Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tasting Notes from the West Coast:

In honor of the upcoming wine bloggers' conference this weekend in Walla Walla, Washington, here are some recent notes from the Random Oenophile's West Coast correspondent James Bassett. All the content below is his. We're looking forward to visiting with him in Seattle next week. As you can see, he finds good stuff, both wine and stories (and we agreed on the "Southern Crossing," as you'll see next week):

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Volume II
Charles & Charles
Mattawa, WA

The label looks like a poster for a low-rent circus coming to town, but fortunately this 50/50 blend isn’t nearly as egregiously gregarious. Light on the palate, not too tannic or oakey, and initially intensely plummy, though a surprising complexity develops through the long finish, with blackberry, plum, and spicy, acerbic cranberry riding on soft, sweet tannins. A hint of chocolate and even the vaguest touch of tobacco develop at the very end.

2007 Night and Day “Southern Crossing”
A to Z Wineworks, Rogue Valley, OR
36% Cab Sauv, 26% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 10% Sangiovese, 4% Grenache, 4% Cab Franc

Don’t let the mongrel blend fool you -- this is no mutt! A juicy Very Berry blast up front, tempered by spice and pepper, slowly gives way to a backbone of olives (*lots* of olives!), darker fruit, tobacco, and a slaty minerality that bites hard on the front of the tongue. The slate fades into cocoa in a long, slow finish. This wine gets *much* brighter as it open up -- taste it immediately after opening the bottle, then wait for 10 minutes before pouring a full glass, and you will be quite (pleasantly) surprised.

Corvidae Wine Company, Columbia Valley, WA
“Rook” 2007 CSM -- 17% Cab. Sauv., 57% Merlot, 26% Syrah

Full of fruit from the Merlot, with dark fruits like cassis, blueberry, and plum predominating thanks to the addition of the Cabernet, which also adds cocoa and rich tannins, but brilliantly balanced with smokey Syrah spices. Notes of leather, pepper, vanilla, and chocolate sneak in as well. This is a big, big wine, but it doesn’t quite manage to hide the heat from the alcohol. Perhaps the best CSMs I’ve ever encountered (though still not as spectacular as Corvidae’s The Keeper), but get it soon -- this vintage feels like it’s just on the downside of its prime.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
Barnard Griffin
Columbia Valley, WA

Berries (lots of ‘em!), plum, and cherry balance perfectly against an acerbic minerality and vanilla oak, with hints of mocha above and below. Bright and tart and surprisingly smooth, and all for less than $20 from a family-owned winery that is among the best in our fair state, with scads of awards (this particular wine is a double platinum award winner from Wine Press Northwest).

2007 Naked Cabernet Sauvignon
Snoqualmie Vineyards
Columbia Valley, WA

Tart cherry, currant, and cranberry aromas. The taste is full of fresh young fruit and herbs (definitely sage; is that licorice, too?), with a medium-bodied tannic backbone and some slightly sharp spice notes trailing off into a hint of oak in the finish.

Snoqualmie sells no wine for more than $26 (and many for considerably less -- this bottle was just $10), and all of their “Naked” wines are made with 100% USDA-certified organic grapes.

2006 Bombing Range Red
McKinley Springs Winery
Horse Heaven Hills, WA
Another blend, this one 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cab Franc, 8% Syrah, and 4% Mourvedre. (Yes, all of these grapes grow in Washington -- and very nicely, too, thank you very much!)

According to the back label, during WWII the Army “asked” families in the Horse Heaven Hills to leave their farms so the area could be used to train fighter pilots. If all those munitions had an effect on the soil, it wasn’t a bad one. The Cab character comes through the strongest right off the bat, of course, but the rest of the blend smooths it out into a mellower, medium-bodied drink. This is a tasty wine, full of plums, cassis, and cherries and other dark fruit., but cedar, sage, and subtle tannins keep this safe from “fruit bomb” status.

Bottle-aged, this is a fairly small production and not widely distributed -- like the Renegade, there isn’t even a UPC code, so even in the PNW you’ll have to look for this in specialty shops, but it’s worth it for a good lazy afternoon kind of wine.

No comments: