Sunday, June 26, 2011

Washington Sangiovese v Italy

The Tour de France starts next weekend so the pros are either fine tuning their fitness or contesting their national championships this week.  Before embarking on a 21 day tour of France I decided to launch a sneak attack through Italy.  This week features a Sangiovese grudge match between a very evil Sangiovese from Washington state and a mysterious Italian Brunello.

Washington State Sangiovese from the Columbia Valley  v. Brunello de Montalcino

RiverAerie 2008 Sangiovese v. 2003 Terralsole Brunello de Montalcino

Tale of the tape

2008 RiverAerie Sangiovese

Google reported the RiverAerie website as trouble, evil with potential to unleash malicious software on my computer.  I know how to avoid evil when I get fair warning.  Luckily I was able to ascertain the following details from the Full Pull Wines offer letter.

Grapes sourced from three vineyards: Two from the Wahluke Slope - Doebler and Jones and Boushey in the Yakima Valley makes three.  Aged in neutral barrels.
Purchased for $16.99 from Full Pull wines.

2003 Terralsole Brunello di Montelcino

Great picture of this Luchador (from 2004), but no other information on the Terralsole website.
Purchased for $26.83 from Garagiste.

It looks like this week's match features Evil v. Mystery.  The Devil you know v. The Devil you don't...  Let's see how this unfolds.

Round 1.  First Opening:

On first opening the RiverAerie has a nose of pie cherry, sour currant, oak, leather and some cedar spice box.  The palate is showing sweet red cherry fruit with drying cedar raspberry and nice peppery spice trailing into the finish.

The Terralsole is showing some classic Sangiovese character on first opening - cherry, dust, leather and a bit of pepper on the nose with a palate of cherry and dry cedar with a semi dry cherry finish.

Evil is much more complex than the Mystery in Round 1.  This one clearly goes to the RiverAerie sauntering into the ring and demonstrating a much bolder approach to this world of Sangiovese.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The RiverAerie is going strong in round 2 with a nose of currant, cherry, raspberry and earth with a similar palate that includes a bit of spice and finishes with hints of espresso bean and cocoa.

Terralsole is also stepping up.  The nose is developing a bigger nose of black cherry, dust and leather with a similar palate that leads to a dry cherry bark finish.

Round 2 goes to the Evil Luchador once again.  RiverAerie is taking Sangiovese to places Lucha Vino has not experienced before.  And that spells trouble for our mysterious Italian combatant.

Round 3. One day later

The Evil RiverAerie has lost a bit of punch, but is still showing plenty of evil genius in the form of currant, dust, toast and white pepper on the nose with a palate of bright dark cherry and hints of cedar spice box with a dry lightly spicy finish.

The Terralsole has become more mysterious lurking in the sahdows with a nose that is showing cherry and a bit of oak with cherries and some light cola on the palate that finishes with a bit of drying cedar.

Both Luchadors lost some steam in the third round, but the Terralsole lost more.  The final round goes to the evil genius RiverAerie.

This contest was never in doubt, Evil wins out over Mystery 3 - 0 in a very interesting battle.

Wrap up and over all observations

These Sangioveses were both good and quite different.  The Washington Sangio was much bigger and bolder than what I would typically expect in this varietal.  The Italian Brunello de Montalcino showed much more of the drier cherry driven Sangiovese character 

I give the RiverAerie an 88 and the Terralsole an 86.  Close, but in the end the RiverAerie overpowered the Terralsole.  Nothing fancy, no flash, no tricks, just good old fashioned in your face power.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Lake Chelan Luchador Training Camp

The pros are fine tuning their form for the Tour de France over the next two weeks.  To prepare for combat with the French in July I headed to Lake Chelan for some Luchador try outs. 

Here are some of my notes from the wineries I visited.  All of these wineries offered a Cabernet Franc.  What an unexpected, and welcome, surprise!  Each had their unique style and one place, The Blending Room offered up a Cab Franc Tag Team.

Hard Row to Hoe
This winery is run by Don and Judy Phelps.  They are great people and if you get the chance to stop in make sure you get the back story on the winery name from Don.  And check out the wall paper!  It is just as naughty as the rest of the story. 

Don't let the name fool you, there is some serious wine making going on here.  My favorite of the day was the Burning Desire 2008 Estate Cabernet Franc.  The nose shows character of dark berries, clove, menthol and spice with a similar bold palate and a nice tart cedar spicebox finish.

The Luchadors training at Hard Row to Hoe are bold, hot and sassy.

Just down the road is Tildio, another husband and wife operation with Milum and Katy Perry.  Milum is a bike enthusiast so he scores points with Lucha Vino before ever even tasting the wines.  There is more great wine being turned out at Tildio and my top Luchador on this day was their 2008 Estate Grown Cabernet Franc.  This wine is big and powerful.  The nose is showing earth, oak, spice and white pepper with an equally smashing palate that includes notes of caramel and a dry spicy and pepper finish.

