could make an argument that the price is fair.
In other news it was announced recently that Bob Cabral will be leaving Williams Selyem after the 2014 vintage is harvested. This is a huge blow to Williams Selyem and one that needs to be closely monitored by fans of the winery.
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.
Light golden in color. 13.7% ABV. Apple, lemon, minerals and vanilla on the nose. Vibrant acidity. Rich and spicy with great mouthfeel. Lime, grapefruit, flint, stones and mineral on the palate. This wine sees some French oak and the result is a fleshy, unctuous wine. Nicely done.
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 2012 Sauvage should be available $23 or so.
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.
Carlo’s Ranch Vineyard is now known as Papera Ranch Vineyard. The vineyard is close to Carlisle Vineyard and was planted in 1934. While many old-vine vineyards contain plenty of mixed black varieties, most of the blocks at Papera Ranch are 95+% Zinfandel. One block, however, does contain a significant amount of Carignane with a sprinkling of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Valdiguié.
Crimson in color. 15.3% ABV. Juicy, brambly red fruits, pepper and licorice on the nose. Full bodied, perfect acidity and supple tannins. Raspberry, blueberry, white pepper, white chocolate and a hint of raisin on the palate. Brilliant Zinfandel. Drink over the next year or so.
My rating: 93 points.
This wine, now known as Papera Ranch, is a winner year in and year out. Current vintages run around $40. I can’t recommend this more highly.
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.
Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The winemakers contributing to the Collaboration Series is a Who’s Who of Washington winemakers including Ben Smith, Carolyn Lakewold, Chris Gorman, James Mantone, Mark McNeilly, Mike McMorran and Ross Mickel.
Located in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Force Majeure is open twice a year for mailing list member release parties. The Winter Release Party featured the ’11 Collaboration Series (CS) II Syrah, ’11 CS VI Southern Rhone Blend, ’10 CS IV Merlot, ’09 CS Reserve Syrah and ’11 Force Majeure Cabernet Sauvignon.
Below are some initial thoughts and scores on the new releases. I look forward to trying all these wines again in the years to come.
2011 CS Syrah – 96% Syrah co-fermented with Viognier and Roussanne. Dark, brooding and tightly wound. Black fruits, meat and pepper flavors. The co-fermented wines really stand out in this blend. Don’t even consider opening a bottle for several years. My rating: 92 points.
2011 CS VI Southern Rhone Blend – Predominantly Mourvèdre with Syrah and Grenache. Raspberry, strawberry, kirsch and pepper on the palate. Super approachable right now. As close as it gets to Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Washington! My rating: 94 points.
2010 CS IV Merlot – Predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Wow. Rich and hedonistic. Layers upon layers of blueberries, chocolate ganache and anise. Reminiscent of a Merlot from Robert Foley. My rating: 96 points.
2009 CS Reserve Syrah – Sweet, rich and plush. Raspberry liqueur, stones, minerals and grilled meat on the palate. Absolutely stunning. Think Lillian and Saxum and you are on the right track. My rating: 96 points.
2011 Force Majeure Cabernet Sauvignon – Lush and silky. Black currant, cassis, leather and pencil flavors. Super pure Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. One to watch as the vines develop. My rating: 92 points.
Every wine at the release party was a show stopper in its own right. The CS IV Merlot is arguably the best Merlot being made in Washington. Bravo!
Force Majeure warrants your attention and (as I write this) the winery is still accepting names for their mailing list.
The 2005 Janasse Chaupin was the winning bottle in the February installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was decanted for two hours.
Domaine de la Janasse is located in Courthezon, in the Southern Rhone Valley, and it is one of the region’s brightest stars. The Sabon family has been growing grapes in the valley for several generations, but it wasn’t until 1973 that Aime Sabon built his began making wine under the name Domaine de la Janasse. The wines became truly noteworthy in the 1990s, after Aime’s son Christophe graduated from oenology college in Beaune and returned to the domaine bringing new ideas about wine production and viticulture. Janasse owns 136 acres of vineyards divided into 15 parcels, and also makes Cotes du Rhone and white wines, all of which are praised by reviewers.
Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. 100% Grenache. Initially somewhat muted on the nose. With a little coaxing aromas of red fruits, wet stones and minerals emerged from the glass. Medium bodied with high acidity. Jammy, spicy fruit. Raspberry, strawberry, kirsch, iodine, licorice and herbs on the palate. The wine picked up weight with more time in the decanter. Great finish. As the night wore on the wine got better and better. Nothing here but lush, rich, sexy Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The wine has the stuffing to age for another decade.
My rating: 95 points.
Current vintages of Janasse Chaupin will set you back about $85. Be on the lookout for vintages like ’04 and ’06 which can be had for $50-$60 on WineBid.
Located in the Walla Walla Valley appellation of Washington State, Woodward Canyon Winery was started in 1981 by Rick Small and his wife, Darcey Fugman-Small. Woodward Canyon produces almost a dozen different wines, and their Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Chardonnay are some of the very best examples of those varietals produced in Washington State. I wrote about Rick Small previously in The Washington Wine Hall of Fame.
The fruit for 1999 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Sagemoor and Champoux Vineyards. Crimson in color. 13.9% ABV. Heady aromas of red fruits, tobacco and chocolate. Rich and plush with fine grained tannins. Blackberries, black cherry liqueur, graphite, espresso and licorice on the palate. A touch of heat on the long finish. Drink over the next 1-3 years.
My rating: 91 points.
The reds from Woodward Canyon age as gracefully as anything produced in Washington.
The current vintage is widely available at retail, at the winery and via the mailing list for right around $80. The Artists Series Cabernet is a more affordable but delicious alternative for about $45.
The winery is also a great first stop as you head into the Walla Walla wine country!
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 crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Great aromas of red fruits, baking spice and citrus. Light body and medium to high acidity. Cranberry, cherry, orange rind, brown sugar and mineral on the palate. Great concentration and exceptional balance. The finish is extraordinary. Drink over the next 2-3 years.
My rating: 93 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.
The February Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. 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 Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.
2005 was an exceptional vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Conditions were perfect and the vintage rivals other greats of the last 30 years including 1990 and 1998.
2005 Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Chaupin – A 100% Grenache cuvee from sandy and clay soils, the 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape Chaupin has a deep ruby/purple color and a sweet nose of smoked meats and game, blackberry and cassis fruit intermixed with some sweet cherry, plum, and a hint of fig. The wine boasts some charcoal notes, plenty of ocean sea breeze, and a hint of seaweed wrapper (nori) with a long, heady, stunningly rich finish. This is a beauty, but it really begs for 2-3 years of cellaring and should keep for two decades. 94 points from the Wine Advocate
2005 Domaine de Cristia Renaissance – The 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Renaissance (70% old vine Grenache aged in neutral wood and 30% Mourvedre aged in small oak casks) possesses a dense purple color as well as complex aromatics of soy, blueberries, blackberries, charcoal, and truffles. Deep, concentrated, dense, and rich, it has even more structure than the Vieilles Vignes cuvee (no doubt due to the Mourvedre component), but is somewhat more forward in the mouthfeel. Again, patience will be required. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2025. 95 points from the Wine Advocate.
2005 Domaine du Pégaü Cuvée Réservée- The 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Reservee (normally a blend of approximately 80% Grenache and the rest Syrah and Mourvedre) exhibits a deep ruby/plum/garnet hue along with lots of grilled meat juices, roasted Provencal herbs, tar, blackberries and black currants. The wine is medium to full-bodied, still firm and tannic. It is those tannins that make the 2005 somewhat reminiscent of a tight, more austere-styled vintage such as 1995. The 2005 needs at least another 4-5 years of cellaring, and should last for 20 years or more. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape should I open?
2005 Domaine de la Janasse Cuvée Chaupin (43%, 17 Votes)
2005 Domaine du Pégaü Cuvée Réservée (30%, 12 Votes)
2005 Domaine de Cristia Renaissance< (27%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 40
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 March installment of Pick My Next Bottle.