Tag Archives: Washington State wines

An Excellent Syrah from Outstanding Red Mountain Vineyards

Tamarack Ciel du Cheval Syrah 2010

Tamarack Ciel du Cheval Syrah 2010

Tamarack Cellars “Ciel du Cheval” Syrah, 2010, Red Mountain

Dark wine with a light ruby edge, coffee on the nose with toasted notes, hints of rubber and cedar on a base of dark fruit aromas, highly attractive mouthfeel — succulent, juicy and soft — with a balance leaning toward an emphasis on acids, but not objectionable.  This is definitely a food wine and ready to take on the richest of cheeses and dishes.  The finish is a little bitter, meaning the tannins need time to soften and meld with the other flavors.  It has promise of a long age and shows a reasonably long finish.

Red Mountain fruit is herein displayed in all its power.  The wine is well made according to its purpose.  It is not meant to be a ultra smooth, undefined wine.  It is what it is: a powerful wine with plenty of punch and character.  Tamarack Cellars have given us a wine for the table of a rich and meaty meal.  “Delicate” is not the descriptor for this well structured wine.

Rating 90+

Emotional rating: As a food wine, strong and won’t be easily overshadowed.

Availability:  Try the usual internet sources.

From the Oldest Chenin Blanc Grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley

L'Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Cole Chenin Blanc

L’Ecole Chenin Blanc

This wine comes from the oldest Chenin Blanc grapes in Washington’s Columbia Valley.  Light straw in color, it treats us to light honey notes, prominent pineapple, lemon, and floral reminders, finishing with a mouthful of fresh acid and fruit.  It’s a fruit-driven, luscious, generous wine.  Some minerality is observable, so it reminds us of its homeland.  It is much like a Vouvray with its fruity and floral aromas and producing more complexity than might be expected.  For $14, it is a real buy.  Note, it has plenty of acid.  Chenin Blanc’s high acid is a benefit in warm to hot climates and Columbia Valley can be very hot during the day, but the nights cool, slowing the loss of acids.  This makes a Washington Chenin Blanc an interesting example of an excellent New World Chenin.

Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley in France, is a perfect example that a great wine can and is made on the edge of climatic conditions.  The Loire Valley produces some great examples even though Chenin Blanc buds early and ripens late.  The struggle in this cooler climate seems to bring out the best in the grape, whereas in the Central Valley of California, it produces an ordinary wine at best.  Great struggle equals great wine possibilities.  Pay attention to climate when selecting a Chenin Blanc.  Ideal growing conditions can also produce great Chenin Blancs, but watch out for the evils of high yield and dropping acids if the region is too hot.

In most of the world, Chenin Blanc is pushed to give loads of fruit and is vinified to make some of the most ordinary wine.  It is often used as a blending agent to bolster up the acids when acids are too low, in the case of Chardonnay for example.  The characterless wine so often made from this grape is a bad rap on the reputation of a grape that is truly great when given the treatment it deserves.  This is a Chenin Blanc to savor.

Rating: 89

Emotional rating:  On a hot day, it will bring out those pleasurable emotions we all love to feel.

Available widely.

Tamarack Cellars Has a “Harmonious” 2012 Cab Sauv

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars 2012 Cab Sauf

Tamarack Cellars Cab Sauv 2012

This wine exhibits, as do many varietal expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, the harmony of flavors that this grape can achieve in the finished wine and in blending it with many other grapes.  Tamarack Cellars has chosen a traditional blend of grapes (86% is Cab Sauv, 8% is Cabernet Franc, and 6% is Merlot).  Bordeaux has it right when it blends Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  In fact, the addition of Syrah was a blend that was first used in the early days of Bordeaux.

Cabernet has backbone and muscle but lacks gentleness until age has mellowed its punch.  There is a richness in the mid palate of Merlot that seems to make Cab rounder and smoother, and it does the job in this Tamarack blend.  There is also a similarity with Cabernet Franc that can, in leaner years, add to Cab’s herbaceousness, but when harvested fully ripe, can blend and enrich Cabernet’s offering of blackcurrant as it seems to do in this example.

The winemakers have gone to great measures to preserve the individuality of each vineyard and variety to blend without first muddying the pool.  The result is a harmonious blend of flavors and texture that is to be celebrated in this wine.

The wine needs more age to show at its best.  Somewhat closed, a bit of breathing can help.  On the nose is the richness of vanilla, a hint of smoke at first, and fruit flavors that have married into a harmonious and glorious whole.  It is very complex and appealingly smooth, with fine but strong tannins that should marry more as it ages.  There is a little minerality and the acid is in beautiful balance to the point of it not being noticeable except for its mouth watering effect.  To me, this is acid balance in perfection.

Because of its harmony, this is a wine that does not stand up tall and say, “This is who I am,” but rather delivers a dose of complex pleasure and velvety softness that creeps up on you and creates emotions that are all to do with its soothing melody and its contrasting rich, complex power.

