Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Australia

The pro race calendar typically gets kicked off with several stage races in Australia that follow the Australian national championships.  These early season races are often dominated by the Australians in the pro peleton since this is the only time they really get to race in front of their home country.  Also, most of the road cyclists are just coming off their off-season and are only beginning to think about building their form for the upcoming year.

The Tour Down Under and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour wrapped up a solid three weeks of January racing in Australia.  It came as no surprise that these races featured top results from Ritchie Porte, Daryl Impey and a surprise challenger from Canada, Michael Woods.  Porte is Australian. Impey is the defending Tour Down Under Champion. Both do well on the semi-hilly terrain that the Australian races have to offer.  Impey is the first rider to win back-to-back editions of the Tour Down Under.  Undoubtedly, this made his Australian based team, Mitchelton-Scott, very happy.

This week’s Lucha Vino challenge features a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon taking on a challenger from the McLaren Valle in Australia.

2015 Cooper Estate Cabernet Sauvignon vs. 2013 Davey Family D-Block Cabernet Sauvignon 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Washington Tempranillo vs. Rioja

Alejandro Valverde finally won the UCI World Championships this year after finishing in the top 3 in six previous editions of the World Championship road race.  He added the Gold Medal, on a hilly course in Innsbruck Austria, to go with his four bronze and two silver medals.

Even though Valverde has been implicated in past blood doping scandals, he has never failed a doping test.  This has lead to him being a polarizing figure in the pro cycling peloton.  Say what you will, but Valverde is the only racer to achieve success after emerging from the "doping era."  Most of his cycling peers that were implicated in doping schemes retired or never returned to anything representing their doping fueled form.

To recognize Valverde's world championship success and celebrate International Tempranillo day, this edition of the Lucha Vino challenge features a Washington Tempranillo taking on a challenger from Rioja.

2012 Idilico Tempranillo vs. 2010 Rioja La Tercera Reserva

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Stones Speak at Saviah Cellars

Rich Funk, of Saviah Cellars, is an awesome ambassador for The Rocks District of Milton Freewater AVA.  His winery is located just North of the Washington/Oregon state line that divides the Walla Walla Valley AVA.  The winery was founded in 2000 and has been turning out quality Washington wine ever since.

Back in 2000 Rich's family name didn't seem like a great name for a winery.  Fast forward to 2018 and "Funk" seems like the perfect name to represent a winery with 20 acres of estate vineyards located in The Rocks District of Milton Freewater.

Rich has two primary vineyards located in "The Rocks" - The Funk Estate vineyard and The Stones Speak vineyard.  These vineyards are dominated by Syrah plantings that find their way into three wines that make up Saviah's Estate Collection: The Stones Speak Syrah, Hunt and Gather and The Funk Syrah.

I made a quick side trip during the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference to visit with Rich and taste some of his latest offerings.   Harvest is going full bore in Washington state and Saviah was definitely buzzing during my visit.  Rich was gracious enough to take some time out of his day to share stories and wine.

Here are three wines from The Rocks that definitely speak to the AVA's uniqueness:

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Succession Wines: Building Wine With Soul

Before Brock Lindsay was a wine maker, and vineyard manager, he was a project manager with a background in civil engineering.  His passion for building transformed from bridges to wine over the past five years.  His materials may have changed, but his passion has remained.  And that passion shows through in the soul of the Washington wines he shares by the shores of Lake Chelan.

Recently, I visited with Brock on a beautiful June Saturday afternoon.  During my visit the SuccessionWines tasting room was absolutely buzzing with activity.  It is obvious that Brock and his wife Erica have created wines, and a place, that connects with their customers.  This connection all begins with a focus on being themselves and creating authentic wines without any gimmicks.

Brock first became interested in wine during a six-month stay in Rome while attending college.  During his stay in Italy he discovered how wine enriches your every day experiences.  Not to mention the fabulous historical Italian vineyards and wineries!

Like many Washington winemakers, Brock started off as a hobbyist and enthusiast.  After purchasing some land in Brewster, Brock and Erica began to explore the wineries surrounding Lake Chelan.  These visits continued to build Brock's enthusiasm for wine-making and thoughts of a potential career change.

