Category Archives: Wine Reviews

2014 Clearwater Canyon Coco’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

92 points

Deep ruby with purple hues, the nose provides intense black currant, blackberry liqueur, leather, and smoked jerky aromatics with black olive whispering in the background. An abundance of smooth, ripe tannins ride on the ripe, deep flavors, which echo the nose. Nice persistence and well-layered. A noteworthy effort from a respected producer in the brave new world of Idaho winemaking. Drink 2018—2026. (MW, June 2017)

Price $42

Varietals: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec, 3% Merlot

Region: Lewis-Clark Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.7%

Producer: Clearwater Canyon Cellars

2013 Walla Walla Vintners Merlot

91 points

Deep ruby with spiced plum, fresh blackberry, graphite, and slate spilling compellingly from the glass. Ripe fruit joins the poised palate deftly balancing depth and buoyancy. The mid-palate gives way to clear, structured tannins and well-integrated acidity. Developing nicely with additional aging potential. Drink now through 2023+. (MW, May 2017)

Price $30

Varietal: Merlot

Region: Walla Walla Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.2%

Producer: Walla Walla Vintners

Beaujolais All Day

I recently had the fortune to sit down with Aurélien Fiatdet of Terroirs Originels and Tom Monroe of Division Winemaking Company for an exploration of cru Beaujolais. Held at the SE Wine Collective, Aurélien led an intimate group through a 15 minute overview of the region before pouring seven distinct Crus ranging from the 2016 vintage to 1995.

For decades Beaujolais was cast aside as a land of cheap, monodimensional Beaujolais Nouveau. This “one trick pony” had much more to offer, however. Inspiring grower producers existed through the years, but wallowed in the shadows. No hyperbole. Top level Crus sold for $9-$12 in the American market, leaving no margin for these small production winemakers. Thanks to the persistent efforts of a handful of independent producers (Gang of 4), the rise of prices in Burgundy/Bordeaux/Rhone, and the megaphone of somms, cru Beaujolais has gained traction.

Rightfully so! These wines hail from high elevation vineyards ranging between 800-1700 feet with ideal granite and volcanic soils. The wines tasted at this event come from a group of producers that farm their estate vineyards with serious care, and the wines receive small lot treatment—hand harvesting from bush vines, semi-carbonic maceration with a large portion of whole clusters, and aging in large neutral oak foudre or concrete vats. The resulting wines sing the praises of the varietal, Gamay, and the unparalleled terroir for this grape.

Tom Monroe, co-leader of the tasting, champions Gamay himself, making more Gamay bottlings each vintage than any other Oregon producer. Other revered winegrowers, including  Brick House, Chehalem, Bow & Arrow, have also dabbled, some for decades. With the cool-climate of the Willamette Valley well-respected for the other Burgundian varietals, it makes sense that the region would test the vinous waters of Gamay. And they have found success. Festivals like I Love Gamay and national press evidence the varietals growing reputation in Oregon.

However, Tom and most other Oregon producers still genuflect east in the morning as they tend their Gamay vines, or punch down the cap of fermenting Gamay must. Beaujolais reigns supreme. The wines swirled and tasted last week provide the evidence.

Notes from the two standouts with a list of the other wines tasted:

2016 Pascal Aufranc Vignes de 1939 Chénas ($17): Bold aromatics of ripe raspberry, white pepper, and granite fold lusciously into the mesmerizing palate, which provides pleasing yin-yang tension and structure, all boding well for the present and at least a decade in the cellar. 25 acre vineyard. 92 points.

2013 Domaine Pascal Aufranc Lingum Julienas ($20): Medium purple with dry cherry, kirsch, and dried marjoram seducing the senses. Nice delineation through the palate with a pinch of pepper adding intrigue. 20% neutral oak. 92 points.

  • 2015 Robert Perroud L’enfer des Balloquets Brouilly ($17)
  • 2015 Lucien Lardy Les Thorins Moulin-à-Vent ($20)
  • 2015 Jean-Paul Thévenet Vieilles Vignes Morgon ($30)
  • 2005 Pascal Aufranc Vignes de 1939 Chénas
  • 1995 Robert Perroud Pollen Brouilly

2014 Wy’east Vineyards Vinette’s Cuvee Pinot Noir

Wy'east Vineyard 2014 Vinette's Cuvee Pinot Noir

89 points

Medium ruby with nice aromatic intensity. Violet pastille, candied cherry, energetic raspberry, and a pinch of oak spice make a compelling statement. The body shows Oregon meeting German Spätburgunder, lithe with vivacious acidity and a low-level of grippy tannins. Tart cherry takes the command here. True to its source, even in warm vintages. (MW, May 2017)

Price $37

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Region: Columbia Gorge AVA

Alcohol: 13.6%

Producer: Wy’east Vineyards

2015 Cinder Viognier

Cinder 2015 Viognier

91 points

Medium gold with pointed aromas of ripe pineapple, watermelon rind, perfumed lilac, and nectarine. Medium-plus in body with moderate acidity, the palate brings honeycomb, lanolin, and more pineapple, all weaving into a compelling experience. Expressive and varietally spot on. (MW, April 2017)

Price $18

Varietal: Viognier

Region: 60% Washington, 40% Idaho

Alcohol: 13.8%

Producer: Cinder

2014 Wy’east Vineyards Pinot Gris

2014 Wy'east Pinot Gris Estate Grown

87 points

Pale lemon with subtle, youthful aromas of green apple, Bartlett pear, and slate. Dry leaning in to off-dry with noteworthy, well-integrated acidity. Length lacked luster, perhaps due to age. (MW, February 2017)

Price $20

Varietal: Pinot Gris

Region: Columbia Gorge AVA

Alcohol: 13.1%

Producer: Wy’east Vineyards

2014 Cinder Tempranillo

2014 Cinder Tempranillo, Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho

89 points

Medium ruby with purple undertones. Toasty oak leads with deep aromas of spiced plum and cherry pie following neatly behind. A well tuned wine with tannins, acid, and body all providing punctual counterpoints. Tart cherry makes its way into the mid-palate, and the finish proves satisfying. Think cabin in the winter woods with log fire cracklin’. (MW, February 2017)

Price $29

Varietal: Tempranillo

Region: Snake River Valley AVA, Idaho

Alcohol: 14.1%

Producer: Cinder

2015 Laissez Faire Red

2015 Laissez Faire Red Table Wine by Cinder

88 points

Medium ruby with youthful red fruits and Red Vine aromas giving way to a pinch of cardamom. The soft, mid-light palate has but a trace of tannin followed by moderate acidity. A no fuss, no frills wine. (MW, February 2017)

Price $16

Varietal: Red Blend

Region: Snake River Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.1%

Producer: Cinder

2013 Château Buisson-Redon Bordeaux

2013 Château Buisson-Redon

83 points

Medium ruby with Old World charm in the form of slate, dried herbs, fresh raspberry, and an echo of leather. With moderate alcohol, the medium-minus body gives way to firm, underripe tannins and a tart finish. (MW, January 2017)

Price $10

Varietal: Red Blend

Region: Bordeaux

Alcohol: 12.5%

2014 Owen Roe Abbot’s Table

88 points

Juicy and plush with plum and spiced blueberry. Fine, ripe tannins contain a gentle string of acidity through the chewy core. A dusting of cocoa powder adds to the palate. A crowd pleaser, though falling short on dimensionality. Drink now—2020. (MW, January 2017)

Price $24

Varietal: Red Blend (Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Blaufrankisch, and Malbec)

Region: Columbia Valley, WA

Alcohol: 14.1%

Producer: Owen Roe