Rating:  91

Emotional rating:  Loads of soft-hued dark fruit and oak lusciousness.  The same emotions as when you fall into a feather pillow, but one well stuffed and firm as well as soft.

Available: from the winery.  Also try wine.com and/or wine searcher.com.

Another Style of Cab Sauv from the Columbia Valley

Alexandria Nicole A-squared Cab Sauv 2012

Alexandria Nicole A-squared Cab Sauv 2012

Alexandria Nicole  “A Squared” 2012 Cabernet  Sauvignon

Here is a Cabernet of a different style.  Just like in any wine, styles can change due to the terroir, the winemaking techniques and skills, and the design the winemaker has for the wine.  The grapes for this wine also came from the Columbia Valley area, but you should notice a difference from the Cadaretta wine.

This wine’s deep ruby and opaque core shows more aromatic impression on the nose than the previous wine and has a distinct rich and complex palate.  Blackcurrant and tobacco plus a slew of oak flavors and strong but fine tannins give the wine a serious attractive note and a promise of years ahead.  It’s balanced with a near perfect finish.  For all Cab lovers this is a wine to taste and savor.

This vivid, full-bodied, Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon is serious and loaded with tannin, offering impressive aromatics of currant and darker fruits, tobacco leaf and crushed herbs. Flavors of Rainier cherry, black olive, and cedar continue to gain depth and richness with time in the glass.

Cabernet’s distinct flavor profile creates a nose and palate that can be easily identified even under different treatment.  It can be styled without oak and in different climes and yet have a noticeable likeness to the left bank Bordeaux wines or a Napa Cabernet.  When in a blend, it easily dominates with its flavor profile and always adds a firm structure to the wine.  Cabernet is known for its more reserved but more complex aromas and for its dominant fruit flavor: blackcurrant.  When picked early, its herbaceous character can be dominant.

Now how would you describe its style?  Is it a style best with food or as a wine to enjoy and savor on its own?  Is it both?  What kind of food would it highlight and what food would  highlight it in turn?  Is it a deep dark style?  A warm rich style?  Where on a scale of white to black would you place it and what color could best represent its total characteristics?

Alexandria Nicole Cellars are a winery to watch.  Their 327 acre Destiny Ridge Estate vineyard sits high on bluffs in the Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Columbia River, an ideal place for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape to show its possibilities.  The wine was aged 20 months in 50% new French Oak and 50% in 2 year old French barrels.

Rating: 93

Emotional rating: Because of its smooth yet rich appeal, let’s say for me 98

Availability: From the winery and in some states.  Try wine searcher.com.

“Lonely Heart” Packs a Punch You’ll Welcome!

Mark Ryan is becoming a Columbia Valley Cult winery.  If ratings have anything to say

Mark Ryan "Lonely Heart" Cabernet Sauvignon

Mark Ryan “Lonely Heart” Cabernet Sauvignon

about it, this is an outstanding wine.  And they do, in my opinion, since tasting it has confirmed that it is a wine that packs a punch with velvet gloves.  I am waiting to see what it will offer, after a few years, beyond its glorious youthful depth and finesse.

Dark and opaque, it reminds one of ink, but tastes like glorious Cabernet Sauvignon.  Blackberry and blackcurrant fruit dominate the fruit characteristics and vanilla, with a touch of smoke, coffee, and clove rise above its mysterious depth.  Its a big wine, but the tannins are very fine and, even though it has been fully extracted, present no bitterness on its very long finish.  No need to talk of balance and structure, this is a very well made wine and offers us all we could expect from its rich Red Mountain fruit.  It is not Napa, nor does it remind you of the New World fruit bombs.  Rather, it rests between the Old and New World, as many Washington State wines have shown us.

My suggestion is: watch this winery and why not join its club and savor its development.  Nothing but good things to come from this kind of winemaking when blessed with powerful fruit.

Rating: 91

Emotional rating: It will increase as the wine ages!


You’ll find many great Colorado wines described in “Experiencing Colorado Wine,” and you’ll find the description of the pairing of several of them with a great recipes by great Colorado chefs.

Experiencing Colorado Red Print Ready

Book entertains, educates, and entices readers to experience Colorado wine

GET YOUR COPY NOW!  We are extending our “Colorado Mountain Winefest” Sale through this week.  You can get your copy at SQUARE MARKET FOR $20!

C. S. Vin, who was trained in French, German and Italian wines, has relied on his  background as a state wine retail manager and 30 years as a wine enthusiast to produce a valuable asset to those interested in wine in Colorado.  Written in a warm, entertaining and conversational style, Experiencing Colorado Wine — Vol. 1 (SRP $24.95, 5.5 x 8.5, 396 pages, ISBN 978-0-9835718-6-5) is available from “Experiencing Wine” on Square Market.