His beer and wine making hobby finally shifted into high gear and a full time career only a few years ago.  The change in career from Civil Engineer to Wine Maker came in the midst of significant changes in the Lindsay’s life.  The biggest change was the loss of their home in the Carlton Complex wildfires.  Brock took this as a signal that it was time for a deeper change to pursue his dream.  With Erica’s support his first big step was taking on the job of vineyard manager for Antoine Creek vineyards.  Simultaneously, he also started his journey as a commercial winemaker.

For many new businesses the first challenge is selecting a name.  Brock shared with me that naming his winery was harder than naming his children!  Erica and Brock finally selected “Succession” as the name for their winery, deriving it from an ecological term for change following a significant disturbance.  After selecting the name, Erica hand drew the winery’s logo and the pursuit of their dream was on!
Succession’s first commercial vintage was released in 2016 and consisted of 650 cases.  At the beginning, Brock was just selling wine out of the back of his pickup truck, literally.  Even at this early stage of his wine making career he was already delivering wines that made an immediate impression with the people he met.

From Brock’s pickup, Succession moved into their brand new tasting room on the shores of Lake Chelan in late April of 2017 with 1,400 cases of wine.  The wine, and location, proved to be so popular that Brock sold all his wine in just 4 and a half months!  For many industries, gaining a level of success that ends with selling out your product is a major accomplishment.  Unfortunately, in the wine business, that means waiting for your next vintage to be ready.  Thus, Brock and Erica had to close their tasting room in September.  

Happily, the tasting room re-opened in May this year with 2,000 cases to share with Succession’s growing legion of fans. 

The growth curve for Succession has been pretty staggering.  Brock is remaining grounded and recognizes that doubling in size every year is not sustainable.  When I asked what his growth target was Brock replied, “Not doubling every year!”

His target production level is between three and five thousand cases per year with one-third white wine and two-thirds red.  Brock likens building interesting wine to seasoning your food “you need salt AND pepper.”  Growing in size has given Brock access to more vineyards and barrels to work with that aid in building wines with depth and soul. 

From the beginning, Brock has been learning through personal connections and conversations.  His position as vineyard manager at Antoine Creek has provided the opportunity to pick the brains of some of Washington’s best wine makers.  Conversations with people like Greg Harrington and Brandon Moss from Gramercy Cellars have proven invaluable for Brock on his wine making journey.

Brock has also found mentors and friends throughout the central Washington area.  He mentions Freddy Arredondo from Cave B, his neighbor Charlie Lybecker from Cairdeas and John Little from Rio Vista.  John has been one of his biggest mentors, and supporters, dating back to those early days of exploration. 

Brock believes that building community leads to success.  Building a successful wine region takes more than just one winery.  Everybody learns from one another raising the bar for quality, which leads to greater success for everybody.  Brock envisions a bright future for the Lake Chelan AVA.  He is optimistic that the growth, and quality of wine, will continue to gain momentum until Lake Chelan’s reputation shifts from “A lake with wineries” to “Wineries with a lake.”  With Brock’s passion and commitment, I believe he can drive that vision from lofty goal to reality.

The next time you are considering a wine inspired vacation, making a trip to Lake Chelan should be near the top of your list of destinations.  And be sure to put Succession near the top of your list of wineries to visit.   Brock and Erica bring passion and authenticity to Succession, building wine with soul.  The wine community is thriving on the shores of Lake Chelan and Succession is truly one of the shining stars. 

Wines to try: Three single varietals and a blend:

Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes sourced from DD Vineyard & Cave B.  This wine is wild fermented and shows nice minerality on the nose.  The palate delivers white flowers floating on top of mineral notes and excellent acidity that leads to a slightly sweet finish.

Rose’ of Pinot Noir from Antoine Creek is made with grapes picked specifically for making rose’.  The grapes have a mere three hours of skin contact before moving on to stainless steel for fermentation.  This rose shows excellent herbal notes of strawberry, huckleberry and meadow flowers with delightful acidity.

Cabernet Franc from Antoine Creek and Cave B shows wild herbs along with notes of strawberry and raspberry.  The palate brings on cranberry, raspberry and herbal pepper spices with subtle menthol followed by excellent tannins on the finish.

Bridge Builders Blend Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from Antoine Creek and Syrah from the Nefarious Defiance vineyard.  This red shows off Brock’s blending skills.  The nose shows herbal dark red berries.  The palate is slightly darker with herbal character intermingled with black cherry, raspberry and white pepper built on a stellar backbone with just the right touch of acidity.