Katy called this Cab Franc "gnarly."  I would have to agree, this Luchador is going to do some damage.

Next stop was The Blending Room in the heart of Downtown Manson.
They have some great wines and take some inspiration from The Rat City Roller Girls.  Now, there is a team that is after Lucha Vino's heart.  The next best thing to Lucha Libre is Roller Derby!

The Blending Room offers up two Cab Francs.  The first is on their My Derby Wife label and the second is on their Kamari Black Label.  Both are great examples of Cab Franc, big and bold and ready to put the sleeper hold on any unsuspecting protaganists. 

The 2008 Kamari Black Label was the main event in this tag team pairing, it showed character of dark fruits, earth, mushroom, forrest floor and cocoa on the nose and palate with a dry semi sweet chocolate finish.

The final stop of the day was at Vin du Lac and the place was hopping.  It could have been the live music or the sunshine or well, the wine!  Here is another Chelan winery offering a Cab Franc and it certainly delivered the goods. 

The 2007 Barrel Select Cabernet Franc had lots of show and packed plenty of punch to backup the flash.  This wine shouts out "Boom!  Here I am.  Now who's next?"  Showing lots of rich currant, raspberry and hints of espresso on the nose with a similar palate and a finish that includes cedar spice box, cocoa and some hints of clove.

Look out France.  These Chelan AVA wineries are gunning for you.  I have a feeling that these Cab Franc Luchadors are going to stomp all over the French challengers next month.  Be sure to check back in July to see how the main events go down.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Washington Syrah v. France

This week the pros head to the Southern regions of France to race the Criterium du Dauphine'.  Many of the pro peloton use this as their final tune up for the Tour de France.  This week we head to the Rhone region and matchup a Washington State Syrah against a Crozes-Hermitage Syrah.  Let the smack down begin...

Washington State Syrah from the Columbia Valley  v. Crozes-Hermitage

Dunham Cellars 2006 Syrah v. 2006 Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Nouvelere

Tale of the tape

2006 Dunham Cellars Syrah

100% Syrah from the Lewis Estate Vineyard, Frenchtown Estate Vineyard and Double River Estate Vineyard.  Aged in French and American oak barrels. Purchased from Full Pull wines for 17.99

2006 Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage

Another mystery contestant.  This time representing the Rhone region of France.
Purchased for $13.80 from Garagiste.

More mystery.  Let's see if the French contestant puts up as good a battle in the ring as it does in protecting its identity.

Round 1.  First Opening:

On first opening the Dunham Cellars has a nose of red fruit, mineral and a bit of white pepper.  The palate is all about rich dark fruit with some slight pepper and baking powder spice that ends with a lingering long tannic white pepper finish.

The Philippe & Vincent has a nose of red fruit, stone, peat and pepper.  The palate is showing nice tart red berries with light pepper and cedar with a dry cedar finish.

You would thing with a name that includes two luchadors the Frenchy would have twice the style.  It is showing an angular and jagged style.  The Dunham Cellars is suave, smooth and round on the palate.

Round 1 goes to Dunham Cellars for its bold, fuller style.  I have a suspicion that the Rhone Ripper could build up and kick some tail in the later rounds once it warms up.

Round 2.  One hour after Opening

The Dunham is building and getting bolder.  The nose is showing black fruit, seaweed, spice and light pepper with a palate of black fruit, cola and cedar spice box that finishes with black cherry and hints of cedar and spice.

Philippe & Vincent is also stepping up.  The nose is developing dark black fruit and cedar spice.  The palate is very ripe with black cherry, cola and spice with a sweet finish.

These two Luchadors are really demonstrating similar qualities in round two.  The finish is the difference maker.  Dunham Hills has a bigger spicier finish compared to Philippe & Vincent which finishes sweetly.  Sweetness is nice, but it will not take you far in a Lucha Vino match.

Round 2 is close, but goes to Dunham Hills.

Round 3. One day later

The Dunham Cellars luchador is going strong with a nose of black cherry with some juniper and cedar spice.  The palate is building to black cherry with some cola and espresso bean on the finish.

Philippe & Vincent has built up a very interesting nose of dark black fruit, mineral, pepper,smoked beach wood and tobacco.  On the other hand, the palate has diminished a bit and is showing more character of cherry and herbs with light pepper notes that extend into the finish.

Both combatants have held up well into the third round.  Philippe & Vincent have taken an unusual angle by building a nose with some unique character.  The Dunham Cellars has stayed closer to its roots making the final round a close one to call.

Based on the unique character of the Philippe & Vincent nose I am awarding it the 3rd Round for a final score of 2 to 1 in favor of Dunham Cellars.

Wrap up and over all observations

Both of these Syrahs were very nice, bold and some hints of spiciness.  I wasn't sure what to expect in comparing a Washington Syrah to a Rhone Syrah.  My only expectation was that the two regions would produce wines that were significantly different from one another.  I was wrong for this match.

This is another match where I am going to rate both wines the same, each Luchador earning a solid